Noses On!

It’s that time again! May 24th is the day! To be exact, it is Red Nose Day, one of my favorite charity events! For this one day a lot of media and public attention is given to the cause of ending childhood poverty. Since it was launched in 2015, Red Nose Day has raised more than $100 million dollars to impact the lives of nearly 9 million children.

Here’s what I love about Red Nose Day…

HOPE Buffalo is a movement in Buffalo, NY in support of adolescent health and wellness. HOPE stands for health, opportunity, prevention, and the three “E’s” of education, equity, and empowerment. The staff and volunteers see the impact of poverty everyday on the lives of young people. Last year they joined the call to don the Red Nose. They look great, don’t they?

First, it attacks a root cause – poverty. I’ve been working in human services, public health, and social change for my entire career. Within these domains there are many issues that adversely affect children which can be traced back to a common factor – children and their families living at or near chronic poverty. Red Nose Day is an attempt to address poverty by supporting programs and initiatives that keep children safe, healthy, and educated. These efforts do more than simply meet an immediate need for children. The myriad acts of kindness associated with helping also address the poverty of hope that children and families living in chronic poverty experience. You can make a difference by spending as little as $1 to buy a Red Nose at Walgreens or Duane Reade stores. If you would like to do more and give more, become a member of my fundraising team at A Nose for Tenacious Change.

Okay, isn’t this the cutest Red Noser you’ve ever seen? A couple of years ago a colleague got a nose for herself and for her son. You can just see this photo being featured in a graduation montage in a few years, right?

Secondly, it animates important ethical and spiritual values in my life. For me these are informed, with neither apology nor arrogance, by Christian Quaker spirituality. They come specifically from the teaching of the disciple Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31 to 46, a selection the Common English Bible calls “Judgment of the nations,” an intriguing title during these times. Most people already know this passage because one small phrase – “the least of these” – is frequently quoted in the context of explaining why we should care about others. If you have never read the whole section to get the full context and story, you may wish to do so. Though you may not share my faith, you may find we share the ethic.

Howard Macy’s “Red Nose Training Manual.” Download it today and get started!

Thirdly, wearing a red nose is fun and a great way to brighten the day of others! Don’t forget…to celebrate Red Nose Day you need, of course, a red nose. May 24th is just around the corner and you don’t want to be the only one with a naked nose do you? Okay, I understand the doubt and I can hear that voice in your head right now asking, “Yeah, but…what do I do once I put the nose on?” Good news! My friend Howard Macy (professor emeritus, philosopher, theologian, a wicked trumpet player, and a fellow Red Nose aficionado) is the author of the Red-Nose Manifesto which you will find in his Red Nose Training Manual, a masterpiece which might have won the Nobel Prize in literature if the Swedes had not cancelled it this year. (Sorry Howard.) To get started, simply download Howard’s brief, easy-to-read book (lots of illustrations) and follow the instructions. From Training Phase Moves to Intermediate Moves to Advanced Moves, Howard will lead you by the Red Nose to the point where you will be proudly sporting it wherever you can. Here is one of his Advanced Moves that I have used before, “When teaching or leading a group, slip the nose on subtly while looking away, then turn around and continue to lead.” If that seems too daunting, how about this Intermediate Move: “Slip on the nose when you’re stuck in traffic. Smile broadly, sing with the radio.” If you are Red Nose virgin and even a semi-public appearance seems way too much to you, try this Training Phase Move by yourself: “Slip the nose on when you’re tempted to feel disrespected or seriously important.” Personally, I have no less than eight red noses – including one in my backpack for Red Nose emergencies when I travel. (Fair warning: I’ll be working in San Luis Obispo, California this year on Red Nose Day. Ha!)

As much fun as I have with my array of red noses, especially on Red Nose Day, the cause is a serious one and the need is great. I do not often ask people to contribute to something, but I am making that ask today. My life’s work has been to try to make this world a better place for all – including “the least of these.” The mission of Tenacious Change is to animate and equip people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. Participating in Red Nose Day is one small thing each of us can do for the greater good. I would be honored to have you on my Red Nose Day team at A Nose for Tenacious Change. Thanks!

Remember…Be Greater, Do Good, Everyday. Put on a Red Nose and Change Forward!

