Tim Gonsalves

What To Do When Fear Creeps In: With Tim Gonsalves

One of the most common problems we encounter as humans is: “should we go with logic or should we trust our gut?” This applies double for leaders. And that doubt hurts them because they’re not really sure what to do. But as scary as it might seem, you should go with your hunches.  Don't let the fear get in your way.

Today a new guest comes to The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast. His name is Tim Gonsalves and he is the National Youth Director at Alpha Canada, a global nonprofit organization that creates safe spaces for people to have conversations about life and faith.

In this episode, Tim tells me about a hunch that he has, but isn’t sure if he should follow it. He’s been thinking for a while on changing some things for the better and now he’s stuck in the middle, because a part of him wants to do it, while the other is afraid of this 'leap of faith' and wants to leave it as it is. So my advice for Tim is to follow his hunch, try to take a small step and turn a bunch of  “canoes” around instead of trying to move a whole “ship”. This will allow him to take a chance while thinking about the way he thinks.

Do you feel stuck? Are you afraid to take a leap of faith too? Do you have a challenge you’d like to discuss? Reach out! If there's any issue you want to talk about here on the podcast or privately, please send me an email:


Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:
Hello, hello. This is Kim Ades, I'm the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, where we invite leaders from all over the world to come onto the show and get coached live and in person.  

Today it's my pleasure to introduce my guest. His name is Tim Gonsalves. Did I say it right? 

[00:00:24] Tim Gonsalves:
Nailed it. 

[00:00:25] Kim Ades:
Nailed it. He is the National Youth Director from an organization called Alpha Canada.

Tim, welcome.  

[00:00:34] Tim Gonsalves:
Thank you so much for having me. What an honor.  

[00:00:37] Kim Ades:
So what is Alpha Canada and what's your role as the National Youth Director? And to be honest, we can talk about that, but if you want to talk about anything else, I'm happy to do that too. 

[00:00:47] Tim Gonsalves:
[Laughs] Yeah, very cool. Well, Alpha is a global nonprofit in 90-100 different countries, and we work with the Church to help-- the Church creates safe spaces for people to have conversations about life and faith and God.  

And my role specifically is I oversee the youth department for our Canadian office and I help the Church engage young people in faith conversations, in a safe, inviting, hospitable way. And so I spend a lot of time working with other youth workers trying to create those spaces.  

[00:01:25] Kim Ades:
Okay. And tell me about how you have conversations with young people. Like, is it a place where people show up? Is it that you show up at church and then you sit at the pew and have a conversation?  

[00:01:36] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:01:36] Kim Ades:
Is it a Zoom conversation? How does it work?  

[00:01:40] Tim Gonsalves:
Totally. Yeah. Well, with COVID, I mean, a lot has shifted, but even before that, we were starting to see a huge trend in kind of third space conversations, you know? Coffee shops, basements, even in schools and, particularly in my role, we are seeing young people kind of just create these spaces organically. 

And so what we do is we just try to provide some resources that help students have discussion questions and have a bit of content. But ultimately we just want to put the tools in the hands of students to actually engage in those conversations confidently.  

[00:02:15] Kim Ades:
Okay. And are you saying, I just want to understand one more step. 

[00:02:18] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:02:19] Kim Ades:
Are you saying like, you have-- you're the National Youth Leader, but you have the Youth Leaders and, let's say, different schools who strike up those conversations. 

[00:02:28] Tim Gonsalves:
Not quite, you know, it's kind of more B2B to C in the sense that we help the Church train and equip students to have these conversations. 

[00:02:37] Kim Ades:

[00:02:37] Tim Gonsalves:
And so what my work is is actually just serving the Church across the country, all different faith traditions. And so I do training for youth workers and then they in turn, train their students. 

[00:02:51] Kim Ades:
Got it. Okay. I understand the picture. I'm glad I asked all those intimate details. 

[00:02:57] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:02:57] Kim Ades:
Okay. So how long have you been with this organization?  

[00:03:00] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, it'll be five years in September.  

[00:03:04] Kim Ades:
Okay. Got it. So what do you want to talk about today? Is it a personal challenge or a professional challenge?  

