UPCOMING: Co-Creation 101  | March 12th, 2024 11:00am - 12:00pm MDT

Celebrating the THRIVERS Community Journey

December 14, 2023

Show Notes

Leadership is a journey filled with constant evolution and growth. Sometimes that means closing one chapter to begin another.

In this deeply personal and reflective episode, Tucker, accompanied by members of the THRIVERS community, takes a moment to mark the conclusion of this season of their collaborative journey. 

Guests:
Frankie Abralind – Founder of The Good Listening Project
Beth Roalstad – CEO of Homeward Pikes Peak
Lisa Simms Booth – Executive Director of Smith Center for Healing and the Arts
Dr Stephanie McGencey – Founder of Womens Equity Center and Action Network
Caroline Durham – Executive Director of St Charles Center for Faith and Action
Amy Powell – Executive Director of Art Reach
Kate Colligan – Director of Development & Communication of Basic Health International

They discuss their collective experience of being in the trenches together through the challenges and triumphs of leadership for the last three years. They share their unique reflections, insights, and the valuable lessons learned throughout their time in the THRIVERS group.

Key moments from the episode include:

Personal stories of growth, challenges, and successes shared by each member, highlighting the diversity and richness of experiences within the group.
An exploration of the themes of vulnerability, strength, and the power of community in the context of leadership.
Insights into how the group has provided a safe space for sharing, learning, and building confidence in their roles as leaders.

As the THRIVERS group marks the end of this chapter, this episode serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of collaboration, shared learning, and the lasting impact of a supportive community in leadership. It celebrates the journey and growth experienced by its members, underscoring the transformative effect such a community can have on personal and professional development.

Thanks to the group’s collective wisdom and insight, this episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in the dynamics of leadership and community-driven growth.

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Transcript

Tucker:
Welcome to THRIVERS: Nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I’m your host, Tucker Wannamaker, the CEO of THRIVE IMPACT, and our mission.

Frankie Abralind:
Uh-huh.

Tucker:
… Is to solve. That’s right, Frankie. 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 so that you can learn to thrive in today’s nonprofit landscape. And I am joined by a whole bunch of co-hosts today, guests, co-community members, who have been a part of THRIVERS program that we’ve had for, man was it like three years now, Frankie? Is that right? Has it been three years since we first started?

Frankie Abralind:
I mean, the beginnings of it were in person, I think in 2019. Yeah.

Tucker:
Well, we are closing out this particular chapter of THRIVERS and we just had a celebration. But before we go into a little bit of that, I just wanted to thank all of you for being here. We have Beth Roalstad, thank you, Beth for being here. Frankie Abralind for being here. Lisa Simms Booth, thank you for being here, Lisa. Caroline Durham, Caroline, always good to have you. Good to be here with you. Dr. Stephanie McGencey. Dr. Stephanie, great to be here with you. Amy Powell, great to be here with you. And Kate Colligan. Kate, great to be here with you. I’m so excited to have all my friends and guests and co-hosts. We’re all just kind of doing this together.
So Frankie and Caroline, I wanted to hand over to you briefly and to share what we just did. We just did an experience, really to me, and I had no idea what y’all were planning by the way. I had no clue what was going on, but it was something important to me and I really felt very honored around ending something. Well, and we kind of came to a closure of a particular program that we’ve been doing for quite a long time, which is this particular community of THRIVERS. And so Frankie and Caroline, I want to hand it over to you and share a little bit about what we just did and why that was important.

Frankie Abralind:
Yeah. Well, we’re transitioning from one chapter of THRIVERS to another, and this first chapter is one that you have been our primary host for, for a long time and helped build, but at the same time always co-creating and emphasizing the importance of co-creation with everybody who’s part of it. Most of the time you are literally our host and literally guiding it and providing that as a service for us, but also reinforcing for all of us that we’re doing it together and that this is how we build community. We build community together, not from the top down, but from, I don’t know, middle out or something?

Tucker:
Yeah. That works. Yeah, I’ll take that.

