In episode 75 of Mission: Impact, Carol Hamilton and Danielle Marshall discuss
Danielle is an inclusive leader focused on strengthening collaboration among teams, leaders, and stakeholders to foster problem-solving, create solutions, and improve culture. She finds her inspiration in leading systemic change work that promotes equity and inclusion.
Danielle founded Culture Principles in response to a persistent need to operationalize Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion metrics, centering REDI goals and creating accountability systems. She supports clients through her Mapping Equity Framework focused on Unearthing Knowledge, Elevating Strategy, and Transforming Sustainability. She centers her work around organizational assessment, racial equity learning intensives, and the development of racial equity action plans. Understanding that each organization arrives at this work from different perspectives, she utilizes assessment in building a customized strategy for each unique partner. Previously Danielle served as a non-profit leader for 20+ years and today works on strategy development that enables nonprofits to achieve equitable mission-driven results. Danielle holds a Master's degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University and draws on her background as an I/O psychologist in applying a racial equity lens to organizational policies, practices, and programs. She is a Certified Diversity Professional (CDP)/ Executive Coach (ACC).
During her playtime, you can find Danielle traveling, knitting, and kayaking in all 50 states.
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Carol Hamilton: With me on Mission Impact today is Danielle Marshall. Mission Impact, the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I am Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategy consultant. Mission: Impact is brought to you by Grace Social Sector Consulting. Grace Social Sector brings you whole-brain strategic planning, impact mapping, & service audits for nonprofits and associations.
Today’s episode is a little different and an experiment. Danielle came on the show on episode 56 in September 2022 - Applying an equity lens to your work. She is also featured on the two-part series on building healthy organizational cultures on episodes 62 and 63. Danielle and I connected in a couple different places – first as part of the Nonprofit.ist consultant network, as part of the Nonprofit Standards of Excellence consultant network as well as the Maryland Nonprofits consultant network as well as sharing a client at one point. I really appreciated Danielle’s perspective and thinking each time I had the chance to talk with her. So I invited her to partner with me and come on the show periodically to have a conversation about the nonprofit sector, the trends we are seeing, what we are observing with our clients and to have the chance to dig deeper in these topics than just one interview provides the opportunity for.
We both read two articles from the Nonprofit Quarterly and used those as a jumping off point for our conversation. The first, Building Resilient Organizations: Toward Joy and Durable Power in a Time of Crisis by Maurice Mitchell, and the second article was written in response to Mitchell’s article - Paving a Better Way: What’s Driving Progressive Organizations Apart and How to Win by Coming Together by Rebecca Epstein and Mistinguette Smith. Both of these are rich and I highly recommend you reading them. You can find links in the show notes. And while Danielle and my conversation started with some of the material in those articles we ranged quite a bit beyond them as well.
We talked about how no group of people – whether a social identity of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity – or a movement – is a monolith. We always need to consider the nuances of the individuals, teams, organizations or coalitions that make up that larger group. Our meaning making brains and the stories we make up about each other generation gaps in leadership, and front staff perspectives and expectations
I especially appreciated Danielle’s point that staff’s reflexive anti-leadership stance – seeing. hierarchy as bad really stems out of - Not feeling seen or heard – and the desire to be heard, to matter. Organizations are exploring lots of different models for leadership to address the challenges a strict hierarchy can create. More organizations are having co- executive directors. Some have experimented with holacracy and other forms of self organization and distributed leadership. On episode 69, my conversation with Jeanne Bell explores the experiment she is engaged with a few organizations on really embedding strategy throughout the organization through different structures.
Ultimately taking the time to explore what are the conditions that are going to help your organization thrive gets to the key question? This can look like having conversations about how do we make decisions here? Is that process clear and transparent? What are the power dynamics at play and what do those look like in our context? What are values and ways of being that defined us at our beginning that no longer serve us. We explore this and more. Let’s get to the conversation.
Welcome, Danielle. Welcome to Mission Impact.
Danielle Marshall: Hi, Carol. It's good to be back with you.
Carol: And we are gonna be doing something a little bit different that today I've asked Danielle to come back on and come back on over the next couple months several times and perhaps into the future. To just have a conversation about some stuff that's going on in the sector, bigger picture conversation.
