"The Official Word"
A rotating blog featuring USATF Board members and officials
The Official Word
Tuesday, September 28, 2010by Stephanie Hightower
Last week, USA Track & Field sent our largest contingent ever to the Olympic
Assembly in Colorado Springs, where the U.S. Olympic Committee brings together
the members of the Olympic Family in the United States. Included in several days
of meetings are National Governing Bodies such as USATF, athletes, committees,
sponsors and scores of others.
In the last year, the USOC has been through a public relations minefield: its Board of Directors fired CEO Jim Scherr, then became the subject of attacks by the public and media, who criticized the USOC and its Board for appearing to be secretive, opaque, elitist and out-of-touch. Other key staff left and a cable TV Olympic Network was announced without consulting key players. Things came to a head when Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games was rejected in the first round of voting, despite having an outstanding bid and benefitting from the promotional efforts of President Obama and the First Lady.
The USOC got the message.
At the 2010 Olympic Assembly, USOC Chair Larry Probst was frank about his own failings and those of the USOC, and he was equally clear about the things that have already changed. Most notable was Larry's willingness to admit his mistakes and pledge transparency, focus and open-mindedness as hallmarks of the Board and USOC staff moving forward.
When USA Track & Field's Board had its first meeting in 2009, we all pledged to be as open and accessible as possible. We post all our minutes online, and we make sure that those minutes meaningfully describe what we do. Bios of all Board members, our meeting schedule and organizational Strategic Plan are all online at http://www.usatf.org/about/committees/BoardOfDirectors/. I encourage you to revisit the page or to check it out for the first time.
Since USA Track & Field's Board voted for a change in executive leadership just over two weeks ago, we have been even more united, clear in our vision and eager to engage the public. As you will see from reading individual biographies, we have extensive experience on corporate and nonprofit boards, in Fortune 500 companies, in the committee structure of USATF, and on the field of play.
A lot has been written, speculated and blogged about relating to USATF and our Board since our vote two weeks ago. The take-away from all this is that we as an organization are moving forward with a renewed unity and determination. The Board has been holding "town hall" conference calls with segments of the volunteer leadership, to hear their concerns and ideas and respond accordingly. We are legally bound to keep certain personnel matters private as the specifics of the CEO's departure are worked out, and we are all committed to staying out of a public mud-slinging contest. But it is critical that we assure the stakeholders within USATF that our door is open, we are listening to them, and we understand and appreciate their point of view. Simply by listening to, rather than talking at, our committees and leaders, we are setting the tone for the future. "Engagement" is our buzzword when it comes to the interaction of the Board with USATF staff, athletes, volunteers, officials -- everyone important to the sport.
One frequently asked question that we do want to address is concern about the financial impact of transitioning to a new CEO. It is important to us as a Board to let you know unequivocally that we considered every possible ramification of seeking leadership change in the realm of finance, politics, governance. Everything. And we are united in our strong belief that a change is not only best for the organization in terms of pursuing a new direction, but that in the end it will be best for our bottom line. I cannot over emphasize the philosophy that our Board would never take an action that imperils the long-term stability of USATF. Our fiduciary responsibility to all of you is our guiding principle.
In this blog space in the next several weeks, you will find postings by Board members about the present and the future, about which we are all excited. The Board will be meeting via phone weekly, and our next in-person meeting is October 9 in Indianapolis, when we will finalize the criteria and search process for the next CEO.
As soon as it is final, we will publicly inform everyone via this blog about what we are looking for, who will help us look for it, and how we will ensure that we make the best choice for USATF when we hire the next CEO. Our intent is to ensure that the stakeholders of our sport understand what is happening and why.
Like our friends at the USOC, we pledge transparency, focus and open-mindedness as we all, together, pursue a better future. It's a future where unity, not divisiveness, pushes us ahead.
Stephanie Hightower is President and Chairman of the Board of USA Track & Field.
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