Teamwork and Collaboration: Andrea Buczynski’s Journey in Leadership

“People can live with a lot of ambiguity if they understand how you’re moving forward. They don’t have to have all the answers at once.” -Andrea Buczynski

[00:00:00] Tommy Thomas: Today, we’re continuing the conversation that we began last week with Andrea Buczynski – recently retired Global Vice President for Leadership Development and Human Resources at Cru. Her narrative is a testament to the power of purpose driven leadership. Throughout the podcast, Andrea emphasizes the value of teamwork in collaboration. Her story is particularly inspiring for those interested in how personal values and professional demands intersect in nonprofit leadership. Her journey illustrates how embracing change fosters a supportive team environment. And maintaining a clear focus on organizational and personal goals are crucial for effective leadership. Let’s pick up where we left off last week.


[00:00:52] Tommy Thomas:: When I was talking to Dee Dee Wilson, she’s going to be a guest here in probably three or four weeks, but she was talking about this and I’m sure y’all have a name for it, but this peer group of women that both of you and I guess up to 15 other people are a member of, a peer-to-peer kind of iron sharpens iron kind of thing. I’m guessing. Tell us about that and maybe how y’all got into that. What it’s been like.

[00:01:17] Andrea Buczynski: Yeah, the group is called Arête Executive Women of Influence.  And it’s a by invitation membership and we ascribe to a common set of values.

We espouse Christian values as leaders and are committed to confidentiality. And so, what that does is it creates a common experience and a safe environment. And I’ll tell you, there is nothing like being with a group of women who are high achieving, who are very ethical, strong character, competent and the kinds of, I would say both empathy, understanding, and wisdom that emerges, as we listen to each other and cheer one another on.

[00:02:12] Andrea Buczynski: It’s wonderful to have kind of a safe port where you can be honest about the stuff you’re experiencing. Many of the women will have experienced something similar and bring their own experience to your journey. And so, I found it immensely helpful.

[00:02:30] Tommy Thomas: Now, as I think Dee Dee said, you had people from the private sector as well as ministry and possibly government. I don’t know. What is your mix? Without breaking any confidentiality.

[00:02:41] Andrea Buczynski: We have a marketplace. It’s a C suite largely, but it’s academics.  I have to think for a minute. We have entrepreneurs, marketplace, nonprofit ministry. Yeah.

[00:02:59] Tommy Thomas:  Was this something that’s going on in other sectors and y’all modeled after somebody else or did somebody come up with this idea and said we need to do this.

[00:03:11] Andrea Buczynski: The one who founded the organization is Diane Ogle. She’d be a good interview. She had done something like this some years back and while she was living here in Orlando as part of the Christian Chamber and she had a number of men approach her and say, I think you need to do something for women.

And so, she had this idea. She shared it with a few people. And I think one of the first people she shared it with said, I think it’s a great idea. Could I be in it?  By the time I came, there were probably five or six women already in the group. I couldn’t tell you any more than that part of it.

[00:03:54] Andrea Buczynski: But what I’ve loved about it, Tommy, is the advice that fits the kind of role that you have.

And so, in Cru, I don’t want to use the word complaining, but let’s say I was talking about being tired or I can’t stop working, very common with high achieving anybody is where is that switch to turn off? In the evening, most people in and even on my team would say you need a vacation, or you need to take some time off and it’ll be better.

I had the vacation. I had the time off. That was not the point. I got to this group and at one of the very first meetings, a woman just looked at me, there was someone else sharing the same struggle, and I echoed, I said, you could be reading my journal. And she just looked at the two of us and she said, this is what got you where you are, this very quality.

[00:04:51] Andrea Buczynski: And she said, you have to manage it because it’s not going away. It’s hardwired in you. And so how are you going to manage it? And we got into a whole discussion about what that might look like. And you can begin to see the difference in there’s a recognition of the kinds of things that you’re dealing with that makes it just more than collegial. It’s kindred spirits.

