Effectively Building a Common Language in a Community

Welcome to Elements of Community!

I am your host, Lucas Root, and in this episode, we are going to talk about effectively building a common language. Joining me in this episode is Carla Howard. She is an expert change management leader, keynote speaker, trainer, and strategic planning facilitator.

During her corporate career, she mentored thousands of women who were struggling to move into their ideal career or start a business from their hobbies and passions.

Here’s just a taste of our talking points this week:

The Sparkle & Rise Community

Carla manages the Sparkle and Rise Community on Facebook, which is a community for the kind and ambitious women. One of the women in the group says it’s the kindest place on the internet. And Carla believes she’s right.

They do some amazing things inside the community. Such as having a community of speakers who are working on getting paid from the stage and programs that go with that. And also, help ambitious female entrepreneurs increase the revenue in their business and create the business that they’ve dreamed of. Everything Carla does inside the community focuses on helping people get from where they are today to where they want to be tomorrow.

Community Engagement is 50%

On a typical month, Carla looks at things such as their community’s engagement which is now 50%. For Carla, that’s a huge percentage. 50% of the people in the community are taking action. They’re either, liking a post, posting something, or putting a comment. They’re engaging in some way in the community.

She also gets emails and messages from women who express how meaningful the community is for them. All these are how Cala measures her success.

Other subjects we covered on the show:

  • How Carla build the Sparkle and Rise Community.
  • The process of building a common language in the community.
  • Examples of common language inside Carla’s community.
  • Other ways on how Carla drives engagement with the community.
  • The curveball question—how do you protect the group?

AND MORE TOPICS ARE COVERED IN THE FULL INTERVIEW!!! You can check that out and subscribe at [ElementsOfCommunity.us/podcast].

If you want to know more about Carla Howard, you may reach out to her at:


[00:00:00] Welcome to Elements of Community podcast about discovering and exploring the Elements of Community. I am Lucas Root, and each week we talk with a community leader about what makes their community thrive and bring value to both the leaders and the members. Join me as we unpack the magic of the Elements of Community.

[00:00:22] Carla. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm really excited to have this conversation. For lots of reasons but why don't you go ahead and tell our guests who you are and why I'm excited.

[00:00:48] Well, I am excited to be here too. I love this topic of community and I find that it plays a huge role in everything I do.

[00:00:58] So, yes. I think the reason why you're excited, you can tell me if I get this right or not is first of all. I just have it in my heart to really build communities and I've done it in so many different ways. So I'll just kinda walk you through the many different communities that I have and they have very different purposes.

[00:01:20] So we have the Sparkle and Rise Community on Facebook, which is a community for kind and ambitious women. One of the women in the group says it's the kindest place on the internet. And I believe she's right. We do some amazing things inside of that community. And then I have a community of speakers who are working on getting paid from the stage and programs that go with that.

[00:01:43] I have a community for kind and ambitious female entrepreneurs where we help them increase the revenue in their business and create the business that they've dreamed of. And really everything that I do inside of community has a focus on helping people get from where they are today to where they want to be tomorrow.

[00:02:03] And we do that with a lot of love, support, thoughtful feedback and just reminding each other every day to chase our dreams that we can achieve those things that are on our hearts to achieve. So I think that's why you're excited. You tell me.

[00:02:18] That's exactly it. This whole podcast is about seeking out people who pay attention to community in various different ways.

[00:02:27] And one of the things that you are doing, one of the ways that you're paying attention to community is actively building them and supporting them and growing them, you know sleeves rolled up elbows deep in the community and that's exciting.

[00:02:42] Yeah, it's funny because, so we'll talk about maybe the Sparkle and Rise Community a little bit, because I think it's a very different kind of community, because I know a lot of times people will build communities and this is not a judgment call. Listen, we do things for a variety of different reasons. I have communities that I earn money from. The Sparkle and Rise community, isn't one of them right. So I think what happens a lot of times is we build these communities on the premise that we're bringing everybody together for something.

