EP 48: Learning from the Unique Vantage Point of Community Foundation CEOs

May 16, 2024

Show Notes

What does it mean to lead effectively in today’s rapidly changing world? 

We approach this question often from many different angles in our work with impact-driven leaders. We recently facilitated leadership workshops at a retreat exclusively for community foundation CEOs, and it was eye-opening.

So this episode, we’re talking about how community foundation CEOs can drive significant change without sacrificing their well-being or that of their teams—especially when they face the multi-faceted challenge of driving meaningful societal impact, managing significant donors and assets, and ensuring their own personal well-being. It’s no small task. And it creates a unique perspective that all impact-driven leaders can learn from.

This episode of THRIVERS dives deep into how these leaders can transform their communities through courageous decision-making and strategic risk-taking. The conversation is more than theoretical; it is rooted in the tangible experiences of those who are actively shaping the future through bold moves. Moves that sometimes risk donor relationships to attract the right kind of support and alignment with their missions. 

In their compelling conversation, Tucker and Sarah:

  • Unpack how community foundations are uniquely equipped to effect substantial local changes, and why embracing this potential requires a shift towards risk and innovation.
  • Discuss the necessity of making tough choices that may initially alienate some, yet ultimately attract the right supporters and stakeholders essential for long-term impact.
  • Explore moving beyond traditional asset management to ensure that every decision contributes directly to the desired societal impact, rather than merely pleasing donors.
  • Highlight methods to tap into the often-underutilized reservoir of knowledge and intuition within teams to drive forward-thinking decisions.

This episode offers a look into a different perspective of leadership discourse, giving all of us the opportunity to learn from the specific realities faced by community foundation leaders. 

Tune in to discover how these community foundation leaders are setting new standards for impactful leadership, promising greater alignment, authenticity, and transformative change in their communities and beyond.

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Tucker: Welcome to THRIVERS. Impact Driven Leadership for the Next Normal. I am your host, Tucker Wanamaker, the CEO of THRIVE IMPACT. And if you’re listening to this, you’re probably someone who doesn’t just want to do nice things in the world, but you actually want to create positive change in people’s lives and not burn out while doing it. Well, how do you do that? Well, that’s our mission is really to redefine what normal is for workplace leadership to be about cocreating impact from the inside out.

We believe that burnout is the enemy of creating positive change, and we wanna connect you with impact driven leaders and ideas so that you can learn to thrive in today’s impact driven landscape. I’m here with Sarah Fanslau, our chief of impact, here today on the show. And, as usual, of course, Sarah, good to be here with you today.

Sarah: Great to be here.

Tucker: And, I think today, we we’ve been having some learnings. It seems like we’ve had multiple scenarios happen with both with, organizations that we’ve been working with. We’ve had some learnings within ourselves Yeah. Within THRIVE and our own team. And, it really felt like a good time to bring up those learnings and what we’ve been noticing, particularly around organizational and relational progress and how do we move from the subjective into the objective?

Where do we move from expectations into more of agreements? How do we move from the undefined, or the implicit into the defined and explicit? And so there’s, like, so many it’s fascinating how many scenarios as we were thinking about what we wanna share about today. We’re like, oh my gosh. We have a lot of rich learning right now, that’s been happening in real time, within, our context.

So I thought we’d share a little bit about how to move, from the subjective into the objective to frankly have progress, kind of like what we said. Right? How do we move things forward? How do we not get angry and hurt with each other? Yeah.

What have we been learning in that journey?

Sarah: Yeah. I’m excited about this topic because as you said, you know, we were chatting earlier today, and it just it just started to emerge because it’s coming up so much. And so I think, you know, when something is organically, rising to the top like that, it’s an important thing to to talk about. And so, yeah, we have some good stories, and I’m excited to dive in.

Tucker: Yeah. Well, let’s let’s define this a little bit. I mean, I started to do that a little bit around the this versus that, subjective versus objective. But what are let’s get into the pains right off the bat. Like, what is going on?

What are the issues around subjectivity versus objectivity and and where subjectivity many times gets in our way of what we want? Yeah. I’m curious, Sarah, what you’re noticing.

Sarah: Yeah. Certainly. Well, you know, we’re working with a number of organizations as usual, but one in general where we’re really focusing on, you know, the board. And, we’ve been working with them for a number of months. Right?