[00:05:16] Tommy Thomas: As I said earlier, you’ve had a long and storied career with Cru, and you’ve seen society change, you’ve seen culture change. Everybody’s got an opinion on cell phones and social media. Give us some insight on the college campus today and then with the workforce, because you’ve got 22 and 24 and younger people in your workforce.  Maybe not reporting to you, but in your department.

[00:05:43] Andrea Buczynski: Yeah, it’s really interesting to change the dynamic of the whole availability of information I think has had a big effect on organizational leadership.

So, when I was coming up our leaders would send us articles to read or something like that to enrich your thinking.  I loved it. I’m a learner at heart. And I thought, this is what leaders do. They help grow their people by exposing them to other ideas and then thinking through how this affects the ministry here at Cru.

Somewhere, in the 90s, that began to change radically in that leaders were no longer the people who were dispensing information.

[00:06:25] Andrea Buczynski: Information was widely available. I don’t remember when Wikipedia came into things, but I do remember disposing of my mother’s set of Collier encyclopedias, it was just like they’re worthless now because it’s not the latest edition and they stopped printing them at some point.

So, with information being widely available no team member is dependent on their leader to help them find things. Everybody literally in conversation can just go, let me Google that and we’ll figure out who wrote what the latest thought is or what that means. So, the effect on organizational leadership that I’ve seen is we used to train on how to do something.

[00:07:13] Andrea Buczynski: And we still do. And then we began to lead in terms of what is it that we want to accomplish? What is the outcome? And that hasn’t changed. But it’s just what came first. Learn how to do this. And then I’ll learn the big picture. Now the big picture and the how is readily available.

The why is what people need to understand. So, when I look at that generational spread there’s some people you could just tell them what to do and they will be automatically aligned to the organizational riverbanks that have been created. They understand them, but the new generation coming up, I think, does not have that background.

[00:07:54] Andrea Buczynski: And you have to supply it. So, it’s not just here’s how you do what we do, or here’s what we want to see happen, God willing. It’s why would we do it this way and not that way? Because now you have a hundred possibilities available to you on Google or YouTube or TikTok. And so, I think organizational leaders have to be more mindful about ideation coming in from outside the organization that may not be lined up with the values or mission or vision of the organization. And it requires a little bit more let’s say vigilance or a very good fluency in the why we do what we do and why we do it the way we do it.

Do we answer more questions?  We answer more why questions now than we did previously. Does that make sense?

[00:08:47] Tommy Thomas: I’m trying to process that. So how does that play out in terms of delivering content across the three or four generations? You probably don’t have too many people our age, but you might, and then you go back to the next two or three generations.

What have y’all learned about, delivering, maybe content is not the word I’m looking for, but, delivering what is your message?

[00:09:12] Andrea Buczynski:  So there’s some tension there. So, if I were talking about organizational communication, for example, across five generations, you always have to go, what is the topic?

And why are we talking about it? And what’s going to happen? Or and then how is it going to move forward? So, if you’re introducing, say, organizational change, I think those are important things. People can live with a lot of ambiguity if they understand how you’re moving forward. They don’t have to have all the answers at once, right?

[00:09:45] Andrea Buczynski: But if you’re talking about training delivery then I’m looking at it going anybody under 35 is going to expect a mobile delivery. Can I get it on my phone, or can I get it on my iPad?

People in my generation, I went to our help desk the other day and I said, I have to do an update on this software.  When I look at this screen that comes up, I’m totally confused. So, can you walk me through it? Like I need somebody, now that might just be me.

[00:10:19] Tommy Thomas: I have that problem weekly, it seems like with apps and software.

[00:10:26] Andrea Buczynski: I am not a digital native so mobile delivery may not be the best thing for my generation, they might still like a high touch delivery and then the spectrum in between those two. So, we’ve tried a bunch of things like every organization, the webinar format works for some things, and not for others.

The in-person training works for some things and not for others, but we were surprised during COVID that we were able to convert some things that we thought needed to be face-to-face into being able to be done online if needed. And so, I think now if you’re in a training kind of role, you have a pretty hefty toolbox.

