EP 12: 2 Activities + 6 Questions to Enter 2023 with Energy & Clarity

December 29, 2022

Show Notes

The end of the year is a natural, reflective time for a lot of people.

It can also be an extremely hectic time for people as well.

A lot has happened this year: The world seems to be moving on from COVID, inflation is soaring, and people are struggling with a tough job market in the face of a looming recession. 

As a nonprofit leader, it’s easy to look at all these things and think, “We need to be doing more to help people.” While this thought is tempting, it could lead you and your team to a state of burnout if you aren’t careful. 

In this episode, Tucker and Sarah discuss how our NOs give power to our most important YESes, and share 2 reflective activities and 6 powerful questions they have learned that can help shape your vision for the year ahead. 

Instead of looking for more ways to serve, now is the time to double down on reflecting on what is most important to our organizations, and using what we learned in 2022 to ensure that we keep the important things in focus as we move into 2023.

A shout out to @Jon Berghoff and XCHANGE for some of the great questions. 

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Tucker: Welcome to Thrivers, nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I am your host, Tucker Wannamaker, the CEO of THRIVE IMPACT. Our mission is to solve nonprofit leader burnout. Burnout is the enemy of creating positive change, and we want to connect you with impactful mission-driven leaders and ideas, and in this case today, questions, so that you can learn to thrive in today’s nonprofit landscape. I am joined today by my co-host, Sarah Fanslau. Sarah, it is good to be with you today on this podcast.

Sarah: Hey Tucker. Good to be here. Excited for these questions.
Tucker: Yeah, I’m excited too. The end of the year is a natural, reflective time for a lot of people.
It’s also a hectic time for a lot of people, and so we wanted to share with you some reflective practices, if you will, that we have done, we have learned. And also some powerful questions that you might ask yourself as a nonprofit leader coming into 2023. But Sarah, why are we even doing this in the first place?
What are we noticing is happening in the nonprofit landscape?
Sarah: Yeah. So I think as we’re looking into the new year, a lot of folks have been saying… and we’re out of COVID, quote unquote. I’m gonna put that in quotes because that’s debatable. But the world is moving on from COVID.

We have a recession looming. The job market is tough, and more for employers than for employees. If you tuned into our last podcast or one of our recent podcasts, you heard some of those stats on hiring and retention, and the nonprofit sector in general is having a really hard time with salary competition from the for-profit sector. So nonprofits are having a hard time retaining and recruiting high quality staff, and then the needs are so high. We’ve seen this in the news and we’ve all experienced it. Groceries are more expensive, gas is more expensive, the housing market is in crisis in this country, and so as we look at this context for nonprofits and nonprofit leaders, it can be tempting, I think, to look at the needs and think, wow, we have to do more. We have to serve more people, meet more needs. And yet we know that our NOs give power to our most important YESes.
So we wanna set up this stage for you all today to think about what your yeses are for next year. In part by thinking about what you learned this year and, visioning forward. That’s a little bit of the context, I think.
Tucker: I love that. It’s a time for us to double down on really reflecting as individuals and then subsequently as organizations.
What really matters most now and letting go of the rest, as you said. Our NOs give power to our most important YESes. And so what are those big yeses? Well, we wanted to invite you into thinking about a few different ways for you to do this. These are gonna be primarily for you as an individual, nonprofit leader.
You can of course, apply these to your whole team, to your organization, to whomever it is that you’d like, and use these questions in a way of organizational shifts as well. But we’re really looking at this for you as an individual, as you’re reflecting on 2022 coming into 2023.

The first practice I wanted to invite you to think about is one that we call your three words for the year.
I’ve been using this practice for quite a while and I’ve noticed with our THRIVER community, which is a community of small community based nonprofit leaders, that when we reflect on our three words for the year, and we think about what they might be, that it’s become a really helpful, guiding light of sorts.
In fact, we use it in this way, saying that they’re meant to serve as lighthouses to guide you through the foggy moments of your year. My words as an example for 2022—and I’m still thinking about mine for 2023. It’s already started to come up—my words for this last year have been: Pathways, local, and soil.
And those all had individual meanings to me. One of them, I’ll actually share about later when we reflect on some of the six questions that we’re going into. But as an example, pathways meant I need to help create the conditions that allow for people to create pathways for us to engage in.
I need to frankly get out of my own way, stop having road closed signs of my own doing, and create the conditions that allow for people to pave pathways within THRIVE. And that’s been a lot of deep learning for me around getting out of my own way. Local. That was a big word for me this year, particularly around my family, of creating real, deeper local community.
We moved to Denver a couple years ago from D.C. and that was a word that was so important for me, as a father of four children and with my wife, of how do we just create conditions around local. But it also translated in THRIVE of creating local types of communities as well.