[00:03:15] And the minute you get inside, you get bombarded with sales pitches. And it's like, oh, I thought I finally found a place where I was gonna get the support I needed or I'm gonna feed that gap, that place inside me that needs filled. And this isn't it. Right? So the Sparkle and Rise community has been in place for, I think it's two and a half years now. And we have over 750 women in there. It's for kind and ambitious women. And we are really there to support each other through the challenging times to lift each other up when we need advice and support and just build that sense of, ah, this is my safe place to go.

[00:03:59] And we do fun little things where we get to know each other. We have online Zoom calls. So like we're doing a coffee chat tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM my time. And we have people from all over the world, get on the calls. And then we also do in-person events. So I'm here in Phoenix. And when one of our rise sisters comes in to town, we'll do a coffee chat, we'll do a dinner and we just meet at a local cafe and have that face to face time and connect.

[00:04:26] And it's just an amazing place for kind and ambitious women to go to be with other women who aren't being judgey, who aren't trying to push you down so they can get ahead. And that's a real thing for kind and ambitious women. It's a toxic thing.

[00:04:46] It happens among men too. It is toxic.

[00:04:49] Do you think is as much or I'm just a woman, so I feel it as women. So I'm so curious about that. You feel the same from men.

[00:04:57] Absolutely, but I think it's expected in men. So it's less noticed.

[00:05:01] Ah, that's interesting. That's very interesting. I think you're right. And I don't think men are judged quite as harshly for things sometimes, so they can give those cutting remarks and they can be unkind and it's like, oh, look at him, he's making it happen. .

[00:05:21] Yeah. But I agree when it happens among honestly, I don't think it should happen among men. I think that we're doing a disservice to humanity by ignoring the community of whoever it is, that's around you, the opportunity for community to work together, to lift each other up together.

[00:05:43] I agree.

[00:05:43] I think what you're doing with your women is amazing that you're reminding them that success can happen together.

[00:05:51] Yes. And we really applaud each other and we celebrate the wins. And when we are in, we call them sister circles. So sister circle is a little mini mastermind. I'll tell you a little bit about how that came about, but if it's okay. First I'll back up and tell you why I started the community and how it grew.

[00:06:18] Yeah.

[00:06:18] Fairly quickly to that 750 person mark. So back when COVID started, I just felt so disconnected because I had all these amazing relationships with women in my life, and I would meet them for coffee and we would do little things in groups.

[00:06:37] And I had just started a business when COVID hit. Well, I take that back. I started my businesses many years ago and then I got laid off and I decided to jump into it full time. Right when COVID started. Perfect timing, Carla. And I really craved that support.

[00:06:57] Come on. You couldn't have known it was coming.

[00:06:59] No, I couldn't have, but really crave that support. That being able to sit down with another woman and saying, oh my gosh, I'm struggling. Like, how did you do this? And I thought, well, how could I do that? And I was meditating and visualizing what it would look like to have that kind of support around me. And I kept hearing is a little bit woo, but I kept hearing build community and serve, build community and serve.

[00:07:23] And when I came outta my meditation, I was. How the heck am I gonna do that? And I had tried to build a Facebook community about a year before that, and it was the disaster and I thought I could do it online. I'll do a Facebook community. And then all the it's not gonna work came up. And I thought, no, I'll do it different.

[00:07:41] And if it doesn't, I'll shut it down. So I build a community because I knew what I needed.

[00:07:45] You sounds like an entrepreneur.

[00:07:47] Yeah. Exactly. So I thought I know what I need in my life and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. So I built the community. I'm very careful who I bring in. I mean, anybody, any kind of ambitious woman is welcome.

[00:08:01] If I go to your Facebook page and you're in 150 communities, I'm not gonna do it because what I see happen is people come in and they right away, they'll pitch a business. They'll give a sad story with a GoFundMe link, you know, something else. So I've kind learned to trust my spidey sense. So I built a community and it grew pretty quick and I thought, okay, what can I do for these women now?

