In August of 2011, Valentina of Pole Dance Italy added me into a private facebook group without my consent. It was called “Pole Dancing Bloggers.” I did not protest. I had virtually met Valentina a long time before this occurred because we both blogged about pole dancing. I liked the idea of the group. When I started dancing, there were perhaps 5 dance blogs providing consistent, quality filled, personal lifestyle content about the pole industry. Being a blogger myself, I revamped a rarely used blog on my website and turned it into a pole blog, ‘The North Pole.’
So I join this group and all of a sudden I notice people creating files with links to blog posts and Valentina had a loose English translation of the purpose being “collaboration between pole bloggers”. I thought it was interesting so I kept watching the comments and links people were sharing.
Valentina kept encouraging everyone to come up with ideas for collaborations as the weeks went by so I had to open my big mouth. “What if we did a blog hop?” I asked. You know, I wasn’t even entirely sure what that meant. Even after suggesting it, I had to google what a blog hop was and because I didn’t want to be responsible for copying links, I had to google until I found resources like LinkyTools.com. A few days after fleshing out what a “Blog Hop” meant for us, we agreed to do it. Monthly! Without even thinking about it, I created an account on Linky Tool, gave myself a quick tutorial and paid the yearly fee for using the service. (I told no one I paid for it. I just told them it was set up and kept it moving.)
And, I don’t know why, but I felt like each month needed an introduction post with a ridiculous list of suggestions in case someone was suffering from writer’s block. Well, you know…I did what I would have wanted someone to do for me. I thought, “If I were a new blogger and a part of a group and someone is talking about a blog hop, what would make my life easy?” So rather than asking the group to split the cost or leaving someone blocked with ideas, I just did what I felt needed to be done. And I did it EVERY MONTH.
It wasn’t until ONE YEAR LATER, when reviewing the editorial calendar with the group of 140 bloggers did someone name what I was doing. The group had been discussing our topics for the remainder of the year and every suggestion was so good. I lamented on how I wanted to use everyone’s idea when at the time we could only use one. Lisa, of Pole Dancing Professor then said what I hadn’t even realized. “The beauty of being the editor, Sheena …you get to decide. I love that you ask for our input.” I was an “Editor.”
Or there were a few instances when bloggers would discuss the blog hop on their public blogs. They would credit Valentina AND me as being the “leaders” of the group.
I didn’t intend for this. This was never in the plan.
But it was happening and I didn’t even notice it. Not even when Valentina privately messaged me often to flesh out her ideas or get a second opinion. We would make decisions together and I didn’t realize I had become a “leader.” I was just making suggestions and helping where ever I could.
Over the past few months our group has grown at a faster rate and we have a public face now. Some people had no idea we existed for an entire year thriving secretly amongst ourselves. This is because our group wasn’t initially for the public. Our reason for existing was just helping each other become better bloggers. But then we realized we were serving a larger purpose and we needed to be more public. Then companies and brands started writing Valentina or myself pitching ideas. And then we had a facebook page and V made me an admin on it and we started making a website and I had an official email address and….shit got real. I was/am a co-leader of this group. What?!
With the growing responsibilities and opportunities, and with the “logo apocalypse of 2013”, I knew we needed more “leaders” to help focus and manage the group. But we weren’t talking “facebook page admins”. The PDBA was beginning to become an association…a company…and we needed board members.
Lord Jesus. Just typing all of this is exhausting.
Weeks later, we have a PDBA Board and we have a website and we have a Board Meeting spanning four time zones via google hangout and there was an agenda and we’re talking to brands and making a media kit and SHIT GOT REAL!!!!!
All I did was suggest a damn “blog hop” over a year ago. I had NO IDEA what would happen a year later. I’m frightened in a good way about what October 2014 will look like too. And the year after and the year after. (To date, that blog hop has happened for 13 consecutively months and has generate over 200 independent blog posts. For a niche, “taboo” industry…that a gazillion bucks!)
Let me share some things with you.
