First 90 days of an association CEO


WHETHER you are a first-time association CEO or a veteran CEO moving to another association, the first 90 days are crucial in terms of taking stock, building relationships and setting directions and priorities.

I can relate to this as I recall my situation decades ago when I became a CEO of an international association. So when I was invited to attend the “Association Insiders Series” webinar of the Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE), I immediately grabbed the opportunity to relive my experience.

In the session themed “New CEO: First 90 days,” a panel discussion shared their insights and experience as new CEOs and how they navigated their first 90 days. The panelists were: Outdoors NSW & ACT CEO Lori Modde; MND Australia CEO David Ali; and, Association of Rotational Moulders Australasia Ltd. CEO Michelle Rose. Moderating the session was AuSAE CEO Toni Brearley.

Below are my takeaways:

1. First things first. The panelists agreed there is no such a thing as a “CEO playbook” and that situations vary from association to association with regard to organizational culture, board dynamics and member expectations. What was critical for them was creating the atmosphere of trust between them and the board members, staff and members. Open and frank communication was an essential part of their first few days on the job while keeping their “eyes and ears open” and with “feet on the ground.”

2. Relating with the Board. All concurred a good board-CEO relationship is key to a healthy and strong organization and that both sides need to understand their respective roles. One of the main functions of the CEO is to make sure there is alignment of organizational strategies, as well as that of the aspirations of the stakeholders. Other vital aspects of relating to the board are to make known what the CEO stands for, to demonstrate confidence to do what is required and to manifest the ethical dimensions that go with the job.

3. Facing challenges. They considered initial challenges as the “tricky bits” which mainly related to staff capacity limitation and financial and technology resource constraints, especially because of the pandemic. They agreed, however, that collaboration with association stakeholders, like-minded organizations and government is a critical aspect to mitigate these difficulties.

4. Working remotely. Other challenges revolve around the issue of engaging with, providing services to and retaining their members as exhaustion sets in due to multiple Zoom meetings with the board, staff and members, multitasking and pushing the change agenda that they believe is needed under the circumstances.

5. Advice to aspiring CEOs: This includes understanding yourself first before others, being realistic of your own capabilities; having the confidence to do the job; and “building the bricks up.”

I was happy I attended the webinar and was able to reimagine going through the same situation again as what the panelists have experienced in their first 90 days on the job. If I have to pick one of the abovementioned facets of leading an association, I would choose board-CEO relationship as a pivotal consideration to focus on first.

Column contributor Octavio Peralta is Founder and CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives. PCAAE is holding the Associations Summit 9 (AS9) on November 24 and 25, 2021. The two-day virtual event is supported by the Tourism Promotions Board. E-mail for more details on AS9.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

Leave a Reply