Learn from your peers how they have created communication practices across departments and job types at their organizations. This webinar was originally recorded on 5/11/2023 and was moderated by Alyse Braaten
In this coffee talk, we hear grantmakers, scholarship providers, and community foundations share challenges they’ve faced with internal communication and strategies they use to overcome them.
Alyse Braaten, Manager of Client Success | Foundant Technologies
Born and raised in Bakersfield, California, Alyse has deep roots and strong connections to the nonprofit sector. Having worked in the field of college access and scholarships for over 10 years, with a focus on students residing in California’s Central Valley, she believes in the power of scholarships to uplift students, families, and communities. Before joining Foundant, Alyse spent three years with the Kern Community Foundation managing their grant and scholarship giving, as well as nonprofit relationships. Alyse joined the Foundant team in 2017 as a Client Success Manager (trainer, consultant, and emergency support provider) for Grants and Scholarships. After training and advising hundreds of clients, she led the Community Foundation Grant/Scholarship Client Services Team. Her passion for community building, professional development, and real-world impact has helped form the service philosophy for Foundant’s Client Success team. Areas of expertise: scholarship and grant process best practices, team building, remote work, and demystifying complex systems to foster accessibility.
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to our coffee talk today. I'm Alex Brayton. I'm the manager of client success here at Fountain. And I'd like to welcome you all to today's talk. If you don't have your coffee, go grab it.
This is what we do here. Coffee, tea, whatever you like to see. We're just going to have a casual conversation today on a really exciting topic. We really appreciate the time you've carved out today from your day to day to be here with us and to be with your peers to talk about your work and share what you've learned with each other.
So thank you so much. Now, today's coffee talk is directly related to the topic of our last sector education webinar, which is Communicate for Good. That was led by Eric Barnhart.
today's conversation will be facilitated by a group of success team members here at Found It So myself, Amanda Poole, Rick Holliday and Lindsey Thompson are all here to help support this conversation and make sure that everything goes smoothly. One thing I do want to note is that the expertise on this team of facilitator today really spans all areas of foundation work.
So whether it is accounting or donor development or grant and scholarship management, we have people who understand your work and many times who have done your work. So we really are excited to help be your voice here and keep that conversation moving along. Today's coffee talk is a little bit different than some of the ones in the past because we did bring in everyone.
So normally our coffee talks are kind of they're kind of sectioned off based on if you are a grant manager or a scholarship manager, if you are an accountant or if you're in donor development. But this time we thought, you know what, this is all about communication. It's about communication styles. And we know that across those four areas we can see some trends in communication styles without bringing everyone together for this conversation might be really good.
So with that, let's get started. Let's dive right into our content for today. So everybody find that raise hand button, get ready to speak up, because these are the questions that we are going to be hitting on today.
So number one, if you attended the sector education webinar, communicating good, so communicate for good. I messed that up. What have you noticed about your communication style? And then the follow up question is what changes do you see yourself making? Have you already started to make kind of like, what are the the differences that you're seeing as you move forward with this knowledge?
Or maybe it's a reminder of knowledge around communication, how we all communicate with one another. So we're going to start in this first section. What was your communication type? If you were at that webinar and you're like, I am an idea person, we were just talking about this before we got on with you all as a group here.
I was high idea that was my top one and my second one was people. So those are kind of like my two higher and higher sides, which is really fun. I think for me, I enjoy it. I enjoy my communications out because everybody else, I guess we'll find out. Lindsay real quick, what was your communication style? Mine was very high and that and then tied up for people an idea.
And at the bottom was action. So I found it really interesting when Erika was talking about being in a room and people wanting to talk about their weekends because I'm very much like, All right, can we follow the agenda? Can we like, make things happen? And then Erika mentioning like it's important for some people to feel heard and like, have that discussion.
And I'm like, all right, well, if you timestamp it, give yourself that 5 minutes. I'm like, I get that's enjoyable for me. I can handle that. So I thought that was really insightful to hear that in the initial webinar. So I'm curious to hear others thoughts on that. Yeah, I think it makes people, people in the room feel a little better and I'm like, Oh, I got to hear about her dog and its relationship building, you know, I get it.
