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

Growth and Gratitude: A Leadership Year in Review with Barb Collura, Kathy Jamil, and Kirsten Taylor

December 28, 2023

Show Notes

The journey of leadership is marked by unique challenges and profound learnings (if you’re doing it right). 

As 2023 comes to a close, this episode of THRIVERS offers a window into the reflective minds of three nonprofit leaders who have navigated these waters with resilience and innovation.

Tucker and Sarah sit down with Barb Collura, Kathy Jamil, and Kirsten Taylor to discuss the key lessons they’ve learned about themselves over the course of this year. The conversation revolves around their proud accomplishments and the sorrows they’ve faced, providing an intimate look into the highs and lows of impact-driven leadership.

Key moments include:

  • Candid stories from each leader about their personal journey of growth, the challenges they’ve overcome, and the successes they’ve celebrated.
  • In-depth discussions on the importance of vulnerability and self-reflection in personal and organizational growth.
  • Strategies for fostering a culture of collective care and learning within impact-driven organizations.
  • Insights into the transformative power of embracing change and adaptability as a leader.

As these leaders share their key learnings and what they plan to carry forward into 2024, the discussion becomes a beacon of hope and guidance for fellow impact-driven leaders. 

Tune in for an enlightening and heartening conversation that is more than a reflection of the year gone by—it’s a roadmap for the future of effective and empathetic leadership.


Guest Info:

Barb Collura, President/CEO at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association

Kathy Jamil, Chief Program Officer at United Way of Buffalo

Kirsten Taylor, Executive Director at Pueblo Rape Crisis Services / Juniper Southern Colorado

Listener Links/Resources:

Rest is Resistance Book – https://amzn.to/487rD0F

Behaviors That Reinforce Learning – https://drive.google.com/open?id=1bRfiCgm5oAOTzAOy5xjwTP-RMzNLwZcj&usp=drive_copy

Reflection Questions:

  • What have you learned about yourself as an impact-driven leader in 2023?
    • What wins and accomplishments are you proud of?
    • What sorrows and disappointments have you had?
  • What key learnings do you want to bring into 2024 no matter what happens?

Need to create a strategic plan (or breathe life into your existing one)? Schedule a free Design Session and we’ll explore the areas of opportunity and co-create a plan that fits your organization’s needs and budget.

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Transcript

Tucker Wannamaker:
Welcome to THRIVERS: Nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I’m 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 and ideas so that you can learn to thrive in today’s nonprofit landscape. And I am joined today with Sarah Fanslau, our Chief of Impact at Thrive Impact. Sarah, good to be with you today.

Sarah Fanslau:
Hey, Tucker, and good to be here.

Tucker:
And by the way, happy birthday. You just had a recent birthday [inaudible 00:00:39]-

Sarah:
Thank you. Thank you.

Tucker:
Happy birthday, and I love the new earrings that you have on.

Sarah:
Oh, I appreciate it, yeah.

Tucker:
It’s very nice. Very nice. Well, I’m really excited about our episode today. I know we say that probably about every episode, but today it’s particularly one that I’m excited about because we’re joined by three incredible nonprofit leaders who we’ve all worked with at Thrive Impact over the years, really, in some cases, and really excited for them to share about what they’ve been learning this year. This is really a year-end reflection. We’re coming into the end of 2023, and the nonprofit landscape’s a little different than it used to be. And so we want to invite their learnings so that all of you who are listening can learn from them and what they’ve learned about themselves, about their organizations, about Impact, about burnout, things like that. So I’m super excited about today.

Sarah:
Yeah, me too. As actually everyone hopped on, I was almost like, “Wait, I forgot they don’t know each other.” I feel like you all are already friends in my mind because of our work with you. And so it’s just so cool to see you all here and think about the different work and yeah, I’m really excited too.

Tucker:
Great. Well, let me introduce our three wonderful guests. We have Barb Collura, she is the president, CEO at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. And Barb, I know we’ve been working together for various different projects over the years, but I just wanted to appreciate you, and one of the reasons why I wanted to invite you is, one, your drive for your mission is just so palpable, the way that you care so deeply. And also… and especially this year, Barb, Sarah and I were reflecting how much we so deeply appreciated the way that you chose to lean into vulnerability, your own self-reflection, and you did it with an immense amount of courage. And so I just was so appreciative of you this year and watching you learn and grow and be an even better CEO than you were before. And so, Barb, it is such a delight to have you here on this podcast.

Barb Collura:
I am so honored. I love you both. I love what Thrivers does, thrive Impact and Thriver community. So excited… I’m a little nervous for this conversation.