Caroline Durham:
And to take the time, as we always do, to ground in, we are pulled in many, many directions in our work and our lives. And so it’s always a space where we first come in and literally come in together. I feel like I’m in a room with you all, have built relationships. Two people I’ve seen in person, which has been amazing. And so literally built relationships through this creation that is Zoom, and through the willingness of people to be vulnerable. Vulnerable in showing their strengths too, which is not always easy. And I would say it’s oftentimes more challenging for this group to talk about their strengths than it is to talk about what their challenges are. [inaudible 00:03:44] from that sometimes.

Frankie Abralind:
We all have that strength.

Tucker:
We have so many strengths.

Caroline Durham:
Yeah, so many strengths. And so the opportunity today to reflect back and reflect back in terms of the time here and to work to put eyes in different times in each of our individual lives, as our 20-year-old and as our 90-year-old and what that looks like.

Tucker:
Yeah. Well, and for the listeners, Caroline and Frankie invited us into a reflection on what we have learned by being a part of THRIVERS in this community-

Frankie Abralind:
How we’ve grown.

Tucker:
Oh, how we’ve grown, yes. But from the perspective of our 20-year-old self, our current self, and our 90-year-old self, and it was helpful to me. It was really helpful to just go into that space and think, almost like what did my younger self think was important, and now what does my older self? And I noticed, at least for me, and I noticed a few of the stories, how the older self was really focused on much bigger, really belonging-oriented components. I remember hearing some of the ones from all of you around, like Marissa’s was around, filled with hearts, or Amy, yours was around, filled with hearts, too.
And being able to be in a space of something like, “Maybe we don’t have to care so much.” Like, Frankie, yours was around, oh my gosh, I’m blanking out. I have it, “I’m not at the center.” That’s what you said. “I’m not at the center realizing that maybe I don’t need to care quite so much to a point where the world doesn’t revolve around me and that maybe I can just be lighter, almost.” Is kind of what I was taking away from what you were saying, Frankie. Anyway, it was a lot of really good stories that came out of that. Well, thank you for both of you for creating that space. I do think it’s fascinating to explore, how do we help anything and anyone to be able to end well on anything, including people who work at your place, including communities that you’re part of.
I know this is a really big one for me of, I’m not sure how to say no, I’m not sure how to close things out when it feels like it’s time to move on to the next piece. And so Frankie and Caroline, I appreciate you both creating that space that helped me to do that. I’d love to bring in some learnings from everybody here and really just let this be a nostalgic memory lane time, mainly because I believe that our learning and everybody who’s out there listening can learn from our own experiences, can learn from what it is that we have learned ourselves through this journey. And so I’m curious for all of you who’ve been a part of THRIVERS who are on here, which is every one of us, what’s been memorable moments of deeper learning, or deeper aha, or whatever it might be that comes up for any one of you? And let’s just go down memory lane a little bit and see what we can excavate from our own learnings.

Dr. Stephanie McGencey:
When you’re in the throes of leading an organization, and I’m using that language very intentionally because it feels like every day is a different storm or crisis. And some days the crisis may be bigger than others, but it’s hard to get your footing sometimes. And when we spent time talking about awakening conscious leadership, the pausing, noticing and reflecting on what’s happening, it’s like taking that beat and sometimes in just taking the beat and taking a few deep breaths. And it helped me to come to the realization that most of the time I did know what to do, and/or that there was a solution and I knew who I needed to talk to help me figure out the solution, as opposed to just being all in the moment and crazy.
It’s like, I’m the person you want sitting on the exit row on an airplane, because I’m going to get everybody off. But it’s even coming into an awareness that that’s one of the gifts and things that you bring, which is why I talked about the gifts that I bring to this work, because we spent so much time talking about all the bad-

Tucker:
Yeah.

Dr. Stephanie McGencey:
… And getting caught up in the mania of it all. So I appreciate the grounding and the constant reminders to do that every day.

Tucker:
That’s great. Thanks Stephanie.

