By Natalie Dillon, CSDA President & Director, Yolo County DCSS
Several members of the CSDA Board of Directors and Ross Hutchings recently attended a training entitled The Board and the Executive Relationship: Developing the Strategic Partnership to Advance the Association. It was an excellent training sponsored by California Society of Association Executives (CalSAE) and was specifically designed for Executive Directors to attend with members of their Board of Directors. As I mentioned in my last CSDA One Voice article, the CSDA Board has been working to become a more strategic board. The impact of an association is best when their board is a strategic thinking, high performing entity. In that we know governing skills are different from executive and management skills, training is imperative for us to continue our growth in this area.
We each took an assessment of our Board while at the training, and while the assessment demonstrated that we are doing well and are headed in the right direction – there is still more work we need to do.
The trainer, Jeffrey Wilcox, President and CEO of Third Sector Company, posits that there are six elements to drive the content of the board executive relationship.
- A clear picture of success
- Clear description of leadership jobs
- Clear articulation of the performance of the jobs
- A dashboard for monitoring success
- Structure and policies that mobilize the picture of success and framework
- A commitment to the evaluation of jobs, board and organization
As I mentioned, Our Board is moving positively in each of these areas. Earlier this year, CSDA completed our strategic plan and has spent some time defining what a clear picture of success would look like for our membership.
We went through the process of reviewing, refining, and updating the CSDA Executive Director job specification and expectations prior to the marketing effort and hiring of Ross. We have not, however, created a clear description of our Association leadership jobs, or the expectations or performance outcomes of those jobs.
We do not have a dashboard for monitoring the success of the CSDA Strategic Plan. Although this is something we spend considerable time thinking about as child support professionals, I would argue that we could do better monitoring the outcomes and success measures of our association. I anticipate this may be an endeavor we focus on in the upcoming year.
Within the last couple of years, we have updated our Association Employee Manual. We also recently started the undertaking to create a Board Policy Manual. Over the years, Board of Directors previously made decisions and established policy, but typically those decisions were not documented or defined outside of meeting minutes. There is a lot of work that will need to occur to finalize a current Board Policy Manual as each policy will need to be reviewed, analyzed, and likely have procedures written.
Recently, the membership, board and staff received an invitation to participate in a 360 evaluation of our current Executive Director, Ross. Although we recognize that the Executive Director has different levels of involvement with each stakeholder, the board felt it was important to seek input from each of the members to provide feedback on leadership and job performance.
Each year, the responsibility of writing the Executive Director’s performance evaluation is performed by the Vice President. This year, Don Semon will be working with Ross to review the feedback provided by the CSDA staff, membership and board, focusing on common themes, along with his observations. This assessment and the associated feedback should provide a fantastic opportunity for Don and Ross to establish goals and priorities for the upcoming year.
Providing this type of stakeholder feedback to the Executive Director is new for CSDA. The Board felt that a 360-degree assessment would give a more rounded evaluation of the Executive Director’s overall impact and performance. Our recent training highlighted how this kind of evaluation method is ideal to assess the leadership qualities and how the leaders and managers are perceived by the employees (or membership). A 360-feedback approach is an efficient method to promote growth and development in the organization. The LPI 360 we selected as our assessment tool is designed to help leaders gain perspective into how they see themselves as a leader, how others view them, and what actions they can take to improve their use of the Five Practices, which research has demonstrated, make more effective leaders. A result of the recent training, the Board will also go through an evaluation this year; please keep an eye out for an opportunity to provide us feedback.
This is just a sampling of what we learned, and what we are working on, to move our Association forward and become more strategic in how we operate. I am very much interested in your feedback and welcome any questions.