Tom

Click here to join A Nose for Tenacious Change at Red Nose Day. And thank you!

 

Is the answer, after all, simply “kindness”?

Today I am doing something I do not usually do and it is not something I plan to do as a habit. I am publishing the same brief article I wrote for my newsletter as a blog, though I have expanded on it a bit more here. My sole reason for doing so is that I saw a short video today that moved me so much I wanted to make sure I shared it with as many people as I can. I hope you will take a look for yourself and share it as well. Who knows? Maybe we will change the world! Here’s the article:

What makes a “happy” new year?

As I was preparing to open a consulting practice exactly a year ago at this time, I began to wrestle with the question, “What will make me happy in this new year as my practice starts up?” The question of what makes one happy, new year or any other time, is not a simple one at all. Of course, the consummate answer to the question is “it depends.” However, to answer the question at a personal level, we are pushed to consider our values and then consider how our actions align with those values. In the end, according to many happiness researchers, we are likely to discover that our happiness is anchored in an overall satisfaction with our values and how we live our lives in relation to those values.

In this past year I have come to acknowledge and own that my core value is a belief in the “greater good,” which I understand to be the idea that each of us have an ethical obligation to leave the world a better place than we found it when we arrived. Further, I have come to understand that I live out this belief best when I do good for someone everyday. Now if this sounds a bit familiar (and I hope it does) it is because I have tried to capture this philosophy in the tag-line I use for my practice and which appears regularly in my on-line and print material: Be greater, do good, every day.

Recently I came across an incredible video that captures and powerfully illustrates the essence of this idea. It is the six-minute story of Josh, a young man from London, Ontario, who was bullied by other students in his high school. In one simple act of doing good to others, he stopped the bullying and transformed his school and his life. Josh’s story is a testimony to an important truth about doing good: it changes both the recipient of the act and the doer. Since I did not know what I could give you for the holidays, please accept this amazing video as my gift to you. May it inspire you to be happier and greater by doing good, every day in 2015.

Can you imagine what our neighborhoods, communities, and world could be like through simple acts of kindness like Josh’s? In this space I often write about strategies for community and social change and, frankly, I sometimes forget that the simplest, smallest acts are often the most effective. Relationship building is a key to facilitating social change and simple, small acts of kindness – done over and over again – are often the most effective relationship building tools. Many of us who are working on Collective Impact and other social change initiatives are eager for change to come and it cannot come quickly enough for us. We cannot, however, let our impatience convince us that we do not have time to be kind, for it is through kindness that our initiatives can be propelled at greater speeds to achieve greater impact.

Josh’s story reminds me of something I heard a couple of years ago when I was doing interviews in a research project on organizational leadership. I asked each interviewee this question: “What is the most important lesson you have learned in your years of leadership?” I will never forget this one response I received because for it has forever changed my own interaction with people: “It is always better to be kind than to be right.”

For me, this wise counsel and the illustration of its truth in Josh’s story raises this question: In all of our searching for the right frameworks, the right programs, the right strategies, and the right tactics to change our communities for the better, might the answer, after all, be found in kindness? 

My apologies to friends and colleagues who receive both this blog and my e-newsletter. If you receive this blog and would also like to receive my e-newsletter, please click here to subscribe.

Be greater; Do good; Every day,

T.W.K.

P.S. Please join me for “Creating Change with Collective Impact,” a GrantStation.com webinar on February 12, 2015. Whether you are new to the idea of cross-sector collaboration to solve complex social problems through Collective Impact or have been working with Collective Impact initiatives, I think you will find this webinar useful and valuable. In 2011 “collective impact” was identified as the number two philanthropy buzzword of the year by a writer in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Since then the “buzz” around collective impact has only continued to grow. In this webinar we will take a closer look at the collective impact phenomenon, tackling some of the most important questions: What is collective impact? How does it differ from other collaborative approaches? Is it merely a new name for collaboration? How does collective impact work? How has collective impact changed since its introduction? How do you decide when a collective impact approach is the best fit for your project and your funder? This webinar is designed for grant writers, executive directors, project managers and staff, as well as development staff. The webinar will be held on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.). There is a cost involved, payable to GrantStation.com upon registration: $89.00 per person OR $150.00 per site for multiple participants. To register, click here or click on the title of the webinar above. I hope to “see” you there!