And we're gonna, we're, we're grounding it in a conversation around a couple different articles that we both read. But I'm sure as our conversation goes forward, we're, we're gonna end up in different places. Then, then these articles. But one of them, I'll just, I wanna say the names of them so that folks have the reference, but one of them is called Build Building Resilient Organizations toward Joy and Durable Power in a Time of Crisis by Maurice Mitchell.
That. Appeared in the nonprofit quarterly actually back in 2022, so a little bit about six months ago. And then a second article that was in response to his, which really sparked a conversation I saw in a multitude of different places called Paving A Better Way, was driving progressive organizations apart and how to win by coming together by Rebecca Epstein and Mr. Quent. Smith also in the nonprofit quarterly 2023. So yeah, just some context there, but really we'll, we'll see where this conversation goes.
So one of the first things that jumped out at me in the first article was the statement movements on the left are driven by the same political and social contradictions, contradictions that we strive to overcome. And this really brought me back actually to the. Even before I was working during college, I did study abroad in Germany, actually in West Berlin.
So that really dates me. It was a pre to the Berlin wall. And I did, part of the study abroad that I did, I was doing a research project and the thing that I looked at was I was going to the Berlin's Green Party, which would be the equivalent of the far left of our Democratic party here in the United States.
And at that time, my lens was really around gender equity. And I was looking at the aspirations and the rhetoric that that organization had around that lens of equity, equity and then really the experience of women in the organization. So and. It just always makes me think that no matter what the mission is, we're always living in that wider structure.
And, and we can't forget that.
Danielle: Yeah. I definitely appreciate that. Also, Carol, I, I think it speaks to a couple of things for me is that we, we have a tendency to believe as people That there's a particular pathway to get certain things done. And it is, in holding that belief, it does not lead or leave space, I should say, for other ways of, of sort of viewing it. And I think when I consider movement even within movements, like we're, we're complex, right? The movement is complex, but part of the reason that the movement is complex is because people are full of complexity. And so, one of the things that just really occurs to me that I am spending more and more time trying to understand right now is how we understand.
Both groups. So whether it is a political party, whether it is a cultural group subculture, but then also allows for those nuances to exist within the people within those groups.
Carol: Yeah, I think And, and Maurice Mitchell goes on to, to talk about this identity politics and how we are all more than, than those identities.
And I think that was, that was one of the things that jumped out at you when you were reading the article. Can you say a little? Yeah. It defers a little more about that.
Danielle: It, it definitely did. I think what I walked away with, I appreciated his particular lens on it. But the thing that struck me, Most strongly, in reading it is this idea that we are not monolithic as people, right?
So whatever group that we belong to, whatever social identity you claim that even within that, yes, we may have some cultural norms and values associated with that identity. But at any given time, we still have the freedom, if you will, to have individual preferences. And so what does that mean?
I think both as individuals, but then also when you bring that into the sphere of whether it is nonprofit work or thinking about movements, they're talking a lot about progressive movement, social justice, movement, movements, et cetera. How are you both? Acknowledge cultural patterns that may exist within these groups, but then also understand that just because someone shows up in a particular body with a particular identity, a particular background that they may not believe or value, the same things their group is quote unquote, supposed to believe in and value.
Carol: Right. And so with, with my social identities as a Gen X American white woman, background, I grew up upper middle class, and you can list all of those things. And I think there's value in And, and it, and it's interesting how uncomfortable it can be for white people to just name that they're white people and, and claim an identity cuz we're in the United States identified with the, the, what's, what's.
Too frequently seen as the default or, the dominant culture. And I think it's, there's, there's value in, in being aware of all of those identities, but then not to extrapolate then, Well, I see this, I mean, it's just the, it's like the extension, all the, all the stereotypes that we're trying to walk ourselves away from, or all the inherent bias that we're trying to become more educated about that.
Just because someone has all of those labels doesn't mean that I know how they think about this particular thing or, or any of that.
Danielle: Yeah. I, it's so interesting that you say that too. Cause as, as I'm listening to you talk, I was flashing back to A situation early in my career where I was asked to go into a community and I was leading a facilitation and it was down in South Carolina.
And I was one of the only black people on staff that was doing this particular type of work at the time. And I walked in the door and another black woman looked at me and she goes, oh my God, thank God you're here. And that was her reaction. And you could see her eyes lit up and it's almost like she wanted to give me a hug at that moment.