Beth Roalstad:
So, I think one of the benefits of THRIVE early on, when I didn’t have my own development staff person, was the cadence of weekly goals and having this accountability group that held me to reporting out what I said I was going to do and what I wanted to do for my best and highest self as a fundraiser. And that regularity really helped me a lot. And then what I struggled with was when it moved to me directing a staff person to have that regularity and focusing on other leadership activities, like being a CEO and managing a organization, I struggled with having a cadence that had weekly deliverables, so to speak.
So I think that it was probably my own lack of creativity of looking for weekly deliverables as a CEO, that we’re not revenue focused. But I appreciated that a lot about THRIVERS in the beginning. And then what I loved about the learning that happens within the group is when you brought a topic to us, like, when we reviewed the pain-joy-bridge, or when we reviewed examples of how to live out values in an organization, they really helped me think through my next meetings, with a staff meeting or a group and really helped me teach others in my organization. So this has been really meaningful to me. Thank you.

Tucker:
Oh, that’s great. I love that, Beth.

Lisa Simms Booth:
Yeah, I’ll jump in. Everyone knows, not everyone, but I was a brand new ED when I found THRIVERS, first time ED in the middle of a pandemic, and I was basically in the ocean and trying to keep myself from drowning and THRIVERS really was like my life raft because all of a sudden I wasn’t alone. And I was with other EDs who were going through similar things. And then I was learning about the pain-joy-bridge and mainly the things that we talked about, the pausing, all the things that have been mentioned already. And so it was just invaluable. But I think the most important thing is it allowed me to stop doubting that I belonged and that I was an ED. There was a voice going, “You’re not really ED caliber.” Like that whole thing going on, but I’d be with the rest of you.
And I was like, “Yes, I am. Yeah, I am.” And so for me, just I’m an ED. I’m doing this and y’all helped me see that I was doing it when I still doubted myself. And so it’s helped me go from this, I don’t know, I feel like the little ED that could to the little ED who is doing, and I’m not doing it perfectly and I’m not doing it, whatever, but I’m doing it and it’s been a big reason. But this group, this THRIVE group, and you Tucker, have been a real important part of my journey and I just had my four-year anniversary, so you all have been a part of the entire time of my tenure-

Tucker:
Yeah. Yeah.

Lisa Simms Booth:
… So it’s pretty amazing. I’m still here and my organization’s still here, so I guess we’re doing okay.

Tucker:
That’s great. The little ED that could, the big ED that’s kicking ass. That’s what I think. Lisa.

Lisa Simms Booth:
I will receive that. Thank you very much.

Tucker:
Yes, that’s right. That’s right. So good.

Frankie Abralind:
Yeah, I’ve really appreciated the safe space that we’ve cultivated together, to be able to talk about the things we’re not doing well, the things that might be embarrassing for us, the things that make us feel like we’re not doing a good enough job as an executive director, or that we’re missing some sort of skill or ability or the times that we fail and say, “Here’s the thing that I’m embarrassed about.” And knowing that we’re all going to be there and still supporting each other and still saying, “You’re still a human, imperfect and we still welcome you. We hear you showing up with integrity and trusting yourself and doing your best. And that doesn’t always work out for the outcomes that we want when it’s the actions that we choose and we see each other doing these things and we tell each other the things that we’re doing that we can know each other in that way and support each other through community.”

Tucker:
Yeah, I love that, Frankie. I really resonate with that too, of the embarrassing things or the things that seem embarrassing to me or, like, “I should have this figured out, but I don’t have this figured out, but I can have a place now that I can talk to people about the thing that I don’t have figured out that I think I should.”

Frankie Abralind:
You know what’s funny, is I’m remembering you asked us to think of specific stories, and that was a very abstract one that I just gave.

Tucker:
That’s okay.

Frankie Abralind:
Well, thank you.

Tucker:
If you have a specific one though, you can feel free.

