When we think about the audacious vision of a more equitable world and what it takes to get there, those of us in this sector can often lose sight of an important component of what it means to build something that lasts. Specifically, I’m talking about ourselves. Burnout is something that is all too common in helping roles so today, we’re going to focus on the role of resilient leadership in unleashing large-scale social change.
Our guest is Becky Margiotta principal and owner of Billions Institute. Becky is also author of the new forthcoming book, Impact with Integrity: Repair the World Without Breaking Yourself. Download the first chapter for free here.
Hi, I’m Parv Santhosh-Kumar from StriveTogether, your host for today’s episode of Together for Change. Here we share expert perspective on what’s possible in communities and how we can work together to build communities Built to Last. When we think about the audacious vision of a more equitable world, and what it takes to get there, those of us in the sector can often lose sight of an important component of what it means to build something long lasting. Specifically, I’m talking about ourselves. Burnout is something that’s all too common and helping people stay in these roles. So today, we’re going to focus on the role of resilient leadership in unleashing large scale social change. I’m so thrilled that our guest today is Becky Margiotta, principal and owner of The Billions Institute. She’s also the author of a new, amazing forthcoming book, Impact with Integrity: Repair the World Without Breaking Yourself. I’m so excited to be here with you today, Becky. Welcome to Together for Change.
Parv, I’m so excited to be here too. I’m like, my toes are tapping, I’m so excited. It’s good to see you.
It’s so great to be in conversation with you. We first met back in 2016, when you were one of the keynote speakers at our 2016 Cradle to Career Network Convening in Memphis. And we have stayed connected together since then working as leaders in this field to advance large scale social change. So I’d love to begin with you sharing a bit of your personal story and just to have our listeners learn more about your origin story, the inspiration behind the book. Tell us a little bit about what brought you here,
Mm, how detailed? Do you want that very high level… I was, I literally just interviewed my aunt for my podcast, and I was like, you know, our ancestors will be happy right now. Like my grandfather was kicked out of the home in, from Pennsylvania Mining Company with five bucks in his pocket and a wounded veteran of World War II and somehow made it and he convinced my grandmother to marry him because she was homeless and had been kicked out of her home. And he, you know, and so there’s that, right? So I guess, great grandchild of immigrants from the Balkans and Eastern Europe and on one side of my family. But I’m not going to go into much more of that. But you know, just really, I think my ancestors, I think I stand on their shoulders. And oldest of a large family, went to the military, went to West Point, largely because it was free and I wouldn’t be a burden on my family. But also I was drawn by the challenges and the prestige of it. Served in the army for nine years, did that thing and then got out and was like, I have to do something where I have zero ambivalence and ended up working on the issue of street homelessness in America for Roseanne Haggerty for 11 years. A mutual friend of ours at Community Solutions. And led a campaign that, called the 100,000 Homes Campaign, that worked with many cities to reorient their housing placement system. So that got more people housed more quickly, who had not gotten in before. And then just got the large scale change book, which is how our paths crossed. So really got curious and excited about how can we help more leaders be effective in scaling their solutions, and have been doing that at The Billions Institute since 2015.
Awesome. Thanks so much for that whirlwind. Yeah, so let’s dig in.
I’m old. I’m older.
You are doing such incredible work to really support leaders to unleash large scale change. And in the social impact space, we know that people can be really hard on ourselves, and especially in these times. Burnout’s such a big problem, because people are giving so much of themselves. What have you been learning about how leaders can create lasting impact in communities, but do so in a way that they can also be resilient and last?
Yeah, so I think it’s such an important question. And I think it really is of the moment in so many ways, and not just because of it because of COVID. Certainly because of that, but because of so many other things, too. Am I allowed to cuss on this podcast?
Be your full authentic self, Becky.
Well, I was talking about this with some of the faculty, my colleagues at The Billions Institute, Susan Jane and Nicole, and we’re getting ready, we’re going to offer a course that brings the book to life in some ways and together and we’re trying to figure out like, even in how to communicate what we’re wanting to do with people. And we’re like burnout’s the problem. Burnouts, this is, I have all the stats. I can tell you, like, 42% of people, their work in the nonprofit sector, their work is detrimental to their mental health, you know? I mean this, it is very real. But we had this moment where we’re like, they think the problem is burnout, but really, we need to burn the motherfucker down. Like, I was like, oh, that actually feels true. And I think that it’s not, sometimes, burnout, it can end up where it feels like an individual manifestation. It really is, though, a symptom of, I think that essentially, the systems and structures aren’t working for our society, and specifically the nonprofit sector has been created, in some ways to put band aids in a way that stops us from really addressing the root causes and root issues. So those of us who’ve, and I’m not in any way saying the nonprofit sector, like keep on going, we’ve got to do that. But it’s like a both and. And we’ve got to address the systems and structures that are creating the need for us to be doing this work in the first place. But I think the whole thing is on the Drama Triangle, we’ve, I talked about that at the keynote in Memphis, where the whole thing is set up, where there’s people who need to be rescued, and bad guys, and people who do the rescuing. So the nonprofit sector, on a meta level, is in the hero position of our society. It’s like, oh, the nonprofits will help us. Because we don’t have systems and structures that actually work for us. So given that you and me and so many others have been really, almost from a vocational perspective, called to do work that is meta on the Drama Triangle, I think what ends up happening is micro. How can we not get sucked into Drama Triangle too, which is run on adrenaline. And it’s not a sustainable way to do the work. So of course, we’re going to get burnt out. But it’s structural, it’s not anybody’s personal failing in any way. It’s, it’s structural. And I think all of us bear responsibility for addressing those systems and structures.