And then soil was really more of an internal side. The other two were external. But the soil was, what are the conditions that allow for me, myself, to thrive? In fact, I was walking with my daughter one day and it came to me because she was sharing something with me about our garden actually. And I was like, oh, soil is my third word! In thinking about what soil do I need for me? What are the conditions that I need? including things like doing more music as an example. Including things like learning more mindfulness practices that allow me to pause, notice and choose, and things like that. So that’s just to give you an example of my three words, but this is a process that we’ve found to be really effective and helpful for people. Just again, as I said, as lighthouses amidst the foggy moments of your year. And three simple words instead of like big goals, they’re just like guiding lights for you. And they were really guiding lights for me throughout this whole year that I kept reflecting on, usually every month, to see how it was going of sorts.
Sarah: Tucker, I love the three words concept. It’s almost like bumpers in some ways, or like you said, lighthouses. But how do folks think about creating them if they’re like, “Ah, yes, I love this idea of the three words.” What does it look like to create them? You just shared with us an example of having it in your mind and reflecting on it as you go, and then some emerge, but what are the steps folks take to create those.
Tucker: Well, I think some of the steps actually can come into some of these questions that we’re gonna be asking you. But a couple of things just from some tips—this actually comes from a guy named Chris Brogan, who actually started this whole process back in I think 2006. But he said a couple of tips—one is stay true to the three words, have three individual distinct words that are… Don’t make them phrases. Just have three individual words just for simplicity. It’s helpful to get down to that brevity. He said, use words that are actionable if you can. So for example, “expand” is better than “bigger”, if you will.
The more useful and practical the words can be for you, the better they are. That’s why pathways, as an example for me, was a really helpful and useful word because it reminded me of this image that I have of a big mountain with a valley and roads in it. I was like, people don’t live in the mountain.
They live in the valley. But the mountain has purpose. And so how do we create the conditions for people to live well? And then stick with those those three words throughout the year. Now, I’ll technically say that with our nonprofit leaders, we usually will do, “hey”—over the first quarter especially—”hey, are these words still sticking with you?” Usually let it be a little bit of a reflective process. So I would say, come up with your V1. If you’ve listened to our skateboard podcast, you’ll know what I’m talking about. What’s your skateboard?
Three words, if you will. What are your first three words that maybe aren’t quite right. But you’re gonna test them out for the first quarter and you might share those with other people that will allow for you to be able to let them be a reflection back to you. And that’s why we do this in a space of community.
And also as much as you can use plain words like ones that you really know what they mean and that they also have personal meaning to you. I said the word soil. You may not have any idea what that means. You don’t have any idea what that means until it has context and that’s okay. But just make sure that it means something to you.
Like soil to me because I am a gardener, meant something personally to me around my own soil personally. And thinking about that, you don’t necessarily have to explain them, but it’s helpful to do that.
Sarah: That’s great. Well, I love that one. I think it’s a really helpful one as we think about, as you said, those rocky moments. Something to point back to.

Another exercise or activity we wanted to share with y’all was one we actually did last year as a team in our strategy session in December. And, our friend and colleague Rob Stennet, who’s been on this podcast, he’s a storyteller. So you’ll not be confused why it’s so rich.
But he asked us a question and he said, “what’s most important—and we’re gonna look forward now—in 2023 for you and your team?” And he said, “There’s three distinct voices I want you to answer this question from because they all have something different to say.” And so the first voice was, what would your eight year old self say is most important for you in 2023 for you and your team. The second voice is, what does Mother Nature say is most important in 2023 for you and your team? And then the final voice is what does your 108 year old self say is most important next year for you and your team? And the final part of this is that the goal is not just to think of words and say them, but is to draw it.
So your goal is to draw what your eight year old self would say is most important next year for you and your team. And do the same with the other voices. And I’ll say that I think it was really revelatory for us both individually and as a group because the drawing in some ways… At least for me, I’ll speak for myself. You might have a concept in your head, but then you start putting the pencil to the paper and drawing it and it becomes something else sometimes. And so I love the drawing component of this question because I think it really helps people, especially folks who aren’t so verbally oriented, to get into another medium and mechanism through which to answer and channel these questions, which can be difficult.
Tucker: Well, and I’ll say, to your point, this exercise that Rob led us in last year, it was really revelatory. I felt like really connecting for our team. I also will say it was tough going into it. It was like, wait, I have to draw it? Like, what is Mother Nature? Like what are you even talking about?
There was a little bit of… This particular activity, I will say, took us all, I think, out of our comfort zones a little bit.