[00:03:11] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah. You know, I think it's a mixture of both. In light of COVID, my theory at least is I think a lot of things have been expedited. The inevitable has been expedited and in my industry specifically, I think that we're on the verge of seeing a significant shift when it comes to innovation and creativity and particularly around the coming generation with gen Z specifically. 

And so my question and challenge that I'm coming up against is, you know, the Church world is a very traditional, historical kind of environment, and so how do you, you know, almost lead with innovation? How do you turn a massive ship like, let's call it, the Church, whatever meadow word that wants to be... How do you shift then?  

You know, how do you see innovation within a system that is locked into very structured historic roots, traditions while wanting to honor those systems and traditions? Because I don't think we want to do away with those structures, but really trying to move into a new era of innovation and creativity. 

So quite a grand question, but maybe you can help me get a little bit more granular.  

[00:04:28] Kim Ades:
Okay. Sure. So like, I mean, my question for you is... I have a few questions. What makes this difficult for you? What makes this a challenge?  

[00:04:39] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, I think a few things. One is dealing with old mindsets and like, just mindsets of comfort, you know? I think a lot of people get kind of stuck in their ways and we're creatures of habits, and so trying to convince people that we need to rethink things.  

And then I think the second one is, you know, how do you pioneer into a place that you don't really know where you're going? And so, I just have a hunch, I have a desire that things need to shift, but I also don't know what the end destination looks like. And so that begins to be tricky. 

[00:05:20] Kim Ades:
What is your hunch?  

[00:05:21] Tim Gonsalves:
My hunch is that I think that we need to help young people be a lot more empowered and to release them as young leaders, and to actually be learning from them while also giving them frameworks of safety and encouragement and the tools. 

But I just see a leadership challenge that's systemic in the Church, where people are holding onto the reigns for too long and not releasing and empowering the next generation. And then we end up losing people. We end up seeing people kind of sit on the bench for too long and don't get activated.  

[00:05:57] Kim Ades:
Okay. And when you say "we have old mindsets", is that what you're referring to? People who don't want to let go of their position?  

[00:06:05] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, I think it's both a matter of position and not a place of trusting younger generations, you know? It's an age old challenge of can they really trust a young person to lead an organization, and what does it look like to release them, you know?  

They don't have the schooling necessarily, or the experience or they haven't paid their dues. And so how do we, you know, change that mindset? Because I think some of those things are arbitrary.  

[00:06:34] Kim Ades:
Okay. And so I just want to focus in on you. Like, when you say "this is my hunch. My hunch is we need to empower young people", tell me more about your hunch. What could that look like? What do you envision happening for that to take place? Are you saying "that's where I'm lost. I don't know how to get from point A to point B?" Or do you think "I do have a bit of a hunch about that, what that could look like"?  

[00:06:56] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, you know, I do and I don't. I mean, I think it looks like listening to them a lot more, engaging conversations with them and being proximate to what's going on in their world. But then from there, the ideas begin to dry up because, you know, I think we've seen a lot of trends.  

There's such a digital native culture, but then, you know, I don't-- I feel lost in some of those spaces and yet, they're super relational. And so, I do, I have a hunch, but it begins to, you know, get thin real quickly. 

[00:07:33] Kim Ades:
Okay. So, what I'm hearing you say is that you see an organization that has deep roots, maybe old ways that have worked for some time, but as you look into the future, you're suspecting that those ways might not work long into the future. 

[00:07:54] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:07:55] Kim Ades:
So there needs to be a shift to bring in some young blood and shake things up a bit, allow more young people to kind of take the home and lead. 

[00:08:06] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, exactly.  

[00:08:07] Kim Ades:
Except there's resistance to that.  

[00:08:09] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah. Big time. Yeah. And I think it's also fear of the unknown as well. It's like, no one really knows what that looks like. Do we just hand over the keys and say "see you later"? Or how do we come alongside?  

[00:08:22] Kim Ades:
So I have some thoughts about that in terms of the potential strategies, but I want to play a different role and then at the end, maybe I'll throw in some strategies. 

[00:08:31] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:08:32] Kim Ades:
So I think the whole word "hunch" is very, very important. A lot of leaders have hunches and then when they have hunches, it depends on what they do with those hunches that matters. So I have a hunch about you and the hunch is that the well doesn't actually run dry. The well gets scared. And the well doesn't take the next step because he too has fear.  