It’s such an important point. And this happens so much in our work where, like the idea of what gets measured gets done. And so often in our work, we’re measuring the individual outcomes. And so that it’s easy to, it’s easy for people to put blame on the individual and say, oh, it’s like, you’re actually part of the problem, when really, it’s the stress systems and structures that are creating the conditions that we see. And so even in this example, like we actually have to change the equation to not think about the problem is being burnout or the sector. But really, it’s like, what have we, what has our society done that’s created this scarcity mindset, this kind of glorifying of the, I’m so busy, we have to do everything, everything has to be done yesterday, and that like glorifying the overwork, in some cases, because of this hero, this martyr complex that you’re talking about. So like, what’s the north star that you’re seeing or the vision in terms of like, how do we move away from that off the Drama Triangle towards a system, towards systems and structures that are more holistic and support the, like the brighter future for our society?
Oh, my gosh, I mean, I want to hear your thoughts on that, too. I mean, I’ll go first. But I hope this can be a conversation because I don’t feel like I have the answers. I don’t, I wish I had the answer to that question. I think I have some limited wisdom to share in that. And I think that connects to what I was hoping to share through the book, Impact with Integrity, is like, yeah, we’ve got to go at these systems and structures, and I guess it’s a working hypothesis. My working hypothesis is that, for that to be done, well to create, like, the regenerative and laboratory structures that Daniel Lam wrote about so beautifully, or the antidotes that Tema Okun talks about, requires us to show up fully and be fully present and not burned the eff out. Like just really there so that we literally just had a conversation about this this morning with my aunt, we’re mutually available. It requires mutual availability. And I can’t control whether you or anybody else shows up, it is available for for connection, creativity, creating something new but I can, I do have some agency and influence over my own ability to show up and be present. And that doesn’t just happen. Given all the systems and structures set or like there actually is effort involved, or something that I can do. That gets me fully available to be mutually available. And that stuff that I’m talking about, is often dismissed as the soft stuff. And as my friend LaShawn Chatmon says, the soft stuff is hard stuff. Like, and in fact, I think it’s hetero patriarchy that’s dismissing it as soft stuff. And it’s the stuff and you get in there and do it because it’s not easy. So that’s my hypothesis. I don’t even accomplish that myself on a daily basis. But my hypothesis, if more of us can do that more often, then we’re gonna be able to be mutually available to one another, and then we can burn the mother-effer down, you know, and not even burn it down. Yes, there are things that need to be destroyed. That’s part of the creative cycle, right? There’s create, sustain, destroy, that’s all part of a cycle, but also create. Create new things takes a tremendous amount of availablility, energetic availability. What do you think, though?
Yeah, in our work, I’ve there are so many, there’s percolating so many fun ideas here, because in terms of what I think is, can be really powerful to create the, the fire and the urgency for the type of change we want to see, like we are about totally transforming our communities to create better and more equitable outcomes for kids and families around the whole country. And the power of having a shared vision can be really grounding when you’re in, like, when you’re in this tumult in some ways. And so I think about the, like holding the both/and perspective around how do we collectively work toward like, work towards this shared vision that we’ve collectively co-created, and that being a guidepost for us, and then attending to our own strengths and leadership development along the way to be, to kind of unleash our full selves, our capacity for creating and building that future together. Because you know, all of this, this change work is about the human side of things. And we can’t like totally agree with the soft stuff being the hard stuff. And that, attending to that, like the individual leadership development, that helps create more, like more amazing leaders who are working towards this kind of systems change work holding this racial equity focus, working towards better and more equitable outcomes, that, that leads to the, like, the catalytic cycles of change that we’re trying to see. And that’s what we’ve been seeing in communities, right, is that when, when you have a power, like a motivated group of people who are kind of rowing in the same direction, working towards a big vision that they all believe in, then you can support one another. So it’s not this individual hero journey, but it’s this collective working together that’s stronger than any one individual on their own.