And being selective of what to do, but the move toward mobile has been interesting for me to observe with some of the people on my team who are younger who are like we choose this learning management system because it has mobile capability versus this management system, which requires you to be on a laptop or something.


[00:11:36] Tommy Thomas: Let’s go back to the restructuring for a minute, you talked about this big restructuring project that y’all went through and you had stepped up to more of an international leadership role. What was behind that? How did y’all come to the decision that you needed to eliminate, a strata of leadership and was that a global decision?

[00:11:57] Andrea Buczynski: We had a numerical goal for the year 2020. And so, we were coming up around somewhere in around 2017-2018 people started asking what’s coming after 2020. And at the same time, we were seeing some organizational complications of the way we were structured.

So, it’s not uncommon in a matrix organization to have the tensions built either strategy versus geography or, you name it. We had a variety of those things where we could see obstacles in the structure that we weren’t able to overcome with any kind of behavioral initiative, right? As we began to look at it we were also in a presidential transition.

[00:12:48] Andrea Buczynski: We started to work on it. And then held up a little bit because of the presidential transition and then reactivated when the new president was involved. But basically, during those years what happened was an organizational design task force was put in place. We did, we started with a kind of strategy review, what have we accomplished over the last number of years.

Where are we strong? Where are we not? What problems are we seeing that need to be solved? That kind of thing. That went to an organizational design task force. They came out with some preliminary ideas, but one of the best things they did was a survey and we had I’d say over 3,000 responses. And so, you had a fair amount of data, and it was around this idea of what is going well, what is not, what needs to change, what do you see lacking, what needs more attention.

[00:13:48] Andrea Buczynski: And so, we got that back and we realized, okay we need fresh direction.  We need to reinvigorate people in some ways around the work that the Lord is calling us to do over this next time. And then I think it was a presidential decision to just go ahead with it.

We had to go to the board because of the size of it. But the structure finally came back after two more iterations with two different groups of leaders. So, we had an onboarding thing for anybody coming into global leadership. We used that group to say, okay here’s the results of these questions.

[00:14:29] Andrea Buczynski: What do you think are the themes that are emerging from this data? We gave them the raw data and they came back with here are the things you need to pay attention to. We did the similar thing with a group of probably 40 to 50 international leaders more at the country level who came in for an emerging leader initiative and okay, these are the themes.

How would you solve them? Okay. And listen to, I think five or six groups of presentations. So, we took all that under advisement, and came back with a structure. Our president defined strategic intent, whereas we need to go in the next 10 years and or in the next years, let’s say.

[00:15:17] Andrea Buczynski: And we determined a launch date and that was 14 months out from when I was charged with doing the people care task force. Eliminating the level enabled the key stakeholders, geography, strategy, and capacity to sit on the same team and work out our differences on that team, rather than in opposition to one another and blocking.

So, it made for a much more collaborative leadership environment and, our muscle memory on the old system is having to be worked out of our system and gaining new habits and stuff like that. It’s moving forward and at the same time you look at it and you go it has its own challenges like any structure does.

[00:16:15] Tommy Thomas: And I’m going to draw a blank on his name but our friend, Dan, who with Cru is leading your multi organizational initiative on every campus.

[00:16:23] Andrea Buczynski: Dan Allen.

[00:16:24] Tommy Thomas: Yeah, Dan Allen. I keep up with Dan and some of the folks at InterVarsity and other groups. Tell me how that’s going. I’m just such a huge fan of organizational collaboration of not having to always invent it here, wherever here is, have you observed that in any thoughts as sitting back at your desk and watching that work?

[00:16:48] Andrea Buczynski: I just look at it and I’m struggling for the word because I think it’s emerged from what used to be a competitive environment where we’re a little bit more mission focused and a little less role focused, or individual organization focus like kingdom focus.

How do we live out a kingdom perspective where we’re not tunnel vision on our own organization, but we’re looking at what God is doing and where are the opportunities for bigger synergies than what we’re seeing right now. So, the initiative with Dan and Every Campus Partnership is just a huge example of that.