Tucker:
It’ll be fun. We’ll have a good time. I’m also excited to introduce Kathy Jamil. She is the chief program officer at the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. And Kathy, we have just absolutely loved working with you and your team over the last year plus-ish, something like that. And Kathy, as we were reflecting on you, really appreciate your tenacity. It’s like you knew that you wanted to do things differently. You just recently became the chief program officer, and you’re like, “We need to do this differently. The world is changing. We need to do things differently.” And you sought it out.
One of the things I’ve noticed about you, Kathy, is you’re like this master of co-creation. The way that you draw people in, and it’s like this master of strategy of bringing voices together in a way that I’m always like, “Oh, I’m so curious how Kathy’s going to…” She’s like, “I got to talk to this person and bring this person in.” It’s like this fun strategy session. I remember when we were at dinner with you and the team the other night in Buffalo when we were up there, and it was just fascinating to watch you work and see your genius at work. And so I just really appreciate you, Kathy, for who you are as a leader and how you gather the voices in such a beautiful way.

Kathy Jamil:
Thank you. Thank you, Tucker. And as Barbara said, we are so grateful for our time working with you all. And everything about the Thrive Impact work that you all do, and help facilitating and bringing that all together, definitely was a tool in my toolbox to help us get where we needed to go, so thank you.

Tucker:
That’s great. Thanks, Kathy. And then last we have Kirsten Taylor. Kirsten, you’re the executive director at Pueblo Rape Crisis Services, soon to be known as Juniper Southern Colorado. And I know a little rebrand going on, that’s good, I love it, love it. Kirsten, Sarah and I were reflecting on you and your leadership. We’ve just been blown away by your level of appreciation and thoughtfulness around people, the way that you hold space for people and the way that you appreciate them in such specific and clear ways. And even those who maybe struggle sometimes within your team or whatever might be going on, you just still hold this space of appreciation. And I swear, every time we get off a call with you, we’re like, “Man, that was so energizing.” I mean, just being in your presence is really a delight. And so Kirsten, really grateful for you and for your leadership of your organization, and just for who you are and how you show up in the world.

Kirsten Taylor:
Thank you, Tucker. And ditto. And I think that I wrap up every session that we ever have sending out emails to my entire team, thanking them and thanking you all, and I always get back the feedback like, “That was the best session I’ve ever had from my team.” So you’re energizing our team as well. And nothing like starting out a podcast with tears in my eyes, so thank you for that. That was really generous.

Tucker:
Well, thank all three of you for being just the leaders that you are. You all lean in such beautiful ways. So today’s topic is really about year-end. We’re coming to the end of 2023. We’ve had wins and accomplishments, we’ve had sorrows and disappointments, and we’re coming into a new year. And curious, as we dive in, want to explore, what has really come up for each of you around what you’ve learned particularly about yourself? Would love to start more personally first, and what have you learned about yourself as an impact driven leader and nonprofit leader? And again, particularly around, what are some wins or accomplishments that you’re proud of? And I think it’s okay, let’s celebrate those right here on the call. And also, what are some sorrows and disappointments that you’ve had that you’ve wrestled through over this last year? I’d love to invite whoever is of the head or heart to go first. Otherwise, we’ll go in alphabetical order again or reverse alphabetical order.

Sarah:
I was going to say, [inaudible 00:07:18] you have to go first, yeah-

Tucker:
Kirsten. Oh, Kirsten, I think you’re up.

Kirsten Taylor:
All right. All right. Well, I think that this is really… what a fantastic way to think back over maybe not just the previous 12 months, but kind of what I feel like has been this really intense period of the last three years. And I think the thing that has happened for me is that I spent a few years being fairly delusional about my level of burnout and really not acknowledging it. And so I think the last 12 months have been really this process of deep self-reflection and accountability, and owning up to my own self about what I had done and could do differently moving forward. And so just, I think the themes that come up over and over again for me and the organization, and we work in a place of serving victims and really decreasing violence in our world and increasing healing, is that I have a responsibility to heal myself as well. And so I feel like that’s been a big theme for me over the last, maybe not just 12 months, but few years. So that’s been really powerful.

Tucker:
I love that, like living into the work that you put out in the world, in a sense. You bring a lot of healing. “How might I heal myself?”

Kirsten Taylor:
Right. And that it doesn’t just impact me and the work that I do kind of in my little bubble. And it doesn’t just impact the work that we do in our community. It actually impacts the staff here that I hope to be a really, not only a positive leader, but a positive energy in general. And that if I’m struggling with burnout, how can that be a good example?

