EP 49: Creating the Conditions for Positive Organizational Change

May 30, 2024

Show Notes

What does it take to create a workplace that not only creates impact, but also fosters deep, meaningful change internally?

The answer lies within the principles of positive psychology. Principles that—when properly harnessed—can fundamentally shift how organizational environments successfully prepare for and navigate change. 

In this episode of THRIVERS, Tucker and Sarah dive into a compelling conversation about Sarah’s extensive research into positive psychology and its transformative impact on the workplace. Their discussion drives towards fundamentally rethinking how organizational environments cultivate a leadership approach that champions psychological well-being as the backbone of organizational success.

Throughout the episode, Tucker and Sarah:

  • Explore how Transformational Leadership transcends conventional management to instill a shared commitment to the organization’s success.
  • Unpack how employees’ perceptions of fairness can significantly influence their response to change and overall job satisfaction.
  • Discuss practical steps to build resilience, optimism, and efficacy within teams—crucial elements for navigating and embracing change.
  • Offer insights into mending and fortifying trust in leadership.

Sarah’s research sheds light on how integrating the principles of positive psychology into leadership and management practices can revolutionize the traditional approach to managing teams, particularly during periods of significant change. This episode provides a rare look into how theoretical concepts are effectively translated into actionable strategies that promote a healthier, more dynamic workplace.

Tune in to reshape your perspective on leadership and organizational development, ensuring your team is not just surviving but thriving through change.

Looking for ways to increase your impact in your communities and causes?
We’ve created a modular series of workshops focused on creating impact from the inside out. Explore details and schedule a discovery session at thriveimpact.org/insideout

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

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 landscape. I’m joined today as usual with, by my co host, Sarah Fanslau, our Chief of Impact. Sarah, good to be on the show with you today.

Sarah: Great to be here.

Tucker: And, you and I, had an experience a few weeks ago. We were we were brought in to facilitate essentially some leadership workshops for CEOs of community foundations through a community called CEO Net.

Sarah: Mhmm.

Tucker: And man, was it fascinating. There was so much richness and rich learning from that. And so we wanted to share a little bit of what we’ve learned and what we noticed and saw as we went through that whole experience. It was it was, it was wonderful, actually. And San Diego was very beautiful too.

Sarah: I was gonna say it didn’t it didn’t hurt that it was in San Diego.

Tucker: Yeah. Like, what a great city. Oh, my gosh. It was gorgeous. It was so great.

Sarah: Super beautiful.

Tucker: Yeah. Well, let me, let me kinda tee up a little bit just the context of of the space so that gives people a little bit of understanding. So it was a Wednesday through Saturday no. Through Friday, whole experience. We were brought in to facilitate on Thursday Friday, some some pieces.

On Wednesday was a walking tour, that I know, Sarah, you weren’t able to be a part of, but I was a part of and Aaron on our team was a part of. And, but that was a walking tour, which was really going into a neighborhood in San Diego around a joint program between the San Diego Community Foundation and, an organization called EHC, Environmental Health Coalition, if I’m not mistaken. And their joint work around the state funding that they did, or that they received to do environmental, work in in a very hyperlocal way. And so, you know, we were walking through a neighbor. I mean, we walked for quite a while like when started at the playground that the kids play at and walked past the school and walked past this area where there was a recycling center right next to a whole bunch of houses because they didn’t really have and still don’t have zoning in general.

And so it was really fascinating to just physically experience. It was so hyperlocal and, some rich learnings there. And then the following day on Thursday, started in the morning with a woman named Lucy Lucy Bernholtz who’s, really been a think tank, a thought leader in the space around philanthropy and the digital civil society. She has a blueprint that she puts out every year. And she spoke for a little bit.

Then there was a a CEO panel of 3 CEOs that were in that. That was of Mark from the San Diego Foundation Community Foundation. There was Simeon Bannister who is with the Rochester Area Community Foundation. And then Rose who is a part of a community foundation in, out of North Texas. And then we came on and, facilitated some of our impact from the inside out workshop series that we have around conscious leadership, and, we also got into co creative leadership and helped sort of you you know, a lot of times people have these experiences and they get lots of information.

