There's every reason to believe that Stephanie Bender-Kitz and Karan Tucker will be very successful as co-executive director (yes, that's director, singular) of Jannus, Inc., the Boise-based health and human services umbrella that oversees no less than 20 statewide programs, including Agency for New Americans, Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, Idaho Office for Refugees, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, Idaho Voices for Children and over a dozen more. That said, job-sharing at the top of the organizational chart has just begun.
"You've caught us at the end of our first week of our very first month," said Tucker. "But it's not as if we weren't ready for all of this."
Bender-Kitz joined the non-profit in 2010, spending most of the past nine years as its program director. Tucker was hired by Jannus to be its chief financial officer in 2001, and became its executive director in 2012. But about a year and a half ago, the two began talking about the possibility of sharing the top job. Earlier this year, the Jannus Board of Directors officially announced that the pair would indeed share the executive director role, beginning May 1.
As co-executive director, they share one office and even one email. At a rare moment when they were both in the office at the same moment, the co-executive director sat down with Boise Weekly to talk a bit about their "as-one" management style.
Goodness knows job-sharing isn't new to our culture, so we've certainly heard of shared duties and shared office space. That said, I've never seen a shared resume.
Tucker: We actually stole that idea. We need to give credit to two women. We'll tell you their first names: Cindy and Marie. They've shared the title of print/big data business transformation director at Hewlett Packard for 13 years. A friend introduced us, and Cindy and Marie agreed to be our coaches.
But how far back was the germ of the idea of your own job-sharing?
Tucker: I've been with this organization for 18 years, in two different leadership roles. I was the CFO and was the director for six years. There are many opportunities here for different perspectives, but this organization has 20 very different programs. It's a heavy lift.
Bender-Kitz: Neither of us said, "Oh no, we shouldn't explore this." It was more like, "This is intriguing."
How long ago was that?
Bender-Kitz: A year-and-a-half ago. We got together over a beer one night. We kept talking and then, things got very serious last summer.
Can I assume that you told your families about the possibility?
Bender-Kitz: We certainly told our husbands about what we had discussed. We joke that we've probably done more due diligence in this relationship than either one of us did prior to getting married.
It's important to note that, even on your shared resume, you wrote...
Tucker: We wrote, "Shared values, collective experience and complete trust."
Bender-Kitz: Before we took our proposal to our board, we reached out to Jim Everett and Doug Brigham (co-presidents of the College of Idaho) for their input. And soon after, we got in touch with Cindy and Marie from HP.
Tucker: We eventually presented the idea to our board last October, and we officially started as co-executive director at the beginning of this month.
Let's talk about the physical nature of this change. What does your schedule look like?
Tucker: I work Monday, Tuesday, and about six or seven hours on Wednesday.
Bender-Kitz: I work part of the day on Wednesday, plus Thursday and Friday. We have four hours of overlap on Wednesday.
Tucker: We share a calendar and one email. We've committed to each other that on the days that we're not in the office, we're not checking our shared email. If something really big comes up, we might text one another, "Be aware of this," or "This is really big. I need you for this." Other than that, we disconnect.
This may be a really good time for each of you to do this, but why is this is a good time for Jannus to undergo this change?
Tucker: We're doing some strategy work at the end of this month. A couple of our priorities will be to examine how we measure and evaluate the impact of our work. And that's the expertise of my dear colleague.
Bender-Kitz: The environment is right for us to look at our incredible wealth of expertise and perspective throughout all of our services. And I think there are things happening externally that also help us look at all of that. This isn't about redirecting any of the programs; but it is about how we evaluate the amazing work that these programs are doing.
Tucker: Jannus programs directly reach about 35,000 Idahoans each year. Then, of course, there's all of our policy work that impacts everyone: voters, stakeholders, all Idahoans.
When I visit your offices, at any given time, I'll see scores of people, staff and clients, walking through the doors of Early Head Start, Global Talent, the Idaho Office for Refugees, the Idaho Out-of-School Network and Idaho Voices for Children. It's stunning to consider how much goes on here.
Bender-Kitz: I used to work down in what we call our library level, and the Agency for New Americans works down there. Part of their program is trauma-informed care for women. The first time I was in my office, I started hearing drums. It shook the walls. I panicked and thought, "What's going on?" I learned that every Tuesday at noon, they knit, they drum, and they talk about navigating their new lives in their new home. My work was certainly not in refugee resettlement, but from that point on, I also wanted to make sure I was in my office every Tuesday at noon to hear that drumming. I truly needed to know that magic was happening.