Sarah: It did, yeah.

All collectively. And so just know that as you’re going into it, that you might want to—if you’re gonna do this exercise, which I totally recommend, we’re gonna do it again ourselves actually this year, just know that—and you might enroll it. We call it enrolling, which is helping people know that this might be a little bit tough. This is also not a drawing competition. Nobody cares how good your drawing is or isn’t. This isn’t about having some art show or something.

But I remember when I started sharing, particularly my 108 year old self, like woo. Things I didn’t even realize were coming up started coming up. And I didn’t even see it coming until it came. It was emotional and I just want to invite you to think about that. You might look at these questions at first glance and think, “eh, what?” But then when you actually go into the space and give yourself and your team permission to do that and to draw, and just give it a shot. “Is it safe to try?” As we like to say.You might invite your team to do that, but when you do that, it can be really revelatory for you as a team. And then the last, we have a sequence of six questions we wanted to share with you. And this actually comes from a dear mentor of mine, John Bergoff, who is the head of a great community that I’ve been a part of, and we’ve been a part of for a while, called the XCHANGE.
And we’re actually gonna answer these questions ourselves. As many as we can get through. We’ll make sure and get through all six of questions. But these are six questions for you to reflect on. This leverages the methodology that we use called Appreciative Inquiry. These are very much generative based questions that are helpful.
I actually answered some of these questions the other day in an exchange experience. And so we’re just gonna give it a shot of six questions for you to reflect on coming into 2023. So Sarah, I’m gonna kick it off with the first one, and I’m gonna ask you—ha ha, beat you to it!—which is, the first question is a celebrate question, and reflecting back on 2022, when did you feel most alive in 2022?
What were some high points or some peak experiences or moments? What did you do or did others do to support those moments? What did they look like? What did they sound like? What did they feel? And the power of this question lies in studying these moments and unpacking and sifting through what were the conditions that allowed for them for you to feel alive. So curious what comes up for you.
Sarah: Yeah. So one thing I love about all these questions is you can answer them from wherever your heart is telling you. It could be work, it could be personal. We’re all whole humans, and so any of these questions can be attacked from any point of view, but for me, when I first read it and heard you ask it, it really brought me back to our work here at THRIVE. And in particular, some of this work we do with organizations around strategic planning. And I think that moment—and we actually had one today—when we sift all of this data with and for folks in support of helping them determine their core priorities and their impact they wanna have going forward, and it’s an iterative process.
We have multiple iterations of this, and there’s often a moment when you get to the end or close to the end where it feels like all the pieces have fit in in the right way and you can feel it almost physically. It feels like things have fit right. And those moments really make me feel excited because what it means is that we’re helping nonprofits not just figure out what they wanna focus on, but what they wanna let go of.
And that is really making me feel alive. And so, my role in that work is sifting and supporting folks and looking at data in a way that’s gonna help them draw decisions and then others showing up, being willing to look at that and have hard conversations about where they are and about where they wanna go.
And what I love about what we do is we’re not telling people the answers with the data. We’re sharing the data and creating choreographies that help them explore it together in a deeper way in support of forward movement. That is my answer to this question.
Tucker: Oh, I wanna ask a follow up question. What did it sound like? So today—I was in that meeting too—or when it’s happened, what did it sound like?
Sarah: I think, it sounds like for me, it’s almost like silence. We joked once we co-create things to death or to life, and when you’ve done that and you’re close to being right, it’s almost silence. There’s not a lot to say. And there’s like a sitting with the thing. And so, it feels like the register feels lower. If that makes sense. And I think it’s almost a sense of silence, which is not empty, but is full, if that makes sense.
Tucker: And so what did it feel like in that silence. It seems like it feels like a deep grounding. It’s like, “Yes.”
Sarah: Yeah! Full or complete or put together. And this one isn’t even… We’re not totally at the end of this one, but we’re at a place where the pieces feel like they’re fitting together in the right way. Yeah, for right now.
Tucker: That’s great.
Sarah: What about you? When did you feel most alive or when have you felt most alive in 2022? What did you do? What did others do?
Tucker: I mean, I’m probably gonna go a little more personal on this one. I actually think back to our last—we do quarterly strategic planning or strategic directioning probably we should call it, that we learn into on a regular basis—and our last quarterly that we did at the end of September, that was this really special moment I felt like for our team and for me personally, where… and it took the leadership of everybody. I think about how Julie opened up the space and leaned into her authentic self and helped us to… We had tension. We even recorded a podcast on this where we had this tension. We’re like, what are we learning about each other right now? I remember that podcast. And it was a space that I felt like the whole team was coming together around being ourselves. It felt like a conflict tense oriented space that led into a very honest space and then an honest space around like what we’re feeling. That felt vulnerable.
I remember feeling really vulnerable. And yet I felt psychologically safe, frankly. It was a psychological safety as a CEOof an organization. And, I’m wrestling through what that means and how that looks in a co-creative environment and then, for you, Sarah, your role in that especially was, we were crafting our clarity on our roles, and the way that you put so much emphasis on the process and you weren’t blaming anybody. There was no blaming of a person. There was like, “Let’s build this process.” And it felt so safe, I felt like, for our whole team, and it felt like just one of those moments of belonging in that time. And I just appreciated Julie for that moment that she opened up our… It was, she’s gonna do a connection exercise that was a little bit lighter and fun. And she’s like, but here’s what the moment calls for. And yeah, she really led there.
So I reflect back on that time as a vivid time of… I felt very alive because I felt like I was deeply able to frankly be vulnerable and authentic. And our team and our culture was able to hold that and we were able to find pathways forward very effectively and connectively.
Sarah: Yeah. I love that. I agree. I agree.

