The role of the CEO/Executive Director: Barriers and Risks
I have spoken in past blogs of the importance of a ‘generative mindset’ for enhancing the importance of Board governance. Generative mindset encompasses a macro level of thinking for Board meetings. There is a risk when Board members are confortable with a less strenuous mode of thinking. They may be uncomfortable with the new mode. It may take some time for Board members to accept and participate easily.
Perhaps the most important role for success is by the CEO/Executive Director (ED). The ED is the primary conduit between staff and Board (as should be defined in the by-laws). The ED is responsible for educating the Board – to improve governance – and is accountable for the knowledge and information the Board receives. The ED also controls the pace of meetings so they are useful as well as informative – and this is an important necessity. Meetings can drag on, lots of talk, little new understanding or resolution on next steps.
Meeting guidelines for the CEO/ED:
- In a separate meeting, beforehand, brief the Board chair, explain your goals so that he/she can support your quest.
- Explain how governance is a partnership – between ED, staff, and Board.
- Prepare and select carefully the project/subject for which the Board can provide guidance.
- Encourage Board members to ask more questions than statements – challenging suppositions.
- Ensure that nothing is “undiscussable” in the board room, and assure confidentiality.
- Encourage different opinions.
- Share information and leadership opportunities – asking questions can prove this to members.
- Control discussion where a member dominates – one way to do this is to say, “Sam, in the interest of time, let’s meet after the meeting to hear your viewpoint so that others can express their opinions here more openly”.
- Don’t be too wedded to the past, but also not too far ahead of the Board.
Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org