I have been a “leader” for most of my life. At 12 years old I was the leader of the junior ushers at church. It just happened because for some reason I started managing the schedule and positions of ushers each week. I was also the leader of the youth volunteers for the nursery. Again, I handled scheduling. I was the co-leader of the praise dance team and the step team. I was the Editor-in-Chief of two youth newsletters. I have always been managing something. That has continued for all of my life. But my role in the PDBA…its different. It’s probably one of the bigger responsibilities I’ve had in a very long time and let me tell you why.
Our group has over a 140 members. Our group…is slowly becoming a legitimate company. Whether all members will still be on board when that transition takes place, I don’t know but I do know right now our group has over 140 members. (We have about 50 pending membership request on top of that.) Back to the point though, I help lead a group of a 140 people. And by leading that means …it just means a lot of shit. On a given day I’m running the blog hop, writing and/or editing our website, running our facebook page, editing the media kit, scheduling board meetings, encouraging dialogue in the private group, designing graphics for the weekly photo challenges, answering emailed pitches and inquiries, “trying” to create a logo, and the list goes on.
I’ve said “shit” a few times….but truly I love this. It’s a natural fit for me. But it’s a lot of work and its teaching me things in real time on what it means to be a leader.
I myself run a boutique business where occasionally I hire freelancers to assist me. But for the most part, my business is ME. For now. I do have plans to grow my business to one day have 140 employees or MORE! So the PDBA while a real thing, is also training grounds on business and being an evolving person.
This is what I’m learning every day with my “leadership” role in the PDBA
“So I am not teaching you to be good, I am not teaching you to be bad; I am teaching you only to be whole. To be whole is to be healthy and to be healthy is to be holy. But the ego does not want to be whole, because once you are whole the ego cannot exist. The ego exists only in the split. When you are fighting with yourself, the ego exists. The ego always exists through conflict; conflict is its food, nourishment. So if you are whole, the ego cannot exist. ” ~ OSHO
My ego means nothing. When we’re musing on ideas for something in the PDBA, okay sure…I can put a “Sheena” spin on my own suggestions. But really, my ego has no place. It’s not allowed to enter the facebook discussions. I can only make suggestions for what’s in the best interest of the PDBA. I “tried” designing a logo for the group. “Tried” being the OPERATIVE word. So I tried right…I made three designs which had mixed reviews but with most of them being a resounding, “hell no, Sheena” and you know what, I didn’t even care. Because I knew my ego couldn’t participate. I know that whatever I put out has to be void of my lingering attachment issues or whatever else.
This also means when making my suggestions…I can’t have them seeping in “Sheena’s” brand. My business brand of “Sheena LaShay” is vastly different than the brand of the “Pole Dancing Blogger’s Association.” And when designing a logo or coming up with a theme, it can’t just be “Sheena’s Show.” I mean, yes, if you lead a company or are a part of a company, there’s a lot to be said for the culture being made up of the people. But what I mean is that I can’t design a logo that speaks to me. Eroticism and passion and sensuality speak to me personally. Those are NOT the brand words of the PDBA. You know how when you go to some places and you take your shoes off before entering. Before I click anything related to the “PDBA”…before I open an email or respond to a posting…I have to take my ego off and leave it on the shelf outside the door. I’m free to take it with me when I leave but every day I have to check it. Yes, next to every coat check and shoe rack, there should be space for the ego too.
“I realise there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.” ~ Jeffrey McDaniel
With the size of our group and with so many bigger responsibilities regarding our group, I can not do everything. I don’t have the bandwidth. Besides this group isn’t even the totality of my life. I actually work a full time job. And on top of that I run my own business. And I’m in a dance company. And I have a family and dates and a lover. I run bi monthly craft parties and I have a yearly retreat that I led that starts THIS WEEK. And I’m a member of another blogger group that requires my active participation. And I write for other websites and I have my own website. And….that’s just the half of it. So I cannot do everything. Even though the PDBA has become one of my babies, I can not do it all. And the truth of the matter is, if I want the PDBA to thrive, it has to be able to thrive without me.
