Executive sessions exclude the trust quotient

August 20, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Many executives find that smaller groups can help expedite the work of larger groups. This desire to get things done can also manifest itself in the use of executive sessions, meetings typically held at the conclusion of business from a regular board meeting.

Although many people favor them, many other people do not, and William R. Mott is one of those who do not. In his book “Super Boards” Mott explained why he considers executive sessions to be not just unproductive but harmful. He offers the following reasons why executive sessions are unhealthy for an organization:

  • Executive sessions create a climate of mistrust between the CEO and the governing board. One of the most important characteristics for organizational effectiveness is trust between the board chair and the CEO, and executive sessions work against this concept.
  • Executive sessions demonstrate that a true partnership is absent from the relationship. The CEO and chair have different responsibilities, but they must work together.
  • Executive sessions might suggest that the board has something to hide. Other than issues of evaluation and compensation, there is no reason to keep anything from the CEO.
  • Executive sessions demonstrate a lack of understanding of the board’s role. All too often executive sessions are forums to spread gossip and discuss staff or other matters in unproductive and inappropriate ways.
  • Executive sessions often include discussions about issues with which they have limited or no information. Without the CEO, board members might not have all the information they need.
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