EP 9: Ditching Top-Down Approaches to Change: Interview with Indy Frazee

November 17, 2022

Show Notes


Easier said than done. 

There are LOTS of ways to create buy-in, but they’re not all created equal. And further still, not all of them are accessible to nonprofits. So how do we do more than just “build buy-in”? How do we actually get people ENGAGED?

Ditching top-down approaches and  implementing a culture of co-creation at your organization is an important part of making your team feel that their voices are heard and valued, but what is the right way to implement this approach? 

When is it appropriate to use co-creation versus just making a decision and moving forward? 

In this episode, Sarah and I sat down with Indy Frazee, CEO of The Independence Center, to talk about her experience creating a radical shift in staff engagement. She shares about the impact of co-creating a vision together and the power of asking better questions.


The Independence Center 

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Tucker: Hey there, and welcome to THRIVERS: Nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I am your host, Tucker Wannamaker, the CEO of THRIVE IMPACT, and 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 so that you can learn to thrive in today’s nonprofit landscape.
And today I’m joined by both my co-hosts, Sarah Fanslau. Sarah, great to be on the show with you again today.
Sarah: Hey, Tucker, Great to be here.
Tucker: And I’m also joined by an impactful mission-driven leader. Somebody that we’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with, Indy Frazee, who is the CEO of the Independence Center in Colorado Springs. Indy, it is great to be here with you today.
Indy Frazee: Thanks Tucker. I’m excited to be here.
Tucker: Now, Indy, first of all, I want to appreciate you and appreciate your nonprofit. You’ve just recently been named best nonprofit in Colorado Springs—you’re in Colorado Springs, Colorado—and you were just recently named that by the Colorado Springs Business Journal.
So, as we like to say around THRIVE IMPACT, “High Thrive” to you all. That’s incredible. I love seeing that. And I wanted to just dive right in Indy, into the journey because we’ve done quite a few podcasts on strategic planning, but underneath the surface, what those podcasts are really about many times is not just the direction that you’re going on, but what’s really going on underneath the surface with your culture. What’s the story behind this? And so we really want to unpack and dive into your story as a CEO and your story as the Independence Center. So do you mind if we just hop right in? You ready to go?
Indy: Yeah, let’s do it!
Tucker: So Indy, you’ve been the CEO for about a year now, right? When was your anniversary? Do you remember? Was it about a year?

Indy: It was November 1st. It’s coming up.

Tucker: Oh, it’s coming up.
Indy: Yeah, it’s coming up!
Tucker: That’s awesome. And just curious, going back a year, what were you charged with? And becoming the CEO, what were some of the pains that you were brought on to address in your new position.
Indy: Wow. That’s a good question to start with, Tucker.
Tucker: We just like to dive right in. Just go for it.
Indy: I feel like I’ve been really fortunate. I know sometimes when CEOs come on board, they are charged with maybe changing and making a lot of change right up ahead of time. And I’ve actually been with the Independence Center for eight years now, and so seven of those years I got to see different facets of the organization.
I started as director of finance. I moved into our home health administrator role, and so I got to see not only the backside of the numbers, but then got to work with people and the business side. On top of that, we had a CEO for 10 years, Patricia Yeager, who really brought the organization from a mom and pop organization into the new world of nonprofits.
And so her legacy, I got to step into, which was a little daunting, I will say. For sure.
Tucker: Yeah she’d been such a mover and shaker —she probably still is actually—such a mover and shaker around Colorado in general.
Indy: Yeah. So I was lucky because I got to walk into an agency that didn’t necessarily need fixing right away. A lot of times CEOs are brought on to fix things and fortunate for me, I get to just springboard from that foundation that she built. So I like to say that we get to move—I get to move—the organization from good to great. I really appreciate the leadership and the foundation she built and now we get to springboard.
So super excited about that. We really needed to take a look internally. Throughout the 10 years we’ve been putting programs on, and maybe some of them were a little mission drift. So looking more at mission alignment and really shifting our understanding of what our community really needed.
Because I mean, even in the last two years, obviously with pandemic and everything else, our community is always moving and shifting and learning and growing, and we need to be that kind of organization that shifts with our community. One of the things that I maybe not brought on, not a pain point, but something to say, “Hey, let’s look internally first and understand what are the programs we’re good at and double down on those. And what are some of the programs that maybe have completed their life cycle and are ready to be sunsetted?” Just understanding our community need and how we can be more impactful for our community.

