During the half-day workshop I presented on February 10 at the CEO Seminar of the American Public Transportation Association in New Orleans, we spent several minutes talking about a technique that CEOs can employ in strengthening board performance and cementing their working relationship with their board: treating their board as a special program that the CEO heads. This very useful technique is described in the following excerpt from my newest book, The Board-Savvy CEO (www.theboardsavvyceo.com):
I’ve learned a very useful technique from board-savvy CEOs who have employed it with great success behind the scenes: acting as the “executive director” of the governing “program,” which encompasses the board, all of its governing processes, and the staff work involved in preparing for – and following up on – committee and full board meetings. Thinking of the governing function as a very important program that the CEO is responsible for managing is a practical way of translating the priority into actual practice. One CEO I know who makes effective use of this technique devotes a couple of hours every weekend to assessing “program” progress and doing “program” planning in two areas:
• Ongoing board operations: How is the governing process functioning? What issues have come up that need attention (for example, lagging attendance at planning committee meetings or inadequate staff preparation for finance committee meetings)? How should they be addressed (for example, bringing the attendance issue up at the next governance committee meeting for discussion)? What major governing events are on the horizon that need special attention (for example, the annual strategic planning work session, which needs to be on the agenda of the next executive team meeting to ensure adequate preparation).
• Long-term board development: What serious long-term board development issues are emerging, such as the need for an update board role description, or an inadequate process for recruiting new board members, which is resulting in an increasingly “birds of a feather” board dangerously lacking in diversity? What steps need to be taken to deal with the emerging issues, such as impaneling a governance task force or holding a special governance work session? What’s the most effective way to bring these developmental issues to the board’s attention, for example, jointly with the board chair at the next governance committee meeting?