The CA Board of Directors finally approved CA President & CEO Lakey Boyd’s annual performance goals and objectives at their board meeting on July 28th (see recap). Ultimately, the goals - and the process leading to their approval - demonstrate that the CA Board is more focused on themselves than on serving the community.
This post attempts to convey the relevance of these goals to the community, summarize the broken process that led to their approval, and describe the goals themselves.
Importance of the Performance Goals & Objectives to Columbia
The President and CEO’s performance goals and objectives (henceforth “goals”) indicate the priorities of the CA Board and will influence how the CEO prioritizes her efforts. Anyone who enjoys a bike path, pool, or tot-lot, or who pays CA’s HOA fees is downstream of these objectives and should care whether the goals prioritize things that will make CA more effective at serving the community.
Additionally, one of the most - if not the single most – important responsibility of CA’s Board of Directors is to recruit and retain effective executive leadership for CA. The performance goals have a direct impact on CA’s ability to retain the current CEO in multiple ways:
Clear, consistent, and realistic goals are important to evaluating and fairly compensating the CEO
Challenging goals that are aligned with the CEO’s career aims honor the commitment the board made to the CEO by hiring her and are important to job satisfaction
Granting the CEO leeway to achieve ambitious goals without micromanaging or dictating how the goals are accomplished shows respect for the CEO’s competence and previous career success
In addition to impacting CA’s ability to retain the current CEO, the way the board treats the CEO will impact CA’s ability to recruit effective leaders in the future, whenever that need arises. An effective leader can build organization culture, create efficiencies, grow future leaders, improve and expand services to residents, provide vision, and build towards the future of CA. It is in Columbia’s residents’ interests that the board, through the CEO’s goals and other means, treat the CEO with respect so that the community can recruit and retain effective leadership.
Process and Timeliness
The timeline and process used to develop the goals was lengthy and contentions.
This delay in approving the goals this year, however, was driven largely by two long-serving board members: Ginny Thomas (Oakland Mills) and Dick Boulton (Dorsey Search). As long serving board members, Ms. Thomas and Mr. Boulton had ample opportunity to prepare their thoughts and recommendations for the CEO’s goals well in advance. They did not.
For a full accounting of the board meeting and work sessions that addressed the goals, you can read previous recaps on The Merriweather Post (see June 9; June 23; July 14 and July 28 CA Board meeting recaps). In summary, Ms. Boyd provided the Board with her proposed goals several days prior to the 9 June work session where they were discussed for the first time. At that work session, no board member proposed a clear amendment, addition, or other alteration to the Ms. Boyd’s draft goals. The subsequent meeting demonstrated that this was due to a lack of preparation by several board members. The Board was scheduled to vote on the goals at the 23 June meeting; however, despite not proposing any recommended changes at the relevant work session, Ms. Thomas introduced a substantial last-minute alteration. This prevented the approval of the goals at that meeting. Over the next several meetings and work sessions, multiple ideas for the goals were raised. The board continued to suggest various alterations for the goals until just before they were approved at the 28 July meeting, after one quarter of the relevant year had passed. In the end, six board members voted to approve the goals, two (Janet Evans of Long Reach and Bill Santos of Wilde Lake) voted to oppose, and two board members (Andy Stack of Owen Brown and Sheri Zaret of Kings Contrivance) were not present at the meeting.
Throughout the lengthy process, it was clear that the goals were not being developed in a collaborative manner: individual board members repeatedly raised new modifications to the goals without providing other board members or Ms. Boyd advanced opportunity to review the proposals and provide thoughtful feedback. Specifically, several goals such as taking a key role in influencing Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration and defending Symphony Woods from encroachment were never discussed in a public meeting prior to the approval of the goals on July 28th. This gave the impression that portions of the board had met in closed meetings to discuss them.
Additionally, on several occasions, Ms. Boyd attempted to convey the negative impact some of the goals would have by diverting resources away from efforts that serve the community and instead address onerous requirements proposed in the goals – these concerns were dismissed by the Board.
The drawn-out discussions indicated several philosophical differences regarding the goals amongst the board members. To their credit, Alan Klein (Harper’s Choice) and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Stack observed these differences and helped articulate them in precise terms for the other board members to consider. These differences included:
The extent that the goals should be measurable or associated metrics to help judge the CEO’s performance
The extent to which the goals should simply articulate the requirements of the CEO’s job or describe “stretch goals” that go above and beyond the basic requirements
Despite the lengthy discussions, these fundamental differences were never discussed in a deliberate manner and no clear resolution was reached. Perhaps more importantly, was a comment Ms. Boyd made early in the process that the board had several written policies that outline the process for her evaluation but that none of them were followed the previous year. It is unclear whether the board has clarified how her evaluation process will be handled this year.