And what I'm really trying to say is you're sitting on the fence, right? One foot in one land, one foot in the other land, and you're like "what do I do on this fence? It kinda hurts up here". 

[00:09:10] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:09:11] Kim Ades:

[00:09:12] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, you nailed it. A little too close to home, if you ask me.  

[00:09:16] Kim Ades:
Okay. And so you're like "I get it. I want to make sure my roots are taken care of, and by the way, they're the ones kind of empowering me, and so I don't want to turn my back on that. I don't want to ruffle the feathers. I don't want to mess things up. But at the same time, I see this future over here".  

And so the issue really is that you're on the fence and that you're not following through on your hunches.  

[00:09:41] Tim Gonsalves:
Big time.  

[00:09:42] Kim Ades:
Okay. So the question becomes, why aren't you following through on your hunches? What's getting in the way? And we're kind of understanding that there's a little bit of a risk for you. You're putting yourself on the line, you're taking your ideas, and if you really push your ideas, they might be scrutinized they might experience resistance, et cetera. Right?  

And so, you know, from a career standpoint, do you really want to do that? That's a bit of a threat, right?  

[00:10:08] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah. Big time. Totally.  

[00:10:11] Kim Ades:
So I want to go back to something you said before, and you said, "how do we turn the ship around?" and so the word "ship" is an important part of this statement, because ship is a massive word, right? Like, it's not a massive word, it's a massive construction. It's difficult to turn a ship around. It's less difficult to turn a canoe around. Do you agree?  

[00:10:37] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah. Big time.  

[00:10:38] Kim Ades:
And so your thinking is in terms of ships, and I encourage you to think in terms of canoes.  

[00:10:46] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:10:47] Kim Ades:
And so what I'm really trying to say is, rather than thinking about making this massive shift and convincing the whole entire organization to start to think differently, I think number one is you need to start collecting more information from your young people yourself, and you need to think about running several small experiments or putting a bunch of little canoes in the water.  

[00:11:15] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:11:16] Kim Ades:
To see what's going to float, what's going to move to the ocean and what's going to sink.

[00:11:24] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:11:25] Kim Ades:
So you're going to try a bunch of experiments based on your hunches. I'm going to use my hunch right now. A hunch that I have is pair a young person with an older person and create a mentorship program, so that the older person can pass along their knowledge, their experience, their wisdom, and marry that with the young, cool, hip view of the world. That's one hunch.  

Another hunch might be allowing a group of young people to create some kind of programming, pass that programming out, see how it flies. And so it's not about handing over the keys. It's not like a black or white situation. I'm not asking you to jump off a cliff, and that's probably what's scary for you. It's run a bunch of small experiments, see what works. 

[00:12:13] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:12:13] Kim Ades:
Collect data, bring it back and prove your ideas.  

[00:12:20] Tim Gonsalves:
It's really good. Yeah. It's really helpful. Just even the ship to the canoe piece, because I think I get overwhelmed by the idea of trying to change a system or an institution. And it's like, man, and then all I feel and see is a massive mountain, you know? How am I supposed to climb that?  

But yet, some of my most fulfilling days, you know, I've spent the last couple months interviewing a ton of students and just trying to get a sense of it. And those feel like such wins. They feel like I'm really tapping into something, but then immediately the fear creeps in because I think okay, I've learned something and now I have to implement this systemically across the entire organization. And then it just begins to be impossible. But I really value this idea of canoes. I think it's so profound.  

[00:13:10] Kim Ades:
Well, and rather than systemic implementation, think about running a set of pilots, right? Small experiments, so you say "you know what? We're going to run one program. You're going to be in charge of this program. You know, what could it look like? It's going to be a small program. We're going to test it out, see if it works. If it works, we'll duplicate it in the next place or, you know, and we'll now expand it".  

[00:13:36] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:13:36] Kim Ades:
But the thing is, you know, you don't want to create a systemic change when you don't have proof of concept anyways. 

[00:13:44] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, wow. 

[00:13:47] Kim Ades:
Right? So this is the smart way to go and it's a smart way to create adaptability around you. 

[00:13:55] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, unpack that. What do you mean by that? Adaptability.  

