On a + note


Working for a Board: Part 2. #8: 2013.

Posted in on a + note by flickfancy on February 25, 2013

kitty #8In this second post about working with a board, I have collected some of the realities other folks won’t tell you:

  • Working for a library board is a tough way to make a living. Library CEO’s live “at the pleasure of the board.” The goal posts are always changing and so are the players. If you are an individual who likes routine and consistency, being a library CEO may not be for you. Often, I start my day with a game plan, just to have it altered as I deal with the ebb and flow of interruptions. I thrive in the variety and the unexpected, but it’s not for everyone!
  • When the board is working well, it is a great job. If it isn’t, it’s hell. My rule of thumb is that for every four board meetings, one will be tough. It is during those times that I have to remind myself that, ultimately, the board knows best, even if I can’t see it. Working for a board is a leap of faith.
  • Working with a board is all about making friends. Creating a personal connection with each board member opens the door to great decision making and makes your job as CEO a whole lot more interesting.
  • If there is in-fighting at the board level, there eventually will be in-fighting and dissent at the staff level, as well. All things roll downhill!
  • Most library board Chairs/Presidents hate to be surprised. When caught off guard by the media, other politicians, or the public, the Chair will be unhappy. If the Chair is unhappy, so is the CEO. Keep the Chair up to date, especially on controversial issues like unexpected library closings, HR, or facility issues that may go public. Ironically, I much prefer to be the bearer of bad news, than mopping up afterwards!
  • An honest and sincere apology will go a long way to mending fences.
  • In 2013, a successful CEO needs to be fleet and flexible. An organization moves only as quickly or slowly as its leader. If you are dragging your heels on a decision, the staff is, too.
  • The smart coach knows when to change quarterbacks. Sometimes, a new face is just what is needed to wrap up a project and bring it across the goal line.
  • When the $#*! hits the fan, the safest place to be standing is behind the board Chair/President. When you feel the earth shifting under your feet, and you are unsure where you should stand, behind the boss is always a good choice! The trick is to remember this in the heat of the moment.
  • When being a library CEO is no longer challenging and fun, move on. The board will sense very quickly if you are burning out or ready for a new chapter in your life. The good thing is that a background in library science and experience working for a board equips you for many other career choices. Plus, leaving on your own steam is significantly better than being shown the door.
  • Laughter and a sense of humour are truly the best tools when working with a board. I consider it a successful board meeting when they have made some good decisions and shared a laugh or two. Regularly, I share with the board (and staff) some library humour, a good story, or a funny photo. Folks learn and remember so much more if they laugh.

So, there you have it! Everything I know about being a CEO and working with a board is now at your fingertips.

Have a swell week! Spring is on its way…really.

Kitty Pope                                                                           #8 February 2013

kpope@library.guelph.on.ca

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One Response to 'Working for a Board: Part 2. #8: 2013.'

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  1. Bill Manson said,

    Great series, Kitty. I’d add one more. If you don’t give the Board something to chew on, they’ll likely chew on you. On the other hand, if you consistently overload the meetings, they’ll get tired and crabby. It’s a fine balancing act.


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