Magazine article Policy & Practice

Credibility That Grows with Honesty and Time

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Credibility That Grows with Honesty and Time

Article excerpt

As CEOs move forward with the transformational challenges of integrating health and human services and modernizing IT systems, relationships with their partners in the legislative branch take on an even greater importance. The inherent tensions between the two branches of government, regularly played out in budget and policy discussions, can become even more daunting.

Personal relationships with key legislators--leaders, committee chairs, and members of the budget and policy committees--are of paramount importance. And those relationships need regular attention and constant nurturing.

In interviews and discussions with many CEOs from around the country, a consensus emerged that partisan differences between an administration of one party and legislators of the other can be overcome with effective communication, the building of trust, and a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of members of the legislative branch. Yes, political and philosophical disagreements are inevitable. Some CEOs suggested that the polarization of politics in Congress, especially with respect to the Affordable Care Act, has widened the partisan divides in their states. But all agreed that the politics can be put aside if the relationships are strong.

What makes for effective working relationships that produce results?

* It starts in the executive branch. The CEO must have the confidence and support of the governor. When CEOs are speaking to legislators, they must know they will not hear something different from the governor and his or her staff.

* Constant communication so that both the CEO and the legislator understand each other's perspectives and concerns. An "open door" policy that allows for quick and easy access is one CEO's philosophy.

* Accurate, reliable, and neutral health and human service information.

* Stories of success should be communicated to legislators and to the general public. Otherwise, the only news is bad news.

* Respect for the protocols, courtesies, and etiquette of the legislature.

* Knowing that legislators need to be "in the know." They don't like surprises any more than the CEO's boss does.

* Strong internal systems for coordination of communications, responses to legislative inquiries, and timely resolution of constituent complaints. Procedures that allow for quick policy and bill reviews enable rapid responses to the daily twists and turns of the legislative process.

* A crisis management plan is crucial to guide communications and legal considerations when a crisis does occur. …

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