For a charity to have a successful partnership of chief executive and chair, it is essential to establish that partnership from the start of an appointment. This will require a lot of work and goodwill. It is crucial to spend a lot of time discussing each other’s needs, ensuring that their purpose, vision, values, beliefs, goals and behaviours are agreed from the outset. Here is a checklist of measures for promoting and maintaining a fruitful working relationship.
Foster the relationship through facilitation
Each time there is a change of either chair or chief executive, before they are appointed they need to go through a process of ensuring they are on the same page. I would recommend using a facilitator, who is a trained coach or mentor. The first stage would be for each one to write down their needs and vision, and understand the values and culture which exist and agree any changes that need to happen. Facilitation can also be a useful tool for ironing out issues that may arise along the way.
Analyse skills, strengths and weaknesses
Obviously it’s essential to appoint a chair who has the relevant skills, but it is also crucial to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the chair and the CEO, and both sides should agree on the areas that need to be worked on. It is important that both parties decide how to share the needs of the organisation between them in such a way that they can maximise each individual’s strengths and minimise the effects of any weaknesses. We find that, in many cases, CEOs don’t actually use the strengths of their chairs or chairs don’t actively offer their skills forward. It is important to look into this from the start and build upon it during the partnership.
Make sure the chair and CEO understand their roles
Both the chair and CEO need to understand and agree their roles and the way any disagreements will be dealt with. The chair needs to take the responsibility to ensure that the rest of the trustees understand their purpose within the organisation. Similarly, the chief executive needs to get their management team to fully understand the board’s role. It is easy for tension to arise when these roles are blurred.
Build a support system outside of your organisation
It is vital to have a sounding board outside of your organisation to support you on critical relationships and the associated challenges. This could be in the form of a mentor or trusted advisor or support group such as ella forums which provides monthly group meetings for charity chief executives. A dedicated part of the session allows members to present issues such as this to the group to gain their feedback and advice. This powerful ‘board you cannot afford’ format continuously develops the leadership and management skills of charity CEOs.
This blog post was written by Brian Chernett in conjunction with NCVO and published on their Know How Site. For more information and to read other ‘How To’ Guides visit www.knowhownonprofit.org/how-to