Absolutely. Can I, can I riff on that?
Uh huh. For sure.
Something you said just connected with me of, I’m so with you on the shared vision becomes almost like a tether pulling a group of people forward. And then yes, there’s the work of getting yourself available to do the work that then gets created by that vision. But I just got back from two weeks in Wales, where people are doing our spread and scale or unleashing trainings. And I think that even our ability to envision, or set aims, or you know, things like that is, in some ways constrained by our not having done the inner work. That, so I see where, what people’s vision, there’s even pre work before you can make the vision because, like I, I’m working with people in a very large bureaucracy. They’re in the National Health Service. And so they’ve got to work through their own. In many cases, someone else already gave them what the vision should be. But left to their own devices, they would come up with something more grandiose, they would actually come up with something more ambitious. I don’t know if you see that in your communities, or they’re, they’re so incremental in what they can envision, because they’re afraid of being blamed or being scapegoated or didn’t work last time, or whatever. So our I think our ability to envision a different reality to create it. And then that’s what I think you and me and all of our friends, everybody listens to this podcast, that’s what I think we’re actually doing. I just think that they would cut us off, you know, if we said it, I’m gonna say it, is I think we’re creating reality. I think we’re actually creating reality, like, yeah, we have to have this like legitimate front of having like a program with outcome measures, but we’re actually creating reality. And the more we’re able to be present for that we can envision something that’s going to be even more exciting and more wonderful to come too.
Right because it gets back to the abundance mindset as opposed to having the scarcity mindset and like creating that capacity to dream bigger and bolder and more audacious. And so much of this comes down to, like, what’s the risk tolerance or the risk capital that people feel?
And I feel like that’s so much of what you’ve been about. So, like, let’s to get to the book. You really crafted an outline, these must have skills for bold social change leaders. And I know they’re all kind of drawn from your experience, I love to kind of go through the, a few of these key components and have you share some of, some of the stories.
The skills that works. So you talk about first being able to face your challenge. And this sounds simple enough, but you can’t underestimate the power of the subconscious mind, the organization’s entire society, and how we might, kind of, hold ourselves back. And so talk about what it means to kind of take that healthy responsibility, get like, being really present, kind of being attentive to the status quo, and like, what does it really mean to face your challenge and how has that shown up in your work?
Yeah, yeah. So the way the book is organized is into four kind of must haves skills for social change leaders, right? And “face your challenge” is the first because, I mean, James Baldwin said this so beautifully, like, you know, nothing can be changed until it’s faced. And so, and when I say face your talent, I literally mean, get clear on what’s the thing. Yeah, because I’ve been, I do a lot of executive coaching, I do a lot of organizational development work. And there is some period of time, I’m sure you see this in the StriveTogether communities where it’s not articulated. It’s not clearly articulated, or because there hasn’t been enough meaning made or dots connected, or that, like, there’s the presenting problem. And, but actually, underneath that there’s a much deeper systemic problem.
Like what’s the for real for real.
Exactly what’s the for real for real. And it’s very rarely the presenting problem. It’s the underneath thing that’s keeping the problem going, whether that’s on an individual level, like well, I’m out of alignment with what I really want to be doing in my life and the modal outcome of coaching with me is people quit their jobs. Like I meet a lot of people who are just aren’t quite in the right spot, doing the right thing. It’s not that they don’t have tremendous things to be doing. It’s just slightly out of alignment. And so, or if it’s an organizational level, where we’re super pumped, we’re all in on the mission, but oh, my god, we are running on empty, you know, or wow we have a lot of perfectionism. I think Tema Okun in her White Supremacy Culture is Still Here, she just nails it of the things that organizations don’t face. Like we weave that into our trainings where, like I made into a card deck, all of Tema Okun’s White Supremacy Culture Aspects, and they lay out all the cards. And I’m like, okay, pick three, tell me which ones you’re in your organization. I’ve never, ever had an organization that doesn’t have three that they can pick. But they, they come up to me all the time and they’re like, we never talked about this. We’ve never faced it, we’ve never named it. And so, and those also happen at the societal level too. But you would just be foolish to think that, that any organization to think that societal oppression, and all of the all of those forms of really abuses of power, wouldn’t infiltrate an organizational setting to no matter how good your intentions are. So you gotta face it, you got to face it, you got to name it. And that’s kind of the first part of the book of, there’s almost a relief when you can put your finger on it. And you can just say it in one sentence, like, oh, this is the thing that’s been bothering me. But without some handholding, it’s kind of difficult to get there.