Tucker: So the next question is a learn question. And these are questions that help us harvest some different distinctions, from our low points. Like what are the struggles or the challenges that we had and how might those be experiences or teachers for us?
So this is the question. Where did I struggle? Where was I challenged or where was I tested? And how can I see these experiences as teachers, sources of wisdom gifting me with lessons? And I guess that’s my turn, isn’t it?
Sarah: Yeah, it is.
Tucker: I would say, where did I struggle this year? Where was I challenged?
I think I was challenged in one of our core values, which is co-creation. I mean, it’s the word that we use so much, and it is one of our values. It’s where I feel like I came up with a phrase, “I’m learning into.” It’s a more safer phrase. Like, sometimes with values we sometimes make them black and white. We either are doing them or we’re not. I was like, there’s a learning into still happening and I realize for me, I go back to earlier this year, when we were going through a big cash flow crunch and as the CEO—I’d been the CEO for like three months at that point—I spiraled down into my own reactivity for a little bit, which is in the space of the thing that we teach on all the time, which is around leadership, is not about the few who have the answers. It’s about engaging the many and the power of great questions. And yet here I was spiraling into, why don’t I have the answer? Why don’t I have the answer? What’s wrong with me? Maybe I’m not the right person. I mean, it was just spiral, spiral, spiral. And then it was like this—my friend Kevin used to say a blinding flash of the obvious—of, “Wait a second. Why do I feel like my job is to have the answers? Maybe I need to co-create with my team.”
And it was just this… But I was so challenged by that because of the pressure that I’ve felt like I’ve had and maybe the water we’ve swam in over—that we all swim in—right now around what leadership is, is this immense pressure to have the answers, but that’s just an old belief. But I was really challenged like viscerally inside in that.
And it was really a teacher for me around leaning into and learning into what does it really mean to co-create? And that’s where Sarah, a lot of what you’ve brought so incredibly to our team around the systems and the processes and the rhythms and the clarity of roles around co-creation. How do we actually create those, conditions of co-creation? And I think that’s where I’ve been most deeply challenged and tested. And it’s been a really good learning for me around the source of wisdom, which is that ultimately at the end of the day getting out of my old ways of being, which is as if I need to have all the answers and I really just don’t. In fact, more so than anything, I need to co-create. So that’s where I would answer that question.
Sarah: I love that.

Tucker: How about you, Sarah? Where did you struggle or were challenged or tested, and how are those experiences for you, sources of wisdom?
Sarah: I think, I mean, honestly similarly, it was the lack of clarity that we had around roles honestly was really challenging. And I think it meant a lot of things. That we were stepping on toes, that people were getting their feelings hurt, and that we just weren’t being as efficient as we can be in the work. And so, I think that the big aha for me there is that it takes a lot to get clear and it’s a constant process and it needs to be contextualized.
So, to give you a little bit more here as we use the DARCI, the RACI framework, which is, who’s the decision maker, who’s accountable, who’s responsible, who’s consulted, and who’s informed. Now even a lot of organizations don’t use that, but here it really helps us figure out who does what in relation to each project, and then how you need to engage other team members. But one of the things I started feeling was even once we had that, there was some lack of clarity around what it meant to be accountable. And so we had to go even a layer further down to say, what does accountability look like here at THRIVE IMPACT? And then how do we co-create what it means to action that? And so, the RACI and DARCI, I think at some point I thought, well, that’s good enough. If we get there, we’ll be clear. And I think I really realized and was taught that you need to define those things in the context of each space in order for them to really work. So that’s something I feel like I really learned and benefited from this year.
Tucker: and. Like taking it off the shelf and then applying it directly.

