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Don’t Unwittingly Turn Your Board Members Into Victims of Poorly Designed Structure and Process

October 15, 2020 0 Comments

A transit CEO  called me not long ago, asking if I’d be interested in presenting a governance training workshop for his transit board.  He explained that several board members were coming dangerously close to “micro-managing,” and he wanted them to understand the boundaries between “executive” and “governing” work.  The example he gave involved a discussion at the most recent board meeting about travel expenditures over the past six months, including how decisions were made about who would be taking what trips and what kinds of reports were required about travel.

I agreed that there did appear to be some micro-managing … Read the rest

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Board Spear Carriers:  Protecting the CEO’s Line of Credit

September 28, 2020 0 Comments

Over the course of my 30-plus years of work with public transit boards and their CEOs, I’ve learned that executives aspiring to take the helm of a transit authority are often woefully ill-prepared to build the kind of partnership with their new board that is critical to their success and to their longevity at the top.  Dave Stackrow and I, in our new book Building a Solid Board-CEO Partnership (Governance Edge 2019), discuss two major reasons for this often-professionally fatal shortcoming:  the absence of detailed, practical, experience-based courses on governance generally and board-CEO relationship building particularly in graduate schools of … Read the rest

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Traveling the Road Less Traveled:  a Conversation with Change Master Ben Limmer

September 22, 2020 0 Comments

In my book Leading Out-of-the-Box Change (Governance Edge, 2012), I call really significant, self-planned and self-managed innovation and change a “road less traveled,” observing that it “is not only extraordinarily difficult to accomplish, it’s also the distinct exception to the rule.”  One of the most important potholes you can expect to encounter on this little-traveled road has disrupted many more than one change journey:  the very natural and virtually inevitable human resistance to change.  Indeed, my long experience working with nonprofit and public organizations has taught me that the psychological – often viscerally emotional – resistance to   change tends to … Read the rest

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Joanna Pinkerton and Emille Williams Discuss the CEO-COO Partnership at COTA

September 18, 2020 0 Comments

In the video interview I recorded with them a couple of weeks ago, Joanna Pinkerton, President/CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), and COTA’s Deputy CEO, Emille Williams, explain why COTA’s version of the classic chief executive officer-chief operating officer (CEO-COO) structure works so well for the transit authority of the second largest and fastest growing metropolitan area in the Midwest.  Perhaps most importantly, Emille’s focus on internal operations makes it possible for Joanna to concentrate on her working relationship with the COTA Board, the formulation of long-run growth strategies, and COTA’s relationships with key stakeholder organizations in Greater … Read the rest

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Bringing New Board Members On Board – the Right Way

August 24, 2020 0 Comments

The GM, along with his top five executives, made sure the two incoming board members, neither of whom had been involved with public transportation issues, got a thorough briefing on the authority during the two-hour orientation session in the GM’s office.   They learned about the authority’s services, organizational structure, revenue streams, expenditure budget, and long-range capital plan, among other things, referring frequently to the handsome notebook staff had put together. There was plenty of time to ask questions over the box lunch following the staff presentation, after which the chief operating officer took the incoming board members on a tour Read the rest

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Two Lynchpins of a High-Performing Board Committee Structure

August 13, 2020 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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Combatting the Zoom Muzzle Syndrome (ZMS)

August 6, 2020 0 Comments

Since mid-March of this year I’ve participated – wearing my governance counsel hat – in numerous virtual work sessions of client governing boards and standing committees, employing the popular Zoom video conferencing platform.  Zooming has made it possible for my clients to reach consensus on a wide range of governance improvement initiatives, such as putting in place updated board committee structures and processes to build and maintain a healthy board-CEO partnership.  There’s no question Zoom is a blessing, enabling my clients to significantly strengthen their governing structures and processes without exposing their board and executive team members to Covid-19.  But … Read the rest

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Welcome to the Frontier!

July 21, 2020 0 Comments

Dave Stackrow and I opened the APTA video webinar we recently presented under the auspices of the APTA Board Members Committee by observing that public transit governance is frontier territory.  Far from being a mature, fully developed field, transit governance is characterized by the absence of universally accepted principles and best practices, which are the subject of often-vociferous debate around the country.  In fact, when conducting research for our new book on transit governance, Building a Solid Board-CEO Partnership (Governance Edge, 2019), Dave and I weren’t surprised to learn – actually, confirm – that there’s not even widespread agreement on … Read the rest

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On the Eve of Independence Day

July 3, 2020 0 Comments

The following essay is excerpted from a post that originally appeared in this blog some four years ago.  On the eve of our 2020 Independence Day celebration, I think it is appropriate to reflect on the meaning of this national holiday. Of course, the Fourth of July is intended to celebrate the declaration of a new, independent nation in 1776.  But it is also intended to celebrate the millions of immigrants from myriad countries who have enriched and strengthened American society in so many wonderful ways over the last 250-some years.  The great majority of we Americans are descended from Read the rest

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Beware of the Passive-Reactive Board

June 8, 2020 0 Comments

Over the years, a basically passive-reactive approach to governing – a model of sorts – has been passed down and has predominated – and probably still predominates – in both the for-profit and public/nonprofit sectors.   This approach – or model – sees the governing board as basically a responsive body, rather than as a generator or initiator of actions or products.  You can picture the passive-reactive board sitting at the pinnacle of the organization, waiting for staff-initiated things – policy recommendations, documents such as plans and budgets that call for adoption, briefings that require no action, etc. – to arrive, … Read the rest

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