A Review of Performance Reviews

A lot of the charity leaders I work with don’t get proper accountability from their Board of Directors. Sometimes they kinda like it that way.

But the truth is that providing a proper performance review of the lead staff person is a basic duty of the board. Failing to do so handicaps the leader and ultimately the organization. Every employee deserves to know how well they are doing and what they can do to improve.

I am occasionally asked to advise or participate in a leader’s performance review. Over the year’s I’ve seen both excellent and ineffective approaches. I recently offered the following thoughts to a board member from a familiar charity about designing a performance review for their leader:

(Edited for confidentiality)

-The first consideration is what is the purpose of the evaluation. Is the board considering whether she is still the right leader for the organization? That would lead to a different process than if you are confident in her and trying to give her some feedback to continue her growth.
-Assuming you’re happy with her, I think there are two prime aspects of evaluation:
1. Organizational Results: Is the organization achieving its purpose and hitting strategic targets (as approved by the Board) consistently under her leadership? This information should be fairly easy to gather and evaluate against the strategic plan.
2. Organizational Culture: Does she cultivate a healthy atmosphere where people are equipped to perform at their best and their achievements are celebrated? Our REACTION Dashboard has been effectively adapted and facilitated for this purpose. 
-A third aspect is her leadership health and development. Is she preparing herself to thrive in the role as the organization continues to grow? Does she know what she needs to do to be the leader the organization needs for the next 5 years? A leaders success is tied to being healthy and being intentional about development.
As for the process; there could be a range of approaches depending on the degree of detail you want. A basic survey of 10-20 key people (board, staff, donors, etc.) could be summarized for the board and leader with a few simple questions on the above topics. Something more formal or systematic would require more expertise than I can offer.
There are lots of viable options for an effective performance review. Determining which approach is most appropriate depends on the current situation of the leader, board, and organization. However, for any review to be useful it will have to address the above areas in some way.