Sarah: Got to!

Tucker: These are good frameworks, but how are they applying in our con—I appreciate that—In our context, contextualizing with our language, our culture, how we operate, what does DARCI even mean in the first place? Well, I’d say it came alive for me after we did that strategy session on it. I was like, oh, that’s what this is.
Sarah: Yeah. So I love this question. This is an appreciate question, and it’s no matter what changes about me, my community, or my work in 2023, what do I wanna honor, nurture, protect, or preserve? And this is about focusing ourselves on our appreciative intelligence so that we can see what we value and then help that grow in value or appreciate.

So, if I start answering that question, no matter what changes about me or my work in 2023, what do I honor, nurture, protect, or preserve. I think one of the things that has been coming up for me as I think about this year and start reflecting on next is my dedication to excellence. And that’s one of our values, and it’s about doing the work well. And it’s not really about doing the work well for me. But it’s doing the work well for our nonprofits that we’re working with. And part of that for me is about time. So often—and there’s a tension here—so often strategic planning processes are worked with folks who are in evaluation or things like take way too much time and they’re not relevant by the time they’re done and all of that.
And I think there’s also something about moving too fast through something in a way that doesn’t allow people to be brought along with the experience. And so one of the things I’m really thinking about, I wanna make sure we continue to hold on to excellence in our work. And I want to personally… One of the things I really value is depth as opposed to breadth. Like that’s one of my personal values is going deep instead of going wide. And I really wanna make sure that that continues to come true next year and that I hold onto that and maybe even a little bit more tightly than I did. This year. . Because I think it’s that space of taking the time things need that ultimately helps them be successful.
So, yeah, that’s what I’m thinking about. What about you?
Tucker: Mm, I like that. The first one that comes to mind is another one of our core values, which is playful. I really think that no matter what changes in me, in our work in 2023, I want to honor holding things loosely and lightly, you know? Like playful is not just like a—I mean, maybe it could be looked at as like kids on the playground—but it’s not an aloofness. I mean, Sarah, we’re in some heavy spaces. Especially I’m thinking about some of our synthesis workshops. As facilitators, we hold space a lot of times, and when we’re in a synthesis, which is around convergence, meaning like synthesizing down. It’s very cognitively heavy. But it’s also emotionally heavy because usually the data is… I was thinking back to, nonprofits, especially in human services and mental health, like we were doing a workshop around, the data was deep on things like youth suicide.

So not only do you have nonprofit leaders who are burning out, but they’re also dealing in deep, heavy issues. And so as I’m thinking about our work in 2023, what are the ways of intentional playfulness that we can continue to bring to the depth and the heaviness of the work that we’re in? I mean, burnout’s going up with nonprofit leaders, especially those in small community based nonprofits. How can we give ourselves permission and others permission to breathe more deeply? To have a laugh at ourselves a little bit to keep things lighter. So that’s what came up for me right off the bat was I really want to protect that space of, as we’re doing things like excellence, that we do it lightly as well. You know what I mean?
Sarah: Yeah. Well, and I think they connect for me. I mean, I’m thinking to this survey result that we just got from a synthesis team workshop, and so for me, having the time allows you to incorporate the playfulness and the connectivity and somebody said, I wish we’d had five more minutes so we could end by reconnecting. And I think that that is where these two things meet. It’s having enough time and the space to have the both/and is really important.
Tucker: Like just more breathing room.
Sarah: Just more breathing room. Yeah. That’s, I think that is the thing I’m really wanting to look for in 2023.

Tucker: So that leads us into our next question, which is imagine. So far we’ve done, just for recap, we’ve done:

Celebrate – when did I feel most alive in 2022? High points, peak moments.

Learn – Where did I struggle, was challenged or tested, and how can I see these experiences as teachers and gifting me with lessons?

