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Board Capacity Building

Another Insidious Foe To Avoid: Believing Board Committees Invite Micro-management.

June 17, 2016 0 Comments

 

jumping spiderOne of the erroneous governance assumptions that I described in the radio interview I did for the Michigan Business Network a few days ago is the notion that board standing committees are an invitation for transportation board members to dabble in executive and administrative matters – what is popularly known as “micro-management.”  You’ll recall from a couple of my recent posts at this blog that an erroneous assumption about an aspect of the public transportation governing business earns the designation “Insidious Foe” when two things are true.  First, the assumption is dangerous.  Taking it seriously and acting on it … Read the rest

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“What makes women such effective board members?”

March 2, 2016 0 Comments

“What makes women such effective board members?” That question came up over a glass of wine at the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) reception held at the Transportation Research Board conference this past January. Apparently, boards comprised of men and women have a superior track record compared to those run entirely by men. Several recent studies have come to this conclusion, including a 2012 Credit Suisse study of 2,360 organizations over a six-year span. It maintained that companies with women on their boards “delivered higher average returns on equity.” Why would this be?

We wondered about this while enjoying our wine … Read the rest

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Strengthening Your Board’s Performance Management Is a Wise Investment

December 2, 2015 1 Comment

In early October CEO Alex Clifford and his Board at Santa Cruz Metro spent a half day together discussing developments in the rapidly changing field of public transportation governance and brainstorming practical ways to transform an already good board into an even higher-impact governing body. One of the six breakout groups that generated content during the session (three groups meeting concurrently in each of two rounds) brainstormed targets and standards that Board members should hold themselves accountable for meeting, for example: attending Board meetings; being well-prepared for meetings; actively engaging in discussion. Their plan is to follow-through on the brainstorming … Read the rest

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There’s a Right Way to Involve Your Board in Governance Self-Assessment

September 30, 2015 0 Comments

Diverse People in Meeting With Speech Bubbles

Our previous post, “Don’t Get Caught in the Board Self-Assessment Trap,” tells the true story of a GM who’d been talked into having his board members fill in a questionnaire assessing their governing performance. He’d been told by a local nonprofit resource center that this was the “indispensable” first step in launching an initiative to strengthen the board’s governing capacity. To the GM’s dismay, the input he received from the self-assessment process turned out to be virtually useless in the capacity building effort. The reason was simple: the questionnaire input largely consisted of highly subjective opinions that weren’t based on … Read the rest

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Don’t Get Caught In the Board Self-Assessment Trap

September 1, 2015 4 Comments

iStock_000020585606Large I received an email promo last week from a national nonprofit ballyhooing its board self-assessment “tool,” which reminded me of a true story that goes back around four years. The GM of a large urban transportation authority called me to get my feedback on a dilemma he found himself in. He’d retained one of those local nonprofit leadership centers that have sprung up around the country in recent years to help design and carry out a board capacity building initiative that he saw as badly needed. He’d sought help, he said, because he’d grown increasingly worried about the pretty obvious … Read the rest

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Bringing New Board Member On Board – The Right Way

August 25, 2015 2 Comments

The GM, along with his top five executives, made sure the two incoming board iStock_000020585606Largemembers, 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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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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