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Board Chair Trudy Bartley and President/CEO Joanna Pinkerton on Breaking the Traditional CEO Mold at COTA

June 1, 2021 0 Comments

Traditionally, at the top of the list of qualifications public transit boards specify when recruiting candidates for the CEO position is in-depth operational experience.  So it’s no surprise that over the years the great majority of vacant CEO positions have been filled with executives who have worked their way up the operational ladder in one or more transit authorities.  This operational bias is easily understandable.  Even small to medium-sized transit authorities are incredibly complex organizations – both operationally and technically – and it’s only natural to want an executive in the top spot who can keep the buses and trains … Read the rest

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Your Board Chair:  a Primo Stakeholder You Neglect at Your Peril

May 20, 2021 0 Comments

The special board work session had been scheduled to consider a key recommendation coming out of the daylong board-CEO-executive team governance retreat three  weeks earlier: replacing the board’s dysfunctional silo committees (e.g.,  paratransit services) with committees aligned with the board’s broad governing functions (e.g., strategic and operational planning).  Not long into the session, the CEO realized that her preparation had been  fatally flawed.  When five particularly obstreperous board members launched a full-bore attack on the recommended structure, the CEO expected the board chair to join her in beating back the attack.  Alas, he sat back quietly, leaving her alone at … Read the rest

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Your CEO Mindset is Key to Successfully Partnering With Your Board

May 10, 2021 0 Comments

A staple of my one-on-one governance coaching sessions with transit CEOs in recent years has been the critical role that I call “Mindset” plays in building and maintaining a close, positive, productive and enduring board-CEO partnership.  What am I talking about?  In a nutshell, Mindset is how you, as your authority’s chief executive officer, picture yourself vis a vis your transit board.  Experience has taught me that if you bring the wrong mindset to the relationship with your board, it probably won’t matter what other partnership building steps you take (for example, reaching agreement with board members on guidelines for … Read the rest

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The Urgent Need for Practical Governance Guidance:  CEO Success Depends on It!

May 5, 2021 0 Comments

A recent executive team work session I facilitated included at least four executives who appeared to be on the chief executive career track – who were what we call “CEO-aspirants.”  The subject of our work session was the role of executives and senior managers in supporting the authority’s governance process, with special attention to the role of executives who’d been assigned  to serve as “Chief Staff Liaisons” to the board’s standing committees.  Several of the questions I was asked during our six hours together only reinforced what I’d already learned in countless similar sessions over the years:  Transit CEO-aspirants and … Read the rest

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Solving the Board Development Puzzle:  the How

April 14, 2021 0 Comments

Our readers might recall that the March 25 post at this blog dealt with two pieces of the board development puzzle:  WHAT does board development mean?  WHY is it critical that the CEO spearhead board development, wearing the Board Developer-in-Chief hat?  The post points out that your transit board – like any other formal organization – can be consciously and systematically developed into an organization more capable of carrying out its mission:  to govern your authority.  Of course, board development is an ongoing function because the field of transit governance is continuously evolving.  Another important point the post makes is … Read the rest

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Solving the Board Development Puzzle: the What and the Why  

March 25, 2021 0 Comments

The half-day Zoom governance workshop I presented a couple of weeks ago for 25-some CEOs of a diverse array of transit authorities included a segment on board development.  Early in my career I would  have been a trifle worried that the topic might be ho-hum for some of the more seasoned  CEOs, but I soon learned I needn’t have been concerned.   Since much of the terrain we covered in the workshop turned  out to be refreshingly new to the great majority of my participants,  I think readers of this blog will be interested  in the key points  that came up … Read the rest

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King Richard III:  A Case For Aggressive Image Building

March 10, 2021 0 Comments

And therefore since I cannot prove a lover to entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain and hate the idle pleasures of these days.  Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous….

Ah, King Richard III:   how we love to hate him, how we shiver at his delicious villainy!  He was Duke of Gloucester when William Shakespeare put these words in his mouth in the monologue that opens his riveting “The Tragedy of King Richard the Third,” and in the play Richard soon murders his way to the throne of England, his most infamous victims being his … Read the rest

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CEO-Centric Leadership Targets Are Key to a Solid Board-Chief Executive Partnership

March 2, 2021 0 Comments

Around fifteen years ago I was retained to facilitate  a half-day work session involving a transit board and its CEO.  In our initial call to discuss the work session objectives, the board chair and  CEO agreed that there was one preeminent objective:  repairing a badly frayed board-CEO  partnership that, in their estimation, was dangerously close to the breaking point.  The  one-on-one interviews I conducted with all fifteen board members and the CEO as part of  my preparation for the event indicated a startling and dangerous divergence of opinion.  Nine of the board members strongly believed  that their CEO’s top leadership … Read the rest

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Beware of the Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome

February 20, 2021 0 Comments

“You’re pretty obviously over your head and can’t really understand what we’re doing.  Instead of getting people riled up, why don’t you get yourself up to speed and join the team?”  This is what I was told in so many words several years ago – early in my public management career – when I had questioned the progress that a consulting team reported it was making in upgrading the financial management system of a large public transportation agency.  Reflecting on that experience years later, I think what was at work was a modern version of that classic cautionary tale, “The … Read the rest

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CEO Andre Colaiace on Access Services Innovation in Response to Covid-19

February 8, 2021 0 Comments

In my experience, significant, well-planned, and capably executed organizational change is the exception to the rule, for a number of reasons, perhaps most importantly the normal human resistance to changing.  Well, I’m pleased to report that Access Services in Los Angeles County has beat the odds.

When you watch Andre Colaiace, Executive Director of Access Services,  describe the safety and service innovations Access has implemented in response to Covid-19 in the video interview I recorded with him recently, you’ll understand why Andre has been such a successful Innovator-in-Chief at the helm of Access Services.  Four keys to effective change leadership … Read the rest

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