Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Report Has Implications for Head/Board Relationships

In a recent article, Executive Directors Should Invest More Time on Their Boards, Rick Moyers summarizes two findings from a report called The Board Paradox, by CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation.

First, many executive directors don’t spend all that much time working with their boards. More than half of survey respondents said they spent 10 hours or less per month supporting their boards. Ten hours may sound significant, but that is just 6 percent of a full-time executive director’s time. Maybe even less, since many executives work more than 40 hours a week.

Second, executives who spend more time on their boards are more satisfied with their boards’ performance. As an example, among executive directors who said they spent less than five hours a month supporting the board, just 13 percent said they were very satisfied with the board’s performance. Among those who spent five to 10 hours per month on the board, 34 percent were very satisfied.

Taken together, these two findings suggest that many executives may be under-supporting their boards—and suffering the consequences.

What implications do findings such as these have on how heads of independent schools spend their time?  If the relationship between trustees and the head is strained (or under-nurtured), what effect does that have on the operation of the school at other levels?

Many heads I have talked with have openly admitted that one of the most, if not the most, important time they spend is time with the Board Chair and working with trustees.  As one head told me, “The closer you get to becoming head of school, the less time you have available to be among the students – which is difficult because the students are the reason why you get into education in the first place.”

Balancing time between working with trustees and being an active presence in the daily operation of the school is certainly among the most challenging aspects of being a head of school.  If you are, was, or aspire to be a head of school, what strategies would you use to find this balance?

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