Appreciate – No matter what changes about me, my community, or my work in 2023, what do I want to honor, nurture, protector, preserve?
And now we’re to imagine, so imagine is, a year from now, what would I most like to be celebrating? Maybe outcomes I’ve created at home or at work. But more explicitly I think, who have I become and what qualities have I embodied? And, some of this question comes from, when we can pull the texture of the future into the present. Dr. Benjamin Hardy says this, “Our future self is more important than our current self.” At least having a sense of where we’re going or what it is that we want, that helps give us context to our present and how might we then get there. And so the more that we can see here and feel what is that future that we desire, the more viscerally we can affect who we are in the present.
So a year from now, what would I most like to be celebrating? You can go strategically and as this question would invite you, is who have you become? What qualities have you embodied? So I can answer this one first. I think one thing that I’ve been unlearning slash learning into all at the same time is going back into the power of co-creation.
And I think that I really want to be known as somebody who is more interested than I am known as somebody who’s interesting. I really want to, deeply on a one-on-one basis… Like I feel like I do this well in workshops and facilitation, but when I get one-on-one, even I’m thinking with my kids, with my wife, sometimes even with you, Sarah, I get into answer mode too much. Like I need to have a good answer. I need to be interesting. And it’s like I need to unlearn that straight up. I want to, at the end of next year, I want to have really practiced my curiosity skills where I feel like my reaction is curiosity instead of answer.
And so that’s something for me that in all the interactions that I have, I want to… I see myself and picture myself as somebody who leans deeply into curiosity about the other person, about the group I’m with. Even when I’m feeling reactive or I’m feeling like I need to say something, I still pause myself and I notice what’s most important here. And usually that’s gonna be asking a curious question. So that comes up for me personally as a quality that I want to have embodied in a more deeper way than I do.
Sarah: I love that. I love that. I think for me, two things. One, I think part of it is about the finding and having the space and the time. The older I get, the more I realize that the quicker we move, the less we learn. And that’s a problem, because learning, I think is the point. What if learning’s the point?
Tucker: Is it all just learning, Sarah? It’s all learning, isn’t it?
Sarah: But without the time, we can’t. We don’t. And so for me, one of these pieces is really making sure that I, and we, take the time that we need in order to learn. And so that’s one thing.

