Making Time And Space for the Executive Director and Board Chair Relationship

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Board: Effective Governance

The relationship between board chair and executive director is critical. Many of us know this, and yet it’s not always easy to figure out what to actively do as a result. 

I recently interviewed the board chairs of two different organizations; both alumni of our Governance Lab. From them, I learned there is a simple first step to building the relationship between an executive director and board chair. And that is – a commitment to make time and space to be together. Both board chairs felt their relationships with their executive directors had improved after spending regular time together. Governance Lab ensured they spent five half days over a five month period focusing on important, rather than urgent, topics surrounding the governing of their organization. Building their relationship was not their key motivation for participating in the program. And yet, they found it the most valuable outcome.

The opportunity for a board chair and executive director to dedicate time to developing the board is often considered a luxury. It can be difficult enough to find a meeting time! And yet the mental space is critical. When leaders manage to step away from urgent and immediate work, they can begin to tackle important questions and opportunities together.  

How much time do you spend with your executive director or board chair? Do you make enough space for important conversations? (And I’m not talking about planning meeting agendas). Do you make time to think, plan, discuss, debate, and dream big?  As a pair, do you have common goals and a shared commitment to achieving them? Is your vision for the board aligned? And do you regularly check-in with each other to ensure you’re still aligned?  Do you foster your relationship through this lens?

How do you carve out the time and space for this to happen? 


Vantage Point’s Governance Lab is offered in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Kelowna.

About the Author

Annastasia Forst contributed her creative and analytic work ethic (not an oxymoron) to Vantage Point as a past Director of Learning. She is passionate about working with many talented knowledge philanthropists to develop, deliver and evaluate Vantage Point’s board and executive leadership...

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