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Board Capacity Building

What Can You Do About the Inevitable Centrifugal Force On Your Board?

June 24, 2015 1 Comment

Diverse People in Meeting With Speech BubblesAs their half-day mini-retreat came to a close, the members of the board’s governance committee were feeling the kind of deep satisfaction that comes from doing an important, high-stakes governing job really well.  They’d updated the profile of board member attributes and qualifications (e.g., “successful experience serving on at least one other public or nonprofit board”) that they would use in finding candidates to fill the three seats coming vacant in a couple of months, and they’d identified two stakeholder organizations that should be represented on the board:  the local community hospital and largest manufacturing firm in the region. 

This … Read the rest

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Are Our Hands Really Tied That Tightly?

April 22, 2015 0 Comments

“Look, our hands are tied.  We’ve got to make do with the people they send us.”  This is what the CEO of a transportation authority said in a workshop on board capability building I was conducting a couple of years iStock_000020585606Largeago.  I’d made the pretty obvious point early in the meeting that boards of directors weren’t an abstract organizational entity; rather, they were living, breathing people, and that the quality of a board’s governing decisions were heavily dependent on the particular people making up the board at any given time.  Sure, I acknowledged, there were other important factors, like a … Read the rest

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Turning the Governance Corner at BJCTA

March 20, 2015 0 Comments

In a special work session on March 17, the Board of Directors of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority in Alabama took a giant step forward on the governance front.  Six of the seven Board members present (there was one abstention) voted to adopt the Board’s first detailed “Governing Mission,” a high-level description of the Board’s major governing responsibilities (for example, “periodically updating BJCTA’s core values, vision for the future, and mission”). Even more important, they voted to establish a contemporary structure of three standing committees to assist the Board in carrying out its highly complex governing work:  Governance & External … Read the rest

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Bringing Off a Path-Breaking BJCTA Board-Executive Work Session

January 30, 2015 0 Comments

Our last blog post described a dramatic step the Board of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) took just four days before the scheduled daylong “High-Impact Governing Work Session” involving Board members, Executive Director Ann August, and her top lieutenants. By electing a new chair, Dr. Patrick Sellers, in a special public meeting, the majority of Board members dramatically signaled that they were putting a contentious past behind them and setting out to build a solid, enduring Board-Executive Director working relationship.

Of course, board-executive retreats can, as you well know, easily come unraveled – with disastrous results. That BJCTA’s High-Impact … Read the rest

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Board Development By Design

January 15, 2015 0 Comments

The August 22, 2014 issue of APTA’s Passenger Transport includes a piece I wrote for the Commentary section, “Board Development by Design:  A Board-Savvy CEO role.”  Before getting into the process of developing a transportation board’s governing capacity in some detail, I asked the reader to “keep in mind a very important lesson I learned early in my career:  A public transportation authority’s GM or CEO must be a leading participant – indeed, the prime mover – in fashioning a comprehensive plan for developing the board’s governing capacity.”  I go on to explain why, pointing out that board members, typically … Read the rest

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Anything But Wimpy

December 5, 2014 1 Comment

I’d just finished describing why standing committees were the ideal vehicle for a CEO to work with in mapping out and fine-tuning processes for board engagement in key governing areas when one of the transportation CEOs attending my program on “building high-impact board-CEO governing teams” raised a question that, to judge from his worried expression, bothered him mightily.  I’ll paraphrase what he asked:  “OK, Doug, let’s say you sit down with the board’s performance monitoring committee to discuss, for example, how to strengthen both the content and format of financial reporting, and the discussion gets really detailed, like whether it … Read the rest

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Tips On Running a Successful Retreat

September 19, 2014 3 Comments
Tips On Running a Successful Retreat

Diverse People in Meeting With Speech BubblesBoard-savvy CEOs like Carm Basile, Steve Bland, and Susan Meyer have brought off really productive and energizing board-CEO-executive team retreats that have strengthened their boards’ governing capacity and the board-CEO working relationship.  By the way, a real retreat (as opposed to just a long meeting) lasts at least a full day and often 1 ½ days.  The key to a productive and energizing retreat is a well-structured and facilitated retreat design process that involves selected board members (perhaps your planning and development committee, the governance [or board operations] committee, or an ad hoc design committee) and the CEO in thinking … Read the rest

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