And it feels like this fine balance to have not going so far down the track of facing your challenge that you end up navel gazing and admiring the problem here, because that happens a lot in the sector as well, where you know, the number of analyses we can do or how many third parties can we get to review our, our culture? Or what’s wrong with racism in our society?
Like, I think about it, you know, I live in Chicago and the number of things that have come out around, you know, there’s a problem around violence in Chicago, and like, people have done a million studies about why yes, it’s thinking about like, there’s it seems like there’s a sweet spot probably around how do you get people to really name the challenge face the challenge without getting drowned in it and lost in it that you just stay in the analysis or analytical space.
Yeah, and I think I mean, here’s this as a critique. I’ve heard of white people, is like that white people want to jump to solutions. And like, I can’t tell you how many times my friends of color have just been like, sit in it. Like sit in your discomfort, you know, like to be in the discomfort which so and I’m like, oh, you know, but I’m a seven on the Enneagram, I don’t want to be in my discomfort. So there is I think some amount of being with the discomfort that the data brings up. And I’m always trying to temper my white socialization to like, jump into solutions. So like, I feel like I’m on the other side of it, but I, and so I almost am questioning myself as I’m saying this. But what we do in our trainings is we’re like, listen, you’re not going to undo racism in an one hour session. You’re not going to do it. I feel like this is a hard line, though, because I’m like, but you can do something. Like just pick one that’s really crappy. Perfectionism, comprehensiveness, worship of the written word, transactional relationships…
It gets back to the start somewhere…
Just start somewhere, right. And I think that I’m very available for critique that that is my own whiteness being like do something! But I, I also very much hear your thing of like, well, don’t look at it forever. You know what I mean? Like we’ve got to actually do something. Where’s that sweet spot of when to do that?
Exactly. And I think it could, I mean, this may be a cop out answer, but, you know, in our work, so much feels like this is a place for improvement, where it’s all about, let’s, let’s test, let’s learn, let’s improve. And it’s an iterative process and it’s an ongoing cycle that you don’t face your challenge and then you check that box, and you’re done forever. You actually have to keep coming back to it. And that it’s not a one and done, but that you name the challenge, you set your targets, you engage community, look at the data, and then actually try something and then study it. What happened? What did you learn? What do you want to adopt? Do you want to adapt? What do you want to change? And then learn and improve? Think about, alright, what are the changes we’re going to make, to our practices, to our policies, to our resources, to our power structures, and that it’s just an ongoing cycle? So that feels very much alive in how you, how you’ve been approaching things too. That, like it really is that systems thinking approach of, you know, start somewhere, go everywhere, and we’re all kind of work in progress figuring this out together, and there isn’t a right answer.
That’s what I really appreciate about Strive’s model, is, you keep going until you get to the systems change. And you use continuous improvement to get there. I think there’s a level of commitment and perseverance to that, that I think a lot of other organizations could learn from, and I love your model, yeah.
So we’ve talked about…
Skill one: Facing the Challenge. So the second skill is about embracing your power to do something about it. Tell us more about that.
This one? This is probably actually one of my favorite parts of this, because I think at the end of the day, it’s a choice, right? Like you can become aware of, on a personal, organizational, structural, systemic, ideological level, something that’s something you want to face. And I, I think it’s important to remember that you could decide to not do anything about it, that that also is a decision you get to make you can be like, you know, I’m going to put my attention somewhere else right now. But for those of us who decide to tilt at windmills and go for it, this is where a lot of that work comes of getting ourselves off the Drama Triangle about it. It’s like, okay, before you go in and start rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or, or really going out trying to make systems changes, whatever it’s going to be, let’s get yourself sorted first. And let’s be really clear on, really three levels of power of looking at, the first is just kind of personal power, agency, getting off of the Drama Triangle, and we talk through like how you might be on the Drama Triangle relative to your situation, and what you can do to shift out of the Drama Triangle so, so that you’re all here. And that’s, I think, the key to the resilience actually, like if there could just be one thing I would have people read, it would be like, how can you get off of the Drama Triangle, and then make a decision from there of whether or not you want to do something about the thing. So you’re not heroing it and rushing in to save the day. And you’re not villaining it and standing back and pointing fingers about how everyone else has messed up. And you’re not just curling in a ball and saying I wish it would go away. You’re, you’re coming from a place of agency and making that decision. The other layers of analysis after that, though, around your power are just a clear eyed look at who’s got the powers, kind of a power mapping that they teach in organizing of like, where am I in the chain of command? What is within my gift? Is this something where I could just change my mind and make a decree and everything is different now like some of the people we’re working with, have a lot of raw power in the world and they could just say, oh, I’m not going to do this thing anymore. I’m not going to perpetuate this racist policy. I’m not going to whatever. And sometimes you’re on the other end of that. And there’s this kind of reality check of like, yeah, I really care about this, that just before I go into it, I’m going to acknowledge, there might be a risk differential for me. And to know that, to know that going in versus not everybody who’s going to read the book, I hope, is a white woman and with, so I have my own thing, the risks are different for me than it would be for a straight white man, than it would be for a black woman in the United States. And it’s going to be different in the US than it is in England or in Mexico City, right? There’s just, there’s different things. So it’s like, let’s look at that. And yeah, so there’s your institutional power. And then also your sort of societally assigned power, right? Like, which is all made up yet so real. And just taking that into and saying, like, hey, do I really, knowing all this, do I want to, do I want to take this on? And I see that as a question for, of self care. And I try to remind my readers, you don’t have to. Don’t do it because you have to. Do it because you want to and do it knowing the risks. And then if you want to do it, do it. So that’s kind of what that, that whole, that whole part of the book is about.
