This month we have Larissa Ashdown from Ashdown Consulting weighing in on the topic of Executive Director (ED) evaluations. Here’s what Larissa has to say:

In the non-profit sector, when a board conducts an evaluation of their Executive Director or CEO, this is different from all other performance evaluations in the organization. The board delegates the ED with the authority to manage the organization and help it carry out the organization’s mission and goals, and as such the board has a strong partnership with the ED.

Unlike most performance appraisals, the key goal of ED evaluations is not just individual performance improvement, but instead is a chance to reflect on the performance of the board, the ED and the organization as a whole. Evaluations provide the board with a basis for decisions about the ED such as salary and performance but more importantly, the process should facilitate an opportunity to reflect and learn, and lead to alignment and clarification of goals and expectations for the organization, the board and the ED.

Typically, the board members have a limited ability to observe the ED and are often unfamiliar with the specifics of program areas of the organization and the nuances of the internal and external leadership roles of their ED. They likely receive most of their information from the ED, who is of course not able to be a completely unbiased source of information. A 360⁰ process can help address some of these challenges when conducting evaluations of your ED and help create a collaborative, aligned and strategic path forward.

What is a 360⁰ review?

A 360⁰ places the organization at the centre of a circle and looks at it from various viewpoints by seeking feedback from those outside and inside of the circle. A carefully designed and implemented 360⁰ survey of a diverse group of staff and stakeholders familiar with the organization and the ED can anonymously provide feedback that can help the ED improve. The ED is the face of your organization, and many will see their performance as one in the same with that of the organization overall. This process helps compensate for the board’s limited view of the organization. A 360⁰ evaluation does take time from the board and everyone who is asked to give input, but it makes the most sense to use the opportunity not only to learn about your ED, but about your organization.
The information gathered in a 360⁰ can also be used to inform organizational planning as a complement to the ED’s performance appraisal. Evaluations of an ED do not measure organizational performance per se, but one of the most valuable aspects of doing this fulsome type of review is that it can help facilitate positive discussions about how the organization can improve. The board has a strong role to play to ensure that this opportunity is not lost.

There you have it. Larissa works as a freelance HR and policy consultant in Winnipeg, Manitoba and provides organizational capacity-building support to nonprofits. You can reach her as follows, or let me know and I can connect you with her!

Larissa Ashdown she/her/hers, Ashdown Consulting

The next issue of Frankly Speaking News will be in October.

Best wishes to you for an enjoyable summer and early fall!


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