Boards of Directors- Don’t be a Donald Trump!

Pink SlipYesterday I learned of a colleague who had been let go by her board, via a phone call, while she was on vacation and worst of all she never saw it coming! I would like to say this is just an anomaly in the association world but its not. This is the second such firing in two months that I have been personally aware of. There are so many, many things wrong with this scenario but let’s break it down shall we?

1. A CEO has the right to know (and the board has a responsibility to them just as the CEO has the same responsibility to his/her staff) when performance is not satisfactory.

2. Performance issues should be addressed as they occur- not at contract renewal time.

3. So often (and I do not know the backstory of this most recent firing but do of the other) the termination has nothing to do with performance but with a personality conflict.

4. Boards need to understand that the CEO is a constant within the organization and the President is fleeting- weigh personal issues very carefully and be business savvy enough to realize there are two sides to every story!

5. CEOs need to be evaluated on their performance not on whether or not you personally like them. Performance measurements should be pre-defined, agreed upon, and measured quantitatively.

6. If you don’t like something the CEO is doing- arrange a time to discuss the issue in a non-threatening way.

7. There should be in place a pre-defined process for how the board will handle a dispute or a performance issue with the CEO. This at minimum should include a) a meeting to discuss the issue with more than one officer b) a plan for improvement c) a plan for evaluating (when and how ) the plan for improvement and d) a plan for the consequences if there is no improvement.

8. This plan should include that the CEO will be called in and terminated… in person. Most likely the CEO believes her or she is doing a good job and has probably given more than 40 hours per week and more than a little of his/her soul to the organization. They are a person. They were your leader; this should be respected and the terminating employee should be treated with dignity.

9. Don’t fire someone while they are out of town at a business conference or on vacation. Show some courage and a little class- as an officer of the board and a leader you should have these two qualities already.

10) Lastly, follow my steps for the proper and professional manner in which to inform the membership of the departure which is covered in my earlier post, Hell Isn’t Merely Paved With Good Intentions.

If as a board, an evaluation process and termination process is not agreed upon then this should be addressed at the next leadership training.

As a side note, I read somewhere that the term pink slip originated because terminated men in the early 1900’s were sent home, out of the workforce, to be with the women. The women who all wore slips at the time and are represented by the color pink.  Therefore, the employee received a WRITTEN NOTICE, the “pink slip” became a slang term for the termination, it most likely was not on a piece of pink paper.

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