I suspect many executive directors have asked themselves this question at one time or another, and probably with good reason. Unless you have a well-thought out New Director Orientation Program you may be suffering through a board that has no clear purpose. It will tend drift into areas that should be the sole territory of the executive director setting up needless conflict between staff and the board.
Yet current nonprofit board best practices tell us there is a pretty simple way to decide what is board business (governance) and what is staff business (operations). While there are many difference governance models out there a simplified version of the Carver Model seems pretty effective to me.
Now, the Carver model can be complicated but, keeping it simple, just think in terms of “means” and “ends”. Anything that deals with end results, or outcomes, should be owned by the board and anything dealing with how things get done…the means…should be owned by the staff and leadership team.
If your board complains of long board meetings, being buried in too much detail, or involved in to many things, you have a perfect entry ramp to open a discussion of means vs ends. It may take some time to perfect this system for your agency, but in due time you will figure it out and will have put those micro-managing problems behind you.
Feel free to share this idea if you think it has merit, and let me know what you think.
This can be really interesting;”means and ends” Where do we draw the line? This would of course require time and understanding because many a time the CEO finds himself doing what the board is supposed to be doing. What can the CEO do if board members are demanding remuneration for meetings and reviews? How can the Board be realistically be engaged for meaningful performance?
Sam, I think when the CEO ends up doing the work of the board and the board is demanding compensation (for nonprofit board service) its time for a new board and board chair. Also, it is time to develop a comprehensive new director-candidate orientation outline of key topics to cover with a candidate even before he gets onto the board. There, topics like expectations, conflict of interest, etc can be covered. Good luck with that-