One of the board’s most significant relationships is the one it has with the Executive Director. It must start with the board understanding that the Executive Director is their only direct report and, thus, the focus of their attention, support and collaboration.
While your Executive Director may show competence, effectiveness in working with staff and others, and success at accomplishing goals, it’s important to recognize that, like all of us, he/she needs feedback and appropriate guidance. This ensures they can not only excel but also know if they’re in concert with what the board wants in an Executive Director.
What feedback is needed and why
It is essential for clear understanding by both parties that the board establish, in consultation with the Executive Director, processes that address feedback on and evaluation of the following items:
- the expectations the board has of the Executive Director;
- the effectiveness of the relationship;
- the performance of the Executive Director in achieving strategic and operational goals, compliance with the Societies Act, regulations and policies.
Both the board and the Executive Director should agree on the processes and timing of these areas of evaluation.
The board also needs to establish a clear mechanism for what is required for the Executive Director to achieve increases in his/her compensation and benefits.
Lack of feedback for the Executive Director could result in undesirable consequences. It is not uncommon for directors to develop a negative view of the Executive Director’s actions and decisions, ultimately leading to a desire to terminate his/her employment with the organization or frequently putting up blocks to new initiatives or directions that could benefit the organization.
For Executive Director’s, lack of feedback can lead to a lack of productivity, an unsatisfying work environment, and for some a desire to find another job. The lack of feedback and failure by the board to evaluate the Executive Director’s performance can also lead to unhealthy stress and anxiety for him/her.
Successful, rewarding relationships don’t just happen. Like other worthwhile endeavours, they require work.
Parties to the relationship must enter it with the belief it can be a positive, even exciting, opportunity to work together to achieve positive results. It must be a strongly held principle and policy of the Board that its Executive Director is its partner.
Like any relationship, both parties need to invest time getting to know each other and accept that everything will not always flow smoothly. However, if a strong foundation is built, the relationship has a very good chance of effectively weathering tensions and disagreements and can prove to be a highly productive and successful relationship.
Regardless of how experienced, talented, competent and confident your Executive Director, he/she still wants and needs feedback. For the board and the organization to experience the benefits of an Executive Director who feels valued and respected, as well as treated as a leadership partner, the board must make this relationship a priority.
If you would like more information on developing your relationship with your Executive Director, call me at 250.465.1245. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.