Yeah, so it’s like, get off the Drama Triangle, meaning, don’t be the hero, don’t be the villain, don’t be the victim. And then really embracing all of the power you bring both personally from the social capital you have, from the institutions you’re a part of, and you know, where we’re, we’re situated in society and what impact that has. So then next is Clarifying Your Commitment. And this feels like another critical, critical and must have skill in terms of making that shift from kind of seeing the problem. Seeing yourself in some ways. And then, alright, so what?
This relates to what you were talking earlier about the vision, and it’s sort of like, well, instead of exactly like you said, navel gazing about the problem, and focusing on, it’s like, what do you really want? No, no, really, really, what do you want to create? And the time to take, to have that vision and to commit to it, to go from, I really want this to, I’m willing to do these things to like, no, actually, I commit to creating this new reality. And that’s that, that journey in that part of the book, because once we get, I found for myself, I’m curious if this has been part of your, your experience to have, I know, for myself, once I get very clear on what I am willing to commit to and once I make a commitment that all my energy, conscious and subconscious, is like this is what we’re creating now. And after that, really, it’s just course correction. It’s CQI, you know, whether it’s internal work CQI or structurally CQI.
Can you share an example of like, one that came alive for you?
Of a commitment?
Yeah, yeah. Like kind of going through the cycle to this, to this stage.
Yes. Yes. I, so when I was thinking about, we were in the early days of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, it wasn’t really a thing yet. And I’d been working on street homelessness for about five or six years at that point. You know, there’s always, in doing that work, people always, people who didn’t work in it every day would say, but like, aren’t there just some people who want to be homeless? And I was like, I haven’t met any yet. Okay? They, also the other thing everyone say to me was like, oh, that’s so nice to work with homeless people, they kind of pat me on the head, you know, and, or they’d say, like, oh, I work in a soup kitchen. I was like, that’s not helping homelessness, that’s helping hunger but good job, you know? So I was just kind of like, that person. But I would, it just rocked me to see that level of physical and emotional suffering on a daily basis. It really, I brought it home with me and felt it and in a weird way, it was that there was a odd sort of level of joy to that to have allowing myself to be touched by life and by suffering, if that makes, I don’t know, if that makes any sense to you at all, but like that, like, I feel this and it hurts so bad, and like, thank god, I feel it.
Kind of like tapping into the humanity.
Yes, absolutely. And I got really clear that I wanted to create a world where nobody who didn’t want to wasn’t left sleeping on the streets. You know, I was like, if you, if I ever meet someone who really actually technically prefers to sleep on the streets, I’m okay with that. But I would like to create a world where nobody is left dying and unknown on the streets. And so I I got, I didn’t have the language for it at the time, but I feel as though over 100% of my energy was committed to creating that reality. And that that was the energy that was underpinned and held, making a very quantifiable bold, time bound aim of 100,000 people off the streets into housing of their own in the next three years. That personal commitment enabled me to get fully, fully, fully aligned with a professional commitment to., and now with the commitment to 100,000, I was the director of a program that was, they had a stated aim of supporting communities and moving 100,000 people into housing over the next three years. In a weird way, I couldn’t commit to that, because that wasn’t within, it was, I committed to doing everything in my power to supporting that and had to come back to that again, and again, when I would get distracted, or I, you know, or lose my way, I had to come back to nope, this is what we’re here to do.
And this I feel like is where it connects back to the, like the intrapersonal. And the interpersonal in some ways where, like, you could own that commitment. But with your three feet of influence, you can only get so far on your own. And so that’s so much of the work is about how do you actually do this in community with others? How do you, having that clear commitment enables you to hold that powerful vision and bring others along into that vision to actually do something about it, and then letting go of the control that actually make the magic happen. Which feels like the whole, like, in some ways, the next the final piece of the equation of using the skills to actually shift the context?
