More than 50 National and Regional Sport Organisation and Regional Sport Trust Chairs, Board Members and Chief Executive Officers (CEO) attended a recent Chairs’ Roundtable on ‘The Chair – Chief Executive Officer’ Relationship organised by Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation (Aktive).

Co-hosted by Aktive and Simpson Grierson and supported by Sport New Zealand, the event included a panel discussion with Liz Coutts ONZM, professional director and President of the NZ Institute of Directors; Steve Tew, CEO of NZ Rugby; and Peter Stubbs, professional director and Commercial Lawyer.

Dr Sarah Sandley, CEO, Aktive says the Chair – CEO relationship has a significant impact on sport and business governance and culture.

“The relationship between a Chair and CEO is critical to the success of an organisation and its purpose,” says Dr Sandley. “Our world class panellists offered diverse experience and expertise on this important relationship, as well as practical tips to ensure effective communication and information exchange.”

Communication, trust and respect were highlighted by all three panellists as crucial success factors of the Chair – CEO relationship.

“Being fully informed of one another’s positions, priorities and concerns, and ensuring a ‘no surprises’ approach strengthens the respective roles and responsibilities,” says Ms Coutts. “An important principle of this is to ensure both the CEO and Chair have clarity in their functions.”

Mr Tew echoed this sentiment: “The Chair – CEO relationship is the strongest influence on organisational culture. It’s about the people and having the right people on the right seat on the bus.”

With more than 20 years’ governance experience, Mr Stubbs highlighted the importance of respecting similarities and differences, outlining a number of aspects on his blog here.

“A balanced Chair – CEO relationship includes constructive tension that enables polishing and refinement, complete honesty, confidence and a common view on key relationships.”

The question and answer session provided attendees an additional opportunity to further unpack the Chair – CEO relationship.

“Led by a stellar panel, this event provided valuable discussion and practical tips to help forge a strong and effective relationship and support organisational growth and success,” says Dr Sandley.

“This was illustrated with the whakataukī/proverb that concluded the evening – Ko te kai a te rangatira, he kōrero – the food of chiefs is discussion.”

Recent recipient of both the CQ Tick from the Superdiversity Institute and Governance Mark for Sport and Recreation from Sport New Zealand, Aktive launched the Chairs’ Roundtable in 2016  to recognise the importance of chairs as leaders in a challenging sector, to help their development, and to connect sport and recreation chairs.