So just a different way of leading to address some of the systemic challenges that we face as an organization and as a community.
Tucker: You know, what I love about what you were sharing, Indy, is this external meets internal, what’s really going on in the community and also what’s going on within our organization, and how are those pieces coming together? I’m curious, you’ve, of course, had a lot going on as becoming a CEO and have been the CEO. A new role, a new transition, and you just spent time and real resources—real time and real resources—on this strategic planning process with us in particular. And just curious why this process and why now? Why was this sort of—as you were talking about really trying to find that bridge between external and internal and being a learning organization as you kind of were saying—why this type of a process?
Indy: Well another thing that’s unique about the Independence Center is that we’ve actually had a relatively robust strategic planning process when I first started. And then that was one of the pieces of the foundation that Patricia had really built into the culture. But it also had some… It needed some change. It needed a different look at it.
I really think it’s already kind of in our DNA to do strategic planning, but it made sense that with a new leader, that you can look at your strategic planning process and maybe revamp it, give it some new energy, give it a new light to look upon.
Our board as well had a BHAG—big, hairy, audacious goal—that Patricia first set when she started, and a couple, probably about 2000— not 2021, maybe 2020—our board said, “Hey, you guys have really checked the box we’ve established and done well of getting to this BHAG.” It was very tactical. It was maybe create some new programs and was able to say that, “Hey, we’ve accomplished this.”

And, and so our board really pushed us to say, “Hey, you need a new BHAG.” And so we have one and we have a new one, and it’s not tactical. It’s very aspirational.
Tucker: Very aspirational, yeah.

Indy: Right? So it’s about focusing on people with disabilities, their unique abilities so that all are known, valued, and included. And, again, that’s changing mindsets. That’s changing not just internal culture, but community culture and so we needed a different way to get to this BHAG and create a new direction and really work on our actual strategic planning process.
So it just makes sense. It’s not something that the Independence Center wants to just create a plan and put on the shelf and then readdress it a year later. And so we just needed a new way of thinking through that.
Sarah: Indy, I love that. And you just gave a little bit of the answer to the question I was gonna ask, but for folks who don’t know the Independence Center, can you tell us a few sentences about who are y’all and what do you do in the community? What is your role?
Indy: I can talk about the Independence Center all day. But in a few sentences as you asked Sarah, we are the local organization here for civil rights for people with disabilities. We are a home health agency as well as a center for independent living. And for those of you who don’t know what that is, it is not a place of residence.
So when most people think of independent living, they think of people living in a facility, and that is actually the opposite of what we believe in. We believe in individuals with disabilities living in their communities and thriving in their communities. And really however they define independence, we’re here to walk alongside them and help them get to where they want to be.
Sarah: Hmm, I love that. So this work of the BHAG and your mission are really important, it sounds like, to say, “So what does it look like to live into this now with a new leader and in the midst of a pandemic? What does it look like for us to do that?” And it sounds like that’s part of the impetus behind engaging in this strategic planning process in this way. Is that right?
Indy: Yeah, absolutely.
Tucker: You know, and you had such a… I’m curious about the process that we went through. Your BHAG—where most organizations we work through, we have to help them sort of go up and go a little bit higher level. Like many times as we’re going up into their vision especially, it’s like, all right, you’re in something bigger than you think you’re in—yours was quite the opposite. This BHAG was big. It was big, hairy, and audacious. Just to share it again—I know you said it a minute ago—but that the Independence Center will redefine disability. Redefine disability. That’s big. To focus on the unique abilities of our community so that all are known, valued, and included. The redefinition of disability to not be about disability, but to be the unique abilities. So that those who have these unique abilities are able to feel known, valued, and included.