And then so on Friday, we really brought it home around what did you learn? What did you specifically learn? So that’s a little bit of just the structure and the context for our listeners to be able to know. But, Sarah, as we dive into what we noticed, what we learned, what we saw, I’m curious, what what has been striking for you as you’ve you know, it’s been a couple weeks since we were there. What came up for you around what you noticed and saw with this group?

Sarah: Yeah. It was definitely super fascinating.

And I mean, I think the first thing really, you know, going into this retreat, we worked really closely with a few folks on the retreat planning committee as well as Diane who’s the who’s in charge of CEO Net to really make this intentional and thoughtful. And I I think that that was key. And one of Diane’s kind of key pieces that I think really helped to create an integrated experience is this idea that we’re our whole humans everywhere. Right? So that we can’t disconnect our work from who we are, because they both show up all of the time.

And I think her kind of impetus and, you know, just spirit around this work, she just cares so much about it, helped to drive some of the work that we did there. And I think one of my overarching reflections is just, you know, and based on the survey data, CEOs of community foundations are stressed out folks. They have a lot going on. They have a lot of pressure on them, and they need rest. They need the ability to integrate who they are as humans with the work that they’re doing.

And that came out just really strongly in the survey results. And so just kind of kudos a little bit to Diane and the folks at ceonap for really kind of recognizing and realizing that and then putting that out there. So that that’s the first one. And then I think the second one is just that community foundations are really uniquely positioned right now to have some outsized change. And in order to do that, some older ways of working need to shift.

And so those are the two reflections that came up for me. I’m curious what came up for you.

Tucker: Yeah. Sarah, similar to what you were sharing, you know, one, an appreciation for Diane of really trying to create a a whole arc of an experience. You know, I mean, the the hyper local walking tour to Lucy coming in, which was really high altitude Yeah. Yeah. Deeply about, you know, AI, artificial intelligence. And so really macro lay level, approach and understanding

To then us, or to then the CEOs, you know, kind of bringing it down to some of their their work as CEOs. And then us, we brought it down to very personal right off the bat, you know, in conscious leadership and then brought it back up into Coker. So it was just a fascinating arc

Sarah: Mhmm.

Tucker: Of how, you know, there was provocative moments, there was uncomfortable moments, you know, there was spaces for people to deeply reflect. And I think to your point on your second point, it was really know, one of the things that Lucy was bringing forward, was really a lot of, I would say, pretty tough data, around some of the, more negative consequences of artificial intelligence. And, you know, it was everything from from, you know, reducing our free speech and, you know, help taking away from fair elections, you know, things like deep fakes and, phone calls that, you know, that artificial intelligence only takes 3 seconds for, for it to know our voice and then to be able to actually emulate it. And, and so there was some, like, concerns big time that were coming up in her talk around, like, jeez, how do what do we do and how do we do it?

Sarah: Right.

Tucker: But what was really fascinating to me about what she was really what I feel like she was really doing is, maybe unintentionally, but I I noticed, like, the the meta theme was is that if basically, it was like, it’s really hard to trust what’s out there. That’s a little bit what I was hearing. But, you know, I think, Simeon had a really astute point in his on the panel that humans are humans. Like, we are we are by nature wanting to wanting to and needing to trust something, trust people, trust institutions, trust something. And if we can’t trust what’s out there, what can we trust?

And so it was really interesting to see, and especially having done that walking tour, where, like, you know, there was no deep fake there. That was the real people I was walking with. Right? That was the real recycling center next to the real houses Yeah. That I physically saw and smelled and experienced.

Right? And so even on that level, it was really fascinating to see how how the rise of the impact driven community foundation is, like, now is that time. Not the Asset Driven Community Foundation, although you need assets. But, like, what is your real impact, and what is your real purpose for why you’re here? You know, not to be a don donor advised fund service provider, where, you know, we’re just trying to, like, take care of all these donors and make sure that everybody is able to get, you know, the impact that they’re wanting.

