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Team Red, White, and Blue's Blayne Smith on Leadership

Article by Blayne Smith, Executive Director of Team Red, White, and Blue November 9, 2016 //   4 minute read

This week, in honor of Veterans Day, the Bush Center will feature a series of posts about the strength and resilience of the brave men and women who volunteered to wear our Nation’s uniform.  

Today, we hear from Blayne Smith, Executive Director of Team Red, White, and Blue, about the importance of a renewed sense of purpose.  

Team Red, White, and Blue (RWB) is national nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s Veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.  With over 115,000 members and chapters in nearly 200 locations, Team RWB volunteer leaders provide local, consistent, and inclusive opportunities for Veterans to engage with the community in positive ways.

So what exactly is it to enrich a life?

The dictionary will say that enrich means to make something better or improve its quality.  We have also seen the term to express positive spillover benefits of work-life enhancements on each other.  From our perspective, in the most basic of interpretations, it is likely a combination.  Where we differ from those concepts is that we view “enrich” as a verb that bears with it a responsibility, one that we whole-heartedly embrace, to act.  Therefore, we drive programs and practices that deliver impact.

We’ve distilled our enrichment outcomes down to three major areas of wellness that, most importantly, we know we can actively affect.  We call it our Enrichment Equation: Health + People + Purpose.  

We define “Health” as fitness, sports, recreation activities to improve physical, mental, and emotional well being;  “People” as genuine, quality, supportive relationships that generate mutual trust, accountability, and connection to the community; and “Purpose” as meaningful individual, team, and community experiences that renew identity and enhance direction in life.  We lead our equation with “Health”, since shared activity facilitates engagement with other “People”, and those meaningful interactions can reignite “Purpose” in oneself and others.

In a recent Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) research report, we demonstrate how we are measuring our impact on health, people, and purpose and see positive benefits, especially in those members most actively engaged.  After two years of research, we’ve uncovered a very strong and positive correlation between levels of enrichment and engagement.  Understanding this, we are working to make our programs as engaging as possible.

So how do create high levels of engagement at the local level?

Knowing that consistent interaction is important is one thing.  Delivering it is another entirely.  In our opinion, the only way to do it is through enormous investment in leadership.  Team RWB chapters are led by over 1900 volunteer leaders.  It is absolutely critical that we provide them the very best education, training, resources, motivation, and recognition that we possibly can.  This is why we continue to build out a robust Leadership Development Program that provides a combination of in-person and online experiences that both inspire and empower our volunteers to lead within their community.  What is truly exciting is that this program is delivering value on three levels.  It strengthens our organization’s ability to deliver our mission.  It strengthens communities where Team RWB is creating a tremendous amount of positive engagement.  Perhaps most importantly, the act of leading provides a huge increase in confidence and sense of purpose in the individual volunteer leader.

Veterans are incredible assets to our communities and the nation.  At Team RWB, we simply work to build a platform for these great Americans to connect, engage, and lead – it is what they do best.