I just loved how our journey was not going up. It was actually kind of chunking it down in a sense. But I’m curious about this process that we use—which was very much a bottom up, co-created type of approach—curious what about this approach did you love in terms of really unpacking this BHAG and getting it where you needed to go? And also, what were some things that were challenging? And you can start with whichever one you want to go at.
Indy: Well, I’ll start with what I love because co-creation, it’s in my DNA right?
With strengthsfinder, harmony and maximizer are two of my strengths, and that’s just like a blend of both when it comes to co-creation. And then we have had a culture of top down thinking. The leaders of the organization did the strategic planning, but there wasn’t a whole lot of bottom up or co-creation.
One of the things that really resonated with me, Tucker, as we were working with THRIVE IMPACT, was your graph about moving from the voices of the few who had the answers and moving to the voices of the many, and asking good questions. One of the exercises that you led us through several times throughout the entire process was the “How might we ask questions and to get to a better outcome.”
I just love that approach as well. We’ve adopted that in several of our meetings going forward and projects we’re working on is just asking better questions. So I’m just a believer that—a lot of voices—you get better ideas from voices that you never even thought you would get from.
And so why not, right? So the co-creation and allowing voices and sometimes those voices don’t necessarily wanna come out right away. So one of our challenges was trying to figure out how to identify individuals and bring their voices to the table and let them feel comfortable and trust in the process.
I also think one of the things I loved about the bottom up and the co-creation piece is that it just creates this natural buy-in, right? And we all know that buy-in is so critical for change management and you can find some natural champions when you’re asking for the voices. It’s just, I don’t know, it just makes it… I hate to say easier cause it’s definitely not easier, but it does lend itself to some natural ways of people participating. And then challenges—I remember Tucker, you and I talking about this a couple of times—is just balancing that empowerment versus entitlement.

So sometimes when you bring voices to the table, they might have a reason behind coming to the table. And so maybe that entitlement kind of comes out and they think, “Well, if you’re gonna listen to me and you don’t do it right…”

So there’s some balancing there. And really validating that everyone’s felt heard, but that maybe that idea is not gonna be the direction we head in. That’s been a little challenging.

Then last, I think would be identifying the noise again. There’s always going to be people, when invited, bring the negativity. And trying to help the leadership team understand what is noise, versus what is something to be paying attention to.
So that’s some challenges. I mean it’s been a different way of thinking for our culture and the organization. And so just helping walk people through that change in itself has brought on a few challenges, but overall it’s been welcoming. The staff really enjoy being able to, to be heard.
Tucker: Mm. Well, you know, two things come to mind. Oh, Sarah, go ahead. Go ahead.
Sarah: I was gonna say, Indy, I have a practical question for y’all. You have a lot of folks who do direct service work, right? They are working with folks out in the community all the time and sometimes pulling folks away from their day to day into work like this. It can feel challenging, right? Cause folks are like, “I have this to-do list that’s a million miles long and you’re asking me to do something else.” How did you manage that tension of getting folks to leave their day to day work, especially when it’s so people centered and mission-driven to come do this work that while important in the day to day, can feel like, “I don’t know how I’m gonna do it.” How did you manage that?

