Your Board Chair: Whom Will it Be?Jan 30, 2023
If the Board has four primary roles:
- set strategic direction on behalf of the community,
- develop a constructive partnership with the CEO/Executive Director,
- ensure sustainable and sustaining resources to implement your mission, and
- ensure monitoring, evaluating, and auditing of programmatic and financial outcomes (the what, not necessarily the how)…
Then it follows that the Chair also has four primary responsibilities, which mirror those Board roles:
- ensure effective and efficient Board governance, including structure, work plans and meetings,
- ensure the partnership, and evaluation, of the Chief Executive Officer,
- lead advocacy and ambassadorship efforts as the public face of the Board, and
- confirm and report compliance and outcomes.
This means that the chair:
- takes seriously the responsibility of mentoring and supporting as well as assessing the performance of the chief executive (one assumes a stated policy with written procedures);
- ensures that planning takes place, monitoring takes place, and reporting to the community takes place, as appropriate, typically through the Board structure;
- maintains a positive and productive working relationship with the major funder, while board members may liaise and work with individual designated donors and funders;
- is skilled in managing meetings;
- is comfortable speaking with groups, agencies, and the media about, and on behalf, of the organization.
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The Chair ensures strong board and staff leadership; a positive working relationship with the CEO; role clarity; agreement on values, mission, objectives; respect for Board norms, policies, teamwork; good board development practices; regular assessments of the board and organization; constructive resolution of conflicts and conflicts of interest; a balance between stability, flexibility, innovation, and enterprise; and effective management of meetings and board work.
These require certain attributes and abilities such as commitment, integrity (keeps their word); respect and consideration; a positive attitude; accountability: facilitation and training/coaching skills.
If one were advertising for a Board chair, you might start by asking these questions:
What do we want the Chair to accomplish over the next few years?
What are the barriers to success?
What professional competence and personal qualities will be necessary for achievement?
What are our criteria for evaluation of the Chair’s performance?
A position profile might thus look like this:
Wanted: Board Chair
Position Profile for the Chair
You want to leave your footprint.
You thrive in complex environments. You are respectful of individual differences while committed to quality and moving the system and the Board, your team, forward.
You take the broad view: you seek to position our organization as an agent for community development, that is, improving the quality of experiences for people who live and work in our community.
Passionate, articulate, committed, accountable… you welcome the opportunity to interact with community leaders and representatives to tell our story and to connect political and social agendas. You are comfortable with community groups and stakeholders, from social to business to political.
Ideally, you are experienced in our community's affairs and see building community assets by focusing, repositioning and leveraging our resources for the good of all.
Essential Questions for Potential Board Chairs:
- Am I willing to invest the time to create an identity for our Board and a sense of teamwork?
- Am I willing to work with the Board to move deliberations and operations to the level of setting policy, goals, priorities, processes and frameworks and monitor implementation?
- Am I willing to invest in the relationship with the CEO to ensure a constructive and creative partnership?
- Am I willing to delegate to staff the means of implementation?
- Am I willing to avoid micromanagement and administration?
- And I willing to be fair, consistent and constructive in feedback to the CEO?
- Can I acknowledge that the CEO directs the staff, not the Board? Can I accept a CEO model of Board/staff relations?
- Am I willing to invest the time in planning meetings to ensure success?
- Am I willing to invest time in improvement for myself as Chair?
- Am I willing to model the behaviors that the Board values?
Daunting? Absolutely, but critical to Board and organizational success.
The chair leads, trains, delegates, accepts challenges, acts with integrity, and is the spokesperson for the Board. You need to choose the best.
And plan for succession to the position.
What are your main “pain points” dealing with Board leadership?
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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