And I could both appreciate the sentiment behind it because I know what it feels like to be one of, in a given context. But what was also really interesting is, We couldn't have been more different, right? We were, we were women, we were both black. There were generational differences, there were educational differences, class differences, et cetera.
Even lived experience, right? I'm not from the south and so. I adored her and we worked wonderfully together. Right? And there was so much for us to learn, but I wonder what it means even when we look at someone and we're like, oh, of course you believe what I believe because you, you have the same identity, right?
And so that's so interesting. My neighbor, I'll share this really quickly. My neighbor, who is of a different political affiliation, I will just say that than I am. We were talking one day. And he says, well, I know who you're gonna vote for because we clearly shared the same values. Now the reason I know who this individual was voting for is cuz they had a big sign in their window and I was like, you couldn't possibly understand me less if you think that is who I'm voting for.
But, just this assumption about who people. R right. Where do we affiliate? What feels like, is normal and just because I live in the same neighborhood as you, or I may look like I belong to the same social identity, or I may work in the same industry, does not mean that we're approaching it from the exact same perspective.
Carol: Yeah. And I mean, our human brains like to simplify things and like, we like to categorize, we like to put people in boxes and we, they're all these subconscious shortcuts that we take. And then we project all of that onto folks as we see them. And I mean, that's a lot of what goes into the work that you and I do is really helping people.
Slow down a little bit so that they can acknowledge what those stories are, what's the story that they're telling about an incident, a person, something that they've heard from management, come down and, and yeah, all of those things.
Danielle: I am. Well, we talk about this a lot. I'm big on the narratives that we tell each other what that we tell ourselves, right?
So we come to conclusions about what has in fact happened sometimes with very little data other than. The story we made up. And so what does it mean to be more curious, to look into things from a more discerning sort of lens? Both to ask questions like on a, on a pretty basic level. Like how do you actually feel about this?
Is this the same way? Did you see the situation similarly? Did you differ in some respect? What has your experience been? Right? So I want to know. More than what I can observe with my eyes because I think that is really critical at this moment. But then at the same time, it's like, are we using data to actually back this up?
And I know in an age where facts are questionable at best, Right now that has become more challenging. But I do think that we need to be able to rely on data, both qualitative and quantitative, to make sense of the world. And we can't dismiss that as we're, even, as we're dealing with the issue of identity.
, like how, how are people showing up in these moments? What are their experiences? Like? What are their belief systems, right? And then still allowing within that, for that individual individualization to show up.
Carol: Yeah. And I, I remember back to graduate school where we were learning about the ladder of inference and it was graduate school that helped me realize that I actually wasn't always right, which I oftentimes was disabused of, was convinced of.
And a lot of it was, being able to unpack that. So the ladder of inferences, you see something, there's data, something happens in the world, something you experience, something you feel something. And then the way our brains are structured, we just, we make, we are meaning making machines. We make meaning of that, and then we believe our own meaning.
So, I observe something, you say something, I take, take something from that. And then I believe whatever I've made up about it. But it's really, if we break it down and we slow down, I can then recognize, oh, those are my thoughts about it. That's the story I've made up of what's actually happening.
And, to slow down and be curious about it.
Danielle: Yeah, I appreciate that for sure. A mentor of mine often asks the question of what are the facts of the situation? So not how you feel about it, not what you thought you saw, but like, what is actually true in this moment? Because there is something about.
Examining what the facts actually are, right? We could tell a story about any given thing, but what has actually happened in this moment? Because if we can discern what the facts are now, you might talk about, like, where this belief came from, how it makes you feel. Is there another way to see this?
Right, because we're grounded in the reality of what has happened, not just our perspective, given the context, how we were feeling on that particular day, how we interpreted what was said to us or done in a moment. But we're actually looking at something that's objective.
Carol: And even those feelings that you're having about it can be part of the data if you start naming them.
Right. And, and, you talked about data and different kinds of data, and I feel like that's a lot of why, why consultants come in and ask so many questions. Guess where we're trying to get, pull all of that data out of the organization, out of the people bring all those, Not all, but as many perspectives as we can and bring that together to see, and objective.
I, I don't, I don't know how objective we can ever be but as close as possible to being able to say, okay, here's a snapshot of how everyone's seeing this situation. The organization is strengths, et cetera.
