The Board’s Role Hiring Staff

Boards of directors have one, and only one, position they are responsible for hiring:  the chief staff executive (CSE).  Most often the title of this position is the executive director, and sometimes chief executive officer.  Regardless the actual title, if this position is the chief staff position to which all other staff positions and contractors report, then this hire is the board’s responsibility.  All other hires are the responsibility of the CSE.

There can be many rationalizations board members cite for exceptions to this practice, but none that I’ve encountered in my career that satisfy the practical realities of a well-functioning organization.  What are those realities?

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Creating Organizational Value

Is your organization confusing motion for progress? Is your organization creating value for its mission, or just doing busy work in the hopes that your audiences conclude that staff and board are doing a good job? It’s a bit like the danger of having the right answers to the wrong questions vs. having partial answers to the right questions. The former can be very satisfying, but often does not bring the organization closer to its mission and vision.

Here’s a model for generating organizational value.

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Get the most out of performance reviews


Let’s be honest.  Most association board members, executives and staff do not look forward to performance reviews.  Most executives and board members I’ve spoken to about performance reviews are not satisfied with the methods in place and the person being reviewed feels like there’s a surprise waiting for them.  And, the surprise is usually an unpleasant one.

This post outlines a performance review tool L&M has used for more years than I can remember – always with positive and constructive results.Continue reading

When to Engage an External Interim Executive Director

An executive director-level change in any organization can be disruptive to staff and board members. Uncertainty looms large and with the uncertainty comes anxiety.  With anticipation and planning, such an important change doesn’t have to be painful.

Organizations with a current strategic plan can ease this transition, especially if the strategic plan includes a succession plan for the executive director.  If your organization lacks a succession plan, especially when confronted with the sudden loss of your executive director, it can be traumatic, but it doesn’t have to be.  In fact, it can be an opportunity.

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The Complementary Roles of the Chief Executive and your Governing Board

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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AMC-Client Relationship is Not a Partnership

I recently attended the annual meeting of the AMC Institute in Long Beach, CA.  For a west coast venue, there was good turn out and Long Beach Convention and Visitors’ Bureau rolled out the red carpet.

There was a program this year that resurrected an old topic:  “Trusted Development as a Client Partnership Strategy” presented by Michael Reed of Bloch and Reed (Association Advisors).  Bloch and Reed is not an AMC, so in defining their role with clients as a “trusted partner”, I have no issue.  I continue to have an issue defining the AMC-Client relationship as a “partnership” for the same reasons I did back in April 2009 when I first posted on this topic.  (“AMCs More Like Agents Than Partners”)

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The Value of Selecting an Outsider as Chief Staff Executive

L&M concludes a highly successful six-year engagement providing executive management to the California Association of Flower Growers & Shippers (CalFlowers).  It’s been an honor and privilege to serve the CalFlowers board of directors and membership.  We are grateful for the new friends we made and to have learned about the fascinating cut flower industry.

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AMC Management Model Has Advantages over Non-AMC Models

The results are in: The AMC management model generated more consistent operating surpluses and grew reserves to a greater extent between 2006 and 2015 than did the non-AMC model (i.e., directly employed staff and full financial responsibility for occupancy and capital costs).
Read the full report here.

For those familiar with the AMC model, this is not a big surprise. What is newsworthy about the results is that we have credible evidence that demonstrates the advantages of the AMC model for associations. These results add to previous studies conducted in the past decade showing that the AMC model is both the less expensive alternative to hiring staff directly and shouldering all operational costs, including capital purchases, and also the more productive association management model.

In short, the non-AMC model is overpriced and under-performing.

These latest results lead to an interesting set of questions: Why does the AMC model outperform the non-AMC-model? What’s the AMC model’s ‘secret-sauce”?

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