[00:08:27] So we do coffee chats. We do happy hours. These are all Zoom. We do this fun thing called escape circles on a Friday where we just get in and laugh and talk about a topic.

[00:08:39] Nice.

[00:08:39] And we do sister circles. So I also, at the time that I created my community, I was looking for a masterminds because I just was depleted and I needed help.

[00:08:53] And what I found was they were so darned expensive and just didn't feel right. And I thought, why can't women just get together share what's on their heart to share where they're stuck and just get a different perspective and advice how can I break through this? Give me some ideas.

[00:09:14] Yeah. Wow.

[00:09:14] And I thought, well, I could do that inside of the Sparkle and Rise community.

[00:09:18] So when one of our rise sisters faces a challenge. She'll reach out to me and I will schedule a sister circle and it's a Zoom call, it's a hundred percent free. The sister in the circle shares her challenge. We lock it down to no more than 10 rise sisters. And then we just surround her with love and support and give her different ideas on approaches she might take.

[00:09:41] And then at the end, she shares with us what resonated most strongly and what actions she wants to take going forward that she'll take with her. I do record them and nobody gets the link except me and the rise sister in the circle so that she can go back and watch that feedback later.

[00:09:57] Cuz it's like a wash of feedback if you will. Right. And so there's no way you can consume it all. Sitting. So that's a little bit about the group, how it started and how we show up together to support each other.

[00:10:14] Wow.

[00:10:17] It's a cool place to be. I have to tell you, I love, love, love the women in that community.

[00:10:22] Yeah. I can understand why, they lift each other up. They support each other. They're there, you know, for the hard stuff. That's awesome.

[00:10:34] And I think too, it's funny. I have people ask me so many questions about that community because they're curious about it. And while I'm big on success metrics, they also wanna know how do I measure success?

[00:10:53] So I get questions. What's your growth rate? Well, I don't really care about my growth rate. I mean, I know that sounds weird, but we've been sitting at about 750 women for about probably almost a year. I think we're at like almost six 70 now, but it's not like it's growing, you know, a hundred a month or something, but that doesn't matter to me.

[00:11:14] Now, if it grew a hundred a month, I would be thrilled because what I really want is for the women who want to be there, that they're there. They need the support and they're showing up. If that's 750 women, that's great. If it's 1,750 women, that's great. I'm not tied to that metric. Then they'll ask me how do I monetize it?

[00:11:34] Well, that's not the focus of my group. There are a couple of ways that I monetize it slightly. But I've said no to opportunities to monetize it too. And then they'll ask me you know, just different questions. So there's lots of things that I look at on a typical month, our engagement is 50%.

[00:11:53] So to me, that's huge. 50% of the people in this community are taking in action. They're either, you know, liking a post they're posting something, they're putting a comment. They're engaging in some way in the community. And I'm like, okay, that to me makes my heart happy.

[00:12:15] And then I get emails and messages from women that, I mean, I talk about it too much, I'll tear up. but that how meaningful this community is for them. So that's my measure of success.

[00:12:31] Yeah. I agree. One of the elements of community is common value and it sounds to me like the value in that community is that support. And you're feeling it as well. That's the value you're getting from it.

[00:12:46] Yes. Absolutely. They're an amazing community of women and they're in there everyday, everyday.

[00:12:56] That's incredible. So in the green room conversation earlier, we were talking about which element of community you wanted to focus on.

[00:13:04] And we picked common language, which I'm excited about, cuz I'm really excited to hear how you've built and driven engagement through like this focus on a very specific language and you've already shared some of it, right? You call these women risers?

[00:13:23] Well, yeah, they're they're rise sisters and I call them rise sisters and they call themselves rise sisters, which just touches my heart because the women in the community connect with that. And they're proud to be a rise sister and they show up as a rise sister. And what does that mean? That means that we're kind to one another. That means that we are there to support each other without judgment to provide whatever support our rise sister needs.