Danielle: Yeah, I, I think the point that you're hitting on in particular is important to me also because I don't know that we ever get to a place where we have a complete picture of anything, right?
Yes, we can have data, feelings can also be included in that data, as can many other variables. But what it feels like we benefit from is having an opportunity to have a more complete picture. And so in, in building a more complete picture, I am not simply relying on my understanding of the world, right?
I can utilize that and that is a data set, if you will, in its own right. However, if I am to remain curious and to involve multiple perspectives, now I can sit down and say, Hey, Carol, at our organization, here are the things that I'm noticing. What are you noticing? Where is the potential? spots that we need to, to dig deeper into, like, is there something that we're missing?
And so I think that it is about being able to remain open, curious, and, and to some degree humble with it, right? So that humility comes in from the perspective of, I have to go into the conversation understanding. I don't know everything. And, and so I'm, I'm sort of smiling back to, what you said earlier around like your younger self, cuz I, I know my younger self knew everything, right?
There was nothing you could tell me at that point. But I think that is the beauty of aging in that way. As we get older, hopefully you are more aware than ever before of what you don't have access to.
Carol: Yeah, if I've learned anything, it's how little I actually know. I knew everything when I was 19.
And that goes to the second article, which really is talking about this gap. And I mean, it's really the gap that kind of. Started me wanting to know more about organization development, wanting to know more about how groups work together, which was that gap that I saw back in my twenties when I was working in an organization or different organizations between their mission, their public rhetoric, and then my experience internally as a staff member.
And I think the big difference between then, back in the nineties and now is that, I didn't have access to social media to, to, broadcast about my, my experience of the organization and that, but they're seeing not just us organizations that center Social justice, but, but many different organizations in the nonprofit sector where there's that real, there's, it feels like a generational clash between leadership and, and younger staff with ding perspectives on how they think things should be done.
Danielle: Times are changing. Thankfully, so yeah, things definitely feel different right now in terms of what it looks like to be within an organization, what leadership. Should be, could be, all of the things that, that people are sort of wrestling with and even this anti leadership sentiment that exists in so many organizations.
We have for years, I think, heard the cries of people who wanted a flat organization and those who wanted hierarchy. But then neither was working for, for the masses. And I think it's an opportunity now to step back and. Instead of just following the traditional pattern, I think I'm more into meaning making, like what makes sense for our organization today.
Mm-hmm, based on the people that are both within our organization right now, the people that we serve as nonprofits, But also, somewhat forward thinking. Who do we want to have in the organization? What is gonna work well to both bring them in and retain them once they get here? And, and I think what has been really tricky, as I think about flat leadership structures in particular, is that people seem to still, I think it's maybe so encoded into our society, they're still looking for someone to make a decision at the end of the day.
Hmm. Right. And so I, it's not just about the reorg, of staffing and who's reporting to who that matters. I think there needs to be clarity as we make these choices. Who am I sharing information with? Who's responsible for the decision at the end of the day? How do I get involved?I think there are so many questions that have been left unspoken in hopes that the organization would sort of figure it out on their own.
And that is running sort of head on into, I think some of these others. Anti leadership components that I see where we're in a time right now, where people really are struggling to be seen and heard. Right. So just going back again to tap into so sort of social identity and, and so forth. People are, regardless of what identity they have, someone is always feeling like they are not heard at this moment.
Right. I'm not seeing, you're not recognizing my particular need. And so it, it reasons to me, when I think about leadership, like this is also gonna be one of the big headaches leaders have to deal with because I'm trying to figure out one, what the structure of our organization is, how to be equitable in my approach, how to make sure that, I'm.
Cultivating a positive culture here and I now have 50, a hundred, 500 employees, each of who is saying, what? I wanna be seen as an individual. I want to be able to show up and be recognized. And that isn't a small thing to take on.
Carol: Yeah, absolutely. And I've been in very hierarchical organizations.
I've been in very small, relatively flat organizations, but even the small, relatively flat organizations, I. We had to recognize that there was still a power dynamic between where I was, in the middle, and the executive director who, I had to remind the person ultimately like, you have the power to fire me.
