Running group for everyone- take all comers attitude not just for elite runners

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When living life to the fullest, we all aim to be as healthy–and consequently happy, as possible. The Reno Running Company tries to help with the fitness aspect of it, by hosting weekly Sunday runs where all ages and ability levels are encouraged to run with fellow community members. They aim to get you out the door running so that you can start your Sunday having accomplished before 10 am the sometimes difficult, yet important self-care that often slips away from our busy lives. This small investment of time is so much more than exercise and a complimentary Starbucks coffee at the end, it is somewhat of a rarity in busy communities in that it is connecting not only like-minded runners, but people to inspiration to healthy lifestyle choices. Usually you can find people talking about not only running kicks, favorite fuels and trails, but also eateries, schools and favorite healthy hangouts.

It takes a community leader, business owner and athlete to create this genuine healthy lifestyle running club, which is exactly what Matt Balzer, a dedicated triathlete has fostered. If you join us sometime you will experience that Matt always has time for customers along with the staff, who are always eager to help. Furthermore, you will find small business supporting other emerging healthy fuel lines such as Nature’s Bakery, a local company, whose philosophy is all about providing GMO free, healthy, delicious fig bars.

The Reno Running Company and Nature’s Bakery partnership is what all company relationships should be about, supporting a local market and fellow businesses. They aren’t competing, they are collaborating. It’s about partnering to sufficiently meet their clients’ needs– which in this case are top of the line running gear and fuel. In their recently launched running club, RRC and Nature’s Bakery, partner together as local businesses to energize us in the pursuit of happiness. They don’t continually look over their shoulders to compete with other brands. They keep their eyes ahead on how they can provide both the tools for a health journey, along with the inspiration, coaching and energy to get there.

Starting an Elementary School Speech & Debate Club

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Starting a debate club

Speech and Debate clubs are great ways to boost your child’s confidence and a great way to engage them early on in public speaking, improving speech and vocabulary, as well as encouraging leadership roles. The club teaches them vital life skills like project management, and working to be unbiased and see both sides of a topic.

The easiest way to go about it is to have your child become interested. After taking a tour of at a specialty school, I became interested after reading a poster about a debate club. I asked my mother several questions. Her response to me was, “if you want to start a debate club, then write down the rationale on power point and present it to your principal.” Sure enough, that was what I did. My mother gave me a few suggestions, but off I went with her to a meeting to discuss this after school club I wanted to start. I was surprised that all I needed was a parent or teacher who will be there at every club meeting to supervise and facilitate. My mother wanted me to highlight that she called a few administrators for their support too. Fortunately, since she is a leadership coach, she had experience and skills in the corporate world that all the students leveraged while she facilitated and led our club meetings and events.

After the initial steps of creating a club, you want to connect with some high school debate students that show up on a regular basis and teach the kids the skills of researching, collecting, presentation and portrayal of data. Then put up posters around the front of the school about the club to get new members. We had around eight members regularly and smaller is sometimes better so that all kids can present and argue their points.

Then next step is figuring creating an agenda for the meetings. Keep in mind that speech is a HUGE part of the club, buy a book of tongue twisters and have all the students line up and have them practice saying them in a loud clear voice (after introductions of course). Make sure everyone has a turn and encourage the quieter ones to speak up. Then split the kids into two groups from youngest to oldest. Then have each high school student go to one group and talk with them about what they are interested in and which side of the topic they want to argue; pro or con. It’s vital that the children get to choose their topic so they’re more passionate about it.

Then have the kids work at home on their topic. The more they like it, the more they research! Have at least one club meeting while they are researching so that everyone is on the same page. Have the next meeting be the date of the argument, there should be equal numbers of pros vs. cons and mix in some of the stronger speakers so that the quieter ones feel like they have strong support. While teams are presenting make sure to watch along with the coaches, everyone should take notes. All coaches should point out at least one positive set of feedback from each child’s argument and at least one piece of constructive criticism. Make sure there are no “winners” while you may think one side spoke better, you have to put these children in a growth environment where they are fueled by passion and not by short lived competitiveness. Then start the process over again at the next club meeting, it’s nice for the kids to be able to pick their own topic and feel independent and strong which all funnels into their confidence and individuality as a person.

