Bring in outside, expert help

Here is part six of six. I hope these suggestions find their way to the CCA board and the board finds them useful in finding a successor to Mr. Glackas.

Reality 6: Organizational assistance is available, if a board is interested in seeking it.

Asking for help isn’t easy. It is even more difficult when it is not recognized that help is needed or would be useful. When the Dallas County Workforce Board reorganized a few years ago to fulfill the requirements of the new workforce legislation approved by Congress, outside help was requested. It was my privilege to be appointed to that board. On a recommendation from our exec, we selected Dr. John Carver to lead us through the reorganization process. In all my years of association management, having served in all kinds of roles, I have never been with a more effective, more competent authority on nonprofit and public board operation.

Dr. Carver is president of Carver Governance Design, Inc., a firm that consults with boards and CEOs of public, nonprofit, and business organizations. With his wealth of experience, having studied nonprofit and public boards for years, he is full of useful ideas and concepts that are worth reviewing. Space here is too limited to cover them all or even many. I recommend his book, Boards That Make a Difference, published by Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Some of his more meaningful observations and wise counsel are:

“No single relationship in the organization is as important as that between the board and the chief executive officer. Probably no single relationship is as easily misconstrued or has such dire potential consequences. That relationship, well conceived, can set the stage for effective governance and management.”

“Defining a Chief Executive Officer – Except for a few unique functions of the board, almost all organizational activities are performed by the staff … boards ordinarily choose to coordinate these intricate parts by employing a ‘chief executive officer’ to put all the pieces in place. More than a mere coordinator, a CEO is accountable for all parts coming together in an acceptable whole. The CEO becomes the board’s bridge to the staff, a role more distinct than merely lead staff members. The board has only one employee, the CEO.”

To achieve this, Dr. Carver advocates the creation of a policy statement on the subject, “Delegation to the Chief Executive Officer,” which clearly states what the exec can and can’t do.

His book further describes the importance of periodic evaluations of the CEO, pointing out that in order for this to be effective, there must be a clear understanding of the role and responsibility of the board. He also suggests something I have never seen done, except by the Dallas County Workforce Development Board – having the board evaluate their own performance to determine if it can be improved.

Certainly, Dr. Carver is not the only noted expert in this field. They exist and would bring to the process a wealth of knowledge and experience that might enable our association to take the next steps into the future. However, a day with him might be very revealing.

The changing of the guard in the executive office is an ideal time to pause and consider where we are, and “what we want as an association to be when we grow up.” Accurately defining the role of the board and the CEO is an essential step in the process of finding a new president. The exercise would be well worth the time and effort.

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