That is the power that you have over me in this. Contract of employment that yes yes, we wanna be a team. Yes, we wanna be collaborative. Yes, we wanna see each other as partners. We wanna cultivate as healthy a culture as possible. And ultimately at the, at the end of the day, there's a social contract, there's a literal contract of, of employment that you're in, in that circumstance.
Danielle: Yeah. I think this is again why I keep going back to this idea of co-creation. I mean, it does require slowing down the process for sure, but the word you just used is, it, it, you talked about it requiring an acknowledgement of power. I. In this country, when we say power, it's like you can almost see people's bodies tension, tense up, right?
Like it's like they're holding all kinds of stress in and like, what do you mean? And I don't have any power, or, yeah, he's too powerful, or there's something that's attached to it. And I know we've talked about this previously, like I. Am really careful about language in general, because I do believe that people hear things differently, right, based on who they are, their experiences, et cetera.
And I think we cannot continue to just use words without offering some level of clarity as to what it means. And so even in power, one person in your scenario might be hearing this. As, we're a flat organization. Of course, we work on everything together. I bring all kinds of stuff, whether it's funding or decision making.
I brought it to the group. And so they're in their mind, maybe not seeing that there's a power dynamic at all. But because you were hired in and that this person holds the power to, let you go. If, if this is no longer working for them, then there is a power dynamic that we need to examine.
So I think that's it's number one. It's being able to name it. But the other thing that is interesting for me to look at from a co-creation model is what does power mean in our organization? Right. I can't necessarily change what it means outside of our organization, right? There are powers that be, if you will, out there playing with that.
However, within this organization, we do have an opportunity to say, here's how we are gonna contextualize it for the work that we do. This is what it's gonna mean in the relationship dynamics. It does not change at the end of the day that, someone still hires you, they have the right to fire you at the end of the day.
And so, like I, I think it's a naming of that, but then also being able to say, what, what is it that we want it to look like and how do we get there together?
Carol: Yeah. And I think bringing up, that's oftentimes why I ask organizations, and it can be a little bit of a challenging thing for folks to answer.
Like, how do decisions get made here?, and, and, are people clear about how those decisions are made? Are people willing to talk about, what is the power that we have? What, what power are we trying to create? We often, organizations are talking about, we're empowering people.
What does that actually mean to them? And, and as, as you said, I really appreciate the notion of really dialing into what's your own context? What's your, what's going on inside your organization? It's really about what's your sphere of control. To the extent that you have some control of what you can influence and, and then, what, what really is beyond your control or, or influence and, and being clear about those too.
But yeah, I think a lot of what I appreciate about the work that the both of us do is, is helping people have those conversations that, that they don't normally have in the day-to-day, that lift up things, ask questions, Help them do that co-creation process for whatever end it is in a way that isn't your typical staff meeting agenda.
Danielle: Yeah. Yeah. I have been thinking a little bit more about like, it's those strategic questions that one gets to ask because, we just talked about co-creation, but like immediately, as, I'm typing this into, but like, what are the conditions that allow that to flourish. Hmm. Right. So if we're gonna name things, let's not just define power and contextualize it for our organization, but like what is going to allow the conditions to be ripe for us to actually do this co-creation model, to have something tangible that comes out of this as a result that we can implement.
Because, just as one trigger I could see throwing this all into a tizzy is when there's stress. We may not be in the same position anymore. Right. To start talking about, or continue a conversation about co-creation, right. Or power sharing in this way, because now I'm feeling stressed.
I have a founder who needs something right away. There's a sense of urgency tied into the, they're all of these things that are just sort of coming in and instead of now taking the time and the space that we need to sit here and figure this out together. There are forces that are pushing you to make a quick decision to move, much faster.
And quite frankly to cannibalize in that moment, the, the efforts that you have made and the achievements you've made to date, because they're like wiped out the second a bigger stressor comes into play. And so if I'm to think about that, how do I both plan for the outcomes I want, but also those potential, unintended out, barriers that might come up along the way.
That I just, I wasn't thinking about before.
Carol: Yeah. Because we talk a lot about unhealthy cultures and organizations, but nobody wakes up in the morning. No. Executive director wakes up in the morning and well, I won't say no. Very few, very few executive directors, maybe Dr. Evil out there does wake up and then wanna create a toxic organization.
