"Someday I Hope to Be a Totally Mediocre Board Chair." Said Nobody Ever.

board development and revitalization roles and responsibilities strategic planning and policy development the board/ceo partnership Dec 19, 2022


Most people have heard of Google. Most people know that Google is a search engine.

Most people, it seems, do not know that Google is only one of many search engines.

Fewer people still know that Google conducts research in many areas of leadership and management.

Their focus on continual improvement (in the areas that matter to them of course) is commendable and there is much to be learned here.


I’ve taken the research from Google that has applied to their own managers and to other businesses and types of organizations and propose best practices for the assessment of not-for-profit board chairs. It is after all that time of year! Let me know the points with which you agree or disagree – and the areas on which you would focus.


Our board chair:

  • encourages a team approach with the board (the chair takes ownership and sees the board as a team for which the chair is responsible);


  • treats the board like volunteers (the chair expresses interest in and concern for members’ success and personal well-being; the chair encourages and motivates, recognizing that time is precious, and members want to make a difference but are unpaid);


  • initiates and maintains the critical and constructive partnership with the executive director (the chair meets regularly and provides support to the executive director while ensuring a clear, transparent, and inclusive board review of performance);


  •  Is a coach, for the board and for the executive director (the chair provides useful feedback and suggestions when needed in a calm, relevant and respectful manner);

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  • manages meetings effectively (the chair observes ground rules, sticks to the agenda, invites disagreement but preserves interpersonal equity and integrity; facilitates decision-making);


  • Insists that the board stay in its lane with governance, policy development, and accountability as a focus (the chair intervenes when the board moves into the management and operations lane to bring attention back to appropriate roles and responsibilities);


  • has a clear vision and strategy for the board (the chair affirms the strategic plan by clarifying expectations, reports, and measurable results);


  • protects their board from distraction (the chair ensures attention to the strategic plan, the annual work plan, and the priorities of the agency, not the latest opportunity);


  • empowers and enables the board and does not micromanage committee chairs or the executive director (the chair is clear in expectations and trusts that performance will be appropriate);


  • is productive and results-oriented (the chair insists on program and service assessments and reports, consistent with our mission);


  • has key technical skills, such as meeting facilitation and conflict management and resolution, that help to support the board (the chair recognizes that the board meeting is the primary source of board member engagement and the primary forum for board decision-making);


  • Is a good communicator (the chair listens and shares information);


  • helps with “career development” (the chair encourages and plans ongoing board and individual member professional development);


  • keeps pace with expertise (the chair stays abreast of industry or sector trends and issues and informs the board as well as planning appropriate information sessions for the Board);


  • overcomes discouragement and adversity to continue to move the board toward accomplishing the agency’s critical mission (the chair is mission-focused and results-oriented while being positive in approach and demeanor).


How about that?
Feasible from your perspective?

Worthy of a chair review before appointment or reappointment?

How and when do you collectively provide feedback to your chair?


What are your main “pain points” dealing with your board chair?

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.


Training for the Board Chair and everyone else!

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The Board Leader Academy:

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Our spotlight course is designed for CEOs/Executive Directors, Board Chairs, and those who are interested in leadership positions on not-for-profit, for-impact boards. Six weeks. Three brief video lessons with handouts per week (watch at your convenience) plus additional downloadable resources. 30-day money-back guarantee.

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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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