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Adrian Sallis

Nov 10, 2023

Association Governance - A CEO's Perspective Part III


The following is Part 3 of a 4-part interview series with Robyn Pickerill, the CEO of the Franchise Association of New Zealand. Our conversation centred around her experience of Governance and board management. She also shares tools and advice that Association CEOs, especially new ones, will find useful.

You can read the other parts of the interview here:

Part I      Part II      Part IV

Robyn Pickerill - FANZ Logo

How does the board set and measure organisational goals and deliverables?

FANZ has regular strategic planning sessions. On occasions third party consultants have assisted with the strategic planning, however, that can get expensive and sometimes the external party does not fully understand our business. We have found using our own internal talent to work very well. 

Reality and strategic implementation can sometimes be two different things. The strategic plan does need to align to your resource capability, and I believe that in a not-for-profit, where funding is very tight, and people's resources are very tight it can be a real challenge. FANZ strategic goals are regularly referred to and frequently reviewed.

Your relationship specifically with the board chair, is obviously a very important one, how do you maintain a strong working relationship?

Over the time I have been at FANZ I have got to know many people and the board chairs who have held office have been long term board members.  I have been fortunate in being able to speak with them as required. I endeavour not to bother them too much and to be cognizant of their busy timetables. 

It is important to understand how your chair prefers to operate, and this assists in a great working relationship.  I might think, for example, that Monday morning is a good time to connect but for your chair this is likely not the case as that’s when they are having their own team meeting and focussing on their business. You need to be aware of their activities and time commitments and sort out an arrangement that suits both of you. It is best to do this at the beginning of the relationship. Simply talk to them about how they like to operate and what their expectations are? 

What are some of the biggest challenges CEOs face when working with a board? Not necessarily in your case, but in what you hear from other CEOs. 

I do hear people being challenged by the personalities on a board, or the issue of governance versus management. That can be a real frustration for people and sometimes that line might not be clear. I have not come across any great challenges; with the boards I have worked with. I believe it all comes down to good communication, and your ability to get on with people, as at its heart it’s a people business. 

If I were to have a problem relating to a particular person, this would be a flag to me to organise to have a coffee with them. It’s important to understand where they are coming from and equally important for them to understand your challenges.  Interestingly you might find during this conversation that there is an underlying issue which once out in the open, is easily resolved.

I do hear of other CEOs with challenges in working with their boards but for me, I really enjoy the people on our board and the experiences and knowledge they bring and share. Remembering too, that they are volunteering their time in the interests of bettering our association and supporting me, I feel very fortunate, and FANZ is very fortunate.

If you do need to have a difficult conversation with someone, how do you go about it? Face-to-face, online, email or over a phone?

I'm quite pleased that it hasn't really happened in our association, but I think if anything, face-to-face is the preferred way to meet. But if you can't, you have to pick up the phone or set up an online call with them. You could also consider, whether just adjusting your own mindset, may be a path to resolving the issue.

If you do get to a point where a meeting is necessary, try to relate to them by getting to know them better, show a personal interest in them, their families and business, that holiday that they went on or whatever, just try and relate better to them. Then I think you are generally on a better platform to work through any issues.

Continue with the interview

You can read the other parts of the interview here:

Part I      Part II      Part IV

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Association Governance - A CEO's Perspective Part II

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