Nonprofit chief executives and board chairs share the desire for their organizations to thrive. Developing a strong working relationship is essential to making this happen. Leading by example – as a cohesive team – you set a tone that can resonate organization-wide.
- Communicate: Executive directors and board chairs need to meet regularly. Schedule regular face-to-face meetings with additional calls periodically and build trust through candid conversation. Agree that all topics are on the table for discussion. Foster developing a strong partnership that puts the organization first.
- Be transparent: Ensure that staff and other directors are brought into conversations as necessary and appropriate. If the board wants to hold executive sessions following board meetings, be forthright about the importance of directors having time to “talk amongst themselves” to further build trust and reflect on their own work.
- Be a resource: Each leader is valuable, an asset to the other.
Executive directors/CEOs: You know everything about the organization and the ways it delivers on its mission. Impart what you know so your board chair is also knowledgeable. The more you share, the better you and your board chair can strategize together.
Board chairs: You can open doors for your organization’s chief executive. Be a connector. Make introductions that may lead to collaborations, increased fundraising, new board members, and professional development.
- Be receptive: Each of you has something to learn from the other.
Executive Directors/CEOs: You can benefit from the perspective your board chair has on the organization and the environment. The board chair understands what is going on in the minds of other board members and can demystify it for you.
Board chairs: Conversely, you may have much to learn about the true needs of your organization’s client base, or what staff experiences day-to-day. Working together you can inspire your board and staff to persevere so you all may work together to achieve the organization’s goals.
- Collaborate: Ask each other questions and brainstorm answers together. Value and play to each other’s strengths. Understand that while your roles are different, your desires for your organization are the same.
Bring out the best in each other by developing a trusting, mutually supportive relationship. Then, together, you will be able to bring out the best in your nonprofit organization.