How to Encourage a Strong Board Chair and CEO Relationship

The organization will flourish if the chief executive officer and the board chair have a strong relationship. But sometimes, the CEO and chair develop a contentious relationship, which can hurt the organization's growth.

The partnership between the CEO and the chair guides the organization with governance and management complementing and supporting each other. Together, they focus on the mission via different actions and perspectives. This critical partnership provides the blueprint for sharing information, finding solutions, and strategizing for the future.

Here are four things to keep in mind when developing a strong board chair and chief executive officer relationship.

Understand the roles. Each person has a distinct yet crucial role in the organization's success. First, the board approves the company's strategic plan, which the CEO executes. Next, the board chair oversees the organization's governance, ensuring it's sticking to its mission. Finally, the CEO oversees the organization's management, working with staff to fulfill the board's directives.

Share tasks. The chair and the CEO should have mutual respect and trust with each other and share the same mission-driven purpose and social and fiscal stewardship. In addition, the two should work together on developing resources, planning for succession, and evaluating programs and outcomes. Finally, the CEO and the board chair should share the organization's values.

Develop mutually agreeable goals. The two should work together on policies and performance standards for the CEO with his or her input. They should also agree on which decisions the board should consider and which the CEO can handle without board input.

Clear communication. The board chair and the CEO should keep each other informed regularly. Both should decide how often they need to be in touch. Open communication channels between the chief executive and the board are essential to a good working relationship.

To accomplish the above goals, the CEO and board chair should understand the relationship takes time to develop, with trust building from regular and honest communications. To build such a relationship, try these best practices.

Meet together frequently. Weekly or monthly calls, plus regular in-person lunches or coffee, will help the chair and CEO get to know one another as well as offer input on board and organizational dynamics.

Strategize together. It's important to consider how to shape or reorganize current or new programs to meet the company's vision better. Have specific strategizing sessions for the board chair and chief executive to ensure the organization's initiatives are on the right track.

Remember that a good working relationship takes time, so don't get discouraged if the CEO and chair don't mesh right away. However, following these guidelines will soon have them on their way to a strong working relationship.


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