Movies, Wavers, and Client Love

True confession.  I’m the guy you do not want to sit next to on a flight.  I like to “chat” with people.  I’m infinitely curious and I love to learn about and from others.  Recently a client had me traveling to North Carolina and on the return flight I found myself sitting next to a woman who owns and manages Liberty Tax Service stores in Pennsylvania. I learned two things from her on our brief flight that absolutely fascinated me. First, she told me the Liberty Tax Services corporate office has found that a person walking into one of their stores will decide within the first six seconds whether he or she will get their taxes done by a Liberty Tax preparer.  Count it…1…2…3…4…5…6.  In that brief time, a prospective client decides “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”  Liberty Tax Services apparently takes the challenge of making a strong first impression very seriously.  The company’s mission statement says a lot: “Set the standard, improve each day and have some fun!”  Mission statements can be just words so it is helpful to see that the company’s principles are supportive (scroll beneath the mission to read the principles).

The real evidence of this mission statement was held by my seatmate.  I asked her what she did to create a climate that won over people in such a short time.  She begins with her staff.  She works to create a warm, friendly, and fun culture where people want to work and spend time.  For example, she has monthly movie nights for staff.  It started quite by accident when she wanted to do something simple that would reward her staff for some extraordinary effort.  Her folks liked it so much they decided to continue and so it does.  It says a lot that people who spend so many hours in the office, especially in peak tax season, will come back just to hang out, watch a movie and eat popcorn together.  In this way she also models how to welcome customers and help them feel at home.  Her offices have also set up a special area for young children to wait and play while their parents are doing the grown up thing of having their taxes done.

The second thing I learned really floored me (or, at least it would have if I could have moved in my cramped seat enough to actually fall to the floor).  This needs a bit of context.  If you have a Liberty Tax Service nearby you may have seen someone dressed up like the Statue of Liberty standing by the roadside waving and flashing a sign for the business.  These folks are known as “wavers” and, honestly, I’ve never imagined this would be a pleasant job…except for extreme extroverts.  In fact, there can be a lot of turn over but what I learned is that good wavers are worth their weight in foam Statue of Liberty hats.  My seatmate had done analysis of what drives new business into her offices.  Fifty percent of her new business comes from the wavers, particularly if they are good wavers (energetic, friendly, engaging, etc.).  I was really stunned.  I just never thought a waver (I didn’t even know they had a name) would make that much difference but, according to this owner/manager, it does.

A Liberty Tax Service Waver
A Liberty Tax Service Waver

 The welcoming culture of the Liberty Tax Services office actually begins at the curb.  The way the waver engages passersby can say, “Come on in.  You are welcome here.  We’re glad to see you and to help.”  Once potential customers, enticed by the siren call of the waver, get in the door, they need to feel the love in six seconds or less.

As with many of my inflight “chats,” this one got me thinking about how nonprofits esteem their clients.  Since nonprofits, specifically direct service organizations, often provide services that are not provided anywhere else it is easy to take clients for granted.  After all, where else will they go?  Since nonprofits are not usually competing for business and staff are not being paid on commission, it can become too easy to forget the humanity of clients.  Isn’t this humanity really what nonprofit work is all about?  After all, nonprofits exist to promote the greater good for the people – humans – in a society.  A performance or outcome orientation of key funders may pressure nonprofits to measure their success through the logic of ROI (return on investment) but this needs to be resisted as much as possible.  Nonprofits are, well, not supposed to make a profit because they are continuously reinvesting in the greater good.  This reinvestment includes creating and maintaining offices, programs, events, and services that are welcoming to clients and honors their humanity.

As I was writing this blog posting in my head, the Harvard Business Review posted a blog in which the author, Sam Ford, encourages companies to rediscover their own humanity by developing genuine customer empathy.  He writes in his closing paragraph, “Only when all employees…work to truly understand the world from their customers’ points of view can we truly call ourselves ‘customer-centric’ and a ‘social business.'”

This is true for nonprofits and, even more, it is essential if nonprofits are to be agents of the greater good to all human beings.

More later,

T.W.K.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus