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

Co-Creating the THRIVERS Manifesto

November 16, 2023

Show Notes

This episode has been a long time in the making. Since well before even dreaming of starting this podcast, in fact.

Since the very beginnings of supporting nonprofit leaders, the need for a new language to articulate the shifts in leadership and organizational dynamics has been a constant topic at THRIVE IMPACT.

Now, Tucker and Sarah dive into these foundational ideas by sharing the pulse they’ve captured from conversations with various CEOs and Executive Directors about this topic. They discuss the shifting landscape of leadership, and the need for words that resonate with the collective experience of change faced by today’s leaders.

The highlight of the episode is Tucker sharing the first draft of the THRIVERS manifesto, a document crafted to embody the principles of inclusive and adaptive leadership. Sarah provides her candid feedback on the manifesto, offering insights into the power of language and the importance of co-creation in shaping a future where everyone’s voice matters.

This manifesto is more than a set of ideals; it’s a call to action for leaders to embrace a new normal, where learning leads to performance and authenticity guides progress. It’s about leading from within and acknowledging that our “nos” empower our most significant “yeses.”

Some key moments from this episode include Tucker and Sarah unpacking:

The critical feedback from leaders at the helm of change.
The process of translating collective feelings into a written manifesto.
The significance of co-creation in leadership and its potential pitfalls.
The journey from the first draft to a living document that evolves with input from its community of leaders.

Tune in for a deep dive into the THRIVERS manifesto and experience the co-creative process of shaping a leadership narrative that’s not only relevant but essential for the future.

Listener Resources:

THRIVERS MANIFESTO V1

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Transcript

Tucker:
Welcome to THRIVERS: Nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I’m your host, Tucker Wannamaker, the CEO of THRIVE IMPACT. Our mission is to solve nonprofit leader burnout and to write the injustices happening against those leaders. 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. I’m joined here by my co-host, Sarah Fanslau, our Chief of Impact at THRIVE IMPACT. Hello, Sarah.

Sarah:
Hello, Tucker.

Tucker:
Well, we’ve had a busy couple of weeks, haven’t we?

Sarah:
Yeah.

Tucker:
Months. Years, maybe.

Sarah:
I don’t even remember what day it is.

Tucker:
Wait, what? Wait, what’s going on?

Sarah:
Or month.

Tucker:
I know. I’m really sad that we didn’t record this podcast on Halloween. Today is November 2nd. I’m really sad because I had my whole Ken costume on and I really wanted to-

Sarah:
It was rocking. I, unfortunately, all my costumes, usually I use Halloween as a time to wear wigs because I love wigs. I don’t know where they are since I moved and I didn’t have time to get a new one. I really felt sad about not being able to do my wig routine.

Tucker:
I could see how that would be sad. I wore a blonde wig.

Sarah:
It was great.

Tucker:
I don’t know. Did you like me with hair? Maybe.

Sarah:
Yeah.

Tucker:
Did you I look like Ryan Gosling? I was curious. Did you feel the kenergy? I don’t know.

Sarah:
I definitely did. You brought the kenergy forth.

Tucker:
Well, anyway, sorry that was a little sidebar on Halloween. We do have fun on Halloween as much as we can. We have been busy. We’ve been traveling. We’ve connected with a lot of impact driven and nonprofit leaders. Part of this episode is really to go into what have we been seeing in a lot of these nonprofit CEOs, especially, and EDs. What have we been noticing? Particularly, we’ve been encountering a lot of CEOs and EDs who are relatively newer in their role over the last year. I think we’re also noticing some of the similarities with ones who have been around for a while and are just tired of the old ways. Part of this episode is we wanted to go through what we’ve been noticing with a lot of the CEOs and EDs that we’ve been interacting with. Then I have a first version of a manifesto. I know it sounds kind of intense.

Sarah:
It does.

Tucker:
Manifesto, festo, festo.

Sarah:
I’m scared. No, I’m kidding. I’m not.

Tucker:
You probably should be. It was my relatively feeble attempt at creating language to what I feel like I’ve been noticing people have been feeling but haven’t had the words for. Some of the things that we share on, teach on, workshop on and live into ourselves that whenever we can read them and put words to what we’re feeling, it starts to really help people. This is my straight up V1, first version skateboard. If you’ve listened to the skateboard episode from way back in the day, this is my imperfect manifesto, called it our THRIVERS Manifesto, that I’ll share that for the first time in a public audience and get Sarah’s real-time feedback. Because Sarah, I’ve read it to you once. You haven’t really digested it.

Sarah:
No.

Tucker:
This is going to be almost as raw of information or this will be raw feedback right there in the room. Then we’ll close after that. Sarah, before we get into manifesto, festo, festo, festo. Sorry, I had to do that. What have you been noticing? We traveled to Rochester, we were in Buffalo. I was in Dallas. I was in Cleveland. We’ve had a variety of experiences, of course, on Zoom, as usual, with people from Pueblo, Colorado. We just had one with people from California, some impact-driven leaders. I mean, people from all over the place. I’m curious, what are you noticing in these leaders right now, these EDs and CEOs, especially, in terms of their space, the mind that they’re in, the heart space that they’re in, the feelings that they have, what have you been noticing?

Sarah:
Well, it’s definitely been super interesting. I think one of the things that’s really been coming up for me is the fact that EDs and CEOs are, I’m going to go to the pain first, or some of what I think is the pain. It’s partially, or in some ways a large part of just feeling sick of staff not being happy and people being like, “You know what? I don’t like feeling I’m the cause of other people not liking what they’re doing because I’m really trying hard.” There’s this real mismatch between what folks are trying to do. Then I think what’s happening at a staff level that’s driven, a leader is part of it, certainly, but by the conditions around us. By COVID, by pay, by squeezing funding environment that’s causing leaders to make tough choices, which leaders do. That’s their job.
When I say leader in this sense, I’m meaning that CEO or executive director. I think what I’ve noticed is there’s been a significant amount of staff tension in a number of the organizations we’ve worked with. It’s the staff that have been there for a long time and then new folks coming in and trying to figure out how you put the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that creates a culture that feels good and that allows organizations to do their work out in the world. I think it’s in that context and that pain is driving folks to say, you know what? We need to do things differently and we need to involve staff in decision and choice making about what’s happening next. Otherwise, this is just going to keep going. That’s a little bit about what I’ve been recognizing.
Even yesterday, we had a kickoff with an organization. I think we really heard that. Actually, we had two meetings yesterday. One was with an organization we were in the process with and one was a new organization. The one that we’re in the process with, they said, “You know what? In the last few weeks, the voices of discontent have been quieter.” The person said, “I think it’s because they have a place to put their hopes and their dreams and their sorrows, and it’s into the work that we’re doing together.” They have a place to put them. The second organization we talked to right after that was in the seat of staff needing of how to have a place to put those things and without having the place feeling like folks are at odds. Anyway, that’s my long-winded answer to that question, but what are you seeing?

Tucker:
Well, I’m just resonating with what you’re hitting on. I’m glad you brought forward those stories from yesterday too. Because you’re right, that was a really poignant point that when your staff and your team are able to bring their voices in and in a real human way, there’s a lot of space for surveys and that’s helpful, but you don’t feel a survey. That you feel when other people are sharing their voices and their hopes and dreams and sorrows and things like what you’re talking about. It’s almost like a pressure release valve that we were able to help that particular organization. I’m hearing what you’re saying, which is that these EDs are really unhappy that their staff is unhappy and aren’t sure what to do about it. It’s like, I don’t know what to do. The old ways I’ve done things aren’t working. I’ve also noticed too, the similar discontent with CEOs with their boards. A similar thing, what they’re noticing from their staff, they feel the same thing probably towards the board.

Sarah:
Totally. That’s so true.

Tucker:
I’m thinking about some of the people in Rochester in particular of inviting the board into co-creating and meaning like, “Hey, board this last strategic plan nobody was involved in except for you, and we can’t do it that way anymore. Because to your point, Sarah, you’re hitting on this discontent. I think it’s this discontent of we can’t just be in this telling people what to do space. We need to do belonging and buy-in before we come up with answers and strategy instead of coming up with answers and strategy and then trying to get buy-in afterwards.

Sarah:
I think it’s interesting. A few of the organizations we’re working with, there are new CEOs that have inherited staff challenges, they’re not necessarily of their own making. They’re like, “Listen, I’m in a new position and now I need to figure out how to really shift the way we work together.” Then in some cases, they’re leaders that have been around for a while and are just like, this thing, we’ve got to figure out how to change.
We’re seeing it from both sides, the new leader who’s coming into environments that are challenging and leaders that have been there for a while that in some ways have been presiding over challenging environments but haven’t had the tools or the language to think about what does it mean to shift? I think that’s part of what we’ve done. Tucker, I’m even reflecting on the fact that one of the leaders that we talked about said, “I didn’t have the language to talk about what I knew I needed to do before I started working with you all.” In particular, it was that language of going from a few with the answers or the top-down model of leadership to ask engaging the many with the questions. I think once people hear that, they’re like, “That’s the thing.” Many folks just don’t have the language for it.

Tucker:
Was that the segue into the manifesto? It felt like it.

Sarah:
I mean, yeah.

Tucker:
You’re right. I think that is the space of I mean, there is another pain, which is one that I think we experienced earlier today too, of the pain of the lack of specificity on things. This will give you a little bit of my own background. My mom used to say, “If it’s vague, it’s not from the Holy Spirit.” That’s what she used to say to me.

Sarah:
Wait, I have to stop you there. I said that to my mother who’s a pastor. She said, “I think it’s the opposite.” She said, “I think the vaguer it is, the more it is the Holy Spirit.”

Tucker:
Who knows? We’ll have a theology in the conversation later.

Sarah:
Next time it’s a theology lesson.

Tucker:
Next time on THRIVERS, theology of which one’s right. I always loved that statement in the sense of anytime we’re dealing with these tensions and these pains, I remember talking to somebody about revenue and he was saying, “The more that we can get down and do exactly in the specificity of what’s going on, it actually reduces our frankly, reactivity.” It’s like name it to claim it. Or sorry, name it to tame it. Sorry, that’s another one for my background. Sorry. Name and claim it, sister. Name it to tame it that the more we can get down into specificity in this organization that we were working with earlier today, I felt some of the tension in the room around we need to get this down into really clear expectations because the demands are exceeding my resources. Let’s get specific and let’s get down into clarity of what this is. I hear a lot of the struggle for the tension between the time that it takes to get to that space. Sometimes you just need somebody to facilitate you doing it, because it’s hard to do.
Not only the time it takes, but also when you start getting into that specificity, some real emotions start to come up to the surface that were already there. They were already there. You already had that tension. Now it starts to come up, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s probably way better than having it just stuffed down until it all blows up. Because really, it’s a process issue, not a person issue. It’s some kind of a lack of understanding or a lack of clarity or a lack of agreement with each other around what it is that we’re even doing in the first place. I’ve definitely noticed that too. I think about that strategic planning refresh that we did recently that we even shared about that was a similar type of process of the more tension kept building, the more vague it became, and the more it got more tense. When we were able to go down into specificity, actually that brought healing to the organization and can bring healing when we do that. That’s definitely another thing I’ve noticed.

Sarah:
I agree completely. And I think it’s really interesting that in some ways the more tension there is, the higher the conversation seems to go from an altitude perspective instead of down into, okay, so what does that mean? That’s really the question, and what do we want to do about it? I think that’s partially because it feels personal a lot of the time. It’s like, so let’s get the things down on paper and let’s agree to what we agree on and let’s identify what we don’t agree on so that we can come to consensus. Oftentimes, the conversation stays up at the, well, I thought it was this and I thought it was that level instead of going to, so here’s what I think it could be. Oh yeah, I like that. Or, here’s how I would shift it. Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.

Tucker:
It’s true. All right.

Sarah:
Do it.

Tucker:
Why don’t we, are you ready for this, V1, first version skateboard of the THRIVERS Manifesto? Ready for it?

Sarah:
I sure am.

Tucker:
Just for the listeners, what we’re going to do is I’m going to read through this with my own inflections, of course. We’ll put a link to this in the show notes as well. Then Sarah, I want to invite you to one, lead with appreciation, which is something that we try to practice all the time at THRIVE. Which is, don’t go straight to the edit, go to the appreciation first, no matter what. We do that in a way of pluses and deltas, but the pluses are the appreciation, like no, it is a manifesto. What really punched you? What was like, oh, that? No, that one. Manifestos are meant to be more lines in the sand, more blanket statements oriented that speak to, in some ways it’s not meant to be quite as nuanced of sorts, but we’ll see how it goes.
The pluses are, what are the things that you’re like, yes, that. Write down thoughts or however you want to do it. Sarah, it’s up to you. Then the deltas, which is the symbol for change, is what are things that you’re like, eh, we need to tighten that up. Which is probably what you’re going to say because you always want to tighten everything up because you’re good at tightening up. Or some words that we’re like, ah, maybe instead of this word, maybe that word or something like that. Something that you’d want to shift or adjust. You all are getting this in real time, real-time feedback and coaching from Sarah Fanslau, right here around this THRIVERS Manifesto, and we’ll see how it goes.

Sarah:
Let’s do it.

Tucker:
All right. Here’s the first version of the THRIVERS Manifesto. Everyone deserves the opportunity for their voice to shape a collective future. With the speed of change happening at an exponential rate, the older ways of leadership don’t work in the new day we find ourselves in. When we don’t include a voice, we steal from their humanity and our ability to be relevant and impactful. Co-creation is the highest form of humanity. We’re not meant to do it alone. We were born learners, not performers. Success comes to us through curiosity, reflection, trying, and continuous improvement. Choosing to learn with others from wins and losses, successes and mistakes, accomplishments and sorrows. Those open us up to the future that we want. We are doing too much to be sustainable. We don’t need to be all things to all people. Our nos give power to our most important yeses.
The right revenue and resources come to us when we live in integrity, know there is enough to go around and iterate quickly. We will let our hearts drive and let data guide. We match our ideals with building the systems to support them. It’s not enough to just have impact in our world. If we want to lead well in the world, we must lead well within our teams and I must lead well within myself. I’m not a machine. When I pause, notice and choose what matters most now. In every situation, the better parts of me emerge. I choose belonging before strategy. Questions, before answers. Curiosity, before directives. I choose care instead of hurry. Learning, instead of perfectionism. Agreements, instead of expectations. Abundance, instead of scarcity. I choose to be clear, which is kind. Even if I’m not sure what to say or do, I will freely share that. I walk in faith and hope towards our collective future. I am a THRIVER. I co-create impact from the inside out. Do I drop the mic? Because I don’t know.

Sarah:
Drop it. I love it. I need to read it too. I’m like, oh.

Tucker:
Here, I’ll Slack it to you, Sarah.

Sarah:
Put it up so I can take a look at it.

Tucker:
I know you’re much more of a reader. I know. There you go. I just put it in Slack for you.

Sarah:
Thank you.

Tucker:
Take a moment and read it, because you’re like the speediest reader of all time. What pluses do you have? What was said that jumped out, that punched you in the gut a little bit? That like, oh yes, that. Those are the types of things. We can start there.

Sarah:
I think, well, a few words or phrases that I just liked. I choose care instead of hurry. Those two juxtapose I think is interesting. I like this idea of, I mean, I think at the highest level, this has all of the key pieces in many ways of what we believe here at THRIVE. I think that it does a good job of, I think what’s interesting or what I’m noticing is the structure of it. In some ways, I think it felt like a stream to me. If I was going to give it a, that’s what came to my mind visually, to be honest. Like running water in a stream because it feels relatively organic from a structure perspective. Do you know what I mean? In a way that feels like it flows and it’s natural, if that makes sense.
You go out first, everybody deserves this and here’s why and here’s what we want to give them. Then we go into, but we’re doing too much or what the challenge is in some ways. Then you go into I as the leader. I think I really noticed those three different parts of it, like the collective and co-creation, the what’s happening that’s challenging, and then how I need to show up as a leader. Those three pieces, I just really noticed them. They really stood out to me. Of course, I love this piece around both the idea of co-creation, which I think to some folks feels like more juxtaposed with needing to do less. Really, that’s a fallacy of co-creation is that we’re going to have to do all of the things that people put out there. Really, what we’re just doing is inviting voices so together we can decide where to focus instead of needing to do all the things. I like those.

Tucker:
That actually could be a delta too, to that point of speaking to the fear of co-creation. Maybe a piece to put in here.

Sarah:
For sure. I was going to ask you, I’m curious, as you think about this from the person who wrote it, what are the parts that you like the most?

Tucker:
I like when we don’t include a voice we steal from their humanity. It’s so potent because it puts it on a, I don’t know, it connects empathy with me of, if co-creation is the highest form of humanity, then we really do need to figure out how to include voices. Otherwise, we’re stealing from them. I’m guessing if you’re an impact-driven leader, helping humanity is your goal. If you’re stealing from your own team or staff or board’s humanity while trying to help humanity in other ways, you’re out of alignment with yourself. I really love that we’re not born learners. We were born learners, not performers.

Sarah:
I like that too.

Tucker:
I think that just goes to the work of Peter Senge, and I think that’s what I have continued to try to get out of and to unlearn is performance. It doesn’t mean I don’t perform, if you will. I still do perform and see things. It doesn’t mean that I need to be a performer and I need to perform for everyone. I’m a learner on the journey. That’s helped me, I think ultimately, to be a better facilitator, but just a person. I still keep learning into it. I’m glad you noticed the us, we, I, or however you want to say it. Like everyone, we, I. Because I think that was part of it. For me, I was like, how do we? It is if we want to lead well in the world, the first place we need to lead well is within ourselves. I was like, we need to have an I piece, but we also need to have a we piece.
This is about co-creation and such, a little bit. I’m glad you noticed that because that was, I mean, clearly, it was very intentional. I like the piece of this before that or this instead of that. I was trying to do this, like belonging before strategy as opposed to strategy before belonging. We just talked about that a while ago. Inviting questions and going to questions first. Even if I have answers, I still go to questions first before answers. Then I just liked wrapping it up with the statement of the whole thing, which is I’m a THRIVER, I co-create impact from the inside out. I remember somebody who had given me some feedback on it when I was putting it together said, “You need a one statement that just says, this is what the whole thing says right here in one statement.” I felt like that felt that was really poignant.

Sarah:
Yeah, 100%.

Tucker:
Delta, Sarah, and you can be raw.

Sarah:
Uh-oh. No, I’m kidding.

Tucker:
Give it to me straight.

Sarah:
I think it’s worth looking at those shifts in perspective and just, I think there’s something there. We may need to, I don’t know, there’s a piece there on the shifting perspective, I think to maybe just hone in a little bit.

Tucker:
Which part do you mean?

