Part of my role as head of leadership and governance at ACEVO is to provide support for members via our governance advice line and CEO in crisis service. While offering support through this service it is not unusual for me to see first hand how great organisations, with strong volunteers and staff working with committed, passionate CEOs are unable to fulfil their full potential because of poor governance.
This is not to say that poor governance is solely down to the board: there is a role for both CEO and trustees but an integral part of the trustee role is to support and manage the CEO. It is the responsibility of the board, and in particular, the chair, to work collaboratively with the CEO to ensure they have the skills, support and structures they need to do the best job possible. But too often I see cases where governance isn’t thought of until it goes wrong.
I recently tweeted that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup, self-care has to come first’, but in the workplace, you can’t fill an empty cup on your own. We all need others to top us up now and then with kindness, with feedback, and with the tools that will enable us to do our job. The Pay and Equalities Survey 2019 shows us that too often, this isn’t happening.
46% of CEOs have no formal salary review on a regular basis
It is not unusual to hear from members that have foregone a salary review for the sake of their team. Trustees and chairs should be providing their CEO with the same HR support that the CEO provides to their staff: regular one to ones, annual appraisals, salary reviews and benchmarking.
In turn, CEOs must not assume that their board will know what they expect, there is no point foregoing a salary review for your team hoping the board will notice, only for resentment to build when it doesn’t happen.
40% of CEOs receive no support for professional or personal development.
One of the most frustrating things about tabloid press headlines about chief executive pay is that they overlook the selflessness that I see in so many of the leaders I work with. Many have chosen to drop their own training/development budgets in order to ensure those carrying out frontline delivery work get the support they need. However, development doesn’t need to be expensive. Mentoring programmes only cost time, which I appreciate is a precious resource, but it is time well spent if it helps to increase the effectiveness of the charity.
But I have heard from some CEOs who have been told by their board that they were appointed because they had the skills they need to do their job so they don’t need any further development. This is unacceptable and short-sighted. No one is complete, no one should ever stop learning, and promoting a culture which suggests that any staff member has reached their capacity for personal growth is harmful.
58% have no statement of delegated authority
I have to say that I am a bit surprised this isn’t higher, although it would be interesting to know from the 42% who do have one how regularly it is reviewed, whether it is included in the trustee induction and if there is a plan for when it goes wrong.
I would estimate that at least two-thirds of members who access the CEO in Crisis service don’t have a statement of delegated authority in place. This is often part of the problem, but at the point, it is recognised as a problem is often too late to start the process of developing one.
A statement of delegated authority is something that needs to be developed in the sunny days before problems arise. It should be worked out between the CEO and chair first then agreed by the board, it should not be imposed on the CEO.
35% of CEOs have no regular appraisal
This is something I hear a lot too. Sometimes CEOs are worried about asking for an appraisal because they don’t have a good relationship with their chair and they worry that an appraisal will just lead to a further relationship breakdown, or the chair will not know how to do an appraisal (the Association of Chairs produced a great guide to help CEOs in this position). Equally, chairs and trustees should also be appraised as part of a governance review, or separately. There needs to be a culture of mutual feedback.
Overall, what these statistics from the Pay and Equalities Survey 2019 tell me is that there are a lot of CEOs and boards who do not have the relationship and culture in place to make the biggest possible difference to their charitable cause. This doesn’t mean that these organisations aren’t doing good work, but that there is the potential for better structures which can create more skilled, healthier teams which in turn will lead to better impact.
For those looking to improve their processes and procedures I recommend starting by looking at how the organisation’s values are reflected in the culture and practice of the board, this should then be backed up with processes which will create good practice. The Charity Governance Code is also an invaluable tool.
And remember, whatever your situation, you are not alone. The Association of Chairs provides excellent support for chairs and we are here for you as a CEO or senior leader. If your cup is empty and you need some help filling it, there is always a kettle on at ACEVO.
Our member briefing looks at some of the key statistics and explains what services and resources are available to ACEVO members to address these problems.