One of the things that was said on that webinar, we're just kind of getting this conversation started. Please raise your hand if you want to chime in on any of these questions here. One of the things that I loved as a take away from this was that a great team has people of all communication styles because all have strengths.
They're going to bring into the work that you do. So I love that because I think even on this call today, we've got some very different communication styles with our facilitator, and that's going to make the work that we do together even better. But it does take that extra action, that extra thought there.
Yeah, this is Allison,
I just wanted to say I thought that after the webinar it allowed me the opportunity to to recognize. I think that sometimes if I feel like I'm getting maybe a little frustrated with colleagues and the stories and we're going on and on and we're not actually getting the work done, it just reminded me that everyone is different in how they communicate, and some of my colleagues probably need that opportunity to share before they can really get down.
So using kind of having the timer I think is a is a great way for me to kind of keep it in perspective.
Absolutely. That that empathy that grows when you start to understand that the specific differences among your colleagues is so interesting because there are people that you work with day to day. You're always, you know, kind of around.
And so, yeah, being able to pick up on those things is really great. Have you talked to them at all, Alison About about setting timers, about kind of like making that more of a schedule all the time rather than free flow? Or were you already doing that at your organization? I haven't said that to anyone. It's more been kind of just in the back of my mind and a clock.
I kind of have that time, but once we hit that five minute mark, then usually, especially if I'm leading the meeting, then usually I'm directing everyone. Okay, let's get back on on point. I love that. Like you're just like internally I will track this. This doesn't need to be for everyone, but I know that there's some limits here and that's that's great.
Out of curiosity, any of your colleagues on the call today on the coffee talk today? I do not think so. Okay. All right. Well, it'll take that extra conversation that if you need a backup on that. Thanks for sharing, Alison. And what organization where you from? We do always want to start with our organization in our name. I forgot that.
So what organization with the American Trauma Society, Pennsylvania Division. Awesome. Thanks so much for sharing, Alison. It was such a great example of things that we can already begin to observe and and make small changes and anybody else have something that they have observed and how communicate how your communication style is impacting your work.
Community Foundation for the Seaspray in Augusta, Georgia. Stephanie Cohen is my name. I am known in the office as probably the person who
doesn't like meetings, especially ones that go on and on and on. I am the time keeper. They all know that. So I think what we've done with our team meetings because we only meet we only meet every week, so I always look at that as valuable time to really catch up and
the rest of the week we're all doing hallway talk, as we call it, which is where I think the relationship building happens.
But we have started to do it, or at least our team meetings is really make sure that we are discussing what needs to be discussed first as a team, where everyone needs to know stuff, and then we do the round table at the end. So not that it's not important, but at least the highlights of what we need to discuss.
Our first and foremost. And then the little things can be done at the end, like, Oh, that. I don't need to discuss it now. We can wait, you know. So I always ask for that upfront before the meeting even happens so that we can make sure that that is the focus. And I think that's helped a lot with some of the meetings that are going on a little too long.
But I think everyone also knows that when I look at my site to say about my phone just for the time, they probably know that it's it's time to wrap up the discussion and move on to the next topic. So they read my body language, I guess, pretty well. Absolutely. Like we communicate with more than just our words and that quick check with the phone or for me, I know my team will see me kind of look at my watch sometimes that we kind of know that that that needs to wrap up or we're getting it close to time.
Great, great comment there, Stephanie. Now, let me ask a quick follow up. What is your role at the organization? What department are you in?
I don't really have a department. I'm my title, I guess for lack of a better words, is executive assistant to the CEO. President. Okay, so I look at myself as the safety patrol on the back of the bus. I'm there are other people sitting on the bus doing their roles, but I'm kind of keeping everyone like, Hey, get back in your seat or something.
So that's how I kind of play my my role is just kind of keep it. Everybody not in line per se, but, you know, keep going forward with the bus. Yeah. So can I guess that you are a process oriented communicator?
Probably, yeah, probably. Yeah. My emails are very bullet points highlighted where necessary. So yeah, that's great. And for your rollout, what I what a perfect fit of communication style and role and responsibility. So I hope your team appreciates that, that you are there to keep them on track because we all need those people. They also know that I'm going to be one that's going to throw in those very long emails.
