Just read an interesting article published by CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation called “The Board Pardaox“. The gist of the article is that lackluster board performance is a significant contributor to E.D. burnout. While the report identifies that a majority of ED‘s are satisfied with the performance of their boards, about 1/3rd are not.
Now where the ED takes satisfaction with the actions of the board into consideration, generally the board provides support in financial oversite (73%) and ambassadorship (65%), but support slides downhill the closer we get to ED guidance (45%) and organization policy (32%). That is not really surprising as most directors have a strong financial understanding, (and it is easy to question hard numbers) while policy and direction are not so well defined. But that is where the organization needs help! Other governance coaches I have talked to identify this as a familiar problem.
The root of governance means to steer; to provide direction. The ED’s job is to execute; to DO! The board needs to make it easier on the organization and itself by creating policies on how the organization is to behave. This makes board meetings faster as the decision framework is already laid out. Does it fit? – Yes or no. Perhaps this hard nosed approach requires the policies to be reviewed, but that is all in the job of the board. It is NOT the job of the ED. The ED can suggest that this area or that needs to be reviewed, but the dirction to change or implement a policy needs to come from the board.
The article indicates three areas where the ED can contribute to the improved performance of the board:

  1. Recognize their own essential role in helping to improve the performance of the board.
  2. Invest time, in partnership with the board, in identifying and cultivating new board members.
  3. Build their own financial management skills, and provide information and context to help the board better fulfill its role in both financial oversight and ensuring  financial sustainability.

Interesting, but where the article identifies 3 areas for the ED to focus on it also identifies 5 areas where the board should improve by implementing widely accepted best practices. So the onus really is on the board.

  1. Creating a job description or list of responsibilities for the board as a whole, and recruiting board members who have the skill sets needed to help the board fulfill those responsibilities.
  2. Creating a statement of expectations for individual board members, and conducting an annual or periodic assessment to determine whether board members are meeting those expectations.
  3. Conducting an annual performance review of the executive director.
  4. Conducting periodic training for board members on how to read the organization’s audit and  financial reports.
  5. Engaging in inancial or business planning to better understand the organization’s finanal sustainability.

Zzeem provides training and facilitation services to assist non-profit boards to accomplish all these points. Contact us to help you work on your board training plan.