Frankie Abralind:
And I’m just thinking about earlier this summer, when I was really struggling this summer, and a lot of it was about self-compassion, and I started reading a book and I told you about the book I was reading, and it felt for some reason, weak of me to pursue this self-help book by Mel Robbins that my sister recommended, and I was able to just talk about, “Yeah, I’m reading that and yeah, I need that right now.” It’s about like giving yourself a high five in the morning in the mirror, and it felt just hokey. Like, “Wow.” And, yeah it’s still helping me. And so that was nice to be able to share that and know that I wasn’t going to be judged for being weak and mad.

Tucker:
Stephanie, I feel like you’re about to say something. You found a book. Did you find the book that he was talking about?

Dr. Stephanie McGencey:
No, not the book, but it brought me to remember this book. I think I learned about it from this group.

Caroline Durham:
Who’s it by?

Dr. Stephanie McGencey:
It is by Lisa Austin.

Tucker:
It’s called Your Unstoppable Greatness.

Dr. Stephanie McGencey:
Break Free from Impostor Syndrome, Cultivate Your Agency, and Achieve Your Ultimate Career Goals. I feel like I got it from here.

Tucker:
Yeah, I think so too.

Frankie Abralind:
I can believe it. Have you read it?

Dr. Stephanie McGencey:
I was just going to say I grabbed it from behind me. Now I need to move it from behind me onto the desk so I can start reading it. What is behind me is … It’s dicey, but once I move it to the desk-

Tucker:
There it is.

Dr. Stephanie McGencey:
… And we have a chance. So it’s on the desk, it’s on the desk.

Tucker:
It’s on the desk.

Caroline Durham:
On the desk. I love that.

Amy Powell:
I was just going to kind of dovetail off of what Frankie had said and elaborate a little bit about being vulnerable and being able to, huh, and I get teared up, being able to share some of those things that do make us vulnerable and kind of expose the layers that we try so hard to build up, like on our day-to-day, right? I can’t let my staff see me struggling. I can’t let funders in the community see that I screwed up on something. And so being able to have this group as a real safe place for peeling back those layers and just to be vulnerable.

Tucker:
I love that. Amy.

Frankie Abralind:
We see you, Amy, we salvage.

Amy Powell:
Y’all have been my lifeline for the last couple of years. I appreciate that.

Caroline Durham:
Well, and to be able to do that, I am a crier too for a lot of reasons, and I knew that I could do it here. I knew because others come like that, like you do, Amy. And there have been little nuggets all along the way, and Lisa, I’m amazed to hear that she was a brand new ED. I think I must’ve come in, well, she was two years in after, if I’m two years in as an ED, also brand new and in a small organization.
And part of what I’ve had to do, small, meaning it’s me and right now it really is me. And we can talk about that offline, Tucker. We’re going to be hiring soon. And while there were times where it felt like I was the odd person out, what I realized, I wasn’t the odd person out because we all showed up and to celebrate small wins has led to having big wins, I think. And to have this space, I don’t know of other spaces … I mean, I’ve not been engaged in other spaces like this in the two years that I’ve been a part of this group. I’m grateful for that. And I want to say that I’ll be glad when there’s not more change, but what I’ve learned is there’s nothing but change, there are lots of mountain peaks, which means there are lots of valleys. And so this has been a good place to be able to share and be in all of that, with all of you.

Tucker:
I’m thinking about what I shared earlier in our time, but just for all the listeners too, one of my earlier, most memorable moments was just me and Frankie and Amy Alanes, and I don’t even remember how long we had started it, Frankie as literally, we called it THRIVERS Fundraising Club.

Frankie Abralind:
[inaudible 00:19:34].

Tucker:
That was the beginning.

Frankie Abralind:
That’s all we needed. We just needed funds. I guess, we had funds, everything would be good.

