The Board and CEO: Partners in Progress
by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional
“What’s the real-world role between a board and its CEO?” is a question often posed by board members and CEOs at director’s conferences around the land. A constant answer – with the intent of keeping all things Ockham’s Razor clear-cut – is “The CEO relies on his or her board for guidance just as much as that board relies on its CEO for execution. Focus your efforts and expectations on that central dynamic and you will achieve exceptional results from both parties.” These in mind, consider adding or enhancing the following elements to the forces at work between your Board and CEO.
If You Are the CEO:
Streamline and Support. Keep your reports straightforward and strategic, ensuring that your Board understands the drivers of earnings, profitability, and capitalization, as well as your credit union’s ability to sustain growth. Keep your Board members refreshed and on top of matters, especially as new developments present operational and strategic opportunities. Also, find the precise balance between strategy, tactics, and drilled-down details with an understanding that your Board wants assurance that daily activities will lead to strategic success.
Go one on one. Get to know each of your Board members, independently, taking the time to discover their personal and professional side. “Sit” on their side of the table, seeking an understanding of their reasons for sitting on your Board. Appreciate each of your Board member’s drivers and aspirations, discovering their vision for your credit union.
Engage your Board members. Expect questions from your Board members, making certain that you hear the thoughts and opinions of all. Encourage your Board members to gain industry expertise, allocating funds for conferences and certifications. Help your Board members be informed advisors through continuing education and meaningful participation.
Strive for accord. Prepare for both sides of an argument, knowing that consensus may involve compromise in order to move forward. Leave more time for discussion than presentation in your Board meetings, recognizing that strategic conversations about direction are often more important than last month’s operational details.
Be transparent. Share the good news and the bad news with your Board, unsullied. Its support helps you lead your credit union through all environments. Spring no surprises, giving your Board full disclosure. Learn what your Board wants from your credit union, discovering its perspective as representatives of the very members you serve.
If You Are on the Board:
Answer the question, “What’s required to be our CEO?” Determine your non-negotiables, defining what is required to be your credit union’s CEO. Work with your CEO on his or her strategic career growth, obtaining for your CEO the training and expertise he or she will need to lead your credit union’s strategic future.
Discover your CEO’s vision for the credit union. Where would he or she like to lead your credit union? What is required for that vision to begin and to be realized? How does your CEO’s vision match your Board’s collective vision for your credit union?
As a full Board, determine what you want your credit union to be and why that vision is necessary for your members. With your CEO, develop objectives to achieve what’s right and relevant for your members. Task your CEO with developing, explaining, and executing strategies. Regularly, review measures of progress to gauge your credit union’s strategic success.
Commit to being a wisely engaged board. Provide insight, advice, and support to your CEO. Conduct useful, two-way discussions about key decisions. Define areas where your Board wants to be very engaged, and areas where updates and information are the norm. Strategically, accept that permanence requires mobility; relevance requires innovation; and growth requires change.
Remain “big picture” while your CEO remains operationally focused. One progressive board at a West Coast credit union abides by a philosophy that it (the board) is responsible for establishing the “Why” and “What” for the credit union’s strategic objectives; the CEO is responsible for developing and executing strategies that involve the “How,” “Where,” “Who,” “When,” and “How Much?” As a full Board, concentrate on establishing objectives that support your credit union’s mission, and task your CEO with developing strategies and standards that are realistic and quantifiable.
The relationship between a board and its CEO is reciprocal; both necessitate assistance and action from the other in order to thrive. As your credit union continues to grow in governance and management, seek valuable ways to be jointly active and removed in the roles you accept and oversee. In the end, you will find success for both your Board and CEO, as both parties partner for progress, ensuring ongoing accomplishment for your credit union.
Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with financial services providers that want elite results in leadership, sales, and strategy. Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.