Light Bulb Moment: Henny Braund on hugging marathon runners

The chief executive of the blood cancer charity and bone marrow register Anthony Nolan shares a key insight from her working life

Henny Braund
Henny Braund

Going to my first London Marathon with Anthony Nolan five years ago was a real buzz and I instinctively hugged the first of our runners to cross the finishing line. After running the 26-mile course, he looked exhausted and my hug was a spontaneous act. I've continued to do that with our runners at every marathon to the extent that there's now a #hugHenny hashtag – I'm told that runners look forward to getting their hug.

This act made me realise that it's all about the individual and real engagement. As a charity that saves the lives of three people a day, our mission is very much about each person and this also has to translate into the way we work. We must actively value each staff member, patient, volunteer and donor. A lot of the time, leaders can get caught up in strategy, but remembering that everyone is a human being is very important to the work we do. It is not possible to build meaningful relationships with people at arm's length; you have to engage with them.

Hugging marathon runners was not planned as a corporate policy. It came from real emotion and I just knew at the time that it made sense. It's a tangible way of making people know that they matter and it's a living example of our supporter engagement strategy. But it can also be very sweaty!

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