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Empty Senior Staff Position?
How to use it for Board Development

by Laura Gemme

Before you hire a new executive-level staff member, think about involving your board of directors. It could be crucial to long-term success of your new hire. Obviously, the board of directors is central in hiring a new executive director, but it's just as important to involve the board when hiring a director of development, membership or marketing director, or other executive-level positions. This is because the new hire's performance will directly impact the organization's financial growth or visibility within the community and because the new staff member will need to work closely with the board to achieve success.

So how best to involve your board, and at what level is appropriate? It depends on the position, the organization, and its overall culture and structure. Here are some guidelines...

* How small or large is your organization? Do you have a human resources department, or are hiring decisions typically made by a few key people?
* What is your organization's style or culture? Is it very collaborative, or bureaucratic? Is it free flowing or do you have strict systems and processes already in place?
* Typically, when involving your board, it's best to have a sub-group (such as a personnel committee) involved more directly and reports to the group at large. Having too many board members involved can take more time and complicate matters unnecessarily.
* Consider the time availability of anyone involved in the hiring process. Inviting board members who are already over-committed can lengthen the hiring process, and you may miss key opportunities to hire quality candidates who accept other positions while waiting for your hiring team to be available. (Of course, when hiring executive-level staff, if board members and/or the executive director are pressed for time, a search firm can be invaluable to guide the process and keep it moving on schedule.)
* Hiring a new executive director? Involve the board (or board sub-committee) in the entire process. Hiring other executive-level staff? Ask the board (or sub-committee) for input, but leave the ultimate hiring decision to the executive director or direct supervisor of the new hire, and keep the board up-to-date on the hiring process and final decision.
* When writing job descriptions, the board committee should be asked for input, although the initial draft should be done internally, as well as finalized internally, once feedback has been requested. This is also beneficial to help familiarize board members with the responsibilities and scope of work of the new hire.
* All board members should be asked to distribute the executive-level job vacancy announcements throughout their networks to broaden the pool of qualified candidates.

Including the board in helping hiring the top management team will not only involve them more deeply, but it will create buy-in around the new-hire and position them for interpersonal success. With a bit of thoughtful vision about hiring your leaders and collaborative effort, you'll greatly benefit both staff and board.

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