But it was really interesting to hear, on that walking tour there, San Diego Foundation’s director of strategic initiatives. I was asking about, like, it took some bold steps for you as the San Diego Community Foundation to step into this. And what did that look like from a fundraising perspective and a revenue perspective? And she said, you know, their CEO, Mark, really put himself out there to say, hey, staff. We need to go in a direction and be a catalyst in a channel of these funds towards something specific

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: And towards multiple things specific. And if that means we need to lose some of our donors, then that’s what that means.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: And and, you know, and they naturally had, of course, a little bit of fear. And I was like, well, so how’d it go? How’d it go? Like, and she the the woman who said shared with me said that it actually went better than they thought.

While they did lose some donors, they actually got more alignment around the existing donors that that wanted to stay. It was the more of the right people Yeah. Who who believed what they believed. In fact, they were kind of wanting them to do this. They wanted to have more leverage with their dollar, that it wasn’t just them and their own individual thing.

It was, like, more leveraged impact in this space.

Sarah: It’s a systems perspective. Mhmm.

Tucker: Yeah. Totally. And so that I think to me what was really, striking is this is a really unique time for community foundations to step forward and to take courageous moves. And, and, from another vantage point too is is that community foundations really have a unique position too to take risks that most can’t either.

Sarah: Right.

Tucker: Right? Like, and financial risks take risks around societal change type of issues. I remember Rose, Rose was speaking to this quite a bit of the how they you know, what did she say that her board chair said of the cost of doing nothing is incalculable. Right? And she had this whole story about about how, some of the members of her board went into this, like, risk analysis, and it seemed like they were really saying we shouldn’t be doing this.

And then the end of it was, but the cost of doing nothing is incalculable of, like, we need to step into the fray. And it was I mean, you felt it in the room when she said this story and was sharing this. Like, these are the the community foundations that we need for the future and for the now, really. And Yeah. Yeah.

And to that to that risk piece, like, non prop like, smaller nonprofits in the community aren’t able to take that risk. Like, they just don’t have the capital for it. Like, municipalities in fact, that was what was interesting is the city of San Diego chose not to take and be an elite applicant on this funding, I think, because of the risk involved. And that’s what they were kind of speaking to it. Like, the municipalities, maybe it’s too politically risky, but the municipalities don’t like, they’re a little bit ret reticent to do this innovative work.

And then for profits, like, they have typically shareholder returns and, like so and it’s hard to get that level of what they need from a for profit side. So it was just really interesting to see this, like, specific spot for community foundations to hold and to have and to step forward boldly, in their space in this local community.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s really about them stepping into their role as as of conveners. You know? And in some ways, it’s really, I go back and think about, you know, our great partners at United Way of Buffalo and Erie County who are playing a very similar role and really working and bringing together coalition and bringing forward dollars to drive very specific outcomes on really intractable problems, like maternal mortality for black and brown mothers, like birth rates, or birth weights rather, like housing, access to section 8 vouchers.

Right? These are the things that are affecting folks in poverty across this country. And, there is an opportunity to work in really driving hard to some of those community change pieces. Yeah. And I think that’s where we see folks like the San Diego Community Foundation really driving hard, really driving hard to some of those community change pieces.

Tucker: Yeah. And making those those specific bold steps. You know, it’s interesting. I was debriefing with, with one of the CEOs, and they have, there’s a colleague of theirs that wasn’t at this retreat. But, this person has been a CEO of a community foundation on the East Coast for a very prominent one.

If I mentioned who it was, you would know it. And and, you know, they’ve been CEO for quite a few decades. And this person said to, Simeon said, you know, I can’t think back over the last couple decades and and name one solid impact accomplishment impact accomplishment Yeah. In our in my tenure.

Sarah: Yep. Yeah.

Tucker: And and I’m guessing she’s not alone. Right? I’m guessing that this person is not alone in that feeling partly because some of the again, that’s where some of the the belief of what a community foundation was meant to do was like as if we’re our job is to be asset people. Right? Yeah.

We’re managing assets. And while, yes, assets are important, but they’re only a means to something. And so and that’s where Simeon was like, what if we what if we stopped talking about our asset size and start talking about our impact size? Because none of us should have that experience of multiple decades worth and having no idea of one solid impact accomplishment.

