The following is a Q&A with Michael Mosby, Interim COO at Tides, a philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator headquartered in San Francisco. As described by the organization itself, Tides is dedicated to building a world of shared prosperity and social justice.
Michael has been with Tides for 4.5 years, building up a rich understanding of the company and learning the ins and outs of the organization up close. In February of 2018, Tides partnered with a)plan to improve organizational culture and overall employee fulfillment. The partnership is still ongoing today.
We had the great pleasure of sitting down with Michael to learn about his (and his organization’s) experience with a)plan. We thank him dearly for his time and perspective.
Can you describe your experience with a)plan?
I should start by saying I’m not getting paid for this response! In a word, my experience with a)plan has been transformative.
What has made it transformative?
Well, it didn’t start that way. When Tides first presented the opportunity to work with a)plan, my first reaction was, ok… here we go… another cookie-cutter development program. The idea of seeking out a life partner didn’t exactly resonate – that is, until I met my coach, Kirsten. I didn’t go into it very hopeful, but here we are now and Kirsten is a life partner to me – a thought partner for life. I can’t speak more highly of the value I’m getting, both professionally and personally.
What was your experience with coaches before a)plan?
This isn’t my first foray with coaching, which might explain some of my preconceived notions before starting with a)plan. I’ve had formal coaches, but those were mostly folks who were in my line of work and held more senior positions. So those relationships revolved around career trajectory.
I’ve also had less formal, non-career oriented relationships with people I respected, and those could be considered life coaches. But the difference with a)plan coaching is the focus is on me as a holistic person – both personal and professional – instead of just one side of my life.
How has a)plan helped with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Tides?
We brought on a)plan at a time when our organizational culture was not very good. We partnered with Sara and Brian and gave them a task that was dang-near impossible. But they certainly delivered. Some of the things that have been transformative…
First, the establishment of organizational values. We didn’t have stated values before. Sara and Brian helped develop and then cultivate these within the organization with an inclusive process that solicited input from every Tidester.
Second, introducing the ARCI decision-making framework, which is an acronym for Accountable, Responsible, Consulted, Informed. Our entire organization now has a 3-tiered decision making model. Rarely do we hear the question, “Who made that decision and why?”
And third, Giving & Receiving Feedback workshops. You still hear folks around Tides talking about those workshops.
Those are some of the things that gave us the foundation to actually have relevant and forward-thinking conversations and plans around DEI (which we now call “racial equity”).
Why is coaching useful for black leaders?
Growing up black in America, I was taught not to raise my head above the crowd. Listen and learn, but don’t push forward too much. I was doing that unconsciously. When I walked into a conference room or meeting room – being one or one of the only PoCs there – I would give up a lot of my power.
It wasn’t until a)plan that I started doing a self inventory of my strengths. One tool my coach and I use is reflecting on saboteurs – what are the things that hold you back? When I started paying attention, I realized a lot of those things for me can be traced back to being a PoC.
Coaching has been extremely valuable in not only claiming and owning my blackness, but also recognizing how it forms me and the type of leader I want to be – a leader also exhibited by humility, open listening, and empathy.
Anything else you’d like to share about your overall experience?
There are some folks who resonate with coaching and are really open to it, some who are less so, and others who are ambivalent (like I was), but open to it.
We’ve been partnered with a)plan for over two years now. What I tend to see is the folks who have truly invested in it have seen great gains. I personally know a number of coworkers who were close to moving on from Tides and going elsewhere. They would tell you that coaching was a big reason for not moving on because they learned to better center themselves, learned about themselves, and took more responsibility or looked at things more objectively.
To that end, I know that as an organization we have retained a lot of valuable talent, largely thanks to a)plan. As a manager, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of allowing folks to explore who they are as people, discover where they want to improve, and develop personal goals to help drive progress and improvement.
Finally, any particular stories that really stand out?
Yes, actually. After the murder of George Floyd, I helped organize a march in my town. The morning of, I went to the site of the march to survey the area and get my mind around how to make sure things would go smoothly.
Because of what that moment meant to me personally, I was in tears. Just the power of the moment. The first person I called was my coach. I knew I could cry without her judgement. I knew I would have an empathetic listening ear. And I knew we would have a relevant conversation. As expected, all of those things happened.
When I looked back on that – of all the people I could’ve called, I chose my coach. It’s a great example of what the relationship means to me. And part of the beauty is that my coach is not a PoC. Yet there is such a level of trust there and a level of connection. She really is my life partner.
Thank you once again to Michael for such a meaningful interview 🙂