I may throw something in just to see if they're really reading it. So they also know that I'm going to be throwing in those little tidbits. So if anyone from my organization is on this call, sorry guys, that's great. Well, thanks so much for sharing. Stephanie. What other things have we seen in our organization? So now we have kind of two meeting examples of kind of how we approach a different situation.
And so what else what other areas of communication do we use within our our organizations that we are noticing things in?
My name is Michelle Wallace, and I am at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. And I am in scholarships and I started on July 1st of this past year. So I am new and I had a 19 on people. So I would say I am a very, very strongly people person. And so that has I think it's been a benefit for me being new to the organization.
And there are about 50 people and our foundation has been here for 53 years. So being really communication relations, teamwork oriented has helped me to really quickly kind of like absorb you know, our history and understanding the roles of others and like how we can collaborate and where there's crossover and just kind of getting to know my colleagues.
Sometimes I worry that I appear like I am visiting all the time, but I think that there is really important. I think that it's really important to build those those relationships for when you are actually working on a team and understanding one another and knowing kind of where people come from. If you have an insight into what's going on in someone's life, I think you extend a lot more grace.
And so so anyway, so for me, I mean, I'm a people person and I love this role also, being a scholarship provider, I, I literally speak to like everybody that I come across, like waitresses just everywhere and talk to them about, Oh, are you in school? Are you meeting for, you know, scholarships? And so anyway, so I think being a people person in this role has been a benefit.
And I do have scores and the others are much less than the ideas, which was kind of interesting. But anyway, so that's where I see that really having an impact on my organization and on me. Yeah, yeah, that's great. I love that. I love all the lines that you're drawing between the work that you do day to day and kind of how you explore your world as you were describing that, it was like collaboration, people, you know, relationships, people like it was very people.
And as a high scoring people, person also totally see all of that value. Let me ask a bit of a crying question you can decline to answer if you like, when you're working across departments with others who maybe have a different communication style. Do you work to adapt the way that you approach them yet, or or has that been something that you've needed to work to adapt?
So as a people person, I'm an open book. But yeah, I think I think definitely I'm pretty quick to kind of read, you know, like I need to like simmer down for some people. And so I think that's like adapting to, you know, different styles, but also, yeah, just I mean, I have I have so much respect for people who are like really a strategist and and also those like you can just like really quickly get into the flow.
And so I recognize I have a lot to learn sometimes from those people. But yeah, just yeah, I mean, I think I think you're right and saying like we're all and we need all different types of people to really be successful. And so yeah that, that answer your question absolutely Yeah That was great. Thank you. And we have Lindsey Casey right?
Hi, Casey. Hi.
My comment was just an observation that this past week we were having a discussion about name tags of all things and I said, no, I don't think we need to. And that was too direct because I was later reminded that that seemed to come across as questioning authority, which I was just being frank and direct, and that you know, it's just you have to well, I should remind myself to think then speak one and also just how phrasing is important, you know?
Yeah, yeah. In the session there was some about like the the words that we use, the words that we use matter because they are matter. Like they put out a, a very specific like weight and energy and I'm getting the strong. So Erica if you are on I'm sure I'm I'm messing this up a little bit but I think I have the gist that that the words that we choose really do matter.
And the way that we deliver them really does matter. And that, I feel like, is the core to all of this discussion. No matter what your communication style is, making those smaller adjustments and being aware of the small adjustments to make your message palatable. It's all about like it. And Casey, I'll use your example like you felt strongly like we don't need name tags, like making that message palatable to the receiver is number one, because in the end you just kind of want to be heard.
And the way that you go about communicating, that doesn't matter as much as that somebody is receiving the message that you're trying to put out there. So that's a really like great, very specific but really good example of what we're what we're talking about here. Thanks, Casey. It's like growing up. You know, they say it's not what you say about how you say it.
That was something that my mother would always say to me, because I'm known to be kind of blunt as well. But I do think that that's helpful. Like we were talking about having that on the team because like, I will be the first person to say I am not a a decision maker. I am like the VP. You give me like action items, I'm going to go.
