Once the Executive Director (ED) or CEO is hired, a board member’s role should be both to support and manage the professional whom you chose to lead your enterprise. The board is both the supervisor of the executive director or ED and also his or her booster. An executive director must have clear communication with his or her board to make effective day-to-day decisions. Boards should feel free to query the ED about plans and programs. The ED should feel free to ask for help, particularly if a board member has special expertise.
Quick rule of thumb: Is it a policy that affects the entire organization? If so, it's often a governance issue. Does this issue impact one or two programs or just a few staff members, then it is usually a management issue.
The ED as the top manager of the organization is accountable to the board. Part of the ED’s role is to assist the board in doing its job. This includes providing the board with the material and training it needs to make decisions and perform its governance role, participating in developing the agendas, and assisting in the recruitment of strategic board members, setting the vision and more. There are some who promote a more active role for the ED with the board and others who believe the staff should be seen but not heard.
For smaller or newer organizations, having the executive director be an active participant on the board may be the norm. As organizations grow and the board is better trained and more comfortable in its role, this should begin to change to a partnership, keeping in mind the mantra that boards govern and EDs manage the organization. How can you tell the difference? Quick rule of thumb: Is it a policy that affects the entire organization? If so, it's often a governance issue. Does this issue impact one or two programs or just a few staff members, then it is usually a management issue.
BOARD MEMBERS AND STAFF RELATIONS
As a board member, you should feel free to voice your questions and concerns at board meetings or to the ED directly, but not to his or her staff. Although the board is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the executive director, it has no such commitment to staff. In fact, you should deal with staff issues very cautiously, unless asked by the executive director to participate with staff on a particular project. Communication from the board to the staff and vice-versa should pass through your executive director, like sand through the narrow of an hourglass.
Interfering with your executive director's job not only creates more work for the board, it also undermines the director’s authority and sends conflicting messages about who is in charge. Staff management is the responsibility of your executive director -- the person accountable for staff’s daily actions. If staff approach you with complaints about the executive director, you should refer them back to the director or to whatever grievance procedures exists. If you are unhappy with your director’s performance or management style, that should be dealt with in the yearly performance appraisal.