[00:13:57] It means that we contribute to the conversation and we contribute to the community. And that happens in a variety of ways. It happens. We've got one rise sister who always remembers people's birthdays. So she gets in there.

[00:14:12] That's so cool.

[00:14:13] And Christine, she posts birthdays. She must have a huge list. And as soon as she catches that it's someone's birthday, she's gonna post it.

[00:14:21] We have a free E-magazine that my amazing assistant Janice creates and it's free and every other month we publish it. And we have a rise sister who took rise sister and created a definition for our rise sisters. So that's in the magazine every month. Christine, who I mentioned before, writes a poem every month we have rise sisters who write articles that we include inside the magazine.

[00:14:55] And then Janice and I share a personal story every month in the magazine. And then I also share some products and services that I have available to our rise sisters. If they're interested, it's not the focus of the magazine and it's not the focus of the group. I do share in the group what I do, for example, I have a membership for kind and ambitious female entrepreneurs that's all about community.

[00:15:20] Again, we get on business talks. We do co-working circles, every Thursday, there's two opportunities to get into a co-working session. When they share something they're struggling with, I go find an expert to come in and give us a masterclass in an area.

[00:15:37] So like one of our rise sisters said, man, I'd love to have something on money blocks, got someone to come in and talk about that. And that's a membership and it is a paid membership. It's $24 a month. I wanted to keep it at that level where women could afford it if they had an entrepreneurial venture, right. Cause this is the struggle.

[00:15:58] So The rise sisters know that's available and I'll talk about it every once in a while. And I mean, I'm not there to just sell to the group. Right. It's there as an option. So yeah, when I think about common language, the thing that excites me and my measure of success is I hear the common language.

[00:16:21] I hear it when they talk. I see it when they post, I hear it when we're on sister circles and they share outside the community. They'll share with their friends, they'll post about it independently, me not asking or prompting. And they use that same common language. And I believe that's when you know you've touched someone in their heart because they just own it. It's part of their identity now.

[00:16:50] Wow. So in the process of building common language, people start to create phrases that are like, everybody uses the phrase. Do you have examples of that, that are happening inside that community?

[00:17:03] Yeah, I would say just using the name rise sister, we call ourselves rise sisters. One of the, I'd say taglines that I've used is We Rise Together. You may not see.

[00:17:17] We rise together.

[00:17:19] Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes you'll see that exact phrase used and you'll see lots and lots of variation of rising together, supporting each other as we rise, the sisterhood, you'll see a lot of common language around the rise sister community or the sisterhood that we've built inside of that community. And that is, I would say the general theme of common language that you see inside of our community, on our conversations and the way that we support each other.

[00:17:54] That's amazing.

[00:17:56] It's pretty darn special.

[00:17:58] It is pretty darn special

[00:18:00] Fabulous group of women.

[00:18:03] Yeah. As you've built this out and people have sort of started to engage with this common language, especially like calling themselves and building it into their own personal identity of being a rise sister. Have you noticed that people are more engaged and maybe they're more likely to comment in or to post in something?

[00:18:25] Yes. You know, in the beginning, There was not this rise sister language. We didn't call ourselves rise sisters. I didn't refer to people as rise sisters. And we had interest and people came in and they definitely were like, okay, I think it was like, a little cautious. I'm gonna come in. I'm not sure what you, people are all about.

[00:18:50] I've had people say, is there any selling in the group? Cause what I did is I would pick people. Sandy Boucher is one of our very very active rise sisters. And I reached out to her on LinkedIn, cuz I loved her vibe. I had heard her on a podcast that I had been a podcast on as well. And I listened to this show.