But like I thought, I think that you see that in some instances. That's helpful. So, you know, also being on your team to kind of understand your communication style as well, but you just tend to kind of like say what you're thinking and there's no harm in that. So yeah, I think it's helpful to have that on the team as well.
Otherwise nothing would ever get done without people pushing it forward. So we need our drivers and our and our very clear communicators. One of the things I'm just thinking about, about our success team, great representation that we have right here is that we all have very different communication styles, as I mentioned before. But we're we're also all very aware of each other's communication styles.
It's something that we spend time on as a team, understanding not just communication styles, but work styles. And that helps us kind of get over those bumps of hitting against maybe differing communication styles.
if anybody else who has a comment, they'd like to make and I've got one more prompt question that we can go to as well,
and that is what changes have you made?
So what communication needs have come up and how did you handle them differently? I think we kind of got into this first round. And what impact can you have as you work across departments within your organization? So for this one, I will absolutely give an internal example that I've experienced myself. I will start with a story and then I will let somebody else pick up with the story that they have as well.
So and by that I mean one of our attendees. So get those stories buzzing in your head when one comes up. Raise that hand so that we can get to you. So in my former career, I worked at a community foundation in Bakersfield, California, the Kern Community Foundation. They are a client. We might actually have some current community folks on this call today, so if so, pop your hand up.
It's great. It's great to see you. So for me, it was our me as the grants and scholarship manager and our donor relations person. So we had very different needs in what we were trying to communicate out into the world. And we had different styles of doing that. So my counterpart, who's a good friend, Rachel, she would, was a very direct communicator.
And for donors that oftentimes were very direct communicators, her style was perfect. They wanted a a very data driven list of the grants that they had made and how much and what the impact was. And they they wanted those very specific bullet points on the impact that they were having. Whereas I being a much more people idea person was wanting to give these broad strokes of things that could happen and ways that we could make change in our community or very contextualized stories from students or grantees that were often very lengthy, like I said, highly contextualized, very story driven.
And we really found that it was the combination of these two styles. This like very direct, pointed, more process based style and kind of the more flowery people style. That combination, when we started really working together was what allowed us to put out communication to the public that really hit lots of different notes. So it was good for people on multiple levels, whether they're communications style was more more pointed, more process driven, or if it was more flowery and people driven.
We really had them covered. And when we added in kind of how all of those things led up to our vision, we even grabbed those idea people as well. And I know I'm missing one of the quadrants and I can't remember which one it is at the moment, but so that's one way that we discovered that each of our core strengths, while different from each other and while occasionally made some difficulties in the way we communicated directly together, really made us a super powerful team when it came to crafting a message to go out into the community.
So that is kind of like my story for how communication had a really big impact within my organization that maybe we wouldn't have known or tapped into initially. Like I would have loved to have these kind of guideposts back then. And we would we would had to fumble our way through a lot less than we then we did.
So it's a go by discovery, trial and error,
right? So let's see some hands raised on some of the ways that you have either or. We can talk about communication conflict where those communications did not go across, teams did not go super well or we can talk about that communication combined super power. Like when have you teamed up with someone that has a different communication style than you and really gotten to success because of that team up?
So the purpose that I came to your guys's discussion was So I'm in ID and we had a previous ID a few years ago that led the team of like my way or the highway.
I want you to have an idea, but if you have an idea, it's she normally didn't like the idea. And so I have tried to build staff to be more open, to be more communicative, but I'm still to what is it, nine, three years later, I'm still struggling with them, wanting to fully community. I'm a very transparent person and I'm not one to sweep things under the rug.
And so I noticed that there is a communication difficulty between staff in regards to like their they say what's on their mind, but they don't really say what's on their mind. And then it always, you know, someone tells another staff. And so it always comes back and I I'm just interested on what techniques could be used to kind of or maybe like teamwork or icebreakers or something to kind of break that mold of just like or maybe I guess it is a person, you know, a type of person personality that maybe a lot of people are not comfortable with 100% transparency.
So I don't know. I just came here to figure out tools, tips or anything to be able to kind of break that hurdle. So I don't know if I'm on the right track either. No, I think this is a great place for that discussion and honestly, I think the communication style test that came from that last webinar could be a really great place to start.