And, it was really about helping the various committees kind of get going and connect the dots and making sure they had, you know, standard operating procedures for things like emails and, you know, rhythms of learning. But the more I got into it and really today, I was in a conversation with folks. And what I realized, it was kind of like an The problem really was that there was a lack of measurable goals at the organization and at the board level. And so what happened, the pain that was happening as a result of that was that everything felt personal. You know?

And so, for example, right, the they’re like, the executive director on one hand was saying, I don’t know what the board wants to know. And the board was saying, I don’t know what I don’t know. Right? And so there was this chasm of not knowing, whereas if there had been, you know, a set of shared goals, that’s what you share about. Right?

You share progress in relation to goals. But even beyond that, you know, the board chair was saying, I I really wanna ask a question about strategic planning, and I feel I don’t I feel a little uncomfortable, like, stepping on toes. Right? She had a pain of not wanting to, make some relational damage. But again, if strategic planning, which actually is one of their goals, had been, you know, outlined as one of their goals, it would have been a natural part of the conversation.

And so I was just struck by the fact that when we are not explicit with each other about the things, and co create the things we want to do explicit with each other about the things and cocreate the things we wanna do together, then everything feels like, oh, this is my thing and I care about it, so I’m gonna bring it up. Instead of this is a thing we’ve decided together is important, so let’s continue to work on it.

Tucker: And it’s like these implicit expectations that I now have or don’t even realize I have. And then the you know, on the board side and then the executive director side, having whatever those are too, but those many times are mismatched in the first place. We didn’t really talk about them, but now we’re getting angry at the other person. And we’re just in this wrapped up in this personal subjective space of not saying, what is it that we want?

Sarah: Right. What

Tucker: is it? What are and ultimately, what does that translate into around our goals and how we actually wanna share and talk about them?

Sarah: Yes. Yeah. And then how can we, you know, think the other pain that we’ve seen so many times is that without a clear measurable goal that you can actually measure progress toward, it is so easy for folks to feel just they become disengaged. Right? Because there’s not a north star.

Without a north star that we’re working toward, it can become really easy to just see the tasks, right, and the activities we need to do without reminding ourselves of why it’s important and the change that it’s all ultimately gonna lead to. And so I think that’s the other big pain is that especially you think about board members. These are all volunteers, right, for the most part. And it’s so important for those volunteers to be constantly connected back to how the work they’re doing is directly impacting the mission of the organization they’re supporting, because that’s why they came to sit on the board, because they love that mission. And goals connected to that mission.

Yeah. Drive energy. Right? Create passion. Create excitement.

Tucker: You know, I was also thinking of another way. I remember I was the head of fundraising at, an organization, I remember getting so frustrated with my conversations with my boss. Mhmm. And and and after a little while, I had I had grown in my my learning. Like, if I’m getting frustrated, then let me not blame the other person.

Let me just look at, okay, how do we have better con conversations? Yeah. And and it was then that I was realizing, and this took me a minute. I was getting pretty frustrated and ultimately blaming too. And then I was like, wait a second.

Like, I need to reflect on how I am showing up in this situation and realizing I’m just bringing what is now what is ultimately perceived as my opinion.

Sarah: Right.

Tucker: And then he would bring his opinion, and now we’re having opinion battles, which is a subjective conversation of almost like me versus him.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: And I remember I remember the day that I started to bring data, and I I I I’m trying to remember exactly what the data was, but it was it was having I I remember sitting in his office, and I think we had some survey data from, some form of fundraising campaign or something that we did. And instead of me just telling him what I thought about it, I said, hey. Let’s look at the data, and let’s let’s look and see what it is that we see from that.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: And, like, just by putting something else out that we have now reflection and conversation about, that turned it into an objective. And I and I I still had the things that I was talking about before were still the same things I wanted to talk about, but now I had objectivity and some data to be able to use it and just speak to it, to be able to shift how we were doing campaigns. And, ultimately, we’re able to shift because I’d brought this data versus prior to bringing this data around surveys and what people were sharing. I it was my opinion versus his. And it’s like, well, I guess that’s what it is.

You know? And then and just perpetuated cycles of reactivity, frankly, between the 2 of us.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: That we didn’t enjoy.

Sarah: So did that conversation and that data help you all like, did you create kind of a sense of shared understanding from the data that then helped you take a next step, or what did that data yeah. Yeah.

