Evaluating the CEO/Executive Director in a Tough Economy

by Anne Yurasek on December 09, 2009

292642699_8e8a8b5aa8_o Coming up with a meaningful evaluation model for the CEO or Executive Director can be difficult  for Boards in the best of times.   What should Board’s do in the worst of times?  I was recently asked this question by a former client and sent along an article I wrote a couple of years ago that defines a criterion based approach to CEO evaluation. The criteria provided are designed as a basis for discussion between the committee and the CEO/Executive Director.  There are five types of criteria: (1) essential functions or key responsibilities; (2) key skills involved in carrying out the Executive’s Director’s role;  (3) key attributes or characteristics displayed by the Executive Director; (4) key aspects of organizational health; and (5) specific accomplishments that have been previously negotiated.  An organization may use one or two of the criteria sets, or may draw from all five.  Whatever combination of criteria is used, the items should be weighted appropriately by the Board Committee before assessment   Weight should reflect how important the item is to the organization at this stage of its development.  What I realized after I sent the article is that the criteria and accomplishments are premised upon circumstances that are positive and characteristics that are appropriate in good times.   While some attributes are always good to have, there are some missing elements that I think are particularly important now.

  1. If we have had to shrink the organization, how well was this handled?  Were the decisions about where and how to cut back logical and based on principles that were discussed with the Board?  Were employees leaving the organization treated with compassion and respect?  Was the separation process handled smoothly, informed by appropriate legal advice, and did it minimize future liability for the organization?
  2. Of the resources we have currently, have we maximized the funds we are investing in mission based activity?  Are we minimizing administrative costs (not by foolishly doing without adequate infrastructure) but rather by working with other organizations to create back office economies?
  3. Are we positioned properly to grow again on the other side of the downturn?  Have we kept the people who will help us do that?   Are we knowledgeable about how our field is changing and are we prepared to meet the challenges of these changes?
  4. Have we culled our program portfolio?  Have we removed programs that are not a fit with a mission or where there is clear duplication, or where we are not competitive from a quality standpoint? If we are deficit funding a program,  do we have agreement at the Board level that this is appropriate and needed by the community we serve?
  5. What is the status of our strategic partnerships?  How healthy are our organization’s relationships?  Are we appropriately involved in collaborative projects in our field?  Has the CEO helped the Board understand what is happening relative to consolidation of our partners and competitors?  Is the Board prepared to support discussions of consolidation should these offers occur?  Do we have a policy in place that clearly defines Board and staff roles in collaborative efforts?
  6. Has our CEO developed strong change management skills?  Have we intensified internal communication efforts?   Are we correctly engaging key stakeholders as our organization changes? 

These are my thoughts…What do you think should be included? What are you seeing at your organization?  Is your Board talking about these issues?

Photo Credit: JoelTelling

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