“Dear Joan” is an ongoing series where Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.
First off, thank you to the many folks who write with ideas for blog posts and who reach out with questions. The volume is quite overwhelming and I’m thinking a lot about how I can reach more people to offer the advice (and shot in the arm) they need. I’ll have more to say on that soon….
Today, I picked two different – but related – questions.
The first comes from the member of a senior staff who is concerned about the role of the board after a CEO is fired and the second comes from a CEO working through what appears to be dysfunctional relationship with her board chair.
What’s the common thread? It’s the relationship between the board and the staff. What it can look like if roles are not clear, if there is a lack of trust, if the board is not clear on its role, if the CEO does not lead.
One of the most important theories I have – as an author and a consultant – is that a thriving nonprofit should be like a twin-engine jet. Each engine – board and staff – must operate well independently and together.
Far too often, that is not the case. See Exhibits A and B below. Because I like to illustrate what the Board–CEO relationship does look like when it’s humming, I offer Exhibit C – a “tip o’ the hat” to a beloved board chair.
OUR CEO WAS FIRED AND THE BOARD HAS TAKEN OVER
Dear Joan: Our Board of Directors has recently fired the CEO of our non-profit organization. There were legitimate reasons, and I do not fault them for doing so. However, there are now 2 Board members who have taken power and are overriding our COO and CFO (who is also the Interim CEO) in all decisions. The Board has secret meetings and is not transparent at all. We are all worried that the organization is not going to make it under this takeover. Can a board take over like this leaving the staff powerless?
– One of the Powerless