Aware as they are of the long hours, high stress, and limited financial rewards that come with a seminary presidency, it is no surprise when board members are reluctant to engage in a review of the president’s work. It can feel almost ungrateful to bring up the idea of evaluation, and all the more so when the institution is doing well. However, as three longtime seminary heads remind us, trustees need not (should not) apologize for making presidential evaluation a priority.

The literature on nonprofit governance is unanimous in listing regular appraisal of the CEO’s performance among the top two or three responsibilities assigned to boards. Yet many board leaders are puzzled over how to provide the president with feedback in a way that is comfortable and useful for everyone involved. In fact, In Trust receives more inquiries about presidential evaluation than any other single topic.

Fortunately, and contrary to what many board members fear, presidential evaluation need not be an overwhelming, stressful, or unpleasant undertaking — for the board or the head of the school. By paying attention to a few basic principles, board members can move forward with confidence, knowing they are providing their president with the kind of feedback he or she wants and needs.

Begin Early and Keep It Up

Whether evaluation of the president is mandated in the bylaws of the school, outlined in the employment agreement with the president, or is the outgrowth of an informal agreement between board leadership and the head of the school, the board’s commitment to providing a regular and thoughtful performance review is key to the long-term success of a presidency. Strong boards demonstrate their care for the president (and the institution) by providing regularly scheduled evaluation of the chief executive’s work, beginning the process early, and continuing it throughout the whole of a presidency.

Article from: Summer 2004

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