So I'm not sure how long you've been a founding user, but about a year ago it's been yeah, about a year ago we made the transition from one, you know, kind of one point of contact for clients to this team space where we now have a success team. That's all here to support clients as a team. And when we created that team, we brought in individuals from all sorts of other areas of the company and brought them all in.
Now under this one team, then that transition is can be really difficult because you're creating something kind of that didn't exist before your and for you it's that transition of like new leadership coming in and that you know, causing some ripples and some change. And the very first thing we did was learn about each other. And so that's what I would encourage you to do.
I think that the quiz that was put out there is a great place to start in just acknowledging that there are communication differences, that there are different ways that people are going to to relate to each other, different things that they're going to find important. And under taking the time to understand each other, we also used another tool called Insights, which is another kind of like personality based tool.
And then we have also done over time some quick quizzes around six working geniuses, which is a Patrick, once the only team management team building book that he recently put out. So but I think and my team is, is represented here so I'll let them come off mute and speak to this. But I believe that some of the ways that we are able to work together really well and and enjoy working together is because we have a better understanding of each other in this way, in like what our tendencies are and how we show up in places.
It enables us to give each other more grace and also to hold each other accountable to things that like maybe we're not as good at. And now the whole team knows, hey, I'm not as good at this, and they can hold me accountable to to pushing me forward in those areas. Like I say, you come off me. Yeah.
I was just going to say also understanding the why always helps with kind of transitions in that growth mindset for me personally. Like I need to know why we're doing this. And it's not just a team building exercise for no reason. You know, we're actually doing this so that we can become so much stronger, so we can become more efficient and we can give each other that grace when we need to over we need to hold each other accountable.
Just understanding the why and explaining that fully from a supervisor or, you know, put throughout the team, I think really helps get you to, you know, changing how you communicate or benefiting from those understanding those communication styles.
It's me again. Sorry. We are a team of eight now. We weren't. We were just we just got our eight person. So I my question really was if people are finding it harder for larger organizations to communicate well or when you're smaller and you become like a family, does that add more angst?
And I guess for the example that you were asking about during the holidays when the team wanted to discuss how we give to our community on a personal note, like a and I don't want to use names of organizations, so I'm trying to be explanatory. It was asked of us if we wanted to do a giving program to a certain organization as a staff, and it was brought to us in a way that was more of what we're thinking about this.
So we want your input. And then all of a sudden when we were discussing the input, it turned into, well, I don't you know, it got a little anxiety with it in the room. Again, me being who I am, I'm like, Well, you asked for our opinions. I'm offering you what I feel, which obviously is not what you were thinking we should be jumping on board for.
But as a like, I've just tried to present it as if you had decided to make this as a executive decision, then you could provide it this way. But you asked for input. So I'm giving that and I don't I but we had the freedom to be able to talk about it because we were also a small team.
Mm hmm. And if you didn't participate in this program, you know that you weren't part of that team. So it kind of it was very awkward. But we work through it like a little family does, and we were able to discuss it and make decisions. And the input was heard, for lack of a better word. So yeah, but I also feel that if it was a larger team, you'd have it better.
I don't know. Maybe not. You wouldn't maybe have that ability to discuss. It would just be a here's the program, but we're going to do it type of thing. So I'm not sure if that made any sense. I may have just rambled. No, I think that made perfect sense because when we when we're talking about small teams and asking for feedback, well, and in any space where you're asking for feedback, you want to make sure that that ask is genuine, that that you will take the feedback.
Is there space for change in the plan that you kind of have started when you ask for feedback? And I think that's a a It can be difficult, especially as your your group gets larger. There's probably going to be like, let's say at an organization, you know, in the hundreds. Now you have decision making and feedback in one space and then that decision gets made based on a segment of feedback.
And then at that point we're no longer that the way we're communicating that change has to change because before we were asking for feedback and we were making changes and we were being being very responsive to that feedback, and then at some point it shifts to being a rollout. This is what is happening. This is why this is how that decision was made and here's how we're moving forward.