Then at the end of the year invite teachers, parents, guidance counselors, high school debate coaches, and area administrators to attend the end of the year debate. View this as their grand finale, give them a couple weeks to trim and practice their speech. For this debate it’s best to do something relevant so that everyone can see how the children view a certain issue or topic, their voices aren’t always heard and this is a way that we as parents can help them speak up for what they believe in. It’s important to see the children grow and thrive each week, by the end they become much stronger, confident public speakers—qualities that our youth need to be developing.

Washoe County School District press release article on the Debate Club.

Blog by IRK

Trust Your Journey Community

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For every woman that has struggled, questioned, realized, believed, accomplished and triumphed. What a fantastic tag line from the company, Trust Your Journey. This message is put into their products and inspires people to keep on keeping on. It is an inspiring message from two women, a cancer survivor and a young widowed mother, who have dealt with challenging turning points in their lives and discovered along the way that sharing inspiration and stories of hope are an incomparable way to give.

This mighty organization is based in Reno, NV and has for many years supported an American Lung Association, Northern Nevada Stair Climb. They sponsor apparel that the teams sports in ascending 36 flights of stairs. Rather appropriate for such a mighty effort that they would sponsor eradication of lung cancer and clean air advocacy all the while supporting their local parents who deal with lung disease.

I’ve been honored to have met the owner over the years, which embodies her brand in her demeanor, in her character and her integrity. I’m so pleased that I’ve met her on my life journey and therefore felt I should in turn share it with my network. Because it is really about the people as the medium that matters and this inspirational message and business duo sell something that is a vehicle to carry our aspirations, experiences and feelings through their product.
Often in our marketing efforts we find that our campaigns in traditional media lack credibility and these women collect stories and feedback through their communities which gives us a reason to have hope in business and in turn their products provide us with a sheath of protection.

I must brag and tell you that their products recently on QVC sold out in 7 minutes. They are not only ascending the Silver Legacy Stair Climb, but in business also. So, I hope that you find their storytelling in their products laudable.

Teens rivaling, but in a healthy way for their communities

This time of year people can get lost with wrapping gifts, buying new outfits or planning events.

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I agree for many people, this time brings excitement and joy, but for others in need or without a voice, it can be a difficult, scary and lonely.  Which is why I thought I’d share the story of teenagers in Reno, Nevada, rivaling, but in the good way.

Cyrus Moassessiand Kienan have been holding their annual food drive fundraiser for several years in Reno.  They donate 100% of their proceeds to the Northern Nevada Food Bank.  In fact, their mother, the grateful foodie told me she will go through twenty pounds of flour this year with all her baking.

Isabela and her sister Maya have been fostering kittens with Nevada Humane Society for a few years.  They have seen how these little kittens through love and socialization get nursed back to health and placed quickly into loving homes.  Yet the foster kitten program isn’t without its expenses, which is why Isabela wanted to give back.  In fact, she created a slide show video on her blog to help document her experience and market the event.

Cyrus and Isabela both student leaders and supporters of the American Lung Association have been friends for years.  They have grown up with both allergies and asthma, so they have witnessed how important nonprofits can be to families through their own struggles and advocacy.  Perhaps this is why Isabela decided this year to hold her fundraiser at the same time as Cyrus and Kienan.  Simply put, nothing like good ole rivalry like boys against the girls to raise the stakes, drive more passion and hopefully donations.

As a parent, there is nothing more satisfying than watching your children blessed with life give back to others while having fun.  I thought it was noteworthy to call out these community heroes in order to highlight that rivalry can be fun, if put to good use.

I hope you join me and Caroline by supporting both these fundraisers.  Better yet setup your own stand for another noble cause during this season of giving.

Experience the Adventure

Reno Tahoe USA has a brand riddled with controversy yet there is in fact ‘more to know’ about the Reno / Tahoe area than what pop culture enjoys poking fun at.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.visitrenotahoe.com

Instead of focusing on the why, I’m proposing we social brand ambassadors start discussing it openly through storytelling on the web.  For example, we can use a twitter hash tag such #experiencetheadventure to aggregate experiences, stories, adventures and codes to serve as a real time focus group with real time social tools.

Why do it?  You could bump your klout score or just enjoy the journey on a stream.

I believe we need to leverage our differences and similarities to drive brand transformation which will result in new revenue for the region while innovating.

We have great events cultural events; Burning Man, Art Town and exhibits at the Nevada Museum of Art.  Yet we don’t seem to capture the entire web buzz that we could.  We have leaders in the culinary arts field who engage with Nothing To It.  We have popular new musicians like Whitney Meyer who recently was discovered on the Voice .  Hip software companies like; Shortstack, Understand, GotDibbs who are helping bring jobs while re-investing in the region.

