Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hiring and firing the President

Policy Governance, some say, can't work in an organization that elects its CEO - unless the Board has the power to hire and fire the executive, the logic goes, there isn't a strong enough incentive for the two to work together.

Huh? First of all, the Board DOES have the power to fire the President. Per the UUA By-Laws:

Section 8.5. Removal of Officers.

Elected Officers. An elected officer may be removed by a three-fourths vote of the entire Board of Trustees at a meeting at which not less than three-fourths of the entire Board is present if in the opinion of the Board such officer is incapacitated or unable to carry out the duties of the office. The President may also be removed by such a vote of the Board if it determines that such removal is in the best interests of the Association.

(thanks to my fellow Board member Jackie Shanti for pointing this out)

The Board also has final authority on the budget (per most state and federal laws) so could choose to not fund an out of control president.

The thought that we would ever get to that point is inconceivable to me. We are watching a rigorous election process with two highly qualified candidates who have both spent the last year at all the Board meetings, providing input into the Policy Governance deliberations. Moreover, they start with UU values, which is where Policy Governance starts. For those of you not familiar with the process of creating "ends", the statements about what difference we want to make for whom, and that are given to the President to interpret and make happen, you start with your values and it is those values that are translated into policies.

My experience in 30 years of hiring and firing managers is that a difference in values is often what leads to trouble, especially in more senior positions. If I am part of a Board that believes in treating employees with respect and the CEO rides roughshod over them, I am not going to be happy - or I object to the use of overseas suppliers with sweatshops and the CEO insists this is the only way we can reduce our costs and compete, there will be a problem (these are both real examples, by the way).

Another problem Boards often face is a CEO (often the founder) who has outlived his or his effectiveness as the organization changes under them. Our term limits deal with that.

Underneath all of this concern about hiring versus electing is what I consider a fairly unhealthy view of how to use power. Totally aside from Policy Governance, the Board (or manager, for that matter) that has to depend on obsolete notions of "command and control" is operating in the last century. "Facilitative leadership" or similar concepts replaced it for most corporations and other professional organizations decades ago, but my experience is that far too many UUs still assume the old model.

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