The January 27 post at this blog – “How Ironic – and Dangerous!” – talks about how little attention has been paid to helping senior public transportation executives who are CEO-aspirants get ready to work with a board. This is really ironic when you consider that the single most important factor determining a public transportation CEO’s success – and longevity at the helm – is the board-CEO partnership, which is always fragile in the best of times. As I observe in the article, for every board-CEO relationship I’ve seen come to grief because of an operational performance problem, resulting in the CEO’s premature departure, I’ve seen 10 relationships bite the dust because the CEO hasn’t been able to manage the human dimension of her relationship with the board.
If you’re a CEO looking to hone your board-CEO relationship management skills and strategies or a CEO-aspirant preparing to work with a board, you’ll love this podcast by two of the board-savviest CEOs in the business: Carm Basile of CDTA in Albany and Steve Bland of Nashville’s MTA. Drawing on their accumulated 60 years-plus of experience in public transportation, Carm and Steve share what they’ve learned about building a really rock-solid, enduring partnership with their board. You’ll be pleased to know that Carm and Steve don’t waste time in their podcast talking about theoretical “little golden governance rules” (like distinguishing between board and CEO functions). Instead, they offer oodles of very practical, tested guidance that can be put to immediate use in board-CEO relationship building.
Carm and Steve agree that coming to the governance arena with a positive, non-defensive attitude – seeing the board as a precious asset rather than as a threat to be contained – is one of the most important factors in building a solid working relationship. They also agree that the governing function must be a top CEO priority. So they both spend lots of time working with their boards and interact frequently with individual board members, getting to know them really well in terms of their expectations, communication styles and even their ego needs. And I was intrigued by a suggestion Carm came up with that I don’t think I’ve heard before: that CEO-aspirants should actively seek out opportunities to serve on nonprofit and public boards as a way of learning the governing business from the perspective of a board member.