firethepresident200x200The two-question agenda

One rather stark morsel of conventional board wisdom suggests that every board meeting should revolve around only two questions. First question: Should we fire the president? If the answer is, “No” then the second question should be: How can we help the president succeed?

I do not recommend that boards literally implement the two-question agenda. But those questions do illustrate critically important principles relative to an effective board-CEO dynamic.

I refer you once again to John Carver’s list of typical governance flaws:

  • Time on trivia
  • Short term bias
  • Reactive (vs. proactive)
  • Leaky accountability
  • Ambiguous authority

A great many institutional governance train wrecks can be traced to one or both of the latter two flaws: leaky accountability and ambiguous authority.

Oh the horror stories I’ve seen

I worked with one board that had the habit of involuntarily dismissing the president (who was, according to official bylaws, a member of the board!) in order to conduct an impromptu presidential evaluation whenever they thought it appropriate and in terms of whatever criteria to which the moment inclined them. Many other nonprofit boards rarely or never conduct formal presidential evaluations. I have observed still others render benign or even glowing presidential evaluations right up to the moment the organization sinks under irremediable shipwreck.

How does this happen? It happens when boards fail to establish specific policies and procedures that both empower the president and hold the president accountable. Failure on either end jeopardizes the institution.

Key questions

An effective board will give careful attention to addressing the following board-CEO relationship questions:

  1. Are we clear about the CEO’s job product?
  2. Are we agreed about how we will assess the extent to which key result areas are being achieved?
  3. Do we normally cede to the CEO discretion regarding means?
  4. Do we have a clear mutual understanding about the cycles and criteria for CEO evaluation?

In upcoming posts, I will examine these questions in greater detail. Meanwhile, it might be a good idea for you and your board chair or—better—your board development committee—to take inventory concerning how well your institution can answer these four questions.

Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …

Resources for Assessing Impact

You will not find a better treasure trove of presentations and resources on assessing impact in theological education than this treasure trove from last year’s International Council for Evangelical Theological Education’s C-15 Global Consultation. Be sure to share these audio, video, and teaching materials with your assessment officer and your faculty. For that matter, check out the entire resource catalog.