I find, I’m not attached. I used to manage the weekly Photo Challenge and now Lori, another board member does. And you know what? It did not hurt or lessen me to release it. It elevated both her and me! And the last thing I want to do is manage the instagram and twitter account and pinterest account. What I really want to do is focus on content creation for our website. So I’m able to just let it go and give it to someone else. I know leaders who are micro managers and they have to know EVERYTHING and you have to report in every detail and they are crazed because…I don’t know. It’s really confusing. And maybe that’s just one of many leadership styles. My style is, “Oh, you know how to do this? Cool. Do you want the responsibility for it? Yes? Okay, these are my clear expectations. And now, this is yours. Have fun. Let me know if you have questions.” Leaders NEED to leverage and delegate and let SHIT GO!
The price of greatness is responsibility. ~ Winston Churchill
Every day I feel the weight of our group. It doesn’t weigh me down. It doesn’t suffocate me. But everyday I’m thinking of the health of our group and its members. I’m not just a participant that can chime in when I have a moment to spare. No. The PDBA is always on my mind. The responsibility requires sacrifice, commitment, innovation and constant thoughts.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. ~ Dalai Lama
If you’re a leader and you’re not an asshole, you find a way to encourage people even when your answer is “no” or even when what they present isn’t the quality you were expecting. The PDBA thrives the way it does, not because of Valentina and I but because our members are so involved. So when we need help, whoever can, pitches in. But sometimes the quality of that pitching in is not the best quality. I, as a “leader” can’t just say, “you did a shitty job. Try again.” That’s careless, crude and not constructive.
So I find, that being a leader has made me more compassionate. Because along with sometimes saying “no” or “that’s not right” what matters more to me is helping people understand why it didn’t work and helping them develop and evolve. I don’t want to crush people. I want to encourage them. I think its working because when giving feedback on websites or on work submitted, the members usually thank me for my time and for my patience and for how I provided my feedback and how helpful it was. It’s really a cool feeling to help someone versus crush someone.
The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability. ~ Simon Mainwaring
I once worked for a company that used to thrive on open communication and transparency. It was one of the things that made their company culture absolutely amazing. When my boutique business gets to be that big, I want the same thing for my employees. And I want the same thing for my fellow members of the PDBA. Our board recently had a meeting to help organize all of our group ideas and immediately afterwards we put DETAILED notes on our group page. One member made it all worth while. She wrote in the comments section, “Thank you for TAKING and SHARING these notes. I know that’s no small feet (and it’s a bold decision) but now I feel incredible valued and involved.” That same member volunteered to donate money, be a committee member and take on more responsibility if we needed it. I think we’re doing something right.
May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
I would rather there be dissent than group think on any day. Our group has fostered an environment where anyone can voice their opinion. Even if an ongoing conversation has 20 consecutive comments of yes, it seems our members feel free to be the 21st person to chime in and have a loud, “HELL NO.” I like that about our group. It takes intentional effort on building a culture that’s okay with that. Freedom is personally important to me and I think its important to the culture of our group too. To this day everyone remains opinionated as EVER and I believe that helps us to thrive. When the opinions get in the way of decisions being made, I feel the freedom to say, “Thanks for your opinion but now I need something else with your opinion. I need practical steps. I need links. I need designs. I need ideas and an action plan.” I don’t know. Our group is a good thing.
I can promise you that women working together – linked, informed and educated – can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet. ~ Isabel Allende
While the larger group that makes up the PDBA is awesome, there’s also something to be said for our Board Members. Our Board is made up of 4 members. Valentina. Myself. Lori. Nina. After noting the behavior, participation pattern, communication style and more of various PDBA members, V and I made a list of potential board members. We still have that list because we know our board will grow. For the time being, we wanted to invite two others to be a part of the board which is why we reached out to both Lori and Nina. These three women…they defy the bullshit that’s put out there about “women working together.”
Let me emphasize…our board members are each in their own timezone. 4 time zones and yet within minutes of suggesting a board meeting, we found a day and time that worked for everyone. When suggestions are made between the four of us or when one of us is venting or whatever the case may be, there is so much support, understanding and dissent. If one of us is on a self loathing soapbox, we encourage that person and push them to be better. If a conversation isn’t constructive, all of sudden Nina comes in putting things into perspective. Or if our ideas are all over the board, V comes in like a hammer telling us what will be and what won’t be. If we are clueless, Lori comes in with her breadth of knowledge and informs us. It just works out. We could not have asked for better board members. At one point, Lori was swamped with …you know…the rest of her life…and felt like she wasn’t doing enough tasks as part of the board. That led into one of the biggest soapboxes I’ve ever mounted to date. Let me show you my transcript.