Indy: So we’ve done a couple of things…and you’re right, Sarah, we have a lot of individuals who are doing direct services day in and day out. This isn’t something we’ve completely fixed or figured out the right answer. We’re still working through this but we’ve recognized that as a leadership team.
Again, the leadership team is baked in this. We’ve been doing strategic planning, even the concept, and so it makes sense. We’ve even started to just do some conversation around, “Yes, we are asking you to rise up above the weeds one hour a month.” And how awesome is this?
That for one, you get to be part of something bigger than just your job, right? That there’s something bigger to be part of and what a skill set to… That we’re really investing in you all to be able to learn a different kind of skill, right? Because even as a leader, I can think back, I don’t know, five years ago where I was the individual.
I was doing my job and I was getting all the things done. I was checking off the list and doing the day to day. And it takes a lot of effort to get yourself out of that. Especially when you’re always feeling like things are on fire or there’s people I still have to help. So we just take it in small chunks and we know, and we recognize it.
I mean, we voiced it. We understand that this is a different muscle that we’re all flexing in a different way. So I guess just naming it.
Sarah: It sounds like you connected folks into the why of the work, not just the what. We’re making this thing, but here’s why it matters not just to us as an organization, but to you as an individual.
And I think the other thing, Indy, that I saw you do really beautifully in the process is just what you articulated, which is this piece around how it can shape an individual’s trajectory. And you were just always really clear with folks around, “I get this balance because I’ve been there and here’s why and how this shift matters.” So I saw you live into that really beautifully, helping folks understand the tension and then navigate through it.
Tucker: You know, Indy, I’m struck by a couple of both what you loved and what was challenging and there are components of co-creation to your exact point of things, like validating the voices to feel heard, even when their idea is not the direct.
And I think many CEOs and executive directors that we’ve talked with have some of this exact tension. Because at the end of the day, you gotta make a decision, right? Decide means to kill choice. Decide. Kill choice. It means we have to let go of other choices and other ideas.
And just out of curiosity, how did you do that? And was it still worth it for you to go down this co-created—because you mentioned co-creation is in your dna— is top down easier? Maybe, is top down easier at the beginning, but in the long game it’s not? Or is co-creation like—I’m curious about easy, and you kind of joked a little bit around easy around buy-in in particular—but this is some of the tension that we manage and the co-created type of environment.
And is that still okay? Does that still make… When we have this. And if so, how did you manage some of that and help to identify the noise, acknowledge people, help them feel known, valued, and included—to your point, and to your BHAG—and at the same time move forward on a decision that may have been different than what they wanted.
Indy: That’s a lot of question Tucker. I’m thinking of an example and when you said something about top down approach versus the co-creation. So I will give you an example. Several years ago, we had to rewrite our dress code policy, and it was a very top down approach. It wasn’t very co-created. It was extremely specific, which is never good when you’re writing HR policies. You always wanna leave yourself some gray.

And it was delivered in a way that was not appealing to staff. And at the end of the day it costs so much more work and so much more anxiety and there was no buy-in. At the end of the day, there was no buy-in. And then fast forward where we did a co-creation, not with the dress code, but the co-creation of our…we were trying to determine enhancing our vacation policy and our holiday policy.
Giving the staffing environment that we’re currently in, we’re trying to be very creative in making sure not only do we hire good talent, but also keep the talent that we have. So for that we did an easy retro board, which is an open-ended survey tool that THRIVE IMPACT introduced us to during our strategic planning process.
It allows individuals to go in and ask good questions, right? You ask how might we change our vacation policy? Or ask good questions, and you get feedback. And we had a tremendous amount of feedback and we were able to synthesize that information pretty quickly, and then were able to give feedback to all staff to say, “Hey, here are the themes of these great ideas that you gave us. The ones that we’re not moving forward with, this is the reason.”

So that, I think, validates people like they heard me and this is the reason why my idea is not gonna be moving forward. And some of them were easy because they were like, “No, this is against the law. We can’t do things like this.”
And we ended up with a co-created enhanced vacation policy that for the most part, let’s call it 95% of the staff really appreciated. So I think that’s a different way to frame it. The top down approach was draconian. Kind of shoved into everyone’s face and said, “This is what it’s gonna be.”
And then we had a really hard time with it. It kind of created this negative aspect to our culture. I guess that I just wanted to give like those two examples of what I’ve experienced here at the Independence Center and how they worked out so much differently.
And then the beauty of that is that at the end, not only are they bought in, but they all already know the policy. You don’t have to say, “Oh, please read that email,” and “Didn’t you get that email?” Because you know what? They know it. They know it. That’s the other thing I love about that.
Sarah: Yeah, good point. I like that.
Tucker: That’s great. Thank you for sharing that because I think that we have natural tension inside of whichever direction we want to go. And part of this—to your point earlier—around getting away from the few who have the answers, into the space of engaging the many with the questions where the voices can hear each other.
Which I think is such an important factor when they can hear each other. It’s almost a more transparent process. That pain on the back end of needing to validate voices and share when their ideas are not… When you’re going in the direction that’s not where they wanted to go. I liked what you said about the nuance around you themed them so it wasn’t like that person’s one idea. It was around themes of different ideas, which kind of depersonalizes it a little bit, yet they can potentially see their own voice in that theme. I love the approach that you took with that.
Indy: Yeah, and it worked out really well. And I think the other thing about that is that I had a few leadership team members that did the changes we were making and they weren’t going down the same path with us and it gave me an opportunity to do one-on-one with them and just say, “Hey tell me more. Tell me more. Why don’t you think we should go this direction?” Whatever that looks like. So it just gives you an opportunity when you know what the voices are saying.
Sarah: It opened the door for conversation it sounds like. Well, I have a related question, and this is of course my favorite question, which is data. You know, what about data? So during the process,
Indy: I know you love data, Sarah.
Sarah: I do, I do. We gathered and used a lot of data and leveraged a group that we call the synthesis team, which was your senior leadership and some other folks, to literally synthesize it or identify what it means. And I’d love just to ask you, what did you and your team learn from the process of synthesizing and applying the data? Iteratively? What, what came out?
Indy: So, I will tell you, we now feel like we synthesize everything.
Tucker: I love it!
Sarah: I love it!
Tucker: That’s great.
Indy: But I can remember back when we were first starting this process and, Tucker, you having to really help us walk through it there.
What’s fascinating to me is that synthesizing is really a learned skill. I personally thought I was really good at it until the first couple times we did it, and then I was like, uh, that’s a muscle I do not have. Especially watching people who do have that skill and how natural it came to them.
I think for our leadership team, we had one or two people that were really good at it right at the beginning, and for the rest of us it was scary and it was hard. We all just kind of talked about anytime we heard Tucker say “synthesized”, we all kind of did the eye roll, like oh gosh it’s gonna be so hard.

