by Nick McLean, American Red Cross Volunteer Contributor
October 16th is National Boss’s Day and we are celebrating North Texas Regional CEO Keith Rhodes, who joined the Red Cross in May of 2016. Rhodes previous experience includes nearly two decades of leadership roles at non-profit organizations, such as the CEO of Big Brothers and Sisters Lonestar.
Rhodes highly values his time at the Red Cross, saying “Two and half years ago I joined the team as the regional executive for the North Texas Region. This is the best two and a half years of my career of being able to provide effective and impactful support to those individuals in need.”
Since Rhodes joined, the Red Cross North Texas Region has aided in the recovery of major disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, wildfires in the Southeast, flooding in the South and Texoma regions, countless home and apartment fires, and most recently Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Under Rhodes leadership, North Texas Red Cross volunteers reach out to those in need, assisting disaster survivors with immediate needs and working with community partners to provide aid in recovery operations.
“It’s non-stop. With the Red Cross, we just got through dealing with Florence, and other issues, and we see what’s happening now over in Indonesia,” referring to the recent quake and tsunami that rocked the Southeast Asian country in September. “Disaster is our middle name, right? Helping those in need, bringing humanitarian aid and all the different facets of what we do at the Red Cross, inspire me, move me every single day.”
Coordinating a nearly all-volunteer force requires a management strategy that reflects the passion and drive of that volunteer force. Rhodes achieves this with a unique management style, offering volunteer leaders a seat at the table, as well as working to spread their story.
“My management style is that I’m a democratic manager, but also an inspirational manager. They’re two styles that I like to blend. I try to find ways all the time to inspire our volunteers and staff and share stories about that strong bond that exists there in the fulfillment of carrying out our services at the Red Cross.”
Rhodes makes time to directly reach out to the volunteer force “through scheduled updates and meetings with individual volunteers, with the individual volunteer teams and their particular departments.” The North Texas Region has “regularly scheduled AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions that are open to all. Staff members and volunteers get updates on our activities, goals and objectives.”
But empowering volunteers is not always a scheduled affair. Rhodes does his best to meet them face to face by “getting out into the field. Thanking volunteers in person, working with those volunteers in the shelter. Working to enhance their experience.”
Rhodes’ yearly goals include higher volunteer retention and fully training every volunteer to be disaster ready. Rhodes says he does this by reaching out and, “working closely with my RVSO to ensure that training is succinct, that teams are quick, and that individuals are getting placed where they want to be placed, where they have a passion for being placed.”
Rhodes is a champion of the volunteer, believing that showcasing individual stories and experiences is what will help inspire people to contribute their time and ability to the Red Cross.
“It’s one thing for me to go out and talk about the Red Cross, what we do, and what we need, but I attempt to utilize volunteers whenever possible to speak to their own experience and how it has impacted them. It’s a good message for people to hear someone who is not paid by the organization to speak with passion about what they do and why they do it.”
“My call to volunteers is ‘Let’s try to finish the year strong. Let’s get the message out appropriately, get people to come in and complete all the training and become an official Red Cross volunteer.”
“It’s my goal that we do all that we can to be the Number One non-profit in the North Texas region and that everyone in our local community knows someone who has a tie to the American Red Cross, and I think we’re well on our way.“
To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer visit redcross.org/volunteer.