In terms of education, the Washoe County School District leader Heath Morrison awas awarded the AASA 2012 Superintendent of the Year and for the entire district beat out all other states for the award in overall Leadership in Communication.  Furthermore, we have great sports teams, a new Discovery Museum and UNR which offer talent, learning and affordable programs.

This is just a very quick list.  Countless numbers of organizations doing great work.  However, we have more to do. We could invest in entrepreneurial thinking, alumni, and young leaders in different approaches than we currently are focused today.  I digress.

Instead of focusing on the why the brand isn’t grounded in reality, I propose that as social brand ambassadors, we start to take the lead to help the region through using key hash tags to facilitate changing the perception.  Through this approach, we can bring help promote job growth, economic stimulus and new possibilities all the while demonstrating new innovative social leadership.

Come on Reno Tahoe Adventurers, start to share the code #ExperiencetheAdventure.   Nothing ventured anything gained, right?

Active Listening, a Core Competency for Social Business Leaders, featuring: Nick Howe

If you haven’t followed Nick Howe on Twitter, it’s time.  He is a social business champion and hero who just happens to be a genius.   This superhero by day has a key role at Hitachi Data Systems , Vice President of the HDS Academy, yet by night is probably the most humble, coolest, geekiest and happiest guy you will ever meet.  He embodies networked learning in every sense of the word.  He engages his industry through storytelling, like at Jive World.  He is foremost a business leader who challenges himself to think about the disruptive nature of social business through active listening.  LISTENING you say?  How many times has a senior leader in one of your organizations taken the time to really listen and not ‘pander’ to you?  Recall and value your thoughts and ideas, synthesize quickly and give proper attribution?  Well, I certainly hope the answer is yes, but if you are like many people, those rare and inspirational leaders are unusual, which is why it’s noteworthy to celebrate when we find the attenuate.  In fact, his personal philosophy is simple:  “make learning a priority, trust that people will step up to a challenge and acknowledge weakness as an opportunity to learn, versus a threat.”

As a business leader he is constantly validating or examining what he believes his and his organizations’ roles are to achieve company goals as a continuous process. Not just a board room exercise once a year.  Yeah, that’s right – the infinite Loop.  Just like great leaders before him have, he is in constant examination of himself and his impact on the organization, his colleagues and his customers.

Merci, for chocolate, active listening and leadership

What I found the most profound in interviewing him for this blog post was his deep personal commitment to being a collaborative leader, who builds alignment, invites people into possibilities and empowers them.  He engages in detailed community conversations with great detail and critical attention to drive business results, yet humble in his overall approach and demeanor that is exceptional.   To use my food metaphors, like a scarce chocolate with intense and subtle characteristics, rich in flavor and depth.  This type of leadership is commendable, addictive and perhaps will become a contagion that spreads the learning fever.  Active listening and reflection are paramount for social business leadership; in fact I would argue these should be key core competencies for leadership.

Shoestring budget strategy that works for education – a WCSD case study

Case study on communication strategy that works!

Washoe County School District has been transforming itself over the years through leadership transition within the district and the legislature, not to mention the recession.  Which is why the story of how during the turbulent times a small low budget communications department went back to the basics and focused on what was important, the community.  What I mean by that is that there are a variety of audiences that comprise the districts ecosystem with firm resolve to tie all their efforts into the strategic plan.  Yes, that is right the simple recipe to success is several fold in my opinion:

Laser Focus – they tie everything they do into how it allows their resources to impact realizing the strategic plan.

Talent – they harness great talent in the employees, the physical area or business community.

Value – they value and respect everyone that works in the communications ecosystem.

Transparency – they acknowledge mistakes, they share their plans and they have opened up their storytelling through social tools.

Social – they have embraced leveraging social tools as a way to share information, engage with the communications ecosystem members, foster two way real time conversations and learn.

Diversity – they embrace diversity, welcome and celebrate it.

Fearlessness – they embody living fearlessly in their approaches.  What I mean by this is that they ask for help when they need it, they apply for grants and awards and they don’t take no for an answer.  If a door is closed, they look for a keyhole or another door that may open.

Since original publication of this blog, several of the nation’s top educational and school communications organizations have named the Washoe County School District as the recipient of the 2012 Leadership Through Communication Award.