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Board Self-Evaluation – Why Bother?

So, you’ve been appointed, elected, or have volunteered yourself to be part of a committee, a board of directors, or a municipal council. Congratulations!! This is a great opportunity to interact with new people, learn more about your organization, and serve the greater good. You are excited about the new role, and you want to be as effective as possible - and hopefully make a difference!


Evaluations on the board itself are an important part of Board/Council success and are considered one of the best governance practices out there. If you, as a councillor, director, or board member, aren’t sure if your board is effective, then how on earth are the people you serve supposed to know?


Board effectiveness and accountability are becoming more and more important to the citizens, customers, or clients who are affected by your decisions. With that in mind, how do you know if your Board or Council really is effective? Elected officials find out every four years when it’s election time, but wouldn’t you like to know ahead of time if things are going sideways?


Regular self-evaluations will provide you and your colleagues with the check-in and straightening out that any board or council needs. Employees are regularly evaluated to help them get back on track, so it makes sense that a board or council can benefit from that feedback too.


The strategic plan lays out your Mission, Vision and Value statements and articulates what your organization stands for. It also sets out a clear path of what you would like to achieve. After that, it’s up to the group of board members or councillors to work with management to get it done. It all sounds easy on paper, but the reality is there are many different personalities that make up a board, and working together can sometimes be more difficult than first expected. Sometimes the organization even needs a nudge to move out of practices that are no longer useful.


Self-evaluations that occur regularly through a board or council term provide the organization with a type of litmus test to see if you’re on the right track. The evaluation process needs to be formalized, well thought out, and meaningful to your particular organization. The first self-evaluation provides a baseline, while further self-evaluations provide the knowledge of whether desired improvements or areas of focus are working or not.


Substantive goals and objectives articulated by the board will determine what has gone well, and what hasn’t. Director, board member or councillor performance goals may be part of this, and the board’s committee structure could also be reviewed for effectiveness at the same time.


Administering self-evaluation surveys to board members and perhaps others will set the stage for a discussion that comes with the collation of the data into useful knowledge. Survey responses answer the questions that affect the ability of the board or council to work well as an entity and as a group of individuals. Self-evaluations may include questions such as; Do you attend meetings regularly? Do you receive your agenda package in a timely manner? Are directors/board members properly prepared? What is the expectation of board members? Is the agenda package information too much or too little? Is the strategic plan well understood?


Spending some collective time reviewing the type of questions and the collective responses can bring about some important insights into the board and into the organization as a whole - how well it works, identification of barriers to effective leadership, space for improvement or additional focus. In a nutshell, self-evaluation revie sessions create an environment for frank discussion, team building and forward thinking.


Be sure not to underestimate the power of regular check-ins throughout your term. As governors of any organization, it is incumbent on you to serve in the best interests of those you represent or for whom you work. Board self-evaluations will help keep you on the path you set in your strategic plan and may highlight some barriers that were preventing you from achieving your organization’s goals.


I have served on both a municipal council, community boards, and as the managers of these types of organizations. I see the benefit of regular introspection that comes from regular board self-evaluations.


I would be happy to share what I’ve learned with you. You can reach me at jacquie@strategicsteps.ca

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