But very few want, come in and say, I am going, my, my purpose in life is to make everyone miserable. But yeah. Ha, those conditions. And then what are all the things that are piling on a leader? And I think that's one of the things that I've learned over the course of my career is, when you're, when you're a frontline worker, you look up the hierarchy of the organization.
And no matter how flat it is, there's usually some layers. And think, oh, that person has so much power, has so much discretion. And then once you move to, for, into different roles, you're like, oh, these are all the things, the ways that I'm hemmed in, those stressors that you're talking about.
And, and so you, you don't have as much leeway as you thought you might have in that leadership role.
Danielle: Yeah, for sure. It almost begs the question for me also what is gonna allow me to show up and be my best.
It's hard being an executive director. There is no doubt about that. It is also a very lonely role, right? You're sitting at the top, whether you're executive director or c e o, you're at the top of the organization. Unless you are going outside of your organization to talk to other peers, you often don't have someone to, to brainstorm with, to commiserate, or, I just need to, to get this off my chest.
Those opportunities. Are not as plentiful as they would be if you were on, even at a director level with an organization where you have peer-to-peer relationships. And so as I, I think about that, we often talk about is this person qualified to do the work? Meaning, are they an excellent fundraiser?
Are they a great person, to speak to the community externally? Can they handle the day-to-day operations of the organization? But I wonder on some level if we should not also be asking about their own, I don't wanna call it self-care, cuz I, I, I don't think, I think it's more than self-care, right?
How are you caring for yourself daily? How are you making sure that you can show up as you're the best version of you? Understanding they're still human, right? And we're, we're gonna have our ups and downs. But in a job that is so absolutely demanding, where everyone is always looking to you to have the right answer on some level, like you do have to take extra time and care with you.
When I look at the number of executive directors who have transitioned out and some really quickly, I thought or, they're, maybe they've been around for a long time, but they're just burnt out at the end. I'm like, there's something to be said about both the pace that's that we're running and this lack of care for ourselves because we put everyone else first.
Carol: Right. Right. And, and perhaps that's part of what's, what's driving the, the, the move towards co-executive director ships. But even that, I mean, doing that, you might have, you'll, you'll have someone to talk to a, a partner But then you have to negotiate that co that relationship and who's doing what and who's, moving forward on this piece, who's moving forward on that piece and, and how are we working together?
How are we presenting a united front? How are we disagreeing?, so it provides solutions. It provides a different way of being in leadership, but it also brings a whole bunch of complexity.
Danielle: Yeah, for sure. And, how well do those two individuals work together? Right? Right. So talk about co-creation and redefining things. What does it mean for us? And, it is not lost on me, as I say, like, how do we co-create for the organization that we have today? It's also tricky because there's such a great level of transition that exists out there right now.
So does this mean that we need to stop the process and redo it every time we bring someone new into the organization? That there's a leadership change? Like what, what does that look like? And how willing are we to sit with the fact that our culture within our organizations will continue to evolve?
Hmm. I've worked for several founders over the years and I deeply appreciated the passion that they had for the mission and how strongly they articulated the values of the organization. This is why they founded it, right? I stand fundamentally behind this and then, 20 years later, Yes, you may stand on certain values, right?
Those were really important in terms of shaping this organization. But has anything changed since then? Right? Like have, have you changed one as a leader? Have the people in the organization changed? Has the community you serve changed and certainly has the world around you changed. And I think we're living right now in a day and age where change is coming faster than ever.
And yet I'm hearing people talk about we can't change this because this is core to our culture, but if the
Carol: culture, can you give me an example of that?
Danielle: I may have to come back to that because I have one, but I can't think of it right now.
Carol: Well, what it makes me think of, I was just on a call with a potential client about a strategic planning process and one of the people Was talking about that, just that they had been on staff. They weren't, I don't believe they were the founder of the organization, but they were the person in the group who had been with the organization the longest.
And when we asked about their fears of the process the thing that they talked about was not losing the essence of the organization as it looked to change and move forward. How can we keep that core piece of what? Makes that organization different, unique, and their special sauce.
And then, another person says, and there's a tension around that of wanting to keep our essence and we need to, be, continue to be relevant within the wider context that we're in.
Danielle: So one example that I've seen, Is with the smaller, or excuse me, they were small when they started out nonprofit.