Tucker: Yeah. It really did. It helped us to figure out, again, these were next steps that I was wanting to do. But the way I was approaching it was a subjective approach versus an objective approach. And once the once we had the data that we were looking at, and we ultimately both we all ultimately both came to the same conclusion because the data was pretty clear on whatever that particular campaign was.

But then I had his his his buy in, and ultimately, it was Right. He felt like he was a part of the process of coming up with a solution. Like, it was ultimately, I’m realizing now I know cocreation back then, but I realized that was like a form of cocreation in a sense by bringing data into the equation and having an approach that way as opposed to just getting more and more angry at, like, why won’t he listen to me? Why won’t he do? You know, I’m the head of fundraising.

Like, why can’t we? And, yeah. So it helped us make decisions and aligned decisions that we had agreements around.

Sarah: Right. Yeah. I love that part because it is it’s twofold. It’s the process of, you know, you 2 doing it together and coming to agreement, And then it’s clear and, you know, measurable next steps. And those two things together, I think, is the key.

Right? Yeah. It’s the process and the outcome.

Tucker: Mhmm. Yeah. We’ve got another scenario that’s happened literally this last couple weeks that I wanted to bring forward just in our own learning and inside of THRIVE. And part of this part of the reason why I wanted to share these things too is that we, it is so important for us that we are not just coming across as experts, but, like, we are truly learners on this journey too. And that’s hopefully, you’re experiencing this from this podcast that, you know, your team being able to see how you’re learning and, like, hopefully, we’re giving you an example that sometimes is a little bit too close.

Like, it feels a lot like a lot of courage to share what we’re learning, but, I just wanted to show share a particular story that’s been happening lately that, has been real active learning. Like, last week was a frustrating week.

Sarah: It was.

Tucker: Like and there were a lot of conditions around that. You know? You know, I and Julie were just off of a huge workshop and big leadership development retreat really in Mexico. Sarah, you were sick, and your boys were sick. And, you know, and, like, we were there was a there was undercurrent of just tired, sick Yeah.

For sure. Which is really important to to notice and notate. But we had this conversation that by by by most frankly, as I’ve reflected on it too, by most, ways of looking at it, we did our process, but we led with appreciation, which is important. And then we got into some process improvements around this particular topic that we were working on, particularly around our sales approach that we have, with existing organizations that we’re working with. But I was, like, hurt.

I was angry, and I’d been, like, festering for I’ve noticed particularly around this one topic, it had felt so close, and I was just, like, so frustrated and so hurt. And it wasn’t just this conversation. It was this whole topic with this particular situation

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: That had kept, like, grating on me and grating on me and grating on me. And and I was like, woah. I realized, 1, I need to pause, notice, and choose, and, really take some space to to understand, oh, I probably need some recovery time. That’s a whole other topic, which we’ve talked about a lot, but that was an important piece. But then I realized one of the things that we’re going through as a team is we’ve actually been going through a lot of transitions.

So Julie on our team, who was deep in our programs is now our chief relationship officer, and she is on our revenue side. And then we brought on somebody named Megan who came on and hired her or we hired her, to come on and replace Julie’s role on the program side. And so I’d noticed that we’re going through a lot of transitions in our in really big areas of our work around some of the key roles that people are playing. And it dawned on me that why am I getting so hurt? Why am I getting so frustrated?

Part of it is because I have some growth I need, and, you know, there was some things that were triggering me from olden days that I was like, oh, I need some healing here, and just noticing that. But the other side was realizing we never really had, an objective process for how we wanna go through transition.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: Like, we never really named it. We never really talked about we know that it’s happening. But, you know and in transition, there’s a lot of, it’s it’s an added capacity to go through transition.

Sarah: It is. Yeah.

Tucker: Because you’re learning a new, you know, a new system, not a whole new system, but you’re learning new people, and those new people are learning new systems. And what you were leaning on before aren’t quite exactly how you were leaning on it now. Yeah. And and I realized as I was thinking about I was actually talking to Aaron on our team and also looking into experiential learning theories and, you know, and there’s this whole sequence of process around people learning things, which is, one of them is, I do, we do, you do. Like, you you watch me do, then we do together, and then you do, and you just go. Yeah. And and I was as I read that, I actually read it in a book and then talked to Aaron about it. I was like, oh my gosh. That would have been a helpful objective understanding of what we’re going through. And, you know, like, over the next month, it’s gonna be some, like, give and take and some there’s gonna be a decent amount of we do in this situation. Yeah. And are we open to, you know, for us to be able to do that together and just naming that objective process that we’re going through? Yeah. Versus just clunking along in it and then getting pissed off, which is what happened.