Yeah, yeah. It’s, it is the paradox, the social change leaders paradox is, and this is in our worksheets, workshops. I feel like I like take people right to the cliff, and they have to decide whether or not to jump off the cliff. But the cliff is, are you going to commit to something that you can’t deliver? Are you going to commit to something bigger than you could do yourself? Because otherwise, it’s just really not that interesting. The really good transformation of our society happens when it’s something that not, not only could one person not do, but an organization couldn’t do. That it requires others. And that is really scary for people. So take that real leap of faith, but like I’m gonna throw myself 100% into something that I actually can’t control the outcome measures. That’s the moment.
And that I mean, this is the superpower, right? Like, being able to unleash large scale change is about having this bold vision, working together with others to work at the place of changing structures, systems mindsets, culture, to build the society we want. And I mean, that’s where the magic happens. Tell us more about kind of what you’re seeing in terms of what it takes to unleash that superpower to, to create that kind of transformation in leaders, in groups, in systems?
Yeah, it’s almost like a game of chicken, right? Like it, almost like, well, I’ll do it, if you’ll do it. There is a some, like, somebody somewhere has to kind of be the first to say, I think we could do this y’all. And that, that courage can be contagious in the best possible, way of contagion, but they’re not going to do it alone. And so I think there’s, there’s your sort of first person to put themselves out there. And there’s a vulnerability to that, too. Not only that, I think there’s a vulnerability in some contexts to being hopeful and optimistic. I don’t know if you’re seeing that in some of your 70 plus communities, right, where it’s, it’s just easier to be cynical and navel gaze at the problem. But that willingness to put yourself out there, there’s a vulnerability to it that I have such profound respect for. But then the next thing is the humility of like, I’m not doing this alone. What do y’all want to do? And that I mean, if I could only pick one thing that every social change leader could kind of have with them in a way that they never lost. It would be humility and curiosity. This never ever lose your your humility of like, maybe I don’t know, and never lose your curiosity of like, but I wonder what would work? And so, and that’s what enables us to be to do these things in solidarity and community, which I think, I mean, I bet you have many examples of where together people have accomplished things they never would alone.
I mean, that’s, that’s the whole work, right? It’s, it’s helping create the conditions where people can dream big and dream big together about the type of communities we want to have in our society where, you know, outcomes aren’t determined by a kid’s race or ethnicity, where they live in the community, but that there’s opportunity for, for everyone, particularly those who are further from opportunity right now.
Amen to that.
Yeah. It’s, it’s so cool to, to talk with you about this because it, it feels like this intersection of how like, how are we nourishing and growing our own leadership in service of the, the change and the things we’re trying to grow in our places, in our communities, and that it’s not like a first then it’s like, you have to do both of these things together. And it’s this balance or this dance in some ways where, you know, people are working towards these big changes and working to, to grow and strengthen themselves finding, embracing their own power, owning their commitment, getting clear about taking 100% responsibility, no more, no less, and all of that. So, I guess I would love to hear like maybe another story about kind of where you’ve seen this kind of transformation come alive.
I mean, part of, I think, I see it come alive every single day. And the, so it’s like, oh, I have too many stories like what, like, give me give me another thing like, where have you seen this come alive in Northern California in education, you know? Or wherever you see this come alive in England and healthcare? It’s just so many examples. But I think this is the, I have, let me share this and which is not only are, doing the inner work enables you to do this positive envisioning, but the real reason why I wrote this book, the real, real reason was because I think the number one saboteur of social change initiatives is the leaders. We are the biggest problem, we are the thing, that’s most likely. It’s not that you don’t have a good strategy. It’s not that you didn’t do a proper whatever, you know. It’s not that you don’t have enough resources even. It’s that you are, when you, I would say, are either unaware of, or unwilling to do the inner work that gets you mutually available. That actually becomes the thing that, I bet you, you’ve seen, communities kind of go in this downward spiral. But it’s because of someone’s ego, someone’s fears, someone’s, someone’s needs that are not being met. And they’re trying to get it met through the work in some way, right? And so that’s, for me, the transformations that I get really, really most excited about, that I see, are, I get, I get super excited on the creative end when people commit to really bold aims. And so we did this last week, I want to answer your question. I’m not trying to filibuster here, I’m just trying to get, I get really, really excited when people have have more bold visions from doing the inner work. But I also get really excited when people cut out the crap of the stuff that they’re doing that’s making it worse for everybody else. I mean, we, we go, we spend more time at work than with our families. And so it’s not nothing to do that. So,to give you a very concrete example, last week, or two weeks ago, I was in Wales. So lovely to work with the Dragon’s Heart Institute. We trained 87 people in our, our unleashing methodology. And we had them, we taught them how to do aims, aim setting, and they, all of them at