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The Prohibitive Cost of a Weak Board-CEO Partnership

February 7, 2019 0 Comments

Dave Stackrow and I are pleased to tell you that our forthcoming book, Building a Solid Board-CEO Partnership:  A Practical Guidebook for Transit Board Members, CEOs, and CEO-Aspirants, has gone to press.  It should hit the streets in late March 2019.  The following fifth and final excerpt from our book talks about the high cost a transit authority will pay for letting the partnership between its board and CEO remain weak or deteriorate.

Your transit authority can expect to pay a high price for failing to develop a close, positive board-CEO partnership or for allowing it to deteriorate.  For … Read the rest

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GM Jeff Knueppel Walks the Employee Engagement Talk at SEPTA

February 4, 2019 0 Comments

Early in my career I experienced at close range a CEO not walking his talk.  I was serving as chief of staff to the president of a large three-campus community college.  With the urging of his board’s officers, my boss decided that he needed to focus far more heavily on the institution’s external agenda – specifically, on building close working relationships with the chief executives of critical stakeholder organizations like the community foundation and neighboring universities.  So, as a strategy to buy precious time for his expanded external role, the president tapped his executive vice president to become the college’s … Read the rest

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METRO’s CEO Tom Lambert: Consummate Innovator-in-Chief

January 23, 2019 0 Comments

The podcast that Tom Lambert, President & CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, recorded for this blog describes METRO’s new Office of Innovation, which has proved to be a very effective generator of “out of the box” change initiatives. Reporting directly to Tom, the Office isn’t a traditional planning organization. Rather, it fosters, nurtures and pilot tests practical innovation projects in partnership with internal operational units and with external stakeholder organizations. As Tom points out, the success of the office owes much to a highly supportive METRO Board of Directors that accepts that while most initiatives will … Read the rest

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Emerging New CEO Governing Model

January 7, 2019 0 Comments


The following article is excerpted from Doug Eadie and Dave Stackrow’s forthcoming book, Becoming Your Board’s Chief Governing Partner:  a Practical Guidebook for Transit CEOs and CEO-aspirants.

In our travels around the country these days, we see an increasing number of new-style public and nonprofit sector chief executives, including many in the transit industry, who you won’t find astride the fire wall vigilantly guarding against incursions by micro-managing board members.  This emerging new model of CEO leadership in the governing arena, which has no doubt emerged in reaction to the bankruptcy of the traditional view, sees the chief executive … Read the rest

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The Captain of Your Strategic Governing Team

January 3, 2019 0 Comments

The following article is excerpted from Doug Eadie and Dave Stackrow’s forthcoming book, Becoming Your Board’s Chief Governing Partner:  a Practical Guidebook for Transit CEOs and CEO-aspirants.

When a public transit board  chooses its CEO, it’s also choosing the de facto captain of the Strategic Governing Team.  Governing really is a collaborative venture, involving intensive, well-orchestrated teamwork to ensure that the decisions and judgments that constitute governing work are made in a full and timely fashion.  Your transit  board is obviously the most senior member of the Strategic Governing Team – the ultimate authority, judge and decision maker.  However, … Read the rest

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Governing Isn’t a Piece of Cake

November 27, 2018 0 Comments

As our most of you know, Dave Stackrow and I are writing a book, “Becoming Your Board’s Chief Governing Partner:  a Practical Guidebook for Transit CEOs and CEO-Aspirants.”  So you have a sense of where we’re headed with our book, we’d like to share our discussion in Chapter One of the challenges that can make developing your transit board into a really high-impact governing body a daunting endeavor.  Let us know what you think.  Are we headed in the right direction?

Transforming your public transit board into a really high-performing, high-impact governing body and building and maintaining a solid board-CEO … Read the rest

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Not Much Glamour – But What Looks Like a Sow’s Ear is Really a Silk Purse

November 9, 2018 0 Comments

“That doesn’t really sound very CEO-like” That was the initial reaction of a transit GM in our coaching session last year when I suggested that he put on what I called the “Chief Governing Process Designer Hat.” We were discussing an issue he’d identified in our session a couple of weeks earlier that he’d described as “terribly worrisome.” In a nutshell, although his relationship with the 15-member board seemed generally OK as far as he could tell – with no severe tension points or other obvious problems – he had a gut feel that most if not all of his … Read the rest

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

November 1, 2018 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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CEO Doug Allen Keeps a Close Eye on His Preeminent Stakeholders at VRE

October 29, 2018 0 Comments

Doug Allen, Chief Executive Officer of Virginia Railway Express, doesn’t need to hear this true cautionary tale, as you’ll see from the podcast he recently recorded for this blog.

A few years ago I arrived at the administrative offices of a mid-size transit authority to meet with the CEO, who wanted to discuss my possibly helping to design and facilitate a daylong board-executive team retreat.  On the telephone the day before, he’d told me that the situation was “pretty urgent” since his relationship with the board was terribly frayed. It turned out that I’d made a wasted trip.  Ushered into Read the rest

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Caveat Emptor: an Axiom All Really Board-Savvy CEOs Take to Heart

October 19, 2018 0 Comments

To judge from participants’ questions during and after the workshop that Dave Stackrow, Carm Basile and I presented on September 25 at the APTA Annual Meeting in Nashville, one of the concepts we discussed that struck a real chord was that “board-savvy” transit CEOs are a preeminent key to building a solid board-CEO partnership that can withstand the inevitable stresses and strains at the top of every transit authority.   And one characteristic of board-savvy CEOs that sparked the most discussion during our workshop was the ability to spot dubious assumptions about the rapidly changing field of transit governance that we … Read the rest

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