Sarah: Especially because, you know, I mean, underlying this and everything else, of course, our relationship dynamics. And so in some ways, it’s really easy when or easier when you bring a brand new person into the team because there’s a blank slate. Right? And I think there’s expectation around, you know, learning and apprenticing almost and then doing you know, I think that’s a pretty common thing when you come in. But when you’re moving roles, I think in particular, like, that piece of moving to a role is partially where things get, you know, I think there’s questions about what does it look now if I’ve already been here and I already know this.

And so I think, you know, as we were talking the other day, I agree with you that, you know, first of all, ideally, this objective reality exists before the start of a process. Right? And we were talking about that with onboarding rather whether new or existing members of teams into a role that you need to have that structure beforehand. So that when or if relationship dynamics come up, which is to say, hey. You know, maybe I’m in a new role and I think I already know it.

And you’re like, well, sir, you probably don’t know it quite yet. I need to step in and support you. Right? Like, we have a process that has that built in rather than it needing to be a case by case basis. Because I think it’s the case by case basis where then it feels personal.

Right? It feels personal. And I mean, this is the same thing that happened in the organization I was talking a minute ago about. Right? Like, it got down to where everything felt like a personal attack.

Right? Because there hadn’t been any objectivity around the relationship at the at the start. And when that happens, then you almost need to hit pause. You need to do some relationship repair. Right?

And then be able to say, right, then what’s now we need to create some objectivity so that we can go forward from objectivity. Right? And and not continue in the subjectivity.

Tucker: Yeah. Yep. Yeah. And I’m even thinking about this with this situation. Like, it it was I was realizing and we still need to take this step to your point.

In our transitions that we’re going through as a team, you know, what does the rest of this month look like? Right? What is at the end of this month, What can we, you know, what what agreements do we wanna get in around the we do work pieces? Because we are still in transition.

Sarah: Right.

Tucker: And being able to name that, but that’s true. And somebody jumping in to help and support is not a is not a, undermining of your abilities or is not a, a micromanaging from me, which is something I’m very sensitive about that, you know, came up last week. And I’m like, yeah. And noticing I have some trigger, which, like, even more so, I’m like, I gotta get to objectivity as fast as possible now. Yeah.

Then that sounds like a really healthy step for us, to let’s talk about that. Let’s put it out there and say, hey. We we know we’re in transition. And over the next 3 weeks, right, we’re almost to the middle of the month about the you know, where we’re at in March. What do we want?

You know? Yeah. What what does it mean? And then maybe the month of April is like the full you do, you know, moving forward, collect you’re just you’re off and running.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I I I completely agree. And I think one thing you were just hitting on that, you know, you and I kind of wrestle with is this not this, tension between the process and the person.

Right? And as you’re just talking, I think, you know, we think about those two pieces came up for me. Right? So why don’t you tell folks, like, what the process and the person thing is?

Tucker: We just have a statement that we use, which is blame the process, not the person. Yeah. And, you know, I mean, nothing is a 100%. But I think that to your point, what I aim what we’re talking about around when we live in this subjective world, it starts to get personal, which means that we’re starting to blame the person. And Yeah.

The default to me is look at the process, which makes it objective, I think, is it’s not a a personal you know, we assume best intent. That’s our our ideal around our empathy core value. Assume best intent. Give them benefit of the doubt and see where is it in the process that we can help to support improving. But you and I have tussled over this because this is a this is all like a but when when is the person the issue?

How do you—

Sarah: Exactly, because there sometimes is. Yeah. Yeah. And we have to get call. I think into that both end, but it was coming up for me as you were talking because we do need to create an objective process, and this board needs to create some objective goals.

And there is still kind of personal responsibility and personal role within that. Right? Like, I think I said the example I used the other day. You know? You think about McDonald’s or whatever.

They have a brilliant system, right, for churning out Happy Meals and everything else. But if the person supposed to be getting the fries together is not getting the fries together, it’s not the process. It may be the person, but maybe that person needs more support. Right? But after a time of giving that person support to operate the fry machine, like, McDonald’s is gonna be like, hey.

Right? Like, here’s the job. Here are your responsibilities. We’ve given you the support to meet them, and you’re still not. And so there’s, for me, a both and, and this is where I think this you know, let’s say, next week, we create an objective system along the, you know, I do, we do, you do process.

