The Complementary Roles of Executives and Governing Boards

Sometimes, even the best boards and seasoned executive directors clash and have trouble  staying in their respective “responsibility lanes” as the organization’s leadership team.  An excellent example might be when boards get directly involved with selecting and overseeing staff when they have a successful chief staff executive for such purposes.  Why might a board involve themselves in what is clearly a management responsibility?  Simply.  It’s what they are familiar with, despite the fact that it’s a responsibility they can and should delegate.

Certainly, if the working relationship between the board and executive director is noticeably broken, that situation should be addressed as soon as possible.  An outside management and governance coach is probably worth bringing in.  Even if everything is working smoothly between the board and the executive, an annual refresher can help keep the working relationships strong and the organization running smoothly for the coming year.

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The Four Pillars of Successful Boards

Board work is like any other team endeavor:  “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships” (Michael Jordan).

Boards are teams and how they decide to engage with one another to fulfill their responsibilities determines how successful they will be.  This article is about four pillars of successful boards based on my nearly 40 years of experience supporting and serving on nonprofit governing boards.

The four pillars are offered as a framework for success, not a prescription to be applied to fix an acute problem .  It is entirely possible for two different boards to implement these four pillars different ways, but still encompass the fundamentals of each pillar as applied to their culture and situation.

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