Start the School Year Strong – Three Quick Steps to a Better Board
Step #1: Assess
Annually you should assess your Board and CEO’s strengths and key areas to improve.
An annual board assessment should include:
- A holistic look at how the board is working as a team.
- An individual assessment that looks at how effective each trustee is at performing against an agreed upon job description.
- A skills inventory that considers term limits and natural trustee attrition to make sure you have the “right people on the bus, and in the right seats”, and have a proactive plan to find and recruit new trustees.
Annually the CEO should be evaluated by the full board against board approved goals and industry standards. The CEO should have a chance to complete a self-evaluation, and we highly recommend a modified 360 approach where the CEO’s direct reports weigh in as well.
I know, I can hear busy board members reading this and saying:
- “Sure, that sounds great, but it also sounds like a lot of work, I’m a busy volunteer and don’t have time to build something like this.” or
- “Right, we did this a few years ago and it really didn’t produce anything very helpful, and it was a lot of work.”
And then CEOs are saying:
- “My board members have no idea what my job is, how would they ever be able to complete a useful leader evaluation tool.”
We totally get that completing this type of annual assessment is essential for good governance to occur and to develop a strong partnership between the Board and CEO that is built on mutual trust and respect. We also totally get that creating and administering these types of assessments is hard. So, we made this very easy for you and built a set of online tools to help you complete each of these assessments. They have been road-tested with 300+ charter school boards nationwide, and allow you to benchmark your performance against your peers. If you are already a BoardOnTrack member we’re standing by ready to help you harness the potential of these tools and if you are not a member then we welcome you to learn more.
Step #2: Align
Completing the assessment phase is a great first step, but what really matters is what you do with that data. Most boards and CEOs miss calling out an explicit alignment step. What do I mean by alignment? Alignment really has two parts:
Part #1: Board Alignment – is the full board in agreement about their top strengths and areas to improve? Have you set aside time to look at the data and process this out as a group? Too often the Board Chair or others in leadership positions know what they think the board’s priorities should be, but they miss the step of processing this out with their team and getting everyone aligned. Without explicitly going through this step the board may inadvertently trip over themselves all year because they are operating on different assumptions about what the priorities are.
Part #2: Board-CEO Alignment A strong Board-CEO partnership that is built on mutual trust and respect is the bedrock of effective governance. It is absolutely essential that the organization’s CEO gets to weigh in on the board’s and organizational priorities for the year. As the full-time paid professional of the organization, the CEO should have the most comprehensive view of how best to utilize the board’s time and talents.
If done correctly an effective alignment process will lead to:
- A reaffirming of the full board, officers, committees and individual trustee roles and responsibilities.
- An affirmation or refinement of the board’s composition, officers and committee structure defined.
- The creation of annual board development plan.
- The creation of a clear set of board goals for the year.
Step #3: Accelerate
With the above steps complete you should be able to shift into high gear and deliver some high impact governance.
Boards that complete a thorough Assessment and Alignment Phase typically report the following results:
- A strong Board-CEO partnership
- An engaged and accountable Board
- Strategic and efficient meetings
- The entire team focused on results
To learn more about the three-step process:
Watch this quick video / webinar introducing you to the methodology.