by Jini Stolk

Why is undergoing, or undertaking, a job evaluation so often unnerving? An organization whose board I serve on recently gathered the best written materials, advice and personal experiences we could find in order to make our annual CEO evaluation positive and productive.

We started by discussing and agreeing to the process, which I think was important to how good everyone eventually felt about the experience. Springing a “stealth” job review on an ED or General Manager is never a good idea (although I’ve seen it done) – unless your actual purpose is to drive them from the organization. In our case, because our purpose was exactly the opposite, we decided to focus on discussing and setting mutual goals for the ED and the board – aimed at moving the organization to its next level.

The Canadian Co-operative Association’s Governance Matters issue on Questions the Board Should Ask about CEO Evaluation, is loaded with good advice. It focuses on the mutual benefit of everyone knowing what’s expected and what needs to be accomplished; the strategic importance of setting goals together to ensure success of the organization; and how to bring outside input and ideas into the discussion. It also notes that “there are perhaps as many ways to conduct a CEO evaluation as there are types of boards” – leaving lots of room for creativity and initiative!

IdeaEncore has an online kit called The Performance Appraisal Handbook. In fact there are many good guidelines on the net. Be Amplified’s HR in the Spotlight  is a brief series focusing on risk mitigation for small arts organizations. Good to know, but even better if your terrific HR, hiring and governance practices make it unnecessary to have to use.

Our process combined internal staff interviews with a quick board and stakeholder survey, and a Performance Review Tool that focused on key performance measures and analysis of goals, objectives, successes and challenges of the previous and upcoming year. It was a good opportunity for everyone to reflect on how things were going. But more importantly it offered the opportunity for a very focused discussion on what we wanted to achieve and how board and staff could support each other’s efforts to reach our goals; the process included feedback from the ED to the board. It was a positive and constructive way to deepen our mutual understandings, develop a closer collaboration, and give everyone ideas and insights they can use to make a great organization better.

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