When I think about who might serve as a point of resistance to the shared ownership work that I am trying to achieve, I first think of my colleagues. There are 11 of us total at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. Of those 11, four are part of our senior leadership team and hold the most decision making authority among staff.
The current state of our relationships is nuanced and complex. I’m hesitant to name it all. A piece of the complexity is due to four team members being let go and five new team members being on-boarded in the last 10 months, and all of that turnover occurring at the “bottom half” of our org chart while our senior leadership team remained intact. I sense and feel some mistrust, fear, uncertainty, and stress in our interactions. At the same time, our hearts seem in a similar place. I feel like we are all committed to our mission and have a passion for the work at hand.
I am struggling through several layers of next steps.
- I want our Foundation to adopt a strategy and begin using our investments, time, and voice to move a shared ownership agenda in Arkansas.
- I want the creation and implementation of that strategy to “bake in” shared ownership and shared power and be done hand-in-hand with partners, grassroots leaders, and community members outside of foundation staff.
- I have a sense of urgency but don’t want that urgency to be at the expense of inclusion and thoughtfulness
- I want us to adopt more empathy, trust, respect, and shared power with one another as staff in our interactions and decision-making
- I want to dismantle, rather than perpetuate, white supremacy in the way I move forward and show up in these conversations
- I want to be true to my vision and values while also allowing all involved to meaningfully contribute to and decide on a path forward
Empathy and Resistance
In empathizing with my colleagues on the “bottom half” of the org chart – the seven of us not on the senior leadership team – I think resistance could come from a number of things and would look different for each person. Generally, I feel like my teammates would not be as resistant to the concept of a shared ownership agenda than the process. Resistance might come from a general belief that I “own” this body of work. I attended this workshop. I am the one writing this post. So, I can’t pretend the inception point was us. And consequently, the team might feel excluded from strategy creation. They might also feel like, if this work moves forward, I might get credit in a somewhat siloed, high-stakes environment where there is a need to perform and for validation. My colleagues might also generally feel fatigued. Fatigued by the weight of this pandemic, by racial violence, by our organizational culture, by inauthentic power sharing. That fatigue might rightfully make them less engaged, less patient, or more skeptical. They might also not trust me. Because I’ve been at the foundation longer than any of them. Because I’m a privileged white woman. Because people with those characteristics have often proven untrustworthy or hurtful. My teammates might also feel skeptical of our ability to get buy-in from our senior leadership team or our board or that pushing this agenda might impact their individual relationships or effectiveness.
In empathizing with my four colleagues on the senior leadership team, resistance also varies by person. Generally, I think there is also a need to perform. To have impact. To transform systems for good. To show our board we’re on the right path. To feel innovative and ground-breaking. To get closer to our goals than we ever have before and at a quicker pace. To have philanthropy, policymakers, and others look to us. To lead the way. I sense there’s a dissatisfaction with how things have gone in the past and may be a sense that I might lead us in a similar, ineffective direction. They may feel I don’t have their best interest in mind or that of the communities we seek to serve. They may feel I lack experience or expertise.
What’s Next / Enrollment
- I think I need to have a one-on-one conversation with our CEO. Not necessarily a enrollment conversation in regards to shared ownership, but first an empathy and enrollment conversation between us as co-workers and regarding me as both a subordinate and a leader of my body of work. I think there is some healing to do or, if not, at least some growth in our relationship. My vision is for her to trust and be excited by my ideas, to be excited to share hers, to be honest, open, and vulnerable about where she’s coming from, to feel safe, to create a more direct line of communication. From that stance, I think we can more easily move forward a programmatic strategy together. I don’t know how to have that conversation and welcome thoughts on things to say or questions to ask.
- I want to share what I’ve learned in this workshop, begin a conversation, but, once begun, immediately give power to the team to facilitate, shape, ideate, define, and lead what happens next. Through that process, I want to not only define an economic equity strategy (which I hope will be rooted in shared ownership), but also model a new internal way of being – a new way of nurturing ideas, of collaboration, of shared decision making, of relationship with one another. I don’t know how to do this either and welcome thoughts on next steps.
I’ve scheduled time with our CEO next week and have weekly meetings with the “bottom-half-of-the-org-chart” team. I welcome any thoughts or coaching on how to move forward in those spaces, what I’m missing, and also ongoing conversations to reflect and debrief afterwards.