And, you know, there’s a human in that mix saying, you know, I can already do it. I can already do that you do. Right? Like or I do. Like, what it like, what are we gonna do there?

Right? Like because I know this is where you know, what if I already feel I’m ready to do it by myself?

Tucker: Yeah.

Sarah: And I think this is a challenge, you know, on the other side of it. Like, you know, not the underperforming side, but almost the over performing side of saying, listen. Like, I’ve got this. I don’t need it. Like, that sounds like a great system, but not really necessary right now.

Tucker: Mhmm. Well and and this is where it gets into so many nuances because, like, the situation we’re dealing with, you know, or we were wrestling through it last week, you know, it was this pretty complex situation. And there has been some things where our our revenue team has really been able to just just fully run, like, typically more simple situations or more just less complex. Yeah. The they can run with it, and they can run with it from the beginning of the process too.

But this one has been this one that’s really complex. It’s an existing organization we’ve been working with for quite a while now. There’s a lot of nuance that they’re not gonna have they’re not gonna have any idea about that won’t even show up until, you know, we see something on a page, right, or on an email. Right. Like, oh, wait.

But that’s missing this. But, like, I wasn’t gonna think about that ahead of time. Like, I was like Right. I just know that there’s a lot of context that we have built into you and I, Sarah, being deeply a part of the process. And so, like, it’s it’s it’s hard to understand, you know, which situation that you say, no.

This is, I’m ready to run. But what if I don’t think they’re ready yet? Like, I don’t know. I mean, this is part of this this is this tension that that and maybe that’s where you we give it a time frame.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: And, yeah, we give it a time frame. That’s why I’m thinking by the end of this month, we wanna have no more of the we do. So, like, we hopefully, we’ll be have been able to, you know, really understand our process, particularly around existing organizations we’re working with into the next parts of our work with them. Because you and I are deep in these trenches. I mean, we are

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: We are in super deep with a lot of these people. We’ve built these relationships. Yeah. We know a lot of the nuanced context of what’s going on. It’s really hard to communicate over to a revenue team, in, you know, in some real time way.

And Yeah. That’s a process that we’re really wrestling through. That is a process question, not a your capability or lack thereof question. But how does that not become a capability conversation? And it it does become a process conversation.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. It’s it’s tough. I mean, I think I think the point we made earlier that it needs to be set up from the beginning is the key part here. Because once things are underway, then it’s very hard, I think, to back up the train and make them feel subjective.

But if you can’t do that, I do think the kind of the piece of pausing to rely you know, pause, notice, and choose, make some relationship repair, and then cocreate that objectivity moving forward is and then I re I really like your thought around the time frame because instead of it feeling like, you know, okay. Maybe we co create this so I feel okay about it, but, like, it’s not forever. Right? I think that’s the other piece that can really help it feel more, you know, psychologically safe Yeah. As open.

Tucker: Well and I’ll freely admit. I mean, as a for me and what I’m learning as a CEO right now, is is really trying to understand my own anxiety. And I was telling I was telling Aaron and Julie, I was like, a question that could be really helpful for me because one of the things I I don’t wanna do at THRIVE IMPACT is to create conditions where I feel totally isolated.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: I don’t want it I don’t want it for anybody either in general. Like, I don’t want anybody to feel isolated in in in loneliness. And I so much of the time, it becomes CEOs become I mean, it’s the lone wolf, the, you know, that linchpin between a board and a staff. This and it’s just like this. By default, it is naturally a very isolating role.

I’m just like, how do we create the space that that not only do we not feel isolated, I also do not feel isolated in my job as a CEO. And that because I was thinking about, like, what would be a question that I could ask them to ask me? And and the question that came up for me was, I said this to both Aaron and Julie. I said, if you if you both could ask me a question like, hey. I know as we’re going through this transition, what are the things that we can do to help to support you stepping out of the work that you know you don’t wanna be doing, but you’re you’re in transition?

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: What are the things that we can do to support you in your transition? Transition? Because I’m stepping out of the revenue side in a in a lot of ways and just, like, letting go. It’s who, not how. They are Julian Aaron, the how on revenue, I am not.

Thank the lord. Like, I’m all good with that. And I’m also still transitioning, which is really meaning I’m learning along the way. So I was trying to think of, like, ways that what are questions that people could ask me that I would feel heard and seen as an exec or as a CEO, that also helps us to figure out a process things that we’re we’re honoring one another’s process too.