But I will tell you, we just had a board retreat last month, and we had some… We were working on a SWOT analysis and the exercise was to synthesize all this information, all these sticky notes all over the place for each one. And our director of marketing and communications, in her group, she said that he board member actually said out loud, “Wow, you guys are great at this”
Tucker: That’s awesome!

Indy: So I think we’ve all turned into kinda little synthesizing machines. But the beginning of the process when we first started, when it was introduced in that skill set, it was hard and scary for a lot of us. But we grew as a team through it too.
Sarah: I love that point that it’s a muscle and that it has to be built and used and then once you get it, it’s hard to stop synthesizing, is what I heard.
Indy: It is. We do become little machines at it and we kind of just take over. We’re like, “Oh, we got this. We can do this.”
Tucker: Well Indy with that, I know this is one of our next questions, but specifically around synthesis, what’s made possible for your team because you’re able to do this now? Because I think of synthesis as like, sometimes it’s deeper listening, right?
When you’re theming things, when you’re really understanding because you’ve been able to build this muscle and a board member has blatantly acknowledged it. I love that. It’s a great story. What’s been made possible for you, because your team is able to do this?
Indy: Well, I think one of the things is I have seen that our team, the whole team—So I was talking about like one or two people were really good at synthesizing and like you said, deep listening—and now I feel like the entire leadership team has that next level of thinking.