the end of the day, brought their aim up on a sticky, and I was like, I’m just gonna be really honest, I went home back to my hotel in Cardiff, and I read them all. And I was like, man, these suck. Like, they just suck. They’re just not inspiring. I have no idea what these acronyms mean. Some of it was just my own ignorance of the content, right? But what I did that night, this maybe was a little bit of harrowing, I’m just going to do a hero confession moment, but I was like these are, and by the way, this isn’t in any way, if my friends in Cardiff are listening to this, we see this everywhere, that just happens to be the last place I was. They were afraid to own something that wasn’t, that they couldn’t commit to. So what I did was I put them on a Google Doc. I entered every one of their aims, there’s about 20 teams, I entered their aims in and then I just gave feedback. I was like, have you thought about this? Are you sure that you’re going to, where’s the heart in this? Why should I care about this? So what? You know? And like not in a mean way, but just, just, just nudging them that next way for it. The next day I went in and I was like, alright, y’all, I stayed up till one in the morning. I did, I gave you all feedback. But you know, I’m not going to impose it upon you in any way. If your raise your hand, if you’re curious what I think about your aims, and every hand in the room went up. And I was like, all right, I’ve given the Google doc to the coaches. We had about six or seven coaches spread throughout the room. And the coaches will come to you and tell you what my feedback was and give you their feedback too. And do over. We’re going to put, come bring your new aims up on a flip chart and to be honest, I have to be critique myself as a teacher, about half of them came up with the same damn aims again. But half of them came up with really good aims, you know what I mean? And it’s this shift because they all know quality improvement. It’s this shift from we’re, you know, by next summer 70% of our patients will have blah, blah, blah procedure, you know what I mean? And I’m like, I don’t even know what you’re talking about, and why is it 70%? What does, that doesn’t mean anything to me. And then they come back and the new aim is, we will prevent blindness for 2000 patients by June 2023. And I’m like, now I’m into it, you know what I mean? And that shift, I think, is what they had, for them to make that shift, they had to go inside themselves and say, what am I really trying to do here? What do I really care about? Why am I being such a baby about my fears, about maybe I’m gonna get in trouble if I don’t meet the aim? Or you know what I mean, that’s, that takes a tremendous amount of courage. So those are transformations I get really excited about.
Yeah, because it’s getting people away from the incremental thinking towards the, the unleashing the transformational thinking and believing that we can get there, which takes that humility and curiosity that you were saying. And also, there is something really powerful about the positive peer pressure. And we see that in our network all the time that, you know, when communities know that these, these group of communities are all making progress on improving post secondary completion. And how did they do that? Let’s get curious about what happened there. And you know, what makes sense in our community here? And, well, if they can do that, we can do it too. Kind of creating those, those seeds of we can all move together to a brighter future because of being able to learn from one another and see what’s working across the country, around the world. But also, having other aims help you see what’s possible. Or maybe you dream bigger. Envision bigger.
Amen to that. I mean, that social referencing is so important. Parv, you came through our Skid Row School. Did we do the tennis ball game with you all? It’s an adaptation of The Reinstitute’s tennis ball game? Did we do that? It was a long 2016, 2017, so we’ve made some changes to it.
You, yeah. Tell our listeners a little bit about what it works and what it unlocks for people.
So it’s what you’re saying, it just makes me run of this thing that is so important, I think with what you’re trying to do, you’re trying to get people to be willing to learn and fail in public and share. We have this big of a game and like, boy, did we fall on our face. But you all don’t make our mistakes. Like, I think getting grownups to do that is like the pinnacle of leadership of creating that context, where people feel safe doing that. We try to, the whole thing about large scale changes, like you have to build eight infrastructure, an alti to learn infrastructure that’s not dependent upon you personally, if you’re ever going to get leverage. So that’s a big part of the school. But then we’re like, let’s try one, let’s do one in purpose. And we, we set like, we had 20 teams, and they have three tennis balls, and we’re trying to accomplish something that’s, it just gets people out of their day to day off the desk. Doesn’t really matter what they’re trying to do. But we put all 20 teams, and then their times of how long it takes them to accomplish that thing up on a flip chart. Every team’s running up their data. I got tons of data. And, and in a second, anybody could come up to that table and say, which teams doing the best, I want to go learn from them. Or, or they could say, well, we’ve already met our aim, who can we go help? Okay? And I’ve done this dozens of times in many different contexts, different countries, different different sectors, different whatever. And in a group of like, 100 people, maybe one person comes up and says, oh, I wonder what other people are doing to see if I can learn from them. One out of 100 people does that. And that’s that humility and that curiosity. And in every, everywhere I’ve been, only one out of 100 is like, oh, I wonder what we can learn from someone else.
Because people are socialized for competition, as opposed to collaboration and that, that like the sum of us stuff around like, you know, we can all win together. And so it gets back to that mindset shift.
