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Top-Flight Performance Won’t Keep the Relationship With Your Board Healthy

May 5, 2022 0 Comments

When I walked in Rich’s office for our weekly project review meeting, I found him slumped at his desk looking distraught.  When I asked him what’d happened, he just said “take a look,” handing me a form.  It was the annual performance evaluation his board had performed a couple of days ago.  Scanning the document, I couldn’t fathom his distress since his scores were uniformly high – in fact, superb.  That is, until I reached the bottom and saw the conclusion, which said in so many words, “You do a great job, but we find working with you impossible.”  He Read the rest

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Bagging Three Big Feathered Friends

April 14, 2022 0 Comments

Let me tell you a tale of two authorities’ very different approaches to presenting financial performance reports at their monthly board meetings.  Authority A takes a pretty traditional approach.  The authority’s CFO thoroughly reviews the multi-page financial report, consisting of rows and columns of numbers, with the board’s finance committee, which passes the report along to the full board in the monthly board meeting packet.  The CFO presents highlights from the report at the full board meeting and answers any questions the board might have.

Authority B’s approach is dramatically different.  The CFO takes the board’s performance monitoring committee through … Read the rest

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CEO Leadership on the Governance Front:  Reflections on an Emerging New Model

March 24, 2022 0 Comments

This is how the chief executive officer of a large, urban public transit system responded to my question about engaging his board in the annual budget preparation process in a one-on interview kicking off a board development project a decade ago.

“What’s the process for engaging my board members in shaping the annual budget document before taking action on it?  I’m not sure what you mean by that question.  As CEO, I’m accountable for getting a complete, carefully prepared budget to the board at least six weeks before the end of the fiscal year. My board’s accountable for doing a Read the rest

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Creating Board Development Champions

March 10, 2022 0 Comments

You might recall that a year or so ago, we posted two articles on the subject of board capacity building – what is popularly known as board development.  Our March 25, 2021 post makes the case for launching formal board development initiatives and describes the key elements of board development:  https://boardsavvytransitceo.com/solving-the-board-development-puzzle-the-what-and-the-why/ .  Our April 14, 2021 post describes two vehicles for developing your board’s governing capacity  – the daylong governance retreat and the governance task force that meets five or six times:  https://boardsavvytransitceo.com/solving-the-board-development-puzzle-the-how/.

Both vehicles have proved to be highly reliable vehicles when provided with strong executive support, but … Read the rest

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A Rock-Solid Board President-CEO Leadership Team at Work at GCRTA

March 4, 2022 0 Comments

In the video interview we recently recorded, Rev. Charles Lucas, Board President, and India Birdsong, General Manager/CEO, of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority describe the close, positive, and highly productive partnership they’ve developed.  It is indicative of a striking development in the rapidly evolving field of public transit governance:  the recognition that a really solid board chair-CEO leadership team is critical to the CEO’s success, to the authority’s performance, and to its image in the community.  GCRTA is in the vanguard of the growing number of public transit authorities led by dynamic chair-CEO duos.

This recognition is a latecomer … Read the rest

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Making the Annual Budget Preparation Process an Innovation Engine

February 8, 2022 0 Comments

I’ve never come across a CEO who wasn’t pretty much an expert in the art of annual budget preparation by the time she first takes the helm of an authority. This isn’t the least surprising when you think about it.  Climbing the professional ladder, CEO-aspirants have typically devoted hundreds of hours to preparing, reviewing, revising, and – eventually, at a senior executive level – consolidating budget requests by the time they reach the top.  These newly minted chief executive officers understand how to capitalize on the budget preparation process as a highly effective and reliable vehicle for exerting management control. … Read the rest

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The Compelling Case for a Strong Board External/Stakeholder Relations Committee

February 1, 2022 0 Comments

“Incredible.  We must be talking about 40 or more stakeholders.”  This was one of the responses to the question I asked in the daylong governance work session I was facilitating, after the  breakout group dealing with stakeholder relations had completed its report in plenary session.  The group had made a list of critical stakeholders  – defined as external organizations with which it made sense for the transit authority to maintain a relationship because something important was at stake – and then identified strengths and weaknesses in each of what appeared to be the ten highest-stakes relationships.  The question I had … Read the rest

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Two Lynchpins of a High-Performing Board Committee Structure

January 25, 2022 0 Comments

While preparing for an upcoming workshop with the CEO of a transit authority and her executive team recently, focusing on the nuts and bolts details involved in launching a new board committee structure, I reflected on a seminal learning experience early in my career, when I was chief of staff to the president of a three-campus urban community college district.  How fortunate I was to learn such an important lesson so early in my professional journey that has served me well in the ensuing years!   Here’s the story in a nutshell.

Over the course of the three years he chaired … Read the rest

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What’s in Your Board Chair’s Compensation Package?

January 19, 2022 0 Comments

I’ll never forget walking into a transit authority’s board room several years ago. I found the board chair – a highly influential attorney – fuming.  When I asked what was wrong, he handed me a clipping from the community affairs section of the local paper, saying “read this and you’ll see.”  The piece was a glowing review of the authority’s new agreement with the local three-campus community college system – providing frequent, convenient bus service to students.  I couldn’t see what the problem was until I got near the end of the piece, when I read a long quote from … Read the rest

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SEPTA’s Leslie Richards:  Passionate Out of the Box Innovator-in-Chief

December 18, 2021 0 Comments

What I call “out of the box” innovation is the road less traveled for many if not most public and nonprofit organizations for a number reasons.  Out of the box innovation focuses on addressing issues – change challenges in the form of both problem and opportunities – that force an organization outside the “box” of its current mission and operating plan/budget.   Perhaps the most formidable barrier making this kind of innovation the exception to the rule is the very normal human resistance to significant change.  But a close second is the absence of really strong, hands-on chief executive leadership.  I’ve … Read the rest

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