So we’re going a layer deeper. Instead of maybe just on the surface of all the things that we’re working on that we work through. So I think it’s given us a depth in our leadership.
And the nice thing is, again, it’s a skill that if someone—or when, right? Like we all move on to other organizations and things in life—and so now that’s a skill that anyone on the leadership team can take with them. And as we’re working through our strategic direction and starting to kind of implement it, we’ve got groups.
And so even even sharing how to synthesize in the staff level now. So now those individuals can learn that skill and take it with them wherever they’re headed next too. I think it’s just… I’ve been excited to see how it’s given us a depth of leadership that I haven’t seen in a lot of nonprofits.
Tucker: Wow. It’s like strategic planning is professional development almost. You know?
Indy: Kind of, yeah! I mean, I think it’s a great thing. It’s a great skill, especially if people move on to other nonprofits. So strategic planning is so normal—if you air quote normal—in the business world, but nonprofits, it’s pretty rare.
I mean, they say they do it, but again, it’s one of those things that gets put on the shelf. And so they might have it on a piece of paper because it checks the box that the board says, “Oh yeah, you got a strategic plan.” But it never gets really implemented or whatnot. So for those individuals who work in the nonprofit sector and maybe don’t have that business experience, this is definitely professional development. They can take it on and to their next nonprofit.
Tucker: That’s great. I love that. Indy, what else was made possible by this journey, this process, from a directional perspective? With this BHAG and being able to chunk it down into smaller bite size chunks? So directionally, but also, we’ve already spoken to this a little bit, but within the culture. Within your team, what are some of the things… What else has been made possible because of this?
Indy: I think it’s starting to give us some common language around strategic planning. Again, we’re engaging every level of the organization, which is different for us. And so really just helping all of our team members engage in the bigger picture than just their day to day.
I also think that it’s given us a beautiful opportunity to work cross-departmentally. I love that we’ve historically been a little siloed depending on what program someone’s working in and so forth. And this new direction really forces us to all work together.
Doesn’t matter what department you’re working in or what program you’re working in, or what admin function you have. It really is a full hands on functional team. We talked a little bit about this earlier Tucker, but just asking questions and putting all the pieces together with everyone, with everyone’s voice.
And then lastly, I think it’s given us a new way to engage with our community. And so part of the process that THRIVE IMPACT led us through included reaching out to community partners and even people who experience our programs, and getting a better sense of what they think the Independence Center is and how we should be showing up in the community.
So it gave us a different way to look at how we’re supporting our community.
Tucker: I I love what you’re saying. It almost became… It was not only a good excuse to connect with your community, but also a community building tool in and of itself. The process helped you to connect in a deeper way with those in the community that you’re serving.
Indy: Yeah, I think it’s both/and. I think it’s the community that we’re serving as well as our community internally. Our people that are working here.
Sarah: Well, last question for you here, Indy. Over the past few months we’ve really been working together on implementation and implementing the strategic direction, and we’re kind of using the analogy of an escalator where THRIVE IMPACT support is going down and your team is moving up and taking the reins.
Talk to us a little bit about the lessons you’ve learned that you can share with others about, once you have this direction, how do you get going and bring it to life? It’s great to have a set of words on the paper, how do you move it off the shelf?
Indy: Yeah, so you’re right. Our leadership team is rising to the challenge and we’ve learned so many things from THRIVE IMPACT.
One of the things is the structure that you all had shared with us and has really been working well for us. And so we have, as you all know, we have pillar groups. So we have three pillars to our strategic direction, our three year strategic direction. And so the first thing we did was to identify for each of those pillars, some champions.
And for us, it works well. We’re actually co-championing, so we have two per pillar, because we’re fortunate to have a decent size leadership team. And for that, the question I asked the team was, “Where do you naturally want to… What pillar grabs at you? Which one do you feel could you could put the most effort into?”
And it worked out so beautifully how naturally the champions found where they’re gonna be passionate to work on the pillars. And then we did the exact same exercise with our, what we’re calling the implementers. And so that went out to our staff, to all team members. This one took a little bit longer just because the leadership team had been working with THRIVE for, gosh, almost a year. And so they were very familiar. They co-created those pillars and so it wasn’t as hard. That was one meeting for our implementers. We realized that it took a couple of times. So a couple of all staffs, I went to team meetings and talked about the strategic plan to get some engagement.
And now we have a good solid group of 8 to 10 people for each of the pillars. So that structure. And then overall we have two process drivers. And so really those process drivers are the ones that are at the top, kind of hovering, watching, engaging with the champions. Really kind of just keeping everything on track and making sure that the champions are working together to understand.
But right now our pillar groups are all talking about surveys and focus groups, and so us as process drivers, that’s myself and our director of Home Health. We’re both kind of just making… We say, “Okay, hold on. Did you know that champion one or Pillar Group one and two are also talking about surveys? So let’s make sure we’re not surveying to death all these people that we wanna ask questions. Is surveys the right way and is focus groups better?”

So process drivers are really there to oversee making sure that we’re all on the same path and we’re not crossing paths and accidentally surveying people three or four times.
So it’s been working really well. The first couple of meetings have been, “What’s our cadence? We’re gonna take this in small chunks. What are the next 30 day, 60 day, 90 day plans?” So it’s been really fun to sit and watch, hover, and really watch the champions and the implementers just get excited about the work and move forward.
So that’s one of the things as far as starting to implement. The second one I think is what Tucker will call the skateboard model. And another thing we learned from THRIVE IMPACT, but now we’re all talking about, we’re only building skateboards. We’re not building Teslas.
Tucker: Yep. I love it!
Indy: Not even at the scooter… Although some of my pillar groups are at the scooter level already. So I’m sure one of your podcasts will talk about that, I’m sure, because it’s super fun. But that’s definitely another thing that… It’s shifting a mindset, right?
A lot of us are—especially a lot of times in the leadership role—you’re always just like, go, go, go, go, go. And we gotta do all these things and we’ve got deadlines to meet and so it helps kind of shift and say, “Hey, we don’t have to be perfect right away, right?” Let’s take our time.
I’m pretty sure every time I talk about the strategic direction and any kind of meeting, I’m talking… Or whatever audience I’m talking to, it’s always about, this is a three year plan, this is not a 30 day plan. Can we please like, yeah. Because there’s some lofty goals in it, so I think that helps people to say, “Hey, let’s build a skateboard first before we try to build a Tesla.”
Tucker: Yeah the minimum viable transportation vehicle first.
Indy: Right, right. Exactly.

