Thursday, May 15, 2014

Associations, Boards and Evaluations

Last week, I facilitated a board meeting for a small (4 staff, $800,000 budget) national trade association.

While the focus of my portion of the meeting was succession planning and defining the type of person they might hire as a No. 2 association exec, the board asked me to stay on for some questions during a short “executive session” without their current Executive Vice President.

Here are three of their questions and my answers:

1.   How do we evaluate our chief staff executive (CSE)? We haven’t been doing it even though our bylaws say we are to evaluate the CSE.

  • SCD: Yes, you should do a formal annual review of the CSE. While some boards (and CSEs) find such reviews difficult, they should be done. The best way to begin is with written annual goals based on the job description and strategic objectives. I prefer evaluating CSE performance using a 5-point scale. (1=Always Achieves; 2 = Usually Achieves; 3 = Meets; 4 = Did Not Achieve; 5 = Needs Improvement)
2.  We have not been doing board self-evaluations, should we? How do we do them?
  • SCD: I urged them to establish an annual board self-evaluation survey. The types of questions to include are:
    • Are the board’s goals clear to you?
    • Does the board focus on significant issues?
    • Does the Executive Committee do too much board work?
    • Is conflict within the board managed effectively?
    • What is the quality of communications of board with staff?
  • Depending on the association, I’ve used either a Yes-No or a 1 to 5 scale.
3. Our nominations committee recommends a slate of board members who are elected to the executive board. We have traditionally used a “ladder system” and “moved up” the next person in line. Should we keep this system or start nominating the best person?
  • SCD: The easy answer seems to be “best person for the industry.” But, that may not work for all associations. One key point is ensuring that all board members know that they hold a fiduciary responsibility to do what is best for the industry/profession and not what the chapter or constituent group wants them to do.

Do your board leaders have these or similar questions? 
What are you doing during board orientation to help your board members be better informed? Feel free to share at

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