Who only had about three or four people when they first launched the organization. And so, so much of their culture was around being a small and scrappy team. Right. And, and one of the core values is like, we, we go to bat for each other. We always pitch in to help the next person, et cetera.
To the extent that it was talked about as we're like family here. And this is what I mean when I say have things changed, right? So this organization went from being, let's say, a four-person organization to, they grew to 15 and then they're 30 and they're, they're larger now. I think there's probably about 40 people that work there.
And while I understand the sentiment of helping your colleagues out pitch in to make sure that we can get the job done effectively and in a caring manner is still there, even the very language of where like a family has changed in terms of how we relate to that in a work context now. And so for people who have not come across this right now, like, when, when people say, Hey, our organizations are like a family.
There are many people out there who believe that is a very toxic statement, right? And like, stay away, all kinds of red flags going up. Because when you think about family, yes, you pitch in and help each other out. But the thing is you also accept more from family than you would ever accept in a working environment, right?
There are expectations that go. Above and beyond the transaction, which is work. You are paid to do a particular job. You come in, I do that job, you pay me, I go home with my family. It doesn't quite work that way. We're not receiving compensation number one. And you're doing it out of sort of this care and love for your, your family unit.
But if someone's like, Hey, stay late and watch the kids tonight. Like there is no out on that one, right? Like that is what the family does. You pitch in to support that. But now all of a sudden, if you're asking me, stay late I'm not gonna pay you extra by the way, you're on salary, right? Stay late and do this thing where a family that lands a lot differently.
And so from a culture perspective, in terms of the organization, are we sold beholden to the way we started? Because I'm not saying that the sentiment, again, of helping each other out is wrong and being there for one another, but the language and the, cuz the language almost prompts the belief system, if you will.
Mm-hmm. Right. If I believe you're like family, then of course you're gonna do everything and then some for me, because that's what a family does and I'm like, Hey, hello, love you, but we're not family. We're not family in this case. Right. I work for you and I'm going home.
Carol: Yeah. Yeah. And what makes sense at the very beginning when it's a small team and it, there's a little bit of that sense of, you might put it as like, all hands on deck or, you just gotta pitch in, you gotta jump in, you gotta do the thing.
Over time can just create beyond the family issue. And, and then, what does that connote and what belief systems do people bring about their families? Or their, their experience of their family, of origin, all of that. Mm-hmm, just over with more and more people. It actually introduces a lot of, almost like static into the system where people don't know.
What's my lane? What's your lane? What's mine, yeah, so that's why often when you go from that like four to let's say 15, 20, 1 of the core issues is actually clarifying roles and responsibilities. Starting to set more boundaries. Being clear about what are those guidelines or, or, guardrails that enable people to show up productively.
But still with that realization that, yes, I'm committed to the mission. Yes, I see this as more than a job, and it is a job.
Danielle: Yeah. Yeah. I'm, I'm really loving the fact that you brought in this idea of. Even the experiences that we have in our families, in our homes look different from household to household.
Sure. Right. And so if we're entering, if, if, let's say the leader in this case says, we are like a family. Well, how do you define family and what are the roles that get played out, in your household versus. The next one, and maybe you could still navigate around that when there's four people on the team, but now we're at 20, 30 people.
That's a lot of households to consider, so to speak. Right? And that's just one example, but that's, that's a lot that's going on, which is where I keep coming back to this idea of like, how do we contextualize what the core value is for our organization and bring it to life here? Here when we say all hands on deck or we need people to be able to support one another.
This is what this means. This is also how it ties back to your role. Right? And I think there needs to be space for, cause we haven't really talked about it yet either, but boundaries.
Carol: Well, what I, what I love about the, the, the agreement that we now have to come back for future conversations is that I will, I will put a pin in boundaries and we don't, we aren't gonna be able to deal with all the things in one conversation and I. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity of going deeper with each conversation with you as we dig in.
So we'll put a pin in that one and we'll come back to it, but really appreciated this, this initial, well, I guess follow on conversation from, from our previous interview, but, but a different way of engaging and, and look forward to future co-creation.
Danielle: That sounds wonderful, Carol. Always a pleasure to join you. Alright,
Carol: Thank you. All right. Thank you so much.
Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with Danielle Marshall, the full transcript of our conversation, as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes. I want to thank Isabelle Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as Cindy Rivera Grazer of 100 Ninjas for her production support.
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