Barb Collura:
I can go next.

Tucker:
Yeah, yeah. Tell us.

Barb Collura:
For me, I think that it’s important for us as leaders to lead. And a lot of times we think that “I have all the answers” and “I know everything” and “I know how to solve this problem,” and I think for me, a big learning and reflection for me is being open and vulnerable to my team and to my board when something… I just don’t know the answer. I don’t know where to go, and I am stuck too. And the two part is important because I think for me, my… A couple of particular things that happened this year. My team hearing that I was stuck too, in other words, as well, it allowed… not that I was trying to be, but in the moment, vulnerable. And also it opened up space and opportunity for us to kind of move forward. And some of my team members I’ve worked with a really long time and they saw some things in me that maybe they hadn’t seen before.
So that was really, I guess, for me, kind of one of the biggest reflections. And it’s interesting the way you guys asked this question of us because I think another thing as leaders, we don’t take the time to reflect like that. So one of the things that if I was not on this podcast and I was listening, I would probably say, “Huh? I don’t know that I’d take a moment to stop and think and reflect on some of these things and what that means for me and my team going forward.” So I guess if I was listening to this, I would encourage people to do the same.

Tucker:
That’s great, Barb. It sounds like noticing the, “I don’t have to have all the answers.” In fact, you used a phrase of, it opened up space for things to be able to move forward by you acknowledging that you didn’t have the answers and that you were stuck and “Hey, how might we figure this out?” And it actually opened up the space for things to move forward in a way that I’m guessing was probably better than if you had tried to just figure out the answer on your own. Yeah.

Barb Collura:
Absolutely.

Tucker:
That’s great, Barb. Kathy, how about you? What emerged for you in this question?

Kathy Jamil:
Yeah, I’m glad that, Barbara, that you shared that because I can so relate to that and making sure… as Kirsten said as well, just making sure that I’m taking time for myself to make sure that the way I feel isn’t impacting others around me, and me making sure that I have that time for me is really important. And then Barbara, I was almost going to say something very similar in that I’m a system person. I like protocols and policies and I don’t like when things are ineffective and all the things. And so when I came into my position, I noticed that we had processes that were just either slow or just not right. And it was very natural for me to say, “This is how we should be doing it.”
And that doesn’t go well. It doesn’t go with staff, it doesn’t go with you being a know-it-all, and that’s just very top-down. So I noticed this year when I left it as an open-ended question of how we can make these processes better, stronger. And even though I didn’t necessarily always agree with the answers, I allowed the people to try it out and see and revisit, and they ended up creating something better than what I would’ve given them anyway. And so I think… I would say a big growth for me, I’m hoping it was very beneficial to the staff ultimately, is that they can see that they can lead and they can create. And we may be able to point out at a problem individually, but when we do it together and develop something together, it’s just so much better. And so I think that’s a big win, and it’s me disciplining myself not to jump too quick to say, “Oh, I have the answer,” because I don’t always have the answer as you said, Barbara. And that’s a safe space to be.
And even when I think I have the answer… even if I think it’s the absolutely right thing to do, like I think this is what we have to do, I’m better off leading and guiding the discussion to get somewhere as opposed to just saying, “This is what it’s got to be,” because along the way, people are giving us feedback and input and their experiences and what they see from their role and how that would impact that thing, and then it becomes something they’ve got not only the buy-in, but they feel valued. They feel valued as an individual leader within their own organization, within their role. So I think it’s very empowering for them and it ultimately becomes empowering for all of us.

Sarah:
Oh, I love that, Kathy. You’re taking me through our work together a little bit as you were talking in my mind, and I was thinking about how might we questions and why we don’t go right to, how do we fix the problem instead backing up to “What’s the best of us?” and “What do we even want?” And so I heard you saying that doing that with your staff, not only results usually in better outcomes, but buy-in and improved culture along the way.

Kathy Jamil:
Yes, absolutely. And that they feel, again, that that value, you’re not just top downing things on them, you’re including me in the conversation because you value who I am and you value what I can bring to the table.

Sarah:
Yeah.

Kathy Jamil:
Yeah.

Sarah:
Yeah.

Tucker:
I’m curious from all of you, and as best as you can, go into a story like a moment this year, and I can even share one from me to be vulnerable myself, to lead this a little bit, but what’s a moment in this year where you were sitting there with your team or you had a time where you like, “I need to make a shift. I need to move differently now.” And it feels scary, it feels vulnerable, it feels nerve wracking, but I’m going to take a few deep breaths and I’m going to lean in. And I’ll give you an example, for me. I had had… Kirsten, you were using the word healing, which that’s been a big word for me this year personally. And all of you’re talking about things like inviting people into questions and not having the answers.
And it’s been a learning even still for me, even though I teach on this stuff and I facilitate around co-creation, I had one particular area which was around revenue, specifically, where I kept leaning into, “I’ll figure it out. I’ll figure it out. I’ll figure it out.” I kept putting it on my back. I kept saying, “I’m going to figure out the answer.” And I didn’t realize what was going on, but underneath the surface… and this was through a guy who’s working with us now. His name’s Aaron… And shout out to you, Aaron. By the way, high thrive. I just gave you one, Aaron, who works with us on our revenue side. But as he helped me to heal, and what ultimately really was going on was, I was afraid that people were going to leave because I didn’t have the answers around revenue.
I was super afraid and I didn’t have any idea what was going on. It had to deal with even things that had nothing to do with revenue, just old ways, old beliefs that I had held. And he took me through this whole journey that was really fascinating. But there was this one moment where I knew that this was it, and I had to come… almost like I had to come clean to the team. And we were going through a really big cashflow crunch around April and I needed to come. And I remember I was in this… we have this little gazebo at our house in the backyard, and I was sitting outside and I was like, “I just need to be open and totally vulnerable with the team.” And Sarah, I don’t know if you… I’m assuming you remember that, but-

Sarah:
I do, yeah.

Tucker:
… I was so nervous, I was so scared, but I started talking and tears just streamed down my face because it was so deep for me. There was just so much there. And it was just this moment of… for me, it was a moment of breakthrough that it’s okay for me to lean into co-creation, and even in a deeper way. And so that’s a moment for me that… And so far nobody left, which is great. And people have [inaudible 00:17:56] still and they can figure out what they need to do. But it was a very gracious conversation. Our team was really gracious with me.
And we also talked about next steps and “How are we moving forward?” And “What do we need to do?” And so it was both holding space for me that our team did that for me, but also helped think about our next steps. And it was a breaking point for me. So that’s my story a little bit, and I’m curious if you all had… What kind of a story, if you have one, and no worries if you don’t, that hits to some of these sorrows and disappointments? Or some healing or some areas where you’re like, “Nope, it’s time for me to shift. Time for me to lean and change and to take a different path.” Curious if there’s any stories that come up for you?

Kathy Jamil:
I can share something that… actually something we worked on together with you all at Thrive Impact. When we were developing the vision description, we kept hitting on that word. There was a specific word we kept hitting on that the team… it gave the cringe feeling for folks in the organization because they weren’t sure what that would mean. And we were talking about, “Are we talking about equity in a way that we’re specifically talking about Black and brown people?” And so it was cringy, not in the sense that we knew that that was a thing that we needed to focus on, it was cringy because our resource development office was like, “Wait a minute, what does that mean to our donors?”
And then the higher ups were thinking, “What does this mean to the people that we report to?” when we’re in a very predominantly white environment and our donors are predominantly white. We weren’t ready for that because there was this fear. And I was agitated by that because it made sense to me like, “Okay, so what? Forget it, we don’t need their money. We’ll find different money.” And so that activist in me that want to just like, “The heck with them. Forget them. We don’t need them.” And so I was very frustrated. I don’t know if you recall those moments. And we had meetings offline that you didn’t hear… you weren’t a part of because we had a lot of heavy lifting, so I had to let it go. And I hated letting it go. It drove me nuts because to me it was so apparent, this is the work.
But with time… and I guess that’s the word, is time. And I think what I learned, because I just had a conversation with… and by the way, equity is in everything right now. It’s in every statement, every conversation, it’s all… we got a director of equity. It’s all the things now, right? But a year and a half ago, almost two years ago, I wasn’t ready for not doing what seemed to make absolute sense to me when it didn’t make sense to other people. And in time, without me having to do much, people weren’t ready. And I think that’s a part of leadership is that knowing when people are ready for something is really important. You can have all the money, all the things, but if you don’t have the right time and bring people forward slowly with something that’s very scary, because it was scary in terms of, especially, the finances, donors are going to pull out.
And so once they had that… with time, it came on their own. And I’m just very grateful. A recent conversation I had with the team and they were all talking the talk, and I just was thinking back like, “Wow.” It’s the person in the organization with the biggest voice about not making that change was 110% in it, and I was like, “Wow, when did that happen?” And I didn’t have anything to do with that. I had nothing to do with it. So I learned that I have to let go and understand that if it’s not today, if it’s not tomorrow, it’ll happen with time if it’s the right thing to do. If it’s genuinely and sincerely the right thing to do, people will come around on their own and you can’t force it, you just have to give it time.

Sarah:
I also think, Kathy, you don’t know how it happened, but I think it was you stepping back to allow the space for it to evolve instead of forcing it. I remember some of those conversations and equity stayed in there. It was the modifier that left, right? What kind of equity? Racial equity. And it was a really interesting series of conversations because I don’t think anyone disagreed-

Kathy Jamil:
Yes.

Barb Collura:
Exactly.

Sarah:
… on [inaudible 00:22:14], right? It was the question of, what will this mean? And the fear there. And I think you allowed folks to feel and explore that fear instead of saying, “No, we have to do this.” And I think that leadership of opening the space and letting it emerge was really powerful to witness, even though it was really hard.

Kathy Jamil:
It was painfully hard, but yes.

Tucker:
Yeah.

Kathy Jamil:
Yeah. So it was a good learning for myself, and just thinking about… When you’re doing any level of community work, it’s messy. We know systems are dysfunctional. And when you have system conversations, they’re going to be messy and ugly. And so you have to make sure that the right people are involved and they’re moving forward, but not where you’re forcing it upon them. Yeah.

Tucker:
Wow. Great story. Any other stories that came up for you from this last year where you had to lean in and choose differently in your leadership?

Kirsten Taylor:
I’ll maybe share something that I have… that catches me by surprise time and time again, even though I’ve now been working on this with my executive coach for quite some time, that I tend to make some assumptions that I do have all the answers and then write a full story about whatever is going on in the situation. And I have distinct scenarios as like “Worst case scenario,” “Best case scenario,” “This is what that person meant,” “This is why they expressed this thing to me in that way,” “This is why they’re concerned and why I should now be overly concerned and why I have now a problem to solve,” and it turns into something that I kind of ruminate and perseverate about. And so time and time again, the answer is, “Did you get curious? Did you ask the question?” And so it now is becoming a little bit more of the inherent response of like, “Well, I don’t know what they meant and I’ve been thinking about it for two weeks.” And “There really is this potential for things to go really great or really bad, and I just don’t know.”
And just to pause and take the deep breath and go back and ask the questions like, “Hey, this feedback happened. What did you mean? And does that feel like a thing that we need to solve? Or did it just feel like a thing that you had noticed that day and you wanted to say something about?” And so really getting curious and being vulnerable enough to know that I have this tendency to write… like I’m a great storyteller and that’s why I’m a great fundraiser, but then I don’t always need to be writing a false story about a situation that I have literally just one side of. And so really getting curious and being willing to say to that person, “Look, this is something that I need you to help me round out my understanding of.”

Tucker:
Wow, that’s great, Kirsten. Yeah, there’s a saying we say sometimes, which is curiosity is the superpower of our generation. And then I think about that Ted Lasso episode. I’m sure many of you have seen it where he’s throwing the darts and the curiosity-

Kirsten Taylor:
Oh, Ted.

Tucker:
… [inaudible 00:25:35] Ted Lasso. But I really appreciate you bringing that forward, that how many times do I jump to judgment? Do I jump to assessment or evaluation of someone or something without fully understanding? So I really appreciate you bringing that forward, Kirsten. That’s a big one. That’s a really big one.

Kirsten Taylor:
We should all watch more Ted Lasso.

Tucker:
Yes.

Kirsten Taylor:
The moral of today’s story, y’all.

Tucker:
Yeah. Any other stories that are coming up? Or anything that’s coming up as you’re hearing any of these stories as well? Just want to see if there’s any other stories that we’re coming up from this year for any of you?

Sarah:
I think one thing for me, it’s not necessarily a moment, and I don’t know if… but it’s the culmination of many moments. Oftentimes, a little bit like you, Kirsten, or either in Kathy, I’ll think, “Oh, I’ve seen…” I can say A to Z. I know what Z is, I know what A is, and I know all of it might of been right. I can plan out the steps. The problem with knowing Z all the time is that it doesn’t allow for whatever Z might be to emerge. And so even with our work at Thrive where we’re doing strategic planning and a bunch of these other pieces as we’re leaning into our 10X, I think one of the things that I’ve realized or recognized as it happens is, there’s something emerging that I don’t quite know yet, and that’s okay.
And I think allowing the space for it to emerge is definitely difficult for me because I’m a person that’s like, “Oh no, I know. I’ve seen Z, but I may have seen one version of Z.” And really, ultimately, as things grow, if we allow the universe and all of the people in it to influence us, that can change. And so it’s not one moment for me, but I was just feeling this. I think today, that feeling of there’s something emerging that’s different than where we were, that I can’t put my finger on, that feels important, and that also feels a little scary because if you don’t know, then you don’t know, right? But that’s something that’s been coming up for me, just that ability to hold the end loosely. So yeah.

Kathy Jamil:
Yeah, and it’s hard because you still see this potential outcome. You still see this thing that like… the Z looks pretty good, right?

Sarah:
Yeah.

Kathy Jamil:
[inaudible 00:28:09], right? It’s not like Z’s horrible, and it looks pretty darn good. I think if we just do the Z, we will be good. And so do you still… I mean, we all have to acknowledge, you have a skill and you have a knowledge and you have an understanding as well, and so how can you still have some of your Z there? [inaudible 00:28:27]. Maybe it’s a Z with a line through it. Maybe it’s a… I don’t know, maybe it’s a capital Z, lower case Z. So it’s still there, because I don’t think leaders are just… because I don’t prescribe to letting it all loose either, right? But there is something there, but it’s not all the things. And this is why you want to bring everybody in just so you’re making sure it’s acquitting all the things.

Sarah:
Yeah, and I’m the rein-er in, right? That’s my role. And so-

Tucker:
[inaudible 00:28:58] that true.

Sarah:
… yeah, I’m never just like, “Oh, I don’t see anything at the end of the alphabet.” I’m like, “No, I’ve seen it, but I could be a little flexible,” but I [inaudible 00:29:06].

Tucker:
So good.

Sarah:
Z with a line through it, I like that.

Tucker:
I’m loving these stories. I’m curious, as you think about coming into next year, and maybe similar to what you’ve already shared today, but what are some key learnings that you want to bring forward that no matter what changes in 2024, no matter what happens in your role, in your organization, that you want to make sure that this is a part of your work, a part of your leadership, a part of the way that you are approaching some key learnings, that no matter what changes, you want to bring this forward?

Barb Collura:
I mean, I think this year for me, you all… we’ve been working with you all on this strategic plan refresh, which we could talk hours about in terms of all the learnings and so forth. But for me, one of the things that you all really opened my eyes to is this whole thing about a learning organization. And I think people say things, maybe not that exact phraseology, but people say things like that all the time and they’re like, “Oh, of course. We’re adaptable, we’re flexible, we’re this and that.” And of course people wants… Who wants to say “We’re not?”
But it was interesting to me… I guess, I wouldn’t say interesting. It was eyeopening to me how you guys defined it. And then I felt like you also shared with me some of those characteristics. So it’s not just like, “Yeah, of course we’re a learning organization.” It was like, “Well, are you doing these five things?” or whatever it was. And it was the characteristics of it that made me go, “Hmm?” And I want to lean into that a lot more in 2024 because we’re not there yet. I mean, again, being vulnerable. I’d love to sit here and say from our board, to me, to our staff, to our key volunteers, we’re not there yet. And I think we just need more work in that area and we need to be reminded of what those characteristics are. We need to be reminded of… it’s not simply just saying it, y’all, it’s like you have to do some things and you have to act a certain way and you have to support each other in a certain way. And that’s what I want to bring into 2024.

Tucker:
Barb, I really appreciate that. And I’m thinking what you’re talking about are some of those… the behaviors that reinforce learning. Some of those like acknowledge personal limits, display and own my fallibility, reveal flexibility and openness, invite voices, frame mistakes and failures as learning opportunities, and embrace adversity. And I think that’s what you’re hitting on, right? Are some of those key-

Barb Collura:
Absolutely. And I think even… and I… Look, you’ve got three nonprofit leaders, Tucker, you and Sarah included, five of us. We can sit here and talk about, “Oh, it’s the board. It’s the this, it’s the that.” And I think for me, I want to bring more of that into the boardroom because I feel like the staff made a lot of progress in this area because we had the pleasure and opportunity to work with you really closely. And the board just simply didn’t have that exposure. So it’s not that they’re bad people and we spent all this time with them, it’s that they haven’t had that exposure, and I think that’s what helped kind of me see that and the staff see that in a different way.
So it’s really how we show up for each other too, and how we acknowledge kind of where the organization has been and the history, and then learning from that and moving forward. And maybe it’s even letting go of something you’ve really… that mountain you’ve stood on and saying, “You know what? Now that I think about it, I’m willing to kind of let that go.” And that takes… wow, that takes a lot of guts to do that. So I am wanting to take that into 2024.

