Get On Board: How Centering Relationships Can Guide Governance
In the following Q&A conversation below, our Board Co-Chair Nancy Withbroe explores how the core commitment of Centering Relationships helps to guide board governance at ProInspire and shares tips around how other boards can use this core commitment. This is the second blog installment in our Thrive Through the Season and into 2023 campaign.
Centering relationships in our work together sets us up to honor the impact on individuals and the whole and to have the courageous conversations that are necessary to steward the organization into this next phase.”
How is the core commitment of centering relationships helping to guide board governance at ProInspire?
At every step in the governance cycle we make sure to start with centering relationships and the humanity of board members and staff with whom the board interacts. This looks like starting every committee and full board meeting with a personal check in and making time for in-person gatherings over meals. It looks like naming what we need from the whole and from each other as individuals, and respecting requests from others to slow down or provide context before we move forward with decision making. It looks like recruiting board candidates who are clear about who they are and who bring a race analysis to their work and relationships. And, it looks like having several rounds of 1:1 conversations with potential new board members so that they begin to build relationships with a range of staff and board leaders and experience this core commitment before they decide whether to join.
How is/will this core commitment help the board and ProInspire thrive in 2023?
In 2023 ProInspire will continue its journey through three transitions: founder, shared leadership, and to centering Black feminist praxis. Each of these is deeply felt by staff and board, and requires honesty, authenticity, and resilience as we work through these and the interplay among them. Centering relationships in our work together sets us up to honor the impact on individuals and the whole and to have the courageous conversations that are necessary to steward the organization into this next phase.
What do Centering Relationships look like between the board and co-CEOs/executive team, and how is this commitment influencing key decisions?
We are intentional about process steps like being explicit regarding roles and steps we’ll take to make significant decisions, such as around compensation for the Co-CEOs or the annual budget, and noticing when something feels off for ourselves or someone else so that we can pause to check in as humans. Because we have built strong relationships we have the trust to work through disagreements and misunderstandings and move towards better decisions on behalf of the whole.
Do you have any other tips and insights on how board leaders can use the core commitment of centering relationships to guide governance?
Our incoming board Co-Chair Raquel Gutierrez often asks the question, “What do you want to learn in your role on the board?” She and Bianca Anderson, one of our Co-CEOs, ground us in remembering that centering relationships means that we see governance as a mutually beneficial experience for board members and the organization. By inviting board members to see their service as a learning opportunity and as something for which we are accountable, we shift power in ways that invite board members to see themselves as growing alongside the staff and that invite the staff into holding us accountable not only for the basic fiduciary roles we play but also for how we are in relationship with each other and the organization.
Grounded in our four Core Commitments, we are exploring what it mean to thrive – as leaders, as an organization, and as a sector. Nancy’s blog is the second of four in our Thrive Through the Season and into 2023 campaign. Learn more about the Core Commitments by downloading our Self to Systems: Leading for Race Equity Impact and sign up for our newsletter for our emerging thoughts, highlights, and insights you can take into the new year.
Read the first blog installment in our Thrive Through the Season and into 2023 campaign: “Succession is Not a Dirty Word” by our Founder & Co-CEO Monisha Kapila here.
Chief Operating Officer & Chief of Staff, National Women’s Law Center