I think the second thing relating to what you were just saying is, I am very solutions oriented, I mean, give me a problem and I’m gonna come with a solution. And being open to not needing to have the solution, and just letting folks share what’s on their heart and their mind I think is something that I’d like to come out of 2023 being better at. And it reminds me a little bit of the—what are those called—the love languages. Like some are physical touch, some are like things, and we all have a different way I think of expressing empathy. And mine has to say, let me help you with that thing. But often what’s most empathetic is people just need to be heard. And so providing that space for people to be heard without feeling the need, or I might feel it, but not acting on the need to provide solutions is something I’d like to get better at.
Tucker: I have these thoughts that I’m like, oh, I wanna ask them, but I wanna let the answer be though what the answer was. So that works. All right, let’s go into the next question. So the… Yeah. Oh, you can go ahead. Go ahead.
Sarah: Okay. So reinvent. And this is a little bit similar in some ways, but for my future visions to become true, what needs to die, and what’s seeking to be born in its place.
Tucker: I love this question so much.
Sarah: It’s so good. It’s so good. So death and birth are these natural cycles. We’re humans and in a living ecosystem. And it’s not just individuals, but organizations that go through these cycles. And so, facing this question helps us evolve and underlines that question of what matters most now.
So reinvent for my future visions to become true. What needs to die and what is seeking to be born. I feel like you were just asked this question, so you probably already have an answer just ready to go, .
Tucker: Well, it’s just been a… I asked a nonprofit leader this question a couple weeks ago, and ever since I asked her that, it’s been like in my face. I’m like, oh my gosh. I think honestly a lot of it at a high level comes back to ego. I think a lot. And from an ego perspective, I mean the need… Actually, let me pull up something. It was a post that Adam Grant did the other day, and I just felt the need to respond to it, frankly, as a white male. I wanna read it. Here it is. Adam Grant said, “We pay too much attention to the most confident voices and too little attention to the most thoughtful ones. Certainty is not a sign of credibility. Speaking assertively is not a substitute for thinking deeply. It’s better to learn from complex thinkers than smooth talkers.”
And I wrote a post about this. Just personally, this is something I’ve struggled with and I think, as a white male, of the water I have swam in, I’ve been a person that has led with confidence, quote unquote. I’m unlearning old ways of projection that I was taught and learning into new ways of curiosity and understanding.
A lot of this gets back into what I was sharing earlier on co-creation. That confidence doesn’t come from projection, it comes from empathy, it comes from understanding, it comes from reflection. It comes from co-creation with those around me and it’s important that I not steal. And I think this was the big piece is that, I’m an extroverted, deep, deep voiced verbal processor, type of person, and it’s really important that I not steal the wisdom from others because of my quote unquote confidence. And it’s far better for me to go far together than it is for me to go fast alone. And I think that’s just… In this question, what’s seeking to die in me are really… The projection is based in fear. It’s this fear of, as I was saying earlier, of what if people don’t think I’m interesting? Like, I don’t know, just where, I don’t know where it came from. It just is there. I reflected once that I… Somebody asked us… Some Enneagram tests that we were doing… There was a deep fear inside of me—and I’m a seven for those Enneagram people out there—was this fear of being irrelevant.
And that’s set in me and therefore I’ve then done things in order to go out of my way to come across like I am relevant. And I gotta change that straight up. It needs to die. And it’s been dying, I think, for a while. And it’s become more real and visceral for me. And what’s seeking to be born in its place is a space of curiosity. Kind of like what I was saying. And I want… I envision what it looks like, but I needed to lean into it. And I had a meeting today where this person asked me about me, and I got into it and then I paused and I was like, “No I don’t need to keep going. Let me just ask them about them. Let’s try that.”
It’s little tweaks like right there in the room that needs to die in me. And so that’s where pausing, being curious right there in the moment and leaning on the side of being interested in somebody else is really important. How about you, Sarah, for your future visions to come true about things like space, what needs to die in you and is seeking to be born in its place.
Sarah: Yeah. I mean, I think for me, well people probably don’t know, but at a young age I classically trained in opera, from when I was 8 to 18. And it was because I had a gift. My voice was… I had a beautiful voice. And people were like, you have a beautiful voice. You should be up on the stage. So I was a performer and cultivated it as a performer for a long time, from a young age. And that breeds perfectionism. Like straight up. And then I’ve been good at school my whole life, and I’m pretty good at work. And so I have a lot of privileges that mean I haven’t gotten… I mean I definitely have gotten some constructive criticism on my life, but not a ton. And so my fear of failure and not being perfect is pretty significant because I have a lot of strengths that I can leverage and support doing good work that people appreciate.
And yet, every time I put something out there, if it’s not quite perfect, and especially as we use iterative journey, like that fear of not being perfect is strong. And for a while I’ve been thinking like… I need to… It’s not… I mean, the perfectionism is not helpful. And it’s not so much like being totally perfect, but it’s this idea that the negative connotations around feedback. Like, I would love to be able to get—and it’s more around my work, to be honest than my personal stuff—like I would love to be able to get any survey feedback and not feel any source of like, anxiety or fear. Like, I’m serious though. Like I wanna enure myself to just be like, this is great for learning,
And I’m on that path, but I wanna go further there. And so that’s the thing I really like to… Not needing it to be perfect and not being afraid of constructive criticism is something that I’d really like to see born in and for that to die. It’s really, I mean, going back to your fear piece, it’s fear and shame that needs to die as related to that. And then of course it all ties back to self-worth. Probably same for you. And this has been a great environment, honestly. One of the things I wanted to learn, whenever I go somewhere new, I’m like is this… What do I need to learn? And I look at places as learning opportunities around things I need to develop. And I knew THRIVEa was gonna be that for me because of the iterative methodology and the skateboard. But like, it takes time to switch from a way to another way. And it’s practice. That’s it. Straight up practice.
Tucker: Yeah learning into, right?
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. We have one more question. It’s our act question. Is there a commitment, action or first step that moves me or you or us towards the images and possibilities we’ve explored for our future? And I love this question because oftentimes we think of the biting the whole… Taking the whole bite. And this is about what’s the nibble you can take? And maybe there’s a whole bite there, but it’s saying what’s the smallest, or maybe what’s a big, bold choice that you can take in support of where you want to go?
Tucker: I think for me, the commitment or action or first step, I try to practice even today, as I mentioned, and I think, Sarah, you do this really well on our team and when we’re talking with organizations is, Like you really have this, you’re attuned to making sure all voices are brought in. And it’s something as a step that I can do, which is, and I’m not always the first one to share. I try to be the last or later on yet when we’re in the flow of things, and you and I will banter with each other and end up talking over each other and it actually works well with our creative cycles in the sense.
But at the same time, when we have multiple other people on our… As we’re continuing to grow our team, we just brought on a new team member and are continuing to bring more people on, of really making sure of, being aware of the room more and more in terms of, especially in smaller group team environments of, “Hey, we haven’t heard from this person yet. Anything that you wanted to contribute, if you have anything.” Just being invitational on an ongoing basis, I think is the step for me that I think about right away. Or when I’m in a one-on-one experience and somebody is beating me to the punch around questions like that I answer it just enough to answer their question, but then revert back to asking them a question.
Just staying in the space of curiosity. So those are little commitments and actions that I’m asking you Sarah, to help me with actually. So part of this is a commitment to you and to our team, and ultimately to myself as well around the reinvention of leaning into, and that’s what I wanna get better at.
Sarah: Love that. Happy to help .
Tucker: Uh oh, I know you are Sarah. It’s good to voice it though too because when we voice it, it makes it more real.
Sarah: Totally. And I have seen you do that actually just explicitly wait to not be the first voice. That’s something that I think you’ve already started to do really well.
Tucker: Hmm, thank you.