Tucker:
Yeah, I love that, Barb. I love how you hit on… and I know in our work with you all was helping to get into rhythms of learning and treating things as learning, not as personal affronts and different things like that. And you hit on something so important, which is the culture of a board and the culture of the staff, and how do we start to make those the same culture so it’s not this whole other world over here of boards? I mean, to me, I think that’s a really key piece of 2024 is how do we not have this whole of the world of the board and their culture and then we have this whole of the world of the staff and our culture, but we have one culture? And exposure to the things that we want to lean into. And like you said, the choice around how the board and staff collectively choose to show up for one another, right? And some of those… whether it’s core values or principles or things like that.
But I really appreciate you hitting on that because there are so many nonprofit leaders, Barb, who’ve shared similar things that there’s just this us and them or this dichotomy. It’s this whole other world. We’re working with another organization in DC right now who’s in a very similar situation. The staff is one culture and the board has a whole other one. And how might these come together? And Barb, appreciate you bringing that forward around continuing to lean into these learning rhythms and these behaviors that reinforce learning, and how might we all do them collectively and choose to do them. Yeah, I appreciate that. What else? What other key learnings are y’all thinking about that you want to keep leaning into?

Kirsten Taylor:
A piece of what you were just saying, Tucker, that Barb also brought in was this idea of culture. And what we keep coming back to, because we work in an organization that deals with really difficult cases and our clients have stories and realities that expose us to secondary trauma, is that we’ve really embraced this idea of a culture of collective care. And so I really just appreciate what you were just talking about in terms of an us and them kind of mentality around staff and board. Because I think that a piece that I really want to actively work on within both our staff and our board is allowing each of those entities to understand that culture of collective care for the other folks. So for the staff, we understand that really thoroughly because we don’t just focus on self-care. It’s not like you have a hard case and so be sure to get a massage the next day. That’s not it at all.
It’s that we believe in collective care, which means that we all are here as advocates for each other, basically, and have space to decompress, and hold that space and just kind of really acknowledge the hard work that we do every day. But from the board side of things, really inviting them to allow us to invest in that collective care in meaningful and genuine ways, and not just allowing it to be a budget line that they approve, but really for them to understand the value of that work within our community and making sure that our entire organization is functioning in that like, “Yes, we all agree that this is how we do things.” So I just really appreciated having the distinction between board and staff even when maybe we don’t want there to be that distinction.

Sarah:
I love that idea of this culture of care that crosses staff and board, and what does it look like at the board level to define a culture of care? It’s a really interesting question.

Tucker:
And also taking care… I think there is this like, “I just need to go take care of myself,” and as if it’s an individual willpower oriented journey like, “Well, just go take care of yourself,” by going and doing whatever that is, like massage or binging on Netflix or whatever it is that people do to take care of themselves. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with those things, but you’re saying we’re holding ourselves accountable or want to care for one another in a sense. We use the phrase, how do we create impact from the inside out? And I love that culture of collective care because it’s like… kind of what you were saying about yourself, which is that if you want to bring healing in the world, you need to heal yourself. But it seems like that’s the same thing for your whole organization like, let’s have a culture of healing within that we can continue to heal outside of us.

Kirsten Taylor:
Well, and that might be an idea that doesn’t exactly feel mainstream, especially for folks who aren’t in kind of a victim service oriented nonprofit world. But I think that it has such an impact because it really might mean looking like being really flexible in thinking about working from home schedules, or offering just creative opportunities to experience little, small moments of joy and connection throughout the day. So it might mean… we do a walking meeting. We find ways that we can connect that might be creative and kind of outside that traditional… like, “You’re at work. Get to work. Sit at your desk and do your job.” It’s very, very different than that because that’s who we have decided we are and who we want to be and who we want to continue to be.

Tucker:
Yeah, I love that. It reminds me of this project we’ve been working on and just finished with a pediatric clinic, actually, out in San Diego. And they were coming up with their own collective ideas around helping their own wellbeing, essentially. And they had lots of ideas. And many of them, which they decided… I think they had like… it was like 85% of them had moved forward on most of these ideas. But one of them was literally a Hulk Smash event in the back… in the parking lot in the back. I’m like, “Ain’t no experts going to come in and be like, ‘We believe that what’s most important for the wellbeing of your organization is to create a Hulk Smash event’.” But they totally did it.
And then I remember some of the language afterwards and this appreciation for it. So many people were like, “[inaudible 00:40:51] that was so amazing.” And what I loved about it was, is that it was the team coming up with their own thoughts and wisdom and ideas around how they want to move forward. It was very co-creative. It wasn’t an expert coming in saying, “This is what you ought to do.” It was creating the space for the team to come up with what they want to do. So I love what you’re hitting on with that of coming up with your ideas that work for your team. This is great.