Sarah: Yeah. I agree. I think it’s almost, you know, instead of or I’m gonna bring us back to Darcy and the, you know, decision maker, accountable, responsible, consulted, and informed. Instead of seeing you as the d, the decider, right, you get to be a c and in some places, an r. And so it’s, you know, I think it’s partially about and I agree with you on the CEO being isolated, but it’s it’s almost like, you know, not seeing the CEO as a CEO, but as a team member.

Right? And then how does that shift in perspective allow us space to instead of feeling like I’m performing up to, right, I’m learning with. And I think that that is part of our challenge, honestly, in some ways, you know, because of existing, you know, existing power dynamics. Right? They’re really hard to get away from.

Tucker: Yeah. Because we’ve been you know, this is the quote I talked about to, you know, earlier today in our cocreation workshop around Peter Senge saying, you know, our prevailing system of management has been destroying our people because it’s about control and not about learning. Yeah. And you were just literally hitting on that. Like, I’m not a CEO that you’re performing for.

Like, we are we are performing for a mission and to create positive change in a sustainable way, but we’re really doing it by learning and learning together. I I when you just said that, I was like, that’s exactly what I want. It’s Yeah. Is continue to get more objectivity of my what my role as a CEO is and what it is not Yeah. In all of these situations and in all these nuances.

Otherwise, it does feel like it’s creating these power dynamics that we all grew up from. We all you know, as Peter Senge said, this prevailing system of management started when we were all age 5 and went into kindergarten, you know, and here it comes. Like, we all knew about learning before we went to school. So then what happened? And then we stopped being about learning.

It was much more about performance for somebody else’s approval and that we’ve all been swimming in these waters for so many years that it’s it’s a lot of unlearning to do.

Sarah: Yeah. For everyone, it’s a lot of unlearning to do. You know?

Tucker: Well, so, Sarah, I’m curious just to hit. Let’s say we are able to move from subjective to objective. Let’s say we are able to go from expectations, typically unsaid, implicit, to explicit agreements that were co created agreements from the undefined to the defined, from the unclear to the clear. Like, what’s really made possible? What have you even seen within our our organization when we’ve done this and other organizations that we’ve worked with to help do this?

What’s made possible for these leaders when we go from subjective to objective?

Sarah: Yeah. I mean, I think back to an organization that we helped recently to refresh their strategic plan and really create much more measurable targets. And when we started, it was just such, it was just some rancor between the board and the staff and really just frustration because each side could not see what the other wasn’t seeing. And they because they couldn’t see it, they didn’t know how to move through it together. And, you know, once we were able to help them cocreate measurable targets and work toward them and report on them, I think there was a huge sense of relief, right, that, folks felt finally understood.

They felt like they were talking a common language. And I think really importantly, they felt unstuck. Right? I think for quite a while that organization had just and that the CEO in particular had felt stuck in not knowing how to move through that problem. And once they were able to create that clarity and alignment, I think the wheel of feeling unstuck really started to roll for her and the team.

Tucker: Yeah. I mean, it’s we did a co creation 1 on 1 workshop earlier today and really noticing the direct correlation between cocreative leadership and reducing burnout cocreative leadership. And I feel like I want to show up for work. Co creative leadership and better ideas emerge, frankly, a better alignment happens. You know?

It’s we’ve been gathering so much of that information on alignment and understanding what is really what are we really trying to do here? And I love that Jim Collins quote of, you know, going from good to great is not it’s 1% vision and 99% alignment, and that so much of the work is not defining the vision, although that’s an important part. But now it’s the alignment work, and that’s the, like, real deep work of noticing where we’re out of alignment. It feels like somebody’s disconnected from others. And how do we come back into a space of alignment, which alignment ultimately is objectivity.

We all we all know where we’re all going together and the roles that we’re playing towards that. Right? That is an objective understanding of what we’re all doing together.

Sarah: Yeah. Well and I think it also you know, it helps energize people to get moving. You know? Again, I I had this conversation earlier today about this board work and had put together some project plans that you know? And I said to these folks, I said, you know, is this too heavy of a tool in the context of a board to use?

