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Connections - 05.31.21

Keys to Successfully Assess and Evaluate Your Executive Leadership Team and Nonprofit Board’s Annual Performance

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by Dennis C. Miller, Dennis C. Miller Associates

The following is part one of a three-part series on how to successfully assess, develop and improve your executive leadership team and board governance’s performance to fully achieve your strategic vision and sustain your mission for years to come.

I don’t know many people who cheer when they hear it’s time for their “annual performance evaluation.” Most of us experience at least some anxiety when our supervisor schedules an appointment to review our performance. It’s even more challenging to ask valued and generous volunteer leaders to participate in a board performance assessment.

But if we really want to serve people to the very best of our ability, why wouldn’t we be open to periodic self-examination? Taking stock of how we think we are doing, how others think we are doing, and learning from the assessment process can lead to a more positive impact on those we serve. And after all, aren’t those you serve the ultimate driving force for everything your organization does?

The best way to ensure that your nonprofit organization is identifying areas of strength as well as areas that may need improvement is through completing a board and leadership assessment survey. One of the most important issues to assess is how well your board and executive leadership team are working as true partners in sustaining your mission and achieving your strategic vision. Having your board become true leaders in conjunction with your leadership team will lead to dramatic and positive results in all phases of leading your organization.

There are eight important areas to assess and to thoroughly evaluate your board and leadership team’s performance:

  • Mission, Vision, Values and Culture
  • Strategic Goals
  • Board and CEO Partnership
  • Executive Leadership
  • Board Governance
  • Impactful Programs and Services
  • Positive Brand Identity
  • Philanthropy

While there are many board assessment survey tools in the marketplace, the DCM Executive Leadership & Board Performance Online Assessment Survey allows your organization to get the perspective of the executive leadership team as well as the board’s view on the above eight areas. Gathering input from your board alone leaves out insights from your organization’s executive leadership team and vice versa. Learning the perspectives of both the board and the executive leadership team on these eight key issues enables you to better understand how far your organization has come toward developing true board-leadership team partnership. While many assessment tools will provide survey scores, the DCM assessment provides a full report with specific recommendations for improvement.

In addition to an annual executive leadership and board governance annual assessment, it is crucial that your CEO receive a comprehensive annual performance evaluation from the board, and that each member of the CEO’s team also receives an annual performance evaluation. Performance evaluations shed light on how well your executives are performing in their roles and identify any needed improvements. Such reviews should be based upon agreed goals and performance expectations set by the board for the CEO and by the CEO for the leadership team, which are then measured against actual achievements.

The annual CEO and leadership team evaluation process is also a great opportunity for your executives to conduct self-evaluations as a way to reflect on and document what they feel have been their key achievements and successes of the past year.

Annual reviews of nonprofit executives’ performance are an excellent way to identify and reward key staff for their performance as well as communicate areas of needed improvement to successfully guide the organization forward. All members of the board should participate in the executive leadership team’s evaluation. I strongly recommend that this major board responsibility not be left to the board chair or executive committee.

The executive leadership team’s review should also identify and include organizational goals for the coming year’s evaluation. It is vitally important for board and executives to discuss, collaborate and agree on these new goals. The CEO and executive leadership team performance reviews should focus on the following topics:

  • Overall Organizational Performance
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Board Relations
  • Community Relationships
  • Positive Brand Identity
  • Fiscal Stewardship
  • Culture of Philanthropy

Dennis C. Miller Associates strongly recommends that the board chair schedule with the CEO, and the CEO with his/her leadership team, ample time to review the findings in the annual performance evaluation reports. It’s also recommended that the conversations start by highlighting what the CEO or executive leder has done well before discussing any areas of needed improvement.

By overcoming the anxiety, and at times the awkwardness, of having the board participate in an annual performance assessment along with the CEO and members of their leadership team, your organization and its leaders will develop the self-confidence and motivation to generate an increasingly positive impact on those you serve.

Dennis C. Miller is Founder & Chair of DCM Associates Inc., an ANCOR Gold Partner. Visit us at dcm-associates.com or contact Dennis at [email protected].