[00:17:27] Andrea Buczynski: But there’s also para church roundtables that exist in technology. In leader development in HR. I think in the finance side as well that has been going on for more than a decade. So that kind of shared environment. How are you dealing with this kind of thing helps us all grow. The other thing I’m involved with is Christian Leadership Alliance.

But what I love about that is we have this community hubs on Christian Leadership Alliance, and I’m part of the People Care one, and it gets populated with questions, every other week, and people will weigh in do you, have you used this, can you tell me anything about it, or do you have this, or, can you share a form or a task list or something like that where people are helping one another.

[00:18:25] Andrea Buczynski: I look at it and I go Steve Douglas, our late president used to say, we can give away what God has given to us because he will give us whatever we need. And so, we don’t have to be super protective about it. It’s going to benefit the kingdom. Then how do we look at it?

I like that change. I feel like it’s been a shift in the body of Christ over the last 10 or 20 years. It’s been a good one.


[00:18:55] Tommy Thomas: Let’s try to bring this thing to a close and I’ll ask you, I framed this a lightning round. I’m not sure that they’re always lightning round kind of questions, but let’s hit a few of them.

What do you understand about your life today that you didn’t understand a year ago?

[00:19:11] Andrea Buczynski: Maybe it’s my age or the fact that I’ve experienced some losses, the fact that the past few years, every day is a gift.

[00:19:20] Tommy Thomas: If you could go back and tell a younger version of yourself, one thing, what would it be?

[00:19:28] Andrea Buczynski: Don’t be intimidated. Everybody’s figuring it out. Nobody knows what they’re doing.

[00:19:36] Tommy Thomas: If you’re sitting beside a total stranger at a dinner party, how do you engage them in a meaningful conversation?

[00:19:42] Andrea Buczynski: It would probably depend on the person and, how we know each other, but part of it if it’s a total stranger, it would just be tell me a little bit about yourself and what is it you enjoy most about what you do and go from there.

[00:19:58] Tommy Thomas: If you could meet any historical figure and ask them only one question, who would it be and what would the question be?

[00:20:21] Andrea Buczynski: This is what’s coming to mind right now. I would just say, I would want to ask Jesus, what was it like to sit at the table with the person that you knew would betray you, and that you knew would deny you? And wash their feet.  What was that like?  Yeah. I’m curious.

[00:20:49] Tommy Thomas:  Anything that as we wrap it up you think back over what we’ve covered and I always tell my guests, treat this as if you had the podium at a nonprofit gathering, and you had a group of budding nonprofit leaders. Anything you would share as a closing comment?

[00:21:15] Andrea Buczynski: Yes. I’d say, your heart matters. What’s going on in your relationship with the Lord, what’s going on in your character, who you are is more important than what you do. If people know you love them, they will give you a lot of grace. And so, I just look at it and I go, what kind of person do I want to show up as today?

And do your best if you’re believer to represent the Lord and to come with every resource He’s given you. And if not, to go, can you be the person whose life is integrous, lives with integrity, do what you say you will do, mean what you say what you mean, keep your promises.


[00:22:08] Tommy Thomas: Thank you for joining us today. If you are a first-time listener, I hope you will subscribe and become a regular. You can find links to all the episodes at our website:

If there are topics you’d like for me to explore, my email address is [email protected].  Word of mouth has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing. Surveys tell us that consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising.

If you’ve heard something today that’s worth passing on, please share it with others. You’re already helping me make something special for the next generation of nonprofit leaders. I’ll be back next week with a new episode. Until then, stay the course on our journey to help make the nonprofit sector more effective and sustainable.

“When you’re talking about training delivery, anybody under 35 is going to expect mobile delivery.  Their first question is ‘Can I get it on my iPhone or iPad?’” -Andrea Buczynski


Links and Resources

JobfitMatters Website

Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas

The Perfect Search – What every board needs to know about hiring their next CEO


[email protected]

Follow Tommy on LinkedIn


Listen to Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas on:

Apple Podcasts | Spotify