By Johanna Anderson, The Belk Foundation; Janis Reischmann, Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation; Daphne Rowe, Donley Foundation; and Lindsey Stammerjohn, John Gogian Family Foundation
Over the past year, four of us—all women who work as executive directors of foundations with few staff—have been participating in a peer coaching group that grew out of Exponent Philanthropy’s Master Juggler Executive Institute. Because it has had such a meaningful impact on us, we wanted to share some thoughts about this experience and encourage others to consider forming your own peer learning group.
We believe this is a wonderful and blessed profession. And, every now and then, it can be challenged by confusing nuances and unusual dynamics. Working for high profile boards and/or families requires discretion. But that discretion can often limit one’s outlets for exploring the situations in which we find ourselves. Having a close knit group of colleagues who appreciate and understand the challenges we are facing, while respecting the need for discretion, is invaluable.
Being part of really small organizations, it sometimes feels like we are working in a vacuum. Even though board members are available and ready to discuss issues at a 50,000-foot level, they are not in the “trenches” and really do rely on us to lead our respective foundations. Over the past year, through our peer coaching group, we have had the experience of seeing how others approach similar types of issues. There’s a sense of comfort in knowing you’re not the only one who struggles and, perhaps more important, the peer coaching group offers ideas and a fresh perspective on framing issues and on developing solutions.