[00:19:08] So I heard her and I'm like, oh man, I need her in this community. And I had reached out to her and it's funny because we've become very good friends and she's told me many times and she'll share the story. And actually Sandy would be someone great for you to have on her podcast, cuz she is all about reconciliation in Canada and she builds a community around how we're gonna reconcile with the indigenous challenges that are happening there with the government and the community and the way people think.

[00:19:41] Yeah, she's fabulous. So Sandy and I have chatted and she's like, I was a little like, I don't know this woman. I've never met her before. And you know what, there's something about her email that has me curious. So she came in and she is so amazingly supportive of that community. She loves getting in there and just really being a part of it.

[00:20:05] And she identifies as a rise sister. We identify as rise sister, and I can't even tell you how that language came to happen. But I would say over the first six months, All of a sudden, I thought we're really in a sisterhood. What does that mean? And so I started saying rise sisters, and they grabbed it. All of the women in that community were like, oh my gosh.

[00:20:28] And I've even had people say, would you please create a cup or a badge for our LinkedIn or something that we can go out there and say, we are rise sisters. And I've tried, it's just so expensive to find a way to create product. That's still on my to-do list though, because they actually resonate with it that strongly, that they're proud and they want something to say, this is part of who I am.

[00:20:57] That's amazing. Wow. Cool. So, we have this common language, the engagement with the common language has actually helped drive the group.

[00:21:08] Absolutely.

[00:21:09] What are the other ways that you create and drive engagement within that community and deepen the actual community that is there because of it?

[00:21:18] Yep. So there's a couple things that I do. One thing is, a post that creates engagement is important. So three times a week, I put a post inside the community where we learn something about each other and it's just fun. It's like a conversation you would have, if you were out for coffee or you were having drinks or you're just kinda laughing about something.

[00:21:44] And they're different. Right. And so they are things like, I'm trying to think what I do this. What's your favorite kind of popcorn? And they'll go in and say, I just like buttered popcorn. I like this kind. I like that kind. Did you have a nickname when you were growing up? Tell us what it was.

[00:22:00] What city were you born in? And so they're little tiny snippets of conversation and you see people connect in the threads. Oh, I was born in that city too, oh, I've always wanted to go there and we little by little learn. And the fun thing about it is. We can only consume so much. So I remember little tiny snippets of all the rise sisters from these posts three times a week inside the community over the course of three years.

[00:22:28] Like you could ask me a totally random question about one of our rise sisters. I'll take Ann Ahern, and I could tell you little quirky things about her because she's responded in the post and that creates that connection and that community. And we feel like we know. And so you asked, you know, we kind of talked about monetization before that one of the things that I've done is I have an Etsy shop and it's called big surprise sparkle and rise and out there I sell a package of over 500 posts you can put in your community.

[00:23:04] And it's $58 and it's the exact post I've used inside of Sparkle and Rise. I mean, I created them anyway, so I thought, what the heck I could package these up and sell them on Etsy. So I struggled in the beginning to come up with something interesting every week. Right. And it's like, what am I gonna ask this week?

[00:23:23] It shouldn't be that hard. We have conversations every day about the most mundane things. And I can come up with nothing. So I now add to those that library every week. And right now I think I'm at like 550 posts that when you buy the package, that's what you get. So, that's one of the ways I monetize without direct selling into my group. It's how I grew it. And so if someone else is struggling, here's how you can do it too.

[00:23:50] Yeah. I love it. Thank you. We're gonna be wrapping up in a minute. Is there a question that I should have asked, but haven't yet?

[00:24:01] I think the question that comes to mind is how do you protect the group?

[00:24:06] Oh yeah.

[00:24:07] I shared a little bit about that in the beginning of the podcast. I do vet every person that comes through it, there's a little three question thing that you answer, how'd you find the group, you know, what is it that you want from the group. And I ask if I can have your email address. It's not, you don't have to, if you do, I'm gonna put you on my mailing list. And I pull up every request and I look at it, you know, how did you find us?

