Ask board members to list their responsibilities and most will include the supervision of the CEO. However, according to the findings of CompassPoint and Meyer Foundation researchers as reported in Daring to Lead 2011: A National Study of Nonprofit Executive Leadership, there is apparently a disconnect between what board members acknowledge as their responsibilities and what they take on, because close to half of the CEOs surveyed reported that they had not had a performance review within the past year. Adding concern, of those boards that do ensure their CEOs are reviewed, more than two-thirds may not be particularly skilled at the process, judging by the report that fewer than one-third of CEOs found their review either somewhat useful or very useful.
With CEOs clamoring for effective feedback there are evaluation basics that every board can incorporate. Assign a month within which the CEO review will be done, add it to your compliance calendar and make a commitment to follow through. Ask the CEO to consider process and goals and to explain what he or she feels will make the review valuable on both a personal and organizational level. Gather input from the entire board. Then select a few board members to sit down with the CEO to negotiate what the review will consist of. Be sure success measures and deadlines are clearly defined so that everyone has a clear picture of what it will look like when the CEO has successfully met all expectations. Provide interim assessments that ensure everyone is still on the same page and that movement toward goal achievement is on track. (See “Evaluating the Top Administrator: A New Approach” for more.)
But what takes evaluation beyond the basics and ensures an effective result? I would like to learn what those boards that are providing “very useful” feedback are doing. I’d also like to hear from CEOs about what would make their reviews satisfying and helpful. Are there tips that you can share with your colleagues and partners? Perhaps you’ve asked a former board chair to lead the process, or brought in a consultant to guide it. Maybe you’ve found a book or article that provided helpful insights into the process or content. All input is encouraged.
By Terrie Temkin