Sarah: Yeah. Well and, I mean, it’s not as easy as it sounds. I think to the point of the San Diego Foundation, it requires letting go of some folks who have been investors. And, you know, in our work with the Rochester Air Community Foundation, supporting work planning and things like that. That came up.

Right? Like, we have some of these folks over here who we’re managing funds for, and how are we making sure that, those funds are aligning with our impact and priority areas. Right? And what does it look like to make sure that the most of our time and attention isn’t going to the management of funds, but is going to the driving of impact. And those are real conversations

Tucker: in in the our work that we did with this group. What did you notice about the group? And even some of the like, we got in there there’s a how of this. Right? There’s a how of being a convener.

There’s a how, and we’re just not not just talking about it, but, like, there’s a doing of it and the how of how to go about doing some of this. And both on the convening side, but also you mentioned earlier around the the these CEOs. In fact, I was just talking to one as a brief debrief, of one of them that was at the retreat earlier and he was mentioning, how unique of a of a role the CEO of the Community Foundation actually is. Like and we’ve noticed this, of course, about nonprofits especially, but even more so, they’re, like, more scrutiny and there’s more of this, like, feeling like I need to be on all the time kind of thing and, based on just the position that you hold within within the community. And so I’m just kinda curious what you saw, noticed in the group around our work around conscious and cocreative leadership.

Sarah: Yeah. I mean, I think as is often the case, you know, folks enter into some of those workshops with hesitancy, because they’re not sure what’s gonna happen. They’re not sure what they’re gonna have to share. Right? There’s a lot of vulnerability.

And quite frankly, everyone’s probably been part of one that’s not great. And so that’s they’re bringing that with them, you know, into the experience. And so I think at first, I definitely noticed some trepidation, but I think pretty quickly once folks got into it and got reflecting with each other and really kind of connecting to what matters to them and the things that may be getting in their way. We saw a pretty significant shift. And, you know, I just have to give credit to all those CEOs because they really showed up for each other.

I think it’s my big takeaway. Yeah. They just showed up for each other. And we have this conversation a few times with Diane where, you know, we’ve done similar workshops with other organizations, and there’s always a level of of showing up. Some people really show up.

Some people have showed up. Some people show don’t show it up at all. And I think what was awesome was folks really being vulnerable with each other. And, even though, you know, some of these folks didn’t know each other at all. Right? This was a group of CEOs from across the country.

Tucker: Yeah.

Sarah: Some each other, some didn’t. Right? And I think what we heard was that, being in front of the being with their peers was both really refreshing, but also vulnerable, right? It was also vulnerable. And so, you know, yeah.

I I think my big the big thing that I noticed was one just that that it took vulnerability to show up and they did show up. And then I think the survey results really indicate that it was really needed. You know? I think one person said, I’ve been, you know, I didn’t even know how much I needed this. Right?

And this is I think a lot of times what happens is we just keep going. And until in some places we’re forced to stop, do we do do we realize how much we needed some of those breaks and those pauses? What about you? What were you I

Tucker: I definitely noticed that too. I mean, I think this is in general. I’ve noticed about learning experience as a whole. Like, we don’t need more content. Yeah.

Like, the only purpose of content, arguably, is to tee up conversation. But we don’t look at most most experiences, most retreats, most conferences don’t look they they prioritize content.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: And maybe that’s important for marketing purposes, you know, like so and so speaker blah blah blah blah, you know. And and, you know, Cianna did that a little bit too. Right? Lucy Bernholz, like, she’s a well respected thought leader in the space.

Sarah: For sure.

Tucker: And what they really needed was the the enough content to tee up conversation, was enough content to tee up pausing and reflecting and making it real for them. I really notice very clearly here, and I’ve I’ve consistently noticed this over the years that we’ve done this, is that people don’t need more content. They need more learning.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: Like, we don’t need more information. We need more, like, application and, like but but it how does learning really happen? And I think that’s where, you know, when that person said that I really needed this, that this was pause and to reflect and to what does this mean for me? And and then share and hear what it meant for others as well. And and there was very much this consistent theme in a lot of the share outs and in the survey results of of of feeling the commonality and feeling not feeling a lot less alone.