And the board chair said, you know what? Like, I I as I said before, she said, you know, I don’t have a I don’t have a capacity problem helping the committees to move forward. But if I don’t have a tool and an understanding of what they’re doing, I don’t I can’t check-in with them because I don’t know what I’m checking in with them on. Right? And so all of a sudden it was like this, you know, the measurable goal plus the tool.

Then she was like, now I can really go and help drive the committees towards their goal. And she couldn’t do that before because she didn’t have the understanding of the where they were going, and she didn’t have the information she needed in order to help drive the progress forward. So I I also just think, you know, and I was struck again today how my people need those things in order to do their work. Right? And so often when they don’t have those things, they sit feeling disempowered or disengaged.

And when they have them, they’re like, right. Let’s get going now. You know?

Tucker: Yeah. Yeah. That reminds me too of why it’s important when we’re doing workshops, when we’re having our own meetings, why it’s important to get to a place of out of verbal processing Yeah. And into something we’re looking at. You know?

Like, whether it’s me pulling up my iPad and showing things that we’re talking about, and we’re all looking. Like, there’s something about, like, literally, we’re all looking at the same thing. Whereas if I’m just saying something, somebody heard something and somebody else heard something totally different even though I said the same thing. But there’s something different kinda like that that example I shared at the beginning of when I instead of having a verbal conversation with my CEO, I pulled up some data, and I invited us to look at it together. And just by doing that, it created a more objective situation.

Or when we gather voices in a written way and we use easy retro, which is a phenomenal tool to gather voices in a written way and in a in a in a fast way with lots of voices in an anonymous way. But now everybody can see each other’s voices, and it’s like, those are the words that they wrote. Right? It wasn’t through my own filters. It’s like that’s there’s something about we’re all looking at something together that really shapes or shapes our conversations.

You know? I mean, you’ve probably experienced this a lot. Like, whenever I pull up my iPad and I start drawing, how does that change how we’re engaging in what we’re talking about? Like, you know, the Yes.

Sarah: Well, especially now that I know what it feels like to have it. You know, now when we don’t have it, I’m like, Tucker, can you pull up your iPad right?

Tucker: Yeah.

Sarah: Because we need it. And I can see people when you’re just having a verbal conversation. You can see mine going whoop and whoop. Right? Like, I can literally see that.

We had a conversation today where it’s like, I can see her mind going somewhere else. Like, let’s get for the folks who are not gonna be held with the verbal words. So yeah. I mean, I think what we’re getting to is that there’s some big things here around kind of measurable targets that are cocreated, and then there’s some process pieces of, you know, gathering voices using I never never can say that word. Anonymity.

Tucker: Anonymity. Anonymity. Yeah.

It’s a tough word. It’s awkward.

Sarah: Using anonymity, but then also leveraging tools, right, for different styles of learning and seeing the iPad, the project plan, getting it down.

Tucker: Mhmm. Yeah. Well, so let’s let’s end with this because we’re hitting on some practical steps. You know, if you’re you’re an impact driven leader and you’re many times, you’re in this world of subjective because we’re in this work probably be it’s what I kicked off with. Right?

You’re not in this world to just do nice things. You’re not here to just create a profit. You’re here to create positive change and make it sustainable, which also means that you’re close to some of the challenges that people are facing, which means your heart may be a little bit more involved than if it was just a transactional business. Yeah. And so I think what are Sarah, what are some practical steps that any impact driven leader can start to do to, you know, small and large and anywhere in between that we can start to do to bring more objectivity into our work?

Sarah: Yeah. I would say the first thing is to do is to identify those places where your team is constantly coming into conflict. What are those spaces that are rising to the top again and again as areas of challenge? Maybe it’s the same meeting every month that always ends in a fight. Maybe it’s the same department that’s constantly at each other.

I don’t know. But, like, start to think about those patterns of relationship challenge that you may be seeing repeat themselves over and over again. And, you know, I would say dig in to identify where subjectivity versus objectivity is driving some of that challenge. Maybe it’s a lack of clear goals. Maybe it’s a lack of process.

Maybe folks just don’t have the tools they need to work together effectively. But but that’s that’s what I think I would say. Identify the relationship challenge and then figure out within that, how subjectivity is driving some of those. And then cocreate cocreate with the team the objectivity that can shift conversations from being about me and you and our problems to the things we wanna do together.

Tucker: Yeah.

Sarah: What about you?

Tucker: Well, I think everybody needs to get a document camera and and get something to write on to your point. And you just got one too, Sarah, which is great. I’m so excited to see. I can’t wait for, like, here comes Sarah with her. Like, she’s gonna ride on her iPad.

