Having hard conversations with excellent people: Sitting on ABM's Board of Directors

Dear ABM Community,

I am currently serving my 2nd of two board terms at the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (thank you for your votes!). One doesn't often get the opportunity to be involved in this kind of work, and I have been deeply honored to be able to sit at this table. Because of this, I want to crack the door for a second and give you a peek at some of the inner workings of this organization. Last night we had a really tough conversation. Like many organizations, COVID has deeply changed the landscape, opportunities and challenges we face. As a result, we have hard decisions to make, decisions that will affect our current well-being and our future possibilities.

Last night after the meeting, I was sitting at the dinner table with my kids. They asked why I looked thoughtful and distracted, and I told them I can't really talk about it because of our commitment to Board privacy - at which point their eyes got big and they told me that I was basically as cool as the president. (I spent the rest of dinner explaining why I was not ) Anyway, this means I can't discuss the specifics but what I could say was this: I have literally never been in a room of people so deeply committed to honest and open dialogue. At that (zoom) table of fellow board members, leadership and the Association Management Center (AMC) leadership , there is no grandstanding, no vying for power, put-downs, off-topic ad hominem arguments, cliques, or irrelevant side-steps. It is deliberative dialogue at its best. We speak our minds, our concerns, our "knowings" and are willing to change our minds and opinions in the face of new information. The journalist Scott London said it like this:

"Deliberative dialogue differs from other forms of public discourse — such as debate, negotiation, brainstorming, consensus-building — because the objective is not so much to talk together as to think together, not so much to reach a conclusion as to discover where a conclusion might lie. Thinking together involves listening deeply to other points of view, exploring new ideas and perspectives, searching for points of agreement, and bringing unexamined assumptions into the open."

Board action is constantly forthcoming, and to the outside the decisions are sometimes hard to understand. This being said, I want our community to know how hard we are working to think together about what is best, at the intersection of our diverse viewpoints and for all of our constituents around the world. When you take power plays out of the room, we are far more likely to generate decisions that fit our needs and our ethical standards of independence (from market forces) and inclusion.

Thank you fellow Board members, AMC and the ABM Community for giving me the chance to be part of this transformative experience! For those who are interested, board terms are typically 3 years and meetings are every 2 months. I would highly recommend getting involved to anyone who is interested in leadership and service to our awesome community.

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