[00:14:00] Kim Ades:
It means when you have people who are resistant, they're resistant to the big idea, they're less resistant to an experiment, less resistant to a pilot. They need proof and what you're doing is you're supplying the proof, it creates greater buy-in. 

[00:14:20] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:14:23] Kim Ades:
Does that make sense?  

[00:14:24] Tim Gonsalves:
Big time! Yeah, yeah. I think it really speaks to why I feel such an uphill battle sometimes is because it's very ambiguous what I'm trying to articulate to people, and then sometimes there's not even a palette for it, you know? They don't really understand what I'm trying to say.  

But if I can have some micro pilot projects, some proof of concept, you know, they can begin to actually see it. And then they're probably a little bit more prone to allowing smaller projects, than try to shift the entire system.  

[00:14:58] Kim Ades:
So I'll throw in one more thing is really pay attention to what you're measuring. So you might be measuring engagement, you might be measuring participation, you know, numbers, level of engagement, and then you might have some kind of anecdotal evidence to bring back to the story too. But I think it's very important to say "what do I need to measure as I execute a program and test a variety of things?"  

[00:15:27] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:15:28] Kim Ades:
And so that you're coming back with tangible data that they can wrap their arms around.  

[00:15:33] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. For sure. So helpful.  

[00:15:40] Kim Ades:
I love that you're taking notes. That's awesome. 

[00:15:44] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah. I mean, this is gold!  

[00:15:46] Kim Ades:
I think so. 

[00:15:48] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:15:48] Kim Ades:
[Laughs] Anything else before we wrap up?  

[00:15:52] Tim Gonsalves:
You know, I think that's super helpful. I think it's very tangible and something, I think-- what do I do, you know, when fear creeps back in? You know, that voice that says you can't change the system. Do I just then quickly, you know, jump to what the canoe version is and think of micro ideas? But even just that self-talk, you know, how do I...  

You know, you nailed it, you went right to the heart there of the fear. But I'm not always aware of that fear. And so how do I know if it's a moment of fear when I feel stifled? Or I don't know what the next step is, or if it's just practical, you know, I needed to try something. 

[00:16:32] Kim Ades:
Yeah. Honestly, that's a fantastic question. And what you do is you pay attention to how things feel. So when things feel inspiring and exciting, you're heading in the right direction. When they feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable, that's a sign that your thinking is turned away from what you want. 

So when you say "how do I change the whole system?" There's a belief that says, it's your job, it's your role, it's your duty in life to change the whole system. And you need to kind of go "wait a minute. What am I thinking here? What am I believing that's causing me to feel that heaviness, that hardness, that ickiness?" right?  

So instead say "what are my beliefs? Do I need to change the whole system? Or can I just move this canoe?" Right?  

[00:17:18] Tim Gonsalves:

[00:17:19] Kim Ades:
And so you really want to pay attention to the way you think about things, and it'll become evident that when you're thinking about things in a way that serves you, that lights you up, that moves you to another place, you're thinking in a way that is aligned with your goals.  

But when you're thinking about things and that thought creates a heaviness, a fear, a delay, a procrastination, a discomfort, that indicates that your beliefs around that subject really are not aligned with your goals.  

And in your case, the belief is "I got to move the ship" and I'm saying who says, you got to move the ship? Let's start with something easier to move.  

[00:18:05] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah. Wow. "Think about the way you think".  

[00:18:09] Kim Ades:
Think about the way you think.  

[00:18:11] Tim Gonsalves:
That's a mic drop moment. I'm going to have to chew on that one for a few days. [Laughs] 

[00:18:16] Kim Ades:
Amazing. I hope that this gave you some stuff to think about. For those of you who are listening, I hope it gave you some stuff to think about too. 

If you have a challenge that you want to share on the podcast, please reach out to me. I'd love to hear from you.  

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  

If you have a challenge that you want to talk about, but you're not so willing to share on the podcast, please reach out to me as well. 

Again, my email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  

Tim, thank you so much for being on the podcast! How do people find you, if they're interested in learning about your organization?  

[00:18:52] Tim Gonsalves:
Yeah, just alphacanada.org.  

[00:18:55] Kim Ades:
alphacanada.org. Amazing. Tim, thank you so much for being my guest today.  

[00:19:00] Tim Gonsalves:
Such an honor. Thanks so much.

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