By: Dan Cohen
“I’m from your Board of Directors and I’m here to help…” These words illustrate the worst-case scenario of a board and chief executive that are misaligned. The board of any nonprofit or foundation has three main jobs, crucial among them hiring, nurturing, and if needed, firing the chief executive.
However, on a day-to-day basis, supporting the chief executive in her role is crucial to the near-term success and long-term stability. Helping your top executive succeed is all-to-often left off the formal agenda.
So, what can a board do to help support/manage its chief executive? We have identified three main strategies – serving as a thought partner, being a network builder, and acting as a candid source of feedback for the executive’s professional development.
Be a Thought Partner
Where it works well, CEOs tend to rely on the boards to think about and noodle on big strategic questions. I’ve seen CEOs who will call up board members and float ideas, help make a pivot, leverage their expertise, etc. But the opportunities are much broader. One opportunity is to “grow” the executive. The board can create learning experiences, share personal anecdotes, and provide professional development opportunities both formal and informal. Beyond that, the board members can serve in a mentoring function. This may be crucial to a new chief executive and/or executives at key inflection points in their lives.