Sarah: For me it’s about noticing and I’ve definitely noticed this year that my noticing skills have gotten stronger. Partially because we do as a, of course as a team, the conscious leadership work. But also, probably about a year and a half, two years ago I started meditation and, just noticing, oh, I’m feeling anxious about this or I’m feeling nervous. Noticing the feelings that I’m having related to the different periods or types of work I think is really important. And then saying why? And asking that question and continuing to answer. And then I think the other piece, wait, I just lost my train of thought…
Tucker: The noticing skills…
Sarah: Oh, oh, Julie said this the other day. It’s leaning into our role as guides instead of… We’re guides from the sides, we’re not consultants. And so not needing to feel like I’m coming to people with the answers, but rather that I’m supporting them and coming to their own conclusions, whatever those are, is a real just shift in perspective that I think takes the pressure, honestly, off of us a little bit because they’re not our answers. That we couldn’t come up with the answers because it’s another organization’s work. All we can do is help present the information, create the choreographies, and do the data work in support of them coming to their own realizations. And so it’s not about us. And I think it’s about decentering me from the work that ultimately will also help that perfectionistic tendency because it’s not about me and it’s not about us, honestly.
Tucker: And is there a step that you see happening like in the moment when you feel like that’s coming up?
Like what’s, in the moment kind of… Maybe it is that you’re noticing skills as you were saying, like is noticing that, and then what’s like the step that you might wanna take?
Sarah: Well, I think Julie actually suggested this. It’s when I’m sharing data, it’s not about what I found. It’s about what’s in the data. And so it’s a shift. Simple shift of language, which is the data is suggesting this, because it’s not about me. And so I think that language shift is a really vital one.

Tucker: That’s a really good one. Almost instead of like, acting like we’re presenting something. It’s more like, here’s a reflection of the data. It’s keeping it in that objective space of here’s…
Sarah: We’re almost like archeologists. We’re like, we’ve dusted off the dinosaur bones and we’re like, here’s the skeleton, y’all.
Tucker: Yeah. Ooh, that’s great. I love that. Action. All right, well, I hope this was helpful for all you listening. We wanted to give you a couple of reflective practices, as well as some questions.
Again, I want to thank John Bergoff, a dear mentor of mine, and us at THRIVE IMPACT. So much of XCHANGE and the XCHANGE approach has been so deeply influential to our work around solving nonprofit leader burnout. So shout out to you, John, in these questions because these came directly from you. And, appreciate those and, hopefully this was helpful for all of you listening.
We try to be open and honest learners, frankly, which can be vulnerable sometimes. I mean, even Sarah, you shared vulnerably in this time around some of your own personal journey and… But maybe that’s just how it is. That’s how it needs to be. Is it all just learning? Maybe it is all learning, as we like to say.
Sarah: It’s our catchphrase.
Tucker: So anyway, look forward to seeing you in 2023 out there. It’s a good year for this reflection, as we said at the very beginning. 2023 is gonna be a tough year, I think, for a lot of nonprofits, for a variety of reasons, and use these questions to get more and more clear about what matters to you, what matters most now for your organization so that you can say NOs in order for your most important YESes to come about.
Sarah: Yeah, and I would also say if these questions were helpful for you and you want more support diving into 2023, we have a fantastic strategic planning workshop coming up in the new year, that we’ll put more on the show notes about and would love for y’all to join us.
Tucker: Awesome. Alright. Thanks everyone. Have a wonderful…
Sarah: Happy New Year, y’all.
Tucker: Final 2022 and yes, Happy New Year. Bye.