How is trust developed between the nonprofit board chair and the chief executive?
By Eugene Fram
First, in order to maintain trust between the board chair and CEO, the chair must be certain that the evaluation of the organization and the performance evaluation of the CEO are inclusive, i.e., cover a balance of the most relevant outcomes. Otherwise, the evaluation outcomes have the potential to damage the trust relationship that’s necessary to drive organizational growth. If the evaluation has a negative tone to it, and the CEO is being given time to improve performance, the chair needs to take steps to reduce unproductive tensions until the CEO’s performance improves – or, alternatively, there’s a decision made that it is time to change the CEO.
Second, is the problematic situation where the chemistry between the board chair and the CEO isn’t good. Let’s say the CEO is politically liberal and the chair is very conservative. In cases like these, boards often have trouble maintaining civil discourse at meetings. The CEO needs to be strong enough to have a frank talk with the board chair to get the situation back on track. Some sense of “balance” is required.
Third, an essential ingredient in the board culture is the CEO’s ability to be flexible. He or she needs to accommodate to a new boss every year or two. Consequently, the CEO can’t be complacent. He or she needs to be alert, to recognize when the board – often initiated by the chair – wants to move in a new direction.
Source: Policy vs. Paper Clips Third Edition, 2011, pp. 156-157.