Tucker: And it’s gonna feel clunky and that’s okay. Let’s learn. Let’s grow. Let’s say, “Yeah, my legs are a little tired from going from point A to point B with the skateboard. Can we upgrade it a little bit?”
Indy: I love that. So really just kind of shifting the thinking and allowing people to slow down a little bit. So we still have a ton of work to do, but at the same time, let’s be mindful and thoughtful and strategic about it versus just throw everything up on the wall and see what sticks.
Sarah: Yeah. I love that. It sounds like those three pieces of roles, rhythms, and results are part of what’s pushing this implementation piece forward, and then it’s living into it with lightness and fun. I think one of your teams—or a few of them—were like, “Let’s bring snacks!” And they’re putting the rituals into the work such that they’re gonna wanna come back to it. And I think that’s such a testament to you as a leader and the culture. And the folks there that are like, “You know what, if we’re gonna do this, it should be fun. So let’s bring some snacks to the table.”
Tucker: Yeah. I also appreciate too, Indy, the space that you’ve… You spoke to this specifically around, this is a three year, not a 30 day, and how much of our anxiety—and I’m so curious—how much of our anxiety in general is due to these time pressures that we put on ourselves. And I remember with you going through that, “Yeah, we’re not gonna accomplish this BHAG in three years.” Actually, I remember the design question overall was, “How might we best position ourselves over the next three years in order to achieve our BHAG?”
That gave even more of a breathing room ff the BHAG itself. We’re not accomplishing that BHAG in three years. Otherwise it’s not a BHAG, right? It’s not big, hairy, and audacious if it’s something we can tackle in three years. And I just appreciate the space that you’re continuing to remind people of, in order to continue to go down the path of real learning and real alignment and real buy-in.

So that’s great. I love that. Well, Indy, what a joy to connect with you on this podcast. And just hear your voice and hear how things went down, how it went, what were the challenges? I love digging into the love and the love to see, or the challenges that you were really wrestling through.
Because I think a lot of EDs and CEOs like you, Indy, have these questions. They have these questions like, “How does this really work? Is it okay for us to go down this path?” A bottom up, co-created type of model. And I just appreciated your raw and real answers around this. So for everybody who’s listening, if you wanna check out a little bit more about the Independence Center in Colorado Springs, they’re doing phenomenal work.
You can check out a link in the show notes. I’m not gonna spell out their URL because it’s independence center.org. But we’ll have the link for you in the show notes and also Indy we’ll put your LinkedIn link in there as well. They can connect with you as well. If you ever wanna connect with Indy as a great nonprofit CEO.
Any final parting thoughts before we go? Any final parting thoughts before we go?
Indy: Well I just appreciate you taking the time. And like you said, the CEO burnout is always upon us. And what I’ve appreciated through the entire process, being able to have the grace to slow down and to recognize that there’s different ways of thinking and it’s okay to try them out.
And I encourage people to do that. It’s kind of fun. It’s very scary at first but I think if you don’t take a risk, then you might stay stagnant and no one wants to be that. But thank you and I… THRIVE IMPACT has really been tremendous in helping us think differently on our strategic planning process.
So I appreciate you and Sarah and all the work that you’ve done for us as well.
Sarah: Well, we appreciate you. You’re such an inspiring leader, and I can see it in the folks who work with you and for you.
Indy: Thank you.
Tucker: Awesome. Well, thanks Indy. And we’ll be seeing you hopefully again soon.

Indy: I hope so.
Yeah, that’d be great! All right. Thanks everybody. We’ll see you at the next podcast of THRIVERS: Nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. Bye!