The Best Way to Develop the Board Chair and CEO Partnership

intentional practices roles and responsibilities the board/ceo partnership Sep 26, 2023
The Best Way to Develop the Board Chair and CEO Partnership


The relationship between the Chair and the Chief Officer is often challenging, not due to any particular stress or tension but rather the lack of collegiality developed over time. Most discussion focuses on the agenda of the next meeting and an issue of the day.


But good one-on-one meetings between chairs and their Chief Executive Officers (theoretically their direct reports) can address both practical and personal needs, benefitting the performance, growth, and well-being of each, as well as the success of their respective teams (the board as a whole and senior management) and the broader organization.

Questions can be helpful in this process. However, someone has to initiate the questions – if only to get the attention they need.


Stephen Rogelberg, Liana Kreamer and Cydnei Meredith, writing in the Harvard Business Review (June 23, 2023), report on their research to drive conversations between managers and employees. We have adapted their work to the relationship between the chair and Executive Director or Chief Executive Officer.


The authors’ research points to twenty-eight questions that can drive the best conversations. We have excerpted nine for your consideration. Either can initiate the conversation, depending on needs and desires.


I am having some challenges and struggles with X. Can you help me think about how to navigate and address X successfully? (Examples might be an employee or board member, a relationship with a funder or an operational issue. For the chief officer, the “question to question” might be dependent on the chair’s background and expertise.)


Could you suggest some ideas and thoughts around how I could get more support (people, time, funding) to help with Y?

What do you think of my idea? Do you have any suggestions for how to improve it? Or, might you have an alternative idea I should consider?

Given what is on my plate, what should I be prioritizing right now, and can you help me understand why?

What strengths do you think I have and how might they be helpful in the future?


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Am I meeting your expectations? I would relish learning your perspective on my work performance. (This questions assumes a working relationship and trust and could lead to improvement in performance; conversely it could be triggered by a perceived lack of support and concern.)


What feedback might you be able to share with me about how I’m doing at X or Y task?

As you reflect on what I do at work, what should I start, stop, or continue doing?

Where can I offer you support?


So then, how to use them? Well, sparingly for sure.


You may need to ask a follow-up: can you help me understand what you mean a bit better? can you help me understand the basis for your recommendation?


You want to glean strategic insights into the rationale, motives, assumptions, and big picture behind your day-to-day work.


Good one-on-one meetings are critical for your success and the success of your team and organization. Asking the right questions to make sure those meetings give you what you need can have a huge impact on your work experience — helping you stay engaged, developing your understanding of your role and place in the organization, and improving your relationship — not to mention enhancing your well-being.


What are your main “pain points” dealing with your Chair/CEO partnership?

What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.




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P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.

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