Substance of the Approved Goals
Ultimately, the approved goals demonstrate that the Board is focused on how the CEO serves the Board rather than how CA serves the community.
A full third of the goals are focused on nothing but the CEO’s relationship with the Board. Many goals - such as dictating additional meetings the CEO must attend - appear to be an attempt to codify micromanagement of the CEO into her annual evaluation. Additionally, the goals regarding contracts and Symphony Woods are clear references to instances from the past year when members of the Board were upset that the CEO pushed back on attempts to micromanage contract negotiations and legal disputes.
One of the goals tasks Ms. Boyd with the responsibility to “establish a positive working relationship with the Board founded on honesty, trust, and collaboration.” The inclusion of this goal is telling as it clearly implies that many members of the Board do not think Ms. Boyd has been honest, trustworthy, and collaborative. While a positive working relationship between the Board and the CEO is critical, relationships (any relationship) cannot be improved by one party dictating that the other party owns the responsibility for improving it.
Perplexingly, one of the goals tasks the CEO with advocating on behalf of the community regarding the Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration. This stream restoration is not an externally-driven project being foisted upon the community. This project is being pursued at the discretion and direction of the CA Board of Directors themselves - they voted to approve this project over a year ago. Any future design plans for the project will be overseen by the Board-appointed, community-led Watershed Advisory Committee. The inclusion of a goal directing Ms. Boyd to “advocate” on this issue demonstrates the Board’s utter confusion on this topic.
It is worth noting there were some areas of substantial overlap between Ms. Boyd’s proposed goals and the goals approved by the Board. These areas included an emphasis on soliciting feedback from the community, playing an active role in the county’s planning and development activities, and increasing engagement with the community with an emphasis on diversity. While there is broad consensus that these issues are important, the prevailing attitude of the Board seems likely to result in attempts to micromanage how these goals are pursued.
On the other hand, the Board chose not to include several prominent goals proposed by Ms. Boyd. These include goals relating to enhancing CA’s functionality and efficiency as an organization, increasing strategic partnerships with other organizations, updating the management contract with the villages, improving CA’s ability to make data-driven decisions, and adapting to supply chain, inflation, and staffing challenges. While the direct community impact of these goals may not be apparent, all of them would have an impact on CA’s ability to serve Columbia and its residents. For example, CA had difficulty opening outdoor pools this summer and was forced to close several of them early because of staffing issues; yet, the Board conspicuously chose not to include addressing staffing challenges as one of the CEO’s goals. Arguably, the omitted goals are implicitly included within the scope of some of the approved goals; however, by choosing not to explicitly list them, the Board is demonstrating those proposed goals are not a priority.
The approved goals - and the conversations leading up to them - make it clear that the current Board’s focus is on controlling Ms. Boyd rather than serving the community. The goals reflect an unhealthy view of leadership and management that their positions entitle them to boss rather than empower the CEO. The Board seems to believe that, as the CEO’s collective employer, it is their privilege to micromanage her as they see fit. A healthier view would be that, as the CEO’s collective employer, the Board has a responsibility to provide consistent strategic direction, empower the staff, and give them room to operate.
More directly relevant to the community at large, the approved goals represent a missed opportunity to challenge - and potentially reward - Ms. Boyd with improving CA’s ability to serve the community.
Final Thoughts on the People
It's important to remember a few things about the people described in this blog.
“The Board” is a group of ten individuals. The decisions, views, and focus of “the Board” described above reflect the decisions they made by consensus. There are certainly individual board members who do not share the consensus view. Notably, only six of the ten board members voted for the approved goals. While this blog article is highly critical of the Board, it's worth remembering that board members spend a large amount of their personal time volunteering in these roles. Although the goals demonstrate that the Board is focused on themselves rather than the community, no one should doubt that they care about the community - unfortunately, their desire to micromanage the staff is interfering with CA’s ability to focus on community service. The author of this blog has met several board members and, despite being highly critical of their performance as a board member, believes they are decent people who should be treated neighborly.
Finally, while this blog describes the CEO’s annual performance goals, Ms. Boyd herself is not the subject of the blog. This article is not an attempt to represent her views. Ms. Boyd has her own agency and voice which is not conveyed in this post (nor does the author have the ability or knowledge to do so).
About the author: This board recap was provided by Columbia resident Michael Golibersuch. Mr. Golibersuch believes increased awareness of CA Board activities can benefit the community and supports The Merriweather Post’s efforts to fill a local news void. His participation in this effort does not indicate he agrees with all opinions expressed in The Merriweather Post.