Sarah:
The going from the us or the co-creation to the we as a team need to do this to the I. Again, I think having it be like a stream and organic is really great. I think there’s just some, maybe it’s just a few transition pieces or something. I don’t know. I think there’s that. Then I think overall, my big thing is just taking it down a level to be a lot of these words could be catchphrase-y and how do we take it out of that level into the more grounded level where I think it really lives. Part of that I think is about adding examples and stories. As you were reading, I’m like, “There was that. It was this partner we worked with that was here.”
I can see the story that you’re telling. For people who aren’t with us, they can’t see that. How do we help them feel it as part of the manifesto? It feels like this authentic learning that’s come from our experience because it has. Right now, I think unless you’re with us, it feels like a lot of great words and ideas, but I’m not sure the fact that it comes from the trenches is totally clear. Do you know what I’m saying? I think that’s my big piece of feedback.

Tucker:
The other thing, it’s interesting that you mentioned the visual earlier, I think there’s definitely a need for, this is like that, like a stream flowing in the river or the sun coming up above the cloud. Or some analogy in here. There’s not a lot, if any, analogy that could make it punchy or make it connect in a way that’s like, “Even if I don’t know what co-creation means, at least I know it’s like that. If A equals B, and I’m used to A, but I’m talking about C. Well, if A equals B and B equals C, then let me talk about A, a little bit so people can have a sense of it.

Sarah:
It’s like a grounding.

Tucker:
Some kind of an analogy. There is one, I am not a machine is one. That’s one analogy that is used, but there’s not a whole lot in here around analogy. That’s definitely a piece of what are those feelings and textures or experiences that most people have that they can ground themselves into so that when I say the words, that’s what it means. It’s what I’m coming from here.

Sarah:
Exactly.

Tucker:
What else? Go specific. Sustain that.

Sarah:
I think that is my big piece of feedback. Because I think once you do that or once we do that, then we can have another conversation about then the nuance. Right now, it’s a little high level for me. I think we just need to ground it down and then we can go from there. I’m not sure. We always talk about altitude. The word altitude for me right now doesn’t feel like the right space because we’re still in the higher altitude of, you know what I’m saying? How do we make this feel real to people? I think it’s great. I think overall, you did a really nice job of bringing these pieces. Again, as I said, I could really, it took me to all of the places that we’ve had and the learning you’ve had.

Tucker:
You hear the stories. That’s what it was. My first real first version was just writing down all the different, I mean it was all over the place and it was writing down all the different somewhat of catchphrases or phrases that we’ve used. Like your world-famous quote of our nos give power to our most important yeses is like, that’s got to go in there for sure. That one is a plus one to Sarah Fanslau. Okay, cool.

Sarah:
Nice work.

Tucker:
Thanks. I think it’s important. I think it’s important for us to have language to what this next normal, new normal is. All right. Well, everyone, we’ll put a link to our V1 up there and we’ll probably keep adding V2 and V3 up there and let you be along for the journey. By the way, this will be a Google link. If you have any thoughts that you want to do, add your comments up into the Google doc, we’ll open it up for comments. We’d love to get your thoughts as impact-driven and nonprofit leaders. To me, the goal to me of this is really to be co-creative with all of you. Hence, why I just got the skateboard version, if you will, the first draft.
We want this to sound like your voice and to be co-created with impact-driven leaders like you. If you want to, take a moment, click on the link in the show notes and add some comments to things, pluses and deltas. By the way, pluses and deltas is a frame you can use for anything you’re doing when you’re debriefing within your own organization instead of positives and negatives. It’s all about learning. What are the pluses, the positives, the things that you love and want and appreciate? What are the deltas, the things you might shift and adjust for next time? Will this manifesto ever be done? Probably not. Where you can always keep iterating on it and keep learning into it.

Sarah:
For sure.

Tucker:
Awesome. Well, thanks everyone for listening in to what we’ve been learning and this first version of manifesto. Please let us know what you think and also, give us a review. If this has been valuable for you in learning into your own role, we’d love to know about that. Pop it up on Apple reviews in your podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Appreciate you all. Thanks for being here and we’ll see you next time.

Sarah:
Thanks, y’all.