One of my most satisfying and fulfilling experiences as a nonprofit/public governance adviser over the past forty years was working closely with Jeff Finkle, then CEO of the International Economic Development Council, twenty-some years ago in designing the structure and governing processes of the new IEDC Board of Directors. The recent merger of the American Economic Development Council and the Council for Urban Economic Development to form IEDC had initially resulted in simply combining both organizations’ boards, which now had to be trimmed back to workable size and updated, drawing on dramatic developments in the field of nonprofit governance. The success of this complex project was due in large measure to Jeff’s making governance one of his top CEO priorities, his rock-solid commitment to working as a partner with the Board, and his dedication to strengthening his Board’s governing capacity.
For nearly a half-century, Jeff has played a leading role in shaping the field of international economic development, and during his thirty-six years at the helm of IEDC, he was widely recognized as a leader in economic development governance. On his watch, the IEDC Board became an exemplary governing body, and Jeff created a model for effective board-CEO collaboration. I was delighted when Jeff accepted my invitation to record the video interview that you’ll find at the end of this blog post. And I truly appreciated his taking an hour out of his tremendously demanding schedule – on the eve of a forty-day Asian odyssey, no less – to make the recording last week.
I’m sure our readers will find Jeff’s account of building close, productive partnerships with a succession of IEDC Board Chairs over the course of his thirty-six years as IEDC’s President and CEO quite interesting and instructive. Perhaps the primary key to his extraordinary success in fashioning a rock-solid partnership with the IEDC Board was his hands-on, up-close-and-personal approach to fashioning mutually beneficial working relationships with his Board Chairs. As he says in our interview, he always went out of his way to provide his Chairs with “non-monetary compensation,” in the form of ego-satisfying opportunities to shine in public, such as speaking at annual conferences, and he made sure that his Chairs were actively engaged in fashioning strategies to address complex issues, such as increasing member dues. And while the size of the IEDC Board made one-on-one interaction with Board members impractical, Jeff religiously attended every one of the Board’s standing committee meetings and worked closely with committee chairs.
Hearing Jeff, a consummate master of the complex, high-stakes governing game, describe the lessons he learned at the helm of IEDC for thirty-six years about cementing the board-CEO partnership in the video we recorded will, I promise you, be well worth your time.