Advice on building trust with your board

Community college presidents offer their advice

Community college administrators should "step outside their comfort zone" to build strong relationships with board members and other stakeholders, Stacy Collett writes for Community College Daily.

Senior leaders at community colleges are expected to engage with a range of important groups that have a stake in education and economic development. Erma Johnson Hadley, chancellor of Tarrant County College, says she meets with local interest groups so that her community will recognize her as someone with their interests at heart. "When the time comes to call in a favor for your institution, the influencers you’ve helped along the way will be more apt to pay that kindness forward," she points out.

Keeping up relationships with board members is particularly important, Collett argues. A president who falls out of favor the board could find their job in jeopardy.

Those relationships can be tricky and politically fraught—but they don't have to be. Community college leaders offer their advice on building and maintaining a productive environment.

How to connect


Collett writes that successful college presidents are those who are persistent in their efforts to connect with community leaders. "It all starts with earning their trust," says Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College. He recommends keeping communication "strong, healthy, informative and engaged.”

Northeast's board has been active in recent years, voting to approve large capital projects such as an $18 million new dormitory and dining hall. Chipps says his relationship with the board has been productive because "I give board members things to think about, and do not tell them how to think."

Other presidents emphasize that it is important to not shy away from tough conversations. Board members should “never [be] surprised about anything,” says Charlene Dukes, president of Prince George’s Community College. For instance, she says, "if you believe that something has occurred on campus and it’s going to be on TV, you call the board members before they turn on the TV and see it (Collett, Community College Daily, 1/8/14).

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