Yeah. All of that, which we know based on the neuroscience. Like, we need to take care of that part of our brains so that we can get into the planet. We can get into the significance. We can get into the actualization of both ourselves and our organizations.

Yeah. And if we don’t have that space help to take care of, then it’s really hard to learn and to grow. And so I definitely saw that that that there’s such a hunger for people to true really be able to have generative conversations with great questions and and understand how do we lead more effectively moving forward, but in a way that’s collaborative in group. And I remember there was one person when we were doing a couple of breathing exercises, one of the CEOs said her share out was noticing how powerful it was for all of us to do this together. Yeah.

Like, we we had just done a breathing practice. I think it may have been Prolex breathing or one other practice. I can’t remember what it was. And she her share because we usually will do an experience and then many times have people share in small groups and then share out into the main room of, like, what did you see, notice, and learn and appreciate? And she specifically kind of, like, picked up on the meta narrative or the meta idea of what’s what was going on here, which is when we do these things together, there’s a lot more power and learning actually there than if I just go off and do it on my own by myself and that’s it.

Yeah. And it really brought this learning forward of, of why don’t we do this in our organizations? What what if we brought these practices, you know, breathing practices, mindfulness practices, cocreative leadership practices back to our organizations? Yeah. And and unearth the wisdom inside of our teams.

And that was a lot of some of those share outs that came out of… huh.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: Yeah.

Sarah: Well and, you know, Simeon was there who, of course, we’ve worked with for a while now to say, I’ve tried this, right, in my organization and with my staff, and here’s what’s happened as a result. And I think that was a huge benefit, to help people go from this in theory to what this has looked like in practice. And, you know, trusting a peer to say, this has really made a difference in our work.

Tucker: Yeah. Yeah. He was a really great champion for this. It was great.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: It was also cool. I really like the that we did, you know, and this was with some of Diane’s wisdom too of this is a community of CEOs. And and, you know, we, of course, taught on cocreation, but we wanted them to have a cocreative experience. Like, what would what might we cocreate around? And we cocreate around the very their very community.

Like, what do you wanna be celebrating about this community a year from today? And we did a whole, you know, open the aperture divergent process and then the convergent top ideas that are, around the, that are the least effort and the most impact. Yep. And, man, it like, the energy in the room was really palpable. You know?

Some some said they wanted us to do more work, which is, of course, kind of fine. I was like, oh, sweet. Like, there was that was a helpful, like, oh, feedback loop to us that this would really translate for people. Yeah. But they they spoke to the things that are already working.

They spoke to things that they wanted, and it was the community bringing their voices in around their top ideas Yeah. To co create the very community that they’re a part of. Yeah. And I think that was, I just really appreciated that that we did that, because really that’s a an experiential understanding of what to do with the community that you’re in in the first place.

Sarah: For Sure.

Tucker: Which is how do we bring voices and how do we going back to the very first thing. we were talking about, that now is the time for these impact driven convening community foundations. And if I remember, we crowdsourced got their all their wisdom around what does it mean to be a most effective leader. And the most the biggest word that was up there in the word cloud, which means it was written the most times, was the word listening. And that was their wisdom.

Like, we didn’t tell them that. We just kicked it. We we hopped them right into an activity right off the bat around when are you least effective as a leader or most effective as a leader. And the number one most effective leadership trait was listening. And it’s like, they already knew it.

It’s already there. It’s just a matter of doing it and how to do it

Sarah: Yeah

Tucker: So that people feel listened to.

Sarah: For sure. Yeah. And these are, you know, really smart, talented folks. Right?

You don’t get to be head of a community foundation for nothing. Right? It means you’re a pretty awesome human. And, you know, I think one of the things that somebody said to us while we were there, especially after the that first talk around kind of some of the perils of, artificial intelligence was, we’re a really smart group of folks. I think we, you know, are gonna figure out how to adapt.

And I think part of what bringing folks together does is show people just that. That there is wisdom when folks come together that, can mean, sure there are risks out there. Sure there’s harms. There’s always been. Right?

It’s not new. The risk is not new.

Tucker: Not something new right now. Yeah.