SLY: We didn’t ask you both on board because we wanted you to complete tasks. We wanted you both because we valued your mindsets and leadership style. Notice how in discussions we reach a great balance even when all our perspectives may be different? That’s cool and important. That’s what we needed. Strong women who know what the fuck they are doing. Women who are visionaries. Not, “Ask Lori [to be a board member] so she can manage the photo challenge.
Nina: Yeah I really appreciate that. It’s nice to be able to disagree without getting emotional about it, and to agree and still be productive and get things done.
SLY: Anyone can do a task with the right skill set. It’s important, no less. But it’s not the only thing. We needed leaders. Movers and shakers. Women who were opinionated, authoritative, passionate, assertive and yet not crazed assholes.
Nina: Haha, that’s my new Twitter bio right there! “Nina is opinionated, authoritative, passionate, assertive and yet not a crazed asshole”
SLY: That’s why we asked you both. So please know that you both are doing way more than we even imagined. Also you’re active in the pole community, consistent and real. And you give back so much. I don’t want to use the word selfless. That’s not always good. But you know how to see the big picture and not get caught up in ego. That’s why we were like, we need Lori and Nina. Fucking overachievers.
Nina: Yeah I’m definitely not selfless. There’s very little I do that doesn’t make me think “what’s in it for me?” Then again I think that’s at least partly required to be successful.
SLY: Exactly, selfless isn’t the word. Its more so that you’re clear on your SELF and you see the big picture and can keep your ego in check. And you both are professional. Okay I’m off my Lori and Nina soapbox. Let me know whenever you need me to pull it out again.
Nina: Next time I’m having a bad day or start doubting myself, I know where to find you
Lori: I’m ok being a crazed asshole on occasion. I definitely do appreciate that we all are strong and opinionated but can still hear each other out. Very grateful to be part of this group.
Valentina: [during her time zone it was the middle of the night] Woo woo i shouldn’t go to bed if so many truths are discussed in the chat eheh. definitely yes we knew that this group needed strong and determined people and here we are all.
As a leader, when forming your board or committee or inner circle or your ENTIRE COMPANY, you need to be intentional about who plays on your team. You need to be strategic. And you know what, you need to blow their horns and tell them WHY they were chosen. Picking people based on who can complete a task…will bite you in the ass. You can train a fucking monkey to complete a task. Please put more thought into it than that.
So this is just some of what I’m learning about leading a much larger group. The youth ushers were comprised of about 10 volunteers. My two newsletters had a staff of maybe 5 with a few freelance writers here and there. And even when working as a Training Manager for a hotel chain, our team had about 30 to 40 staff that I trained and supervised on a daily basis.
The PDBA is a different beast. There are 140 members. Most are independent bloggers or are contributing bloggers for larger sites. They represent over 20 countries. That means language issues. That means time zone issues. That means cultural differences. And while all are pole bloggers, they come from every walk of life. TV Execs. Teachers. Students. Doctors. Designers. Military. The list goes on. Some are married. Some are not. Some have children. Some do not. Some are religious, spiritual or atheist. Some are probably republics and some are democrats. There are all kinds of races and ethnicities. Pick a filter or category and someone in our group fits the bill. There are even men.
And yet we are able to seamlessly encourage, grow and build together.
I didn’t set out to lead this group. And honestly, by leading…it means serving and getting dirty and investing myself. It’s not “glamorous” but its soulfully worth every moment.
Learn More about the Pole Dancing Bloggers Association. We go by PDBA or #PDBloggers. The PDBA is a community of dancers and artists who create, report and share engaging content about dance, fitness, health, wellness and self empowerment. The group shares cultural & artistic resources, prompts dialogue & debate, and builds relationships through their independent lifestyle blogs and the conglomerate that is the PDBA.
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