Before I came to Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, I spent more than five years at BoardSource, a national organization focused on improving nonprofit governance. I have to admit, at the time I fancied myself a bit of a governance expert. After all, I had written and edited publications on good governance, conducted national surveys about board practice and spoken at many events. However after taking the helm of GEO, I discovered I was a complete fraud; I was savvy on the technical aspects of governance, but a complete novice about the subtleties of how to set up and structure important conversations, how to build a culture that allows for robust exchange of ideas and how to share power and lead collectively.
I made some serious mistakes, but I learned quickly with mentorship from a series of great board chairs including Jim Canales, Janine Lee, Beth Bruner, Gregg Behr, Handy Lindsey and Albert Ruesga. Now our board culture is what the organization needs it to be: supportive, but also challenging, curious, collegial and wise.