Tucker:
THRIVERS fundraising club. But I remember, I don’t know, it may have been like, what, three months in or something like that, four months in, and it wasn’t all that long. I think it was about three months in and I was like, “I have no idea if this is even helping anybody.” Having no clue at all. And then Frankie, you and Amy both spoke directly into what confidence had been building within both of you. And Amy had mentioned something around, similar to what a lot of you all said, which is, “A space for me to be able to practice my own voice, for me to be able to share things into a room that is out of my own head and get it out.” And in a sense, practice and create almost like a learning environment. Frankie, you had said something similar as well, and I remember that just being so memorable to me, partly because I was like, “Whoa, this is, oh, okay, maybe there’s something here.” Maybe there’s something to this thing that we’re figuring out, clunking along.
That’s what got me into that activity we were doing earlier around the 20-year-old and the current and the 90-year-old self, was realizing that so much of confidence can be built and arguably is only built in the space of community. Confidence in the ability to practice one’s voice, to be able to share the things that I don’t feel comfortable enough or safe enough to share with my board or with my staff or with sometimes my own spouse. I remember we got into some all kinds of different things, whether it was personal or professional, and noticing that the space of connection and empathy is a space of breeding learning, which learning breeds confidence. And so anyway, that was one of my most memorable moments, just going way back in the day of where this was all coming together and, “What are we doing here? How is this going?”
And yet we were cultivating something that I feel very much for myself that, belonging matters, feeling belonging matters. Isolation is terrible, terrible for us. We already know that. There’s so much data on that. The Surgeon General released a report. We already know these things, but then so easily I still find myself getting caught up in, “Why don’t I have the answer?” And then I come and be a part of THRIVERS and I’m like, “Oh, I don’t need to have the answer. I can just practice my voice.” And I can say, “What questions do I need to ask and say, ‘y’all I’m struggling.'” And multiple times where y’all would hold space either for me or hold space for others. And it wasn’t a, give you the answer for what you need, it was give you the space to just feel what you feel.
So yeah, that’s me. That’s one of my most memorable moments, goes way back in the early days that still, there’s so many of those moments of how I feel like I’ve been able to grow in my own confidence as a facilitator and ultimately as a CEO of an organization myself, and in so many different ways that that confidence has been grown and built, because of the space itself, the space to share. Which is really what I heard from all of your shares, was a space to be able to share, a space to be able to hear and listen and to hold space for others and work out the details. So that’s what comes up for me.

Amy Powell:
And I love how when at different points, when people have had questions or things that we’re working through, it wasn’t like, “Well, I did this, so you should do this.” When you would have us ask questions to get people to come to the answer or different ways of digging in, that was really profound.

Tucker:
Oh, yeah. When we do wisdom circles and instead of offering advice, you offer questions. Yeah.

Amy Powell:
Yes.

Tucker:
Yeah. Ooh, that’s so good.

Amy Powell:
And when we say no, what becomes possible?

Frankie Abralind:
Yeah, right.

Amy Powell:
Ah-ha. Mind blown.

Frankie Abralind:
That’s something that’s been a major theme of THRIVERS, is reflection. Reflection and protecting this hour every week for that reflection, together. Because sometimes we don’t protect it on our own, and so we just go from activity to activity, to-do list item, to-do list item, task, task, task, meeting, meeting, meeting. And then I always knew on Monday afternoons, that’s time for reflection. That’s going to help me understand myself, whether or not I’m the center of the challenge that week or something, but there’s always going to be some part of it that’s just involving me thinking on my own and reflecting, which is part of how Caroline and I put together this celebration for you, this farewell as you are stepping away from the THRIVERS group, now.
There’s a lot of different things we could have done in that celebration just an hour ago, and we wanted it to be something that would have each of us reflecting on our own experience, how we’ve grown with THRIVERS, because we knew that would be really valuable to you. Seeing and knowing and seeing us, hearing us talk about talk, instead of a little bit more than just sharing a favorite memory, but also sharing the impact that THRIVERS has had on us. It’s been a lot and continues to be and it will continue to be.

Tucker:
I love that, the theme of reflection constantly throughout, Frankie. Yeah. That’s great. Well, I’d love to close out the conversation with one particular question, which is, if you’re thinking about people just like you out there listening in on this podcast, which they are somewhere in the thousands, I believe at this point.

Frankie Abralind:
[inaudible 00:26:15].