So it does change based on the size of your organization and where that decision is being made and not necessarily says your organization, but the size of the group that is going to be affected by that change, I think is a better way to put it, because we found it a large organization with over 200 staff. My team might make a decision together and that affects, you know, 12 or 13 people versus a decision made at an executive team level that will affect all 200 plus staff.
So it just the level of that decision and does this impact how it how it can be communicated? Stella, I'd love to come back to you and see if any of this that has been discussed is prompting more questions, more thoughts in the situation that you brought up. It is the now I'm not as I'm not new to the organization.
I actually work my way up. So I have known my coworkers for quite a few years. I don't know if it's a combination of just I'm I don't know. I'm because now I'm in my position when that staff is having, I guess, an issue between themselves about work related. I always find myself trying to be the mediator, but it's not a good space for me because I am more like data factual person and I weigh my pros and cons and I make a decision based on that.
And a lot of the dilemmas we're having are more I could say they're taking it more emotional. And I'm it's difficult for me to kind of relate because to me, work is like work, you know, And I have I'm very like we call that like I have my departments are I compartmentalize the word regarding things. So I don't take things personal.
I know it's work, but the staff that's having issues are more taking it more personal. And I don't I know that you can't really change someone in their, you know, their feelings and their thoughts. I'm just trying to like, you know, kind of guide my way through it and try and really try to put myself in their perspective.
And and then sometimes they just want to sweep it under the rug. And then that's against my whole nature because I'm all transparent. And it's like, if there's a problem, it's talk about it and they're just so I don't know, I think it's I guess you're always going to have miscommunication or issues between and I think you have a more when you have a smaller group.
So my group is ten and so and we've known each other. The leads have known each other for so long. I just I would in my mind, logically, it's like, okay, we've known ourselves so long, we know each other enough that and this is over like 16 years, you know, 10 to 16 years we've known, you know, work together.
So in my mind, I'm like, this should be resolved. What are we doing? We're not new. But I think it was swept under the rug with the previous ed and it never got resolved. And it's just like they're carrying it like a backpack, you know? And I don't know how to, like, get them to let it go. Yeah.
Erika I see your hand and I'm going to I need you and let you talk, okay?
Thanks for joining the conversation today. It's great to be here, even though I can't see all of you. It's lovely to share space with you again. I just I'm sorry. I've forgotten the name of the woman who was talking just before. Sorry. Stella. Stella. So I think you raise a really important point around what I was hearing you say is the source of something that happened in the past may have been communication styles, but that your concern is that that that your that the organization or individuals within the organization are holding on to something in and you're having a hard time moving past it.
And I just wanted to offer because this you know this can come up a lot and and we're never quite sure why someone's holding on to something. And sometimes it's it's tricky to get to the truth, but why are you holding on to that without sounding a little bit like how it sounded? And you might ask the question when you're in sort of a quiet, rounded moment with others, is it serving us to hold on to that answer thing from the past and that language about like, is it serving us?
Is it helping us advance toward our mission and sort of neutralize anything that may be personal and put it within an organizational context and lens? So that was going to be way too long for chat. So I wanted to just offer that verbally in case that's helpful. Thanks so much. We absolutely appreciate you chiming in on that. So with that, we do want to kind of take this space right now and and begin to wrap up.
We've got a couple of interesting things that were happening in the chat. Is there anything in there that we really want to highlight team and give voice to some of those conversations in the chat before we sign off for the day?
Janet just brought up how regional and cultural differences can really affect your communication style, and I I really agree with that and I just wanted to bring it to everyone's attention because that does affect a lot of things and we don't give it enough space when we are in a professional setting.
Absolutely. That something that we have seen have found in as we work with clients all over the U.S., Canada and into Australia, the regional differences of of communication styles are are very big. And we we see it with our clients. I'm sure many of you see it when you are interacting with us and definitely as as you have your internal teams and wherever people may come from, that can have huge impacts.
Thank you so much for voicing that. The good get back for the day.
So we are now kind of at the end of our time and
Just thank you all for joining us. You know,
talking with each other, talking with us about this really important topic of communicating and how we best do that within our organizations to really be heard and be effective.
So thank you so much for joining us with that. We will sign off, everybody. Have a wonderful day and, you know, happy communicating.