Sarah: No. So the question is not can we do it? The question is how do we do it and how can we do it together? And I think that’s part of what we were able to bring is some tools and some thoughts for if things are different, and they are, and they’re always changing. What does it mean about how I show up differently as a leader?

What does it mean for the questions I ask my staff? What does it mean for how we make choices and decisions? What does it mean for how I engage the community? And I think, you know, really, we, of course, we have that rate of change graphic that we use all the time. And I think at the end you said, hopefully we gave you some tools to help you navigate.

Right? The the rate and the pace of change more effectively, and that’s really the point of this work. It’s to say we need new They feel that too, They feel that too, and I think they’re tired of hearing the one-sided story which just goes, everything’s on fire, and we can’t do anything about it. Right? Because what does that help?

Not much. The question is, what can we do about it, right? And so I think that that’s really what we were able to bring into the space. And Yeah. Some of the ideas that they co created were brilliant, right, for helping their community, accelerate to match the pace of change.

Tucker: Yeah. Yeah. Well and to, yeah, to build on what you said, Sarah, that the, how often do we drastically underestimate the wisdom that’s already in any room? Right? How often and and that’s where, to your point, there was a lot of fear that had come out through some of the some of the, you know, earlier speeches, basically, talks.

And then what we then what we discovered right off the bat is that they already knew what to do. Right? And it’s like we already we already have the wisdom. It’s already there. We just need to bring it out and excavate it. And that’s why I love those words, you know. And and they shared their their least effective traits.

Their top 3 were critical, impatient, and defensive. And then and then their most effective leadership was listening, collaborative, and curious. Those were the top 3.

Sarah: Yeah.

Tucker: Like, the but that was their words. Like, we didn’t tee anything up. We just got them right into an activity of their wisdom. And there was so much wisdom already in that room.

And then we had them invited them into practicing that wisdom and actually doing it, like, listening to one another. And but that’s what I just really notice consistently is regularly we underestimate. Hence, it goes back to that content issue of we don’t need more content. We need more conversation and excavating of wisdom from what’s already existing in the room.

And it’s way better for learning. It’s way better for the outcomes we’re wanting. It’s way better for alignment. It’s way better for, like, human beings their our well-being because we realize, oh, I’m not alone. Oh, wow. Maybe I already do know what I what I what I need to do.

Sarah: Well and to Simeon, you know, after at the end of the talk around artificial intelligence, Simeon kind of said, I’m curious if the point of all of this artificial intelligence and intelligence isn’t mimicking relationship. Right? It’s creating a simulation of relationship because that’s really what we want as humans. And so I think oftentimes we get pulled into the trap of technology, but technology ultimately comes back to people. It always comes back to people.

And so as community foundations are leading in this next normal, you know, I think what this retreat really centered folks on is that it comes back to people and to themselves as leaders.

Tucker: Well, if you’re out there and you’re listening as a community foundation CEO, just encourage you to, 1, check out CEO Net. They’re they’re doing some great, work in in building the community of CEOs of community foundations. But, also, you know, this is your time. This is your time to you know, as as Simeon was sharing with me, he’s like, we need to change our lexicon to be about why we’re here, which is that like, I’ve already said a little bit of we need to not be about our asset size. We need to be about our impact size and Yeah.

And step into the fray like Rose was in the north in North Texas and step into this fray in the like, Simeon is in the culture. I mean, we just got off a call with him earlier and noticing that how deeply important it is for us to continue to learn these new these next normal leadership practices. Mhmm. And so, yeah, if if you’re a CEO of a community foundation or know of 1, now is the time. Now is the time.

Now is your it is your time to step into the space that your community needs you to step into. And there are lots of ways of going about that in some of these newer, next normal approaches. So, well, until next time, thanks for listening in to the podcast. If you love this or if this is supportive for you, shoot us a or put a review up on wherever you listen to podcasts up on iTunes or Spotify or wherever it might be. And, and also if this was helpful for you, there’s a good chance it might be helpful for somebody you know.

So, invite you to share this with somebody else, and and help us to continue this mission of really redefining workplace leadership, to be about creating impact from the inside out. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

Sarah: Thanks y’all.