Photo: The Skillman Foundation
You are the newly-hired executive director of a community-based youth program with a budget of $350,000. In this capacity, you would have 8 employees, including an administrative assistant, 2 program directors, a business manager and 4 case workers. You have a master of social work degree, and have recently served as the associate executive director of a citywide youth program with a one million dollar budget and 40 employees. The board of directors of your former agency was well on its way to becoming institutionalized. The board consisted of a number of up-and-coming civic leaders. For the most part, they did not get involved with the day to day affairs of running the organization. They did serve as staff volunteers from time to time, assisting with occasional mailings and phone banking.
You accepted the job of executive director of this agency because of the significant opportunity to develop your own leadership skills, while growing the agency. This would be an excellent stepping stone to a leadership position at a larger city wide agency or local affiliate of a national agency.
The agency that you are currently working in was founded by a team of dedicated people who have a passion for youth. Seven of the 10 board members were founders. You notice that the board members are very hands on, and seem to be somewhat territorial. For example, the treasurer had responsibility for preparing the financial statements and presenting them to the board of directors. One of the mutually agreed upon goals you and the board set was to begin to transition this responsibility to the business manager. During your first transitional meeting with the treasurer and business manager, you noticed that the treasurer shared information about “what” was done, rather than “how” it was done. This behavior was consistent among the seven founding board members, regardless of what position they held. In fact, there have been times that you would “swear” that some of the board members were jockeying for position with you during the board meetings. While the board chairman insists she is fully “in your corner”, you don’t feel that you have yet established the relationship in which she sees you as her primary “go to” person on board affairs. You have been on the job 3 months and have gotten an outstanding performance rating.
While you love the people, the work and the opportunities before you, this is a very difficult transition for you. You would like to see more clearly defined board versus staff roles so that the organization could move to the next level in its development. At the same time, you realize the potential for disaster should you miscalculate the political lay of the land. What would you do?
- What are the main issues?
- What alternative tools would you consider using to address them?
Written by Valerie F. Leonard