The Board Whisperers help executives embrace courageous leadership

22 July 2021 4 min. read

A new consultancy firm has launched in the Netherlands: The Board Whisperers. The vision of the firm’s co-founders Daphne Laan and Sonja Wekema? “We help executives get a different perspective on their vision and how they want to get there.” 

The backdrop is a familiar one: markets are changing faster and faster and companies must continuously innovate to keep apace with the latest developments. Digitisation is the foremost driver of change and disruption, and as a result digital transformation has over the past years (and exacerbated by Covid-19) been catapulted to the top of boardroom agenda’s. 

However, according to Laan and Wekema, there is another, parallel movement that equally deserves the attention of executives: questioning a company’s purpose. “Leaders need to ask themselves – is their company only aiming for profit and shareholder value, or should value be defined in a much broader sense?” 

Sonja Wekema en Daphne Laan - The Board Whisperers

Balance in the boardroom

The Board Whisperers has set out to help leaders with exploring and such purpose-led questions. One of the themes the consulting firm will focus on is diversity & inclusion. Highlighting the ‘case for change’, Laan remarked, “The share of women on boards is still only 12.4%. At this rate, it could take decades before a more balanced representation of men and women within the boardrooms is established.” 

The newly-launched consultancy aims to “make a direct impact”, said Laan. “We offer a creative solution to bring a different voice to the table.” Engaging organisations to assemble a more balanced board is one of the pillars. Wekema: “Together with executive teams, it is possible to accelerate towards new leadership that embrace diversity – in thinking, between generations and in the balance between feminine and masculine values.”

“The advantages of teams with members from diverse backgrounds are plenty,” continues Wekema. “Diverse teams look at issues and opportunities from multiple angles and assess business strategies in a different way. That makes it possible to make informed decisions and deliver more effective performance.” 

Courageous Leadership

By helping executives lead such transitions, The Board Whisperers helps them what the co-founder bill as ‘courageous leadership’. “We provide advice, support with implementation – because we know from experience that companies often find this difficult – and provide aftercare, because we work on the basis of a relationship of trust,” says Laan. 

Via three types of processes – acceleration, transformation and reset – Wekema and Laan act as a “sounding board” for executives and emerging leaders in mostly international organisations. 

Wekema: “With acceleration we help organisations accelerate their (growth) ambitions and to scale up in a value-driven way; transformation it is about renewing the corporate culture in line with business objectives – and reset can be a moment of self-reflection, a transfer from founders to a new set-up, business model or governance structure.” 

Different perspective

In bringing a different perspective to the boardroom, Wekema and Laan leverage the decades of experience they bring to the table. Wekema started her career as consultant at Capgemini and then spent ten years with Shell, as Project Manager of global projects, Senior Advisor Employee Engagement for the entire Shell Group and Global Head of HR for Shell Chemicals Operations & Health, Safety, Security and Environment.

“In addition, I was responsible for developing internal leadership programs, Inclusion & Diversity and acted as Safety Leadership lead.” 

Four years ago she decided to start her own business and go back to university. “In 2017 I founded The Other Perspective as an international network organisation in the field of culture transformation and leadership development – which will continue to exist alongside The Board Whisperers.” 

Daphne Laan has a background in technology, media and social impact. She worked for T-Mobile for three and a half years and for Google for nine years. At the technology giant, she was responsible for the technology industry (spanning major clients such as Philips), the ecosystem & partner strategy and deal making. In addition, she was the Lead for the Women@Google community in the Netherlands. 

In 2018, Laan founded her own management consulting and executive coaching firm: House of Wonder. She is also a board member of the Down to Earth Collective, a social impact organisation committed to sustainability. 

Creative problem solvers

Laan and Wekema first met each other when when they both sat on the Education Committee of the Executive Coaching program at the VU University of Amsterdam. “We discovered that we have common ground in our values and view of the world and the role of boards in organisations,” Laan explains. “Subsequently, we decided to join forces and team up on client work.” 

“We thrive on complexity, bring polarities together – ratio and intuition – zoom in and out and are creative problem solvers,” Wekema explains, in conclusion adding, “We challenge the status quo, help companies redefine and reinvent themselves and push their boundaries to drive impactful change. Everything to help teams and organisations embrace courageous leadership and stimulate creativity and innovation.”