As CEO and president of the YWCA of Minneapolis, overseeing all five YWCA facilities within Minneapolis as well as its programs within the Minneapolis Public Schools and at other community locations, Becky Roloff has plenty on her mind. So when it comes time to think about the complexities of another business from a director’s chair, it’s often a welcome mental break that ultimately gives her fresh perspective on her own organization.
“It’s like going to a different part of the buffet table—even if you are working in a job you love,” Roloff says. “You take what you know and apply it in a different way, and then you apply what they do back to your business. I appreciate the opportunity for growth and contribution.”
For Roloff, who currently serves on the boards of Eden Prairie–based transportation services company C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. and Minneapolis-based Allina Health, sharing her business knowledge and experience with for- and nonprofit entities is a mutually beneficial experience. She typically suggests some of her effective processes or procedures from the YWCA for use at the other organizations, and vice versa.
ROLOFF'S OTHER BOARD ROLES
College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University),
1983–1995 (chair 1991–95)
Children’s Theatre Company,
1996-2002 (chair 2000–02)
For example, Roloff serves on the compensation and audit committees for C. H. Robinson, and she implemented the company’s legal and compliance reporting format at the YWCA of Minneapolis. She also serves as chair of the compensation committee at Allina, and she successfully advised the nonprofit to adopt the YWCA’s CEO evaluation process, which she brought over from her days at American Express Financial Advisors.
“I learn from Allina and C. H. Robinson, and apply every good idea that I think would help us,” Roloff says. “There are things I can share from my corporate and nonprofit experience that bring a different perspective to them as well.”
With Allina, for instance, Roloff suggested that it add one element to its CEO evaluation that the YWCA of Minneapolis uses. It specifically involved getting feedback directly from the CEO’s direct reports to include in the annual evaluation process. “It fit the culture of openness and inclusiveness that Allina strives for, and I think it made an important element a bit more formalized in the overall process,” she says. Roloff brings years of business experience and insight to her board service, starting from her days as a Cargill grain merchant, then a decade in purchasing, distribution, and marketing for Pillsbury’s Green Giant brand. She took over the helm of the YWCA of Minneapolis in 2005 after 18 years in upper-level executive positions at American Express.
Serving on a corporate board where she’s the only woman has been Roloff’s biggest challenge. She feels significant pressure to shine, making sure she strongly represents women leaders because there are so few female directors—only 14 percent in Minnesota. “Any time you’re the first, you want to do an extra-good job to the best of your ability to make sure your performance helps lead the way for other women to be on boards,” Roloff says.
When serving on a board, Roloff does homework on the company, its operations, and financials, asking probing questions and making informed suggestions. That’s what makes Roloff a great director, says John Wiehoff, C. H. Robinson’s chairman and CEO. She delves deeply into the company’s operations, finances, and business model, and also goes beyond standard director duties, such as participating in the company’s employee leadership circles and visiting several of its locations in Europe.
Roloff “effectively encourages the executive team to focus on doing what’s right for employees when making long-term decisions, and she’s been a strong advocate for diversity,” Wiehoff says. “I think she’s just a really good people person,” he adds. “She’s the first to think about people and the human side of any decisions. I think that’s the badge she brings to the board. She’s always very focused on what our people think about decisions, what others will think about it, and how it will impact the team.”