CEO to CEO: Talkin’ Board Chairs
How do you prepare for new board chairs? Association executives share their strategies.
Scott Lynch, CAE
President and CEO, American Boiler Manufacturers Association, Vienna, Virginia
Ideally, the incoming chair will have spent a few years as the vice chair and engaged in all major decision making. About six months before the new chair takes over, we begin to include them in regular calls with the outgoing chair to help them understand the role. This also allows for opportunities to figure out their preferences, as I am always flexible if they want to structure the relationship differently than their predecessors in terms of how often we speak or what updates they want.
G. Larry Merrill, CAE
Executive Director, Michigan Townships Association, Lansing, Michigan
The partnership requires mutual trust. Because my association’s leadership development system emphasizes collaboration and strategic continuity, conversations with the incoming board chair focus on communications—to what level of detail does the incoming board chair expect to be informed or what mode of communication does he or she prefer. I also stress that I am here to make the board leadership look good. We also attend ASAE’s CEO Symposium or Exceptional Boards seminar.
CEO, Association of Residential Cleaning Services International, Columbus, Ohio
At my previous organization, onboarding a new chair simply involved walking down the street to their office a few times to discuss the organization, their role, my role, and what they wanted to achieve. I continue this tradition with the incoming chairs at ARCSI during a three-day “mini-retreat” in their location. I learn about the daily challenges they face and what’s important to them, and they learn about me and my management style. While the cost of the annual trip can be challenging, it is far outweighed by the benefits.
Lynda J. Patterson, FASAE, CAE
President and Owner, AMPED—Association Management Partners and Executive Directors, Madison, Wisconsin
Once the chair is elected, we ask, “What do you hope to report to members in your outgoing message a year from now?” This question helps chairs identify specific goals they want to accomplish. While each chair brings a unique personality and perspective, they must exude confidence and commitment to the organization. We hold one-on-one meetings with new chairs to discuss leaders and leadership styles they admire, help them articulate their goals, and, ultimately, set the stage for their “year in review” speech.