That’d be so good. But I but I’d I’m all joking aside, I actually think it’s it’s a really important thing whether you’re in a in person meeting or you’re in a virtual, you know, a Zoom meeting, a faster way to help people to to or to make it a more objective place and also to help people learn is by having something that they’re looking at and we’re looking at together. Yeah. Yeah. I love document cameras.

You can get them on Amazon. There’s, like, a ton of them. I have an IPEVO, I p e v o. And then I actually just draw on my iPad. But that discipline has been really helpful for me to learn to sing things into myself, to be more present for meetings themselves, but it also has created some more, and it’s not perfect.

Right? But it’s it’s created more objectivity that we’re all cocreating around something.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: And in some ways, it’s almost like we have work product to show for it now after we’re done.

Sarah: Totally.

Tucker: That that also feels good as well. So, I mean, that really is a practical step that I think every leader can have with, you know, bringing some objectivity into the room. And the other thing is, I mean, we we speak to data a lot. And, Sarah, I was gonna ask this earlier, and I forgot. But, but it was really like your role in THRIVE IMPACT is I I remember one of your, one of your long time ago social media posts about being a data queen.

And do you remember that with your shirt on? Yeah. Like, I’m a data queen. I love that. That was one of my favorite posts.

But keep keep finding ways to bring data into your work to help you to make decisions and invite people like, I was sharing with my boss back in the day, invite people to make meaning of your data together.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: Yeah. What are we noticing, that is in the data around our conversion rates on our website or that is around, our ability to, you know, create more well-being, you know, positive well-being in our staff or whatever it is that your data is. This is one practice that we do a lot of is as we try to bring in as much data as we can. We’re including the very voices of the people who answered questions from the last meeting we had around what is it that we wanna celebrate. Well, then the next meeting is many times, how might we get there?

Will we bring back the data for people to look back at and reflect on and to continue to make meaning around it and make meaning around it together. And I think that’s a really important practical step, that people can take to make things more objective.

Sarah: Totally agree.

Tucker: Anything else that’s there for you? It’s a really rich topic.

Sarah: Yeah. It is. I mean, I was just gonna say to the data point you made, it’s it’s a good one. And in, you know, the research and evaluation space, we call that sense making. And, and it’s to say that any dataset, right, can be seen in multiple ways.

And now instead of, you know, some researcher coming in and telling folks what things say, Instead, we’re asking people what the data says to them. And I think it’s such a vital step. And to your point, it’s not just quantitative data. It’s it’s also voices. Voices are qualitative data, and that counts too.

And so I love your point about bringing in data because I think it’s so vital. So bring it in, but don’t use it as a weapon because that’s what people often use data.

Tucker: Because the state is this, therefore, here’s what I think.

Sarah: Correct.

Tucker: You’re wrong.

Sarah: Exactly and instead—

Tucker: Versus data with a question.

Sarah: Yeah. Data with a question. What do you see?

Tucker: Yeah. What are you noticing here? Yeah. That’s great. Awesome.

Well, Sarah, as usual, wonderful podcast to just chat through. I love having these what we’re learning podcasts.

Sarah: Yeah. It’s great.

Tucker: Helpful for us too, and it’s part of our I’ve really noticed this. This is this is one of our own rhythms of learning. We talk about learning organizations Yeah. A lot, and I’ve noticed this having this this tool of a podcast is like our own rhythm of learning. Yeah.

I’m like, oh, yeah. What have we been noticing? Yep. And it gives us the pause to be able to say, what have we been learning? Because, god, we’re learning so much, and the speed of change is happening so fast that goodness.

You don’t pause and just, like, notice for a little bit. Yes. So I’m grateful to have this space to to just notice, like, what have we been learning, what have we been seeing with ourselves and others. So thanks for doing podcast with me. It’s fun.

Sarah: Absolutely.

Tucker: Alright. Well, everybody, thanks for listening in. I don’t know if we have anything for the show notes today outside of just a bunch of stories. But if we do come up with something Oh, a link to the IP get a document camera. Yeah.

Exactly. We’ll put that in the show notes. So link to getting an IPEVO, a document camera you can use for, for virtual meetings. But, other than that, if you have anything else, we’ll pop it up there. But otherwise, we’ll see you on the next episode.

Bye, everyone.

Sarah: Thanks, y’all.