Many non-profits are all over the map when it comes to board evaluation. Some have nothing in place, while others evaluate their board meetings and themselves as a group once every year or two. And then there are some regularly conducting board peer-to-peer evaluations, bringing their governance to an enviable level of excellence.
A peer-to-peer assessment provides individual board members with an opportunity to reflect on, as well as learn from, their colleagues regarding how they add value along with performance areas that might be strengthened. “Soft” or “people” skills necessary for the board to function successfully are explored and discussions are held regarding director performance and the importance of working as a team.
Once a non-profit has a basic board evaluation program in place, an excellent next step is to conduct board peer-to-peer reviews.
Here are 8 tips to help you complete successful board peer-to-peer assessments in your non-profit:
1. Set Objectives and Obtain Buy-In
Confirm why the board is doing this and what they want to achieve. Ensure every board member is committed to the process.
2. Ease the Discomfort of Reviews
Performance reviews in general make many people feel awkward and uncomfortable. Obtain some guidance around how to take the discomfort out of the process.
3. Be Transparent with the Process
Provide the board with a step by step guide to the process and confirm who will be receiving and delivering the results and in what manner.
4. Keep it Simple
I always use the analogy that your first car is not usually a BMW. Start off with a Honda Civic level board peer review process, and upgrade in future reviews.
5. Deliver the Results Respectfully
Some results might require tough conversations. Ensure the individual providing feedback and results is respectful and that they balance strengths and areas for improvement.
6. Keep the Results Confidential
There might be sensitive information that will come out of the peer reviews. Ensure the results remain confidential.
7. Use the Results to Improve
Use the board peer-to-peer results to determine the gaps on the board as well as strengths and areas for improvement for each director. Capitalize on the strengths. For example, have strong leaders train others in the areas in which they excel. Explore professional development opportunities for each director where needed. Consider group training if there are shared areas for improvement.
8. Debrief, Circle Back to the Objectives and Evaluate the Process
Obtain feedback from the board on the process, ensure objectives have been met and document any lessons learned to improve future reviews.
Implementing a board peer-to-peer review requires bravery. Rather than avoiding them because they can be potentially awkward, focus on the positives and how these assessments could strengthen your board and help your non-profit to better achieve its objectives.
Is your board being brave? I would love to continue the conversation so feel free to contact me to talk about peer reviews and how I might be able to assist you and your board.
Yours in Good Governance,
Heather Terrence, CAE
Pinpoint Governance Group