Calling all board members! Did you know that evaluating your executive director is a key board responsibility? Evaluations foster clear communication about the boards’ expectations while giving the executive director an opportunity to weigh in on those expectations. Evaluations are also a critical tool for reviewing and setting the executive director’s pay. They open the door for frequent, honest discussions about your organization’s effectiveness and sustainability.
It’s never too late to start
The best time to establish the performance evaluation is before the executive director’s hire date. This way, the board can outline the standards of success and objectives in advance. However, it’s never too late to introduce an annual performance evaluation. Your board may even find that the evaluation results in a happier executive director who finally has a clear understanding of what success looks like to the board of directors.
Improve understanding to resolve conflict
Performance evaluations are also a useful tool to assess organizational failures or navigate conflicts. As HR professional, attorney, and Spokes Board of Director Jim Dorf says, “If the executive director is not achieving their goals, don’t just hope that things will improve. Once performance problems are observed, write everything down. Sit down with the executive director and set an objectively measurable performance improvement plan. Task a board member to assess the progress over agreed-upon intervals.”
Annual performance evaluations establish trust between executive directors and boards. Since executive directors manage day-to-day operations without oversight, board members can be left wondering what’s going on behind the scenes. Performance evaluations offer a safe space to inquire about daily operational strategies.
Keep it professional
It’s important to remember that the goal of an evaluation is to appraise professional performance, not the person. There is a great risk of bias, prejudice, and discriminatory actions when a board judges an executive director based on their personality or other subjective areas. According to 501 Commons, “An annual performance review can only hold the executive responsible for meeting targets, complying with policies, or achieving results that were agreed upon at least a year in advance. This way, the executive has time to organize resources and meet those targets and is given a chance to provide the board with information to indicate if the results and goals have been achieved.”
Make it a priority
To effectively conduct the evaluation, form a 2-3-person committee or task force – they will be responsible for determining the measurement criteria, establishing the formal process, and communicating with the executive director and the rest of the board. Download a checklist, like this one from Blue Avocado. Edit it to reflect your own measurement standards. Prepare to have a strategic discussion about organizational goals that have been set, met, or are pending.
Performance evaluations take time and effort to implement, but your executive director works hard. Your feedback plays a major part in their continued professional development. If you have questions or need supporting resources, feel free to call Spokes at 805-547-2244 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.