Kathy Jamil:
Yeah, I love this conversation. And it’s just so ironic in so many points everyone just shared that I’m experiencing personally and professionally. It’s really cool. We have this new thing that we’re doing, it’s called Creating Wellbeing, and one of the program directors is leading it in their organization. And we met a couple of times, and we may not come in with the Hulk Smash thing, but we certainly are throwing things out. We’re just like… somebody’s like, “[inaudible 00:41:47] spend $2,500 on a recliner that massages and has heat,” and that goes on the wall, and all the crazy goes up on the wall. And then, I mean, we’ll keep some of the crazy. But I think it’s been a really cool experience for me. I didn’t want to join initially, it was just… anyone could join the group and I wanted to really just support the idea because I think it’s really good work.
And Tucker and Sarah, you know Mary Kay, she’s leading it. And so I wanted her to have this really big win, and I’m enjoying it so much. I was there really more of a support initially, but it’s to create something together about how our wellbeing as a collective could look like within an organization. It’s really powerful. And we’re just seeing all these light bulbs coming on and… Well, we’re having a lot of fun and it’s going to feel weird. It’s like a meeting, but we’re having a lot of fun just talking about it. And then hopefully we actually implement it and it’ll just be more fun for everyone. But creating it together has been really a cool way of looking into 2024 for us to see. That’s one of the priorities, as you guys know, as part of our STRAP plan, the burnout piece was one of the goals. So that kind of came out of that. And so we’re having fun with it, and it’s been really, I think, a stress reliever in of itself, it’s the process itself.

Tucker:
Yeah, I love that. That’s so [inaudible 00:43:06]-

Sarah:
Invite us back when the massage chair comes in, Kathy.

Kathy Jamil:
I know, right?

Tucker:
Yeah, yeah. We’ll be there, we’ll be there. [inaudible 00:43:11] Hulk Smash event. Hopefully I do that [inaudible 00:43:13]. I’ll be there for the Smash [inaudible 00:43:15]. Well, hey, we only have a few more minutes. I want to appreciate all three of you for bringing your wisdom and your learning. I mean, again, this is a tough nonprofit landscape that we’re all in. We like to say that all of you are in the toughest leadership conditions in our country in all kinds of different ways. And so what your lived experience and wisdom from that is immensely valuable to those who are out there in the field like you are. So I just want to appreciate all three of you for bringing stories, wisdom, thoughts. As a quick, rapid round, I just want to bring forward, if you were to give nonprofit leaders one thing that they needed to focus on right off the bat coming into 2024, what would be one word or one phrase that you would say, “If you do nothing else, do this?” What might that be? And then we’ll close from there.

Kathy Jamil:
I would say better together.

Tucker:
Better together. That’s great, Kathy.

Barb Collura:
I don’t know if I can put this into a pithy phrase that you looking for, Tucker, but I’m more focused… I’m more thinking about the self-reflection piece.

Tucker:
Yeah.

Barb Collura:
So finding a way to find a moment, or moments, early in the year to do some of that self-reflection. And I think you posed some great questions here. What were some of your wins? What were some of your disappointments? What are you taking into the year? And write those down and enter the year looking at starting with yourself. Looking at yourself first, and then thinking about going from there. Because I don’t know, I feel like we’re always so focused on, “Okay, the plan. I got to do this and all of this.” “Oh, it’s the new year and we got to do all this stuff,” and I’m just feeling like I need to make sure of where I’m coming from and how I’m going to lead and what I need to be working on. So those are some of the ways that I’m approaching the new year, and the advice I would have for anybody.

Tucker:
That’s great. Thank you, Barb. Thanks for-

Kirsten Taylor:
Mine is to read the book, Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey. She’s also known as the Nap Bishop. She leads the Nap ministry. But really, what she does is, invites us to reconsider our commitment to grind culture and really resist the hustle and reading… or rather her reading her book to me as an audible book was really a moment of deep understanding for me. So I invite everybody to read the book or at least consider resting a little bit more.

Tucker:
Fantastic. Well, Kirsten, Kathy, Barb, thank you for you. Thank you for being who you are and for the impact that you’re creating in the world, and for the impact that you’re creating within your organization so that you can have more impact in the world. It is really great to be with you here for this final reflection of the year. So thanks for being…

Barb Collura:
Thank you for having us.

Kathy Jamil:
Thank you for this time. Thank you.