So this one we just did in Wales, can I just tell you that like the most bananas thing that I’ve ever seen happen in this, this because you know that, so I’m just like an anthropologist. I’m watching for like, who’s going to be the person that comes up and I’ve done this enough times, I’m like, okay, and it’s time this we announce it, I’m like, go! And this woman comes up to me every, it’s chaos, everyone’s loud and screaming and doing things with tennis balls. This woman comes up to me, she says, are we allowed to use your microphone? And I was like, yeah, right, because there’s no rules. I don’t care. She goes up to the microphone and she’s like, everybody, everybody stop. It’s like, what’s going on? And she goes, here’s the secret. And she told them how to do it faster. I was like, this is fascinating. You know what I mean? Like this is utterly fascinating. So then as we were debriefing it, I was like, hey, so what about you? How did it feel for you to have someone at the very beginning be like, here’s the answer. And everyone was pissed. They weren’t, they were like, we wanted to find it out on our own, you know, and I was like, well, okay. Like…
That is hilarious.
I bet you that happens…
It’s such a metaphor for how this happens in change work.
Oh my god, like, like, literally nobody was. And it is such a metaphor of like, but we wanted to figure it out on our own. It’s the individualism. It’s the…
Like that I’m a unique snowflake, like our context is so unique, nothing could possibly work here that’s worked somewhere else.
I find the whole thing endlessly entertaining, but I was like, I learned something every time but I had never seen that. And I’ve been doing that exercise since 2015, with groups of people. And isn’t that something, you know, that people are like, we don’t want the answers.
Yeah, so this, it’s been so much fun spending time with you, I’m, you have been helping build the capacity of leaders for years and are doing incredible stuff. People are going on to create great change in their communities, in their contexts. Now, with the book coming out, more people are gonna get this knowledge and go out and do great things. What’s next for you, in terms of your visions, dreams for the future?
I, there’s a couple things. I think I’m just really excited about the book coming out. First of all, I think that that will, it’s something, it’s, so I think of it as a love letter to change agents. It’s like, here’s some things I messed up, don’t mess this up, you know? But I, what I’m very excited through The Billions Institute to roll out, is we’re gonna roll out a coaching option where change leaders can get coaching from some just top notch amazing coaches. And we have a coaching community. And that’s sort of a group, it’s sort of group therapy for change leaders. But I’m excited to have the one on one coaching. So it’s sort of available 24/7 anytime you need it, any time zone, we got you covered. And I’m really excited to be offering a new training that brings the inner work to life with my friends, Nicole Taylor and Susan Jane. And that’s something, like for me, I’ve, my kind of unlearning my own individualism is that I’m very, very excited about sharing these concepts. But in the book, you’re, you’re one of many, I got so much help from people in giving me feedback on the book. And I really wanted to make sure that it, I’m really hoping that there isn’t an Amazon review that says this is all well and good if you’re a middle, you know, middle aged white lady. And, and I think these principles are so useful. But I think it’s very important that I don’t bring them to the world alone. And so I want, I’m consciously creating a multiracial faculty team that can bridge these things, because it is different, depending on how you’re situated. It’s very different for me to say, like, girl, you have agency. You know what I mean? Like, like, like, there’s like, no, like, that’s like, that’s, it feels different. And it’s really, it sounds very different. If my friend Susan is like, girl, you could do this, you know, and, and I say, girl, it’s about 80% of women who are in the nonprofit sector, and come to our trainings. And you know, and it’s wonderful to have the men there, and the gender non binary folks, everything, but I am very excited and I’m committed. Actually, this goes back to commitment. So last year, I was on vacation, and I watched the sunset in Maui. And I said, I’m willing to spend the rest of my life teaching people the skills for how to get into their integrity. And I’m unwilling to do it alone as a white woman. I’m only willing to do it in in partnerships across race and difference. And we’ll see where that goes. But I’m really excited to do that.
Amazing. Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing sharing your work and your wisdom with us. Is there anything you wanted to share today that you haven’t gotten a chance to hear before we close out?
I mostly just want to appreciate you for really, for you personally. Thank you for being one of the readers of the book and for giving me so much feedback. And, and truly just congratulations on all the phenomenal work that you’re doing at Strive, and at StriveTogether, and may your work continue and may it flourish. I mean, that’s what I really hope that you, you thrive and that your work continues to have the great impact that it’s having.
Thank you. Virtual hug across the interverse. Thank you everyone for joining us today. Please stay connected with us by visiting strivetogether.org where you can find transcripts for all of our Together for Change podcasts episodes. And thank you, thank you so much Becky, for joining us. It’s been such a pleasure.
Oh, my pleasure, Parv.