Tucker:
I know it keeps growing. There are people out there that are hearing this and are like, “What do I do? Where do I go?” Now we’re figuring out where this group is evolving and morphing. And Caroline, if you want to offer something you can, but I’m more just curious, what are things, based on what you’ve learned from THRIVERS and what we’ve just been reflecting on, what is something that you would encourage another ED or development director or whomever might be out there? What are some words of wisdom or Amy, just to use what you just shared, what are some of the most important questions you would invite people to ask themselves when it comes to and growing in their leadership and what you learned through being a part of THRIVERS?

Caroline Durham:
I would say community matters. This role feels isolating, particularly for people who are perfectionist. If you’re in this role, there’s a part of that in your world. There’s a sense of responsibility in everything we do, and if it’s not the best possible, it feels like it’s all me, and that’s not true. And so building community with others, that is a safe space, that you can bounce ideas off of, that you can say, “I think I just …” I don’t know what the phrase is, the word shit’s coming up, sorry. Hit the bed, whatever they call it, and to find out that you really didn’t, but the emotions make it feel that way. So creating community with people that you can do what we’ve been talking about in this podcast, that we’ve been doing for the years that we’ve been together, as THRIVERS feels really, really important. You are only alone if you choose to be.

Frankie Abralind:
And to build on that, here’s my question for listeners and for all the wonderful nonprofit leaders who are devoting yourselves to making the world a better place, “Who are your peers and what are you doing to hold space for each other? What can you do to intentionally hold space for each other?” Because that’s how we create community, holding space for each other. And the more the community is with our peers, the more we can lift each other up.

Amy Powell:
I was thinking along those exact same lines, Frankie. Who can be your safety net and support system, because it is isolating.

Tucker:
Yeah, I was thinking about the tagline we had for THRIVERS, which is, “You’re not meant to do it alone.” I don’t know if y’all remember that, but we used to say it a lot, which is, “You’re not meant to do it alone.” Literally, as a human, you’re not meant to do it alone. One thought I was just thinking about, as you all were sharing, sometimes holding space for others can feel uncomfortable or awkward, or not sure where to start. And just for all the listeners, we had a very simple structure, and I think sometimes within that structure allowed for the culture of THRIVERS to come forward. But our structure was, pausing at the beginning. We did a pause and usually some kind of breath work, mainly because people are going from Zoom to Zoom to Zoom and meeting to meeting to meeting and whatever. And we all need space to pause.
And so we went from pause, to sharing wins and progress.Like, “Where have you had win, or progress in your own leadership, or in your revenue over the last week?” And having that as a consistent space. And then we went straight from there to challenges and people would bring in challenges, and we co-create, we did wisdom circles, Amy, that you were talking about. And then we’d end with action and commitments that everybody was like, “What do I need to get done over the next week?” So that was our four-part structure that anybody can emulate and just give it a shot, try it, and something I think everybody can do. And you can start by starting, really. Start by starting with two other EDs in your own organization or in your own community or whatever it might be. Well, y’all, I just want to thank you for being on this podcasts. Thank you for your wisdom, for your grace, for your holding of space. Caroline, Frankie, thank you for choreographing the closure of this recent iteration of this THRIVERS community, and I’m just forever grateful for your love and your support for me too.

Frankie Abralind:
Yeah, likewise.

Caroline Durham:
All good.

Tucker:
This was a hard one to say, “No.” To step away from. I’m not going to lie. This is one of the hardest nos I’ve had to say. And it wasn’t even nos. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a pause or who knows? We’ll see, but …

Frankie Abralind:
Like, you got 25 things you want to put in your top five priorities.

Tucker:
Seriously. Awesome.

Frankie Abralind:
Get in Tucker. Great to see you, Caroline. Good to see you-

Caroline Durham:
Good to see you too. Good to see you too. Have a great time in New Zealand. I may meet you over there.

Tucker:
Frankie’s going to New Zealand.

Frankie Abralind:
I’m going to New Zealand.

Caroline Durham:
[inaudible 00:31:54].

Tucker:
Awesome. All right. Bye everyone. Have a great day.

Frankie Abralind:
Bye. Thank you.

Caroline Durham:
Thank you.

Frankie Abralind:
I am-