[00:24:37] What do you want out of the group? And then I go to your Facebook page. If you're selling, selling, selling your product on your Facebook page, I'm not gonna accept your request. If I go there and you have 150, 250 groups that you're in, I'm not gonna accept your request cuz you can't possibly be an engaged member of our community.

[00:24:56] And that's what we're looking for. So there are some red flags warning. And if they violate the rules of the group, which are very, very clear, then I'll send them a nice note, remove the post. And if they do it again, I'll block them because we are here to build communities. So, you know, jumping on alive and saying, hey sisters, I've got this product coming out.

[00:25:21] That I'll just remove you from the group. And it's funny because you know, I can't be there 24/7 looking inside the group I go in and I check and I'm engaged and I'm not sitting here all day looking at Facebook to make sure nobody does something they're not supposed to do. So my rise sisters will do it for me.

[00:25:41] If somebody gets in there and they put in a promotional post, or they've got a video about something going on, I'll get three or four messages almost immediately saying, Hey, I don't know if you saw this. I don't think you're gonna like it, go check it out. And so far it's never been wrong, right?

[00:25:59] I'm like, oh crap. I better get in there. I'll watch it. I'll remove it. I'll block them. So I am very careful. I'm very protective and the rice sisters are protective. They don't even see it as it's my job to protect the community. We protect it together. And I think that's another measure of success if you will, is I'm not the only one driving other people put posts in there and they'd say, Hey, I thought of my rice sisters, when I saw this and they're engaging and they are diligent about protecting the community and the way that we serve each other.

[00:26:39] That's awesome. So we've we talked about the elements that sounds to me like it's a common heart.

[00:26:46] Yes, absolutely.

[00:26:48] Yeah. That's amazing. I don't think I've ever thought about like the protection of the community as common heart, but yeah.

[00:26:57] I think it's a huge element of common heart. Yeah. Because if we're not vulnerable, if we feel so it's interesting. I won't even say if we feel vulnerable, it's not common heart. And so that's really what they're protecting now are they vulnerable in the group? Yeah. Do they share what's going on? Oh yes, they do.

[00:27:23] And being vulnerable and feeling vulnerable are two different things.

[00:27:27] That's right. And so that's what they're protecting and they know. They know exactly what we're there for and if it falls outside of that, it's not okay.

[00:27:40] Yeah. Wow. Thank you.

[00:27:44] Yes. Thank you. This was a great conversation.

[00:27:47] I loved it. This was fantastic. As we close out, where can people reach you?

[00:27:52] That's tricky because I've got some work to do on my website. So the very best place. I'm gonna send you a link.

[00:27:59] It'll be in the show notes.

[00:28:01] Yeah. Well, you can click on the different, so the different communities are there, the free magazines are there, the sparkle and rise group is there. If you're interested in the community for kind and ambitious female entrepreneurs, it's there learning how to speak from the stage.

[00:28:17] It'll all be there. The best place to follow me also, where you will find that same link that you can always go back to, to click what you're interested in. I'm very active on LinkedIn. So Carla Howard on LinkedIn, you can find me there. And I also have an Instagram account called big surprise, rise sisters.

[00:28:40] Rise sisters. Yes.

[00:28:41] Yes.

[00:28:43] Awesome. Thank you so much, Carla.

[00:28:45] Of course. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

[00:28:48] All right. And I will see you in the green room. And thanks everyone for listening.

[00:28:54] Thank you for joining us this week on Elements of Community. Make sure to visit our website, ElementsOfCommunity.us or, you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or via RSS. So you'll never miss a show. If you found value in this show, we'd appreciate a rating on iTunes. Or if you'd simply tell a friend about the show that would help us out too.

[00:29:20] If you like the show, you might wanna check out our EOC Inner Circle, where we deep dive with each guest on the inner workings of their community. We cover things like community model, profitability and engagement strategies. You can join the inner circle at ElementsOfCommunity.us/innercircle. Be sure to tune in next week for our next episode.

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