William R Mott, Ph.D. William R. Mott, Ph.D.Consultant Author Speaker



Board Development Issue Number 3 on our Top 10

Published in About Me, Board Chair Responsibilities, Board Development, Board Evaluation, Boards and Fundraising, Committee on Trustees, Education, Faith-based Schools, Governance Issues, Heads of Schools, Independent Schools, News, Nonprofit CEOs, Nonprofit Governance, Nonprofit organizations, The Board Game, Uncategorized

The Top 10 Board Development Issues

That Impact Your Organization

Number Three

Board Evaluation is Key to Organizational Success

“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.”

— Sir Winston Churchill

“The past is prologue.”

— From The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Evaluation is the key to understanding where you have been and where you are headed.

Does past performance determine or influence future activities? Maybe. The question might be, do you want to improve because you have not achieved to your capability? For the board of trustees of a school or nonprofit organization the issue is, can we be better by adhering to our roles and responsibilities and how do we make this happen? Part of that answer may be found in whether or not the board evaluates its own work with the objective being improvement of their performance – not the performance of the CEO! That is an altogether different issue.

The board has an almost stated responsibility to demonstrate their leadership by evaluating the CEO. Using specific agreed upon criteria, the board measures the CEO’s job execution and then communicates strengths as well as areas of concern. To maximize their own work, the board should look inward to determine their own strengths and areas of concern. Their objective should be to aspire to being a dynamic, thriving board always evolving to be the best possible.

There are three different ways in which to assess how well they adhere to these responsibilities. The first is whether or not they have adopted The Governance Promise as the way in which they demonstrate their partnership and support for the CEO. These six guiding principles define attitude, behavior, and their relationship with one another and the organization’s CEO. The Governance Promise may be found in my book, The Board Game and was number eight on this countdown (Blog Post, May 29).

The second assessment mechanism is adherence to The Covenant Agreement – a document signed by each board member stating that they will uphold very specific responsibilities and that they will respect both the work of the board and the organization. Such an agreement outlines these roles and responsibilities of both the board and CEO. A template for this document  will be included in my new book scheduled for release in December 2013 or January 2014.

The third way in which the board can review their work is the evaluation instrument and questionnaire that is also included in my new book. This resource breaks down board performance and responsibilities into seven different categories with questions in each category designed to pinpoint areas where the board is fulfilling its responsibilities, areas where they are not, and areas that require additional work.

The seven categories include: 

(1) Planning

2) Selection and Composition

3) Organization

4) Orientation and Training

5) Meetings

6) Individual Trustees (experienced and new)

7) CEO/Executive Director/Head of School

The elements found in these three different but connected board resources will help measure meaningful value and are, in every way, a key to realizing a bright future. To get somewhere as opposed to anywhere requires a strategy and a way to measure the results of that strategy. The board’s willingness to evaluate its own work demonstrates genuine leadership and is essential to realizing organizational potential.

One Comment

  1. Phil says:

    The quote from The Tempest is an interesting one since the past is normally the prologue to the inherent nature of any form of board. This can either be a rich history of sound board education, or it can be a sorry tale of disfunction. Board stories abound of how prior members who shaped a board continue to haunt the board through the DNA they left behind. Boards, like individuals, carry a genetic code of who created and shaped them. Good genetics with board development are uniquely found in organizations that have a built in capacity to change and grow. Bad DNA can produce the effect of constant historic fighting as the knowledge base of why the board exists. Sometimes before an organization can be healthy the prologue of the past has to be discovered, understood, and in some cases, eliminated. That is, some boards need to cease to exist so a new form of governance can be created. To eradicate the past can be a dangerous task for a CEO, but it may be his or her singular role to play in leaving a future behind that is durable. It may get he or she fired, and probably will in most cases, but it can become the legacy the CEO gives as a gift to the future. Where such disfunction is present the leadership will be best served by those who are not in the “board game” for the prestige, power, or even the money, but for the service of the organization’s principles and long term goals.