CEO to CEO: Working With Board Leaders

How to work with board leaders and how board and staff should best interact.

One person does not and should not create the vision; it is the collective wisdom of leadership to change the vision as necessary. At ISA, the executive committee meets regularly to plan how the board evaluates the vision for the organization. The executive committee does not create the vision but develops a process through which the vision is created, and there is plenty of spirited and lively debate along the way. I am very fortunate to work with a group of elected leaders who believe that we can accomplish more together than any one of us could alone.

Lori M. Anderson, CAE, president and CEO, International Sign Association, Alexandria, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

I've found that having continuous conversation with the leader is the most effective strategy to gain support for, or at least an understanding of, a position. At the same time, you must keep an open mind and not immediately dismiss the leader's view simply because you might think "I'm right" or "my vision is better." Conversation allows you to discuss different opinions or beliefs, challenge each other, and reach some sort of ultimate consensus, either by a hybrid approach or one person yielding to the other. Being respectful of the leader's opinions will allow you to moderate what could be a difficult situation.

J. Clarke Price, CAE, president and CEO, Ohio Society of CPAs, Dublin, Ohio. Email: [email protected]

The most important thing is that I don't set the vision for the organization by myself and neither does the elected leader. The board of directors determines the vision and overall direction of the organization. Obviously, both the elected leader and I play very important and specific roles to ensure that we refine and stay on track with that vision and strategic direction. However, by reinforcing that we are facilitators of that vision and strategy, I am able to avoid having to completely adjust to a new vision and leadership style with each elected leader. A cultural expectation has been established where elected leaders will adjust their style to match the needs of the organization.

Jonathan Vaughn, executive director, Quest International Users Group, Lexington, Kentucky. Email: [email protected]

The best way to bridge the gap is to look to other elected leaders and the strategic plan to create the bridge. By so doing, I can stay away from any firing line. It is hard to refute what has been established in the strategic plan, which we put together to promote the vision and mission of the organization. When the elected leader with the unique vision is face to face with peers who don't support him or her, the elected leader's vision can be quickly diffused by referencing that strategic plan.

Mary Riemersma, CAE, executive director, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, San Diego. Email: [email protected]

How does your association involve members in the work of your staff?

Our goal is to have members guide us by painting broad strokes in big-picture strategy and policymaking while providing crucial insights into our industry and the marketplace. Those insights fuel our staff efforts to explore and implement new ideas, strategic directions, and beneficial results for members. Since refueling is essential to moving forward, we stoke an ongoing and cyclical dialogue in both formal and informal gatherings of the members, elected leaders, and professional staff, coupled with robust direct-mail communications and a diverse social media platform.

Kerry C. Stackpole, CAE, president and CEO, Printing and Graphics Association, MidAtlantic, Columbia, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

CBA is blessed to have a balance of staff and volunteer members. We leverage what we do because we have incredible commitment from our volunteers who work closely with our staff though committee work, advocacy, and financial planning. The key to this is having a highly skilled and credible staff who the volunteers respect. The second is to make sure the working relationship between the staff and volunteers is enjoyable. The third is to let volunteers know that their input is not only expected but also greatly appreciated. That combination, as well as the philosophy of having volunteers contact any staff member they need to, allows for strong involvement between staff and members.

John D.V. Hoyles, CEO, Canadian Bar Association, Ottawa, Ontario. Email: [email protected]

Members are often curious about the details of how staff "do the work" of their organizations. We provide copies from our own operations manual to apprise incoming members of our methodologies, particularly as they pertain to accounting, board preparation, and meeting planning during their orientation and training. Volunteers are welcome to visit our offices. These visits give a behind-the-curtain look at how we operate. Best of all, leaders often choose to adopt one or more of our policies as their own. Since staff has had a hand over the years in developing these policies, it gives them a sense of pride in their contributions and to the ongoing process of refining and monitoring.

Sammi Soutar, CAE, president, Able Management Solutions, Inc., Columbus, Ohio. Email: [email protected]

My staff and I work closely with our members to maximize both the impact of the advocacy we do on their behalf and the value of their membership.

We facilitate more than 30 groups to develop strategies for addressing challenges that affect members' ability to deliver services to everyone in need. These discussions often lead to our writing to policymakers and meeting with them, along with representative members, to illustrate the impact of these issues and facilitate collaboration to resolve these concerns.

To maximize the value of membership, we actively solicit ideas from our members about the types of training and other services that they would find helpful, and we seek their recommendations for presenters to deliver the training they need.

Debra Wentz, CEO, New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, Inc., Mercerville, New Jersey. Email: [email protected]

CEO to CEO Video Extra: Keeping Staff on Mission

Andrea Rutledge, CAE, executive director of the National Architectural Accrediting Board, explains how NAAB keeps its employees engaged with the mission of the organization.