The Executive Director and Board Relationship: Care, Loyalty, and Leadership
The executive director and board relationship is an essential element of any successful company. Boards who do not have a combined CEO and board chair position sometimes can see a tug of war style power struggle, especially when one of these roles is filled by a newcomer. However, certain initiatives such as understanding the responsibilities of each position and implementing best practices for handling disagreements can help foster a productive executive director and board relationship.
An ideal executive director and board relationship should begin with both parties working together to promote the best interests of their organization. While the CEO’s primary responsibility is to manage the company’s executive team, the board is responsible for setting goals and counseling the executive director. Executive directors must shoulder the burden of public opinion for their organization’s successes and failures. Boards also act as the executive director’s influencer. So, it’s quite critical that the executive director and board relationship be built on a foundation of care, loyalty, and leadership.
Defining the Executive Director and Board Relationship Responsibilities
The first direction on the roadmap for an effective executive director and board relationship is understanding the role and responsibility of each party. When solid lines of responsibility are drawn, the executive director and board can establish a balance of power without overstepping into each other’s territory.
Responsibilities of the Board Chair
The board chair has a significant responsibility in the executive director and board relationship. At his or her core, the board chair must act as an advisor, challenger, and strategic decision maker. The board chair must first and foremost act as the executive director’s advisor and mentor. By providing actionable advice on strategic decision making, the board chair and CEO can effectively turn strategy into reality. Likewise, the board chair should always maintain an open-door policy for the CEO to seek advice and collaborate on key decisions.
However, the board chair must also ask tough questions and challenge the strategy of the executive director. Decisions made with regards to the organization should be carefully vetted by the board chair. It’s important that the board chair posses the courage needed to ask probing questions regarding the logic and dynamics of the plan.
Responsibilities of the Executive Director
In order to best avoid conflict, CEOs also have strict responsibilities in the executive director and board relationship. One such strategy is actively seeking guidance and advice from the board outside of regular board meetings. Just as the board chair should establish an “open-door” policy, the CEO should use that time productively. When executive directors use time outside of board meetings to seek advice on strategic plans and implementations, they can gauge and predict areas that may cause disagreement with board members.
The executive director should also possess flexibility and openness to new ways of conducting business. One of the most important components of the executive director and board relationship is the willingness to take board members’ views into consideration and apply those views to business strategy. And just as the board chair should ask tough questions and challenge strategy, the executive director must also respectively do the same.
The CEO also needs to recognize and respect the diverse expertise of the board. The executive director and board relationship are strongest when they view each other as an asset. The key component of this relationship is proper collaboration and engagement.
Collaboration and Engagement
The executive director and board relationship should foster collaboration and engagement consistently. The board should collaborate with the CEO to establish expectations, processes, and decision-making guidelines. The board chair should also bring a sense of teamwork, encouragement, and energetic comradery to the relationship to help bolster engagement inside and outside of the boardroom. The board should set clear expectations of the CEO, which makes it less likely for struggles to crop up and strain the executive director and board relationship.
The main communication and collaboration goals for the executive director are to be open and transparent with all decision making. In order to have the best working relationship with the board, the CEO should have a strict policy against surprising the board with information regarding decisions, risks, or scandal.
Managing the Executive Director and Board Relationship with Board Portal Software
Mobile communication has made executives on demand 24 hours a day. However, board members aren’t always in the office or readily available for collaboration sessions, guidance, and strategic planning. The nature of these conversations can also be sensitive, so it’s critical that insecure technology, like email, is not used to discuss important business. Board Portal software, like BoardBookit, makes secure communication between executives and board chairs effortless with exceptional mobile and web-friendly applications.
The executive director and board relationship can productively collaborate, plan, and manage their organization within the secure BoardBookit platform by utilizing our exclusive Discussions feature. Executives and their boards can also review documents electronically, vote on key decisions, and sign off on resolutions. The secure nature of board portal software makes cultivating an ideal executive director and board relationship easier than ever before by fostering an environment of collaboration, engagement, and leadership.
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