Goldilocks and the three board members: Part 3

On Monday, I posted about boards who fail to review their executive director every year. On Tuesday, I posted about boards that get a little muscular with their executive directors and typically abdicate all of this to one overly aggressive board volunteer. Today, I’d like to finish our discussion by talking about what feels right to me.

First, let me say that I don’t think that there is a perfect process for creating an executive director’s annual performance plan or conducting their year-end evaluation. So, I thought that today’s post could just be a laundry list of things I’ve seen really good boards do and then you should weigh-in using the comment box with things you’ve seen that are particularly awesome. So, here we go . . .

  • The annual performance plan is rooted in the agency’s various written plans (e.g strategic plan, resource development plan, marketing plan, budget, etc)
  • The objectives in the performance plan are very measurable. So, much so that the executive director knows exactly what they need to do in order to move their evaluation score from a “meets expectation” to “exceeds expectation”
  • The executive director writes the draft performance plan, turns it over to a board committee (e.g. Human Resource committee), and after massaging the performance plan they take it to the entire board for input, discussion and approval. This way everyone has touched it and owns it.
  • The performance plan is completed and a final version is the executive director’s hands by the beginning of the year.
  • The HR committee asks the executive director for a mid-year update on how they’re coming along with their performance plan. Any red flags are brought to the entire board’s attention by the committee chair in executive session. The entire board engages in discussions such as: amending the performance plan, increasing oversight of the executive director, creating a corrective action plan, etc.
  • There are 360 degree feedback opportunities from both direct staff reports and the board of directors.
  • The annual performance plan doesn’t just look at “quantitative” success (e.g. fundraising goals achieve, membership targets hit, etc), but it also finds a way to blend into the evaluation “how the executive director” does their job. Do they use scorched earth tactics to get results (which will bite them later down the road) or do they do a nice job using best practices (which might not immediately translate into results but might pay big dividends down the road).
  • The year-end evaluation doesn’t have any surprises because it is based on the exact performance plan handed to the executive director 12-months earlier.
  • Just like the performance plan development process, the year-end evaluation starts with the executive director doing a self-evaluation. The HR committee makes adjustments and seeks input from the entire board.
  • The question of who sits down with the executive director and conveys the evaluation results rarely looks the same from organization to organization. I’ve oftentimes seen the board president do it, but I’ve seen the HR committee chair also do it almost as often. I’ve seen it done in a committee setting (but I must admit that it looked like someone was getting ganged up on). I think the board should recruit anyone they like as long as that person: 1) has a good working relationship with the executive director and 2) has a track record of having successfully done employee evaluations (e.g. they have some HR acumen).
  • The year-end evaluation is always signed by the executive director, and a board volunteer personally witnesses it being deposited into the employee folder.

I have always tried to live my life according to this simple HR rule:

If anyone is surprised throughout this process, then it wasn’t done correctly and there needs to be some serious changes heading into next year.

I am a firm believer that the annual performance plan and year-end evaluation of the executive director is one of the biggest keys to organizational success. If done right, everyone knows far in advance what is expected of them. If done right, there are no surprises and usually very little emotion in the process. If done right, everyone is on the same page and the organization is powered strongly into the future with everyone’s sights set on visionary goals and performance indicators.

So, how does your organization evaluate its executive director? Are there best practices that you think I missed? Please use the comment box below so we can all learn from each other.

I hope you agree that today’s “bowl of porridge” compared to Monday and Tuesday’s posts tasted “just right”.  😉

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on December 7, 2011, in Board development, nonprofit, Planning, resource development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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