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20 lessons from a hiring debacle

In his book “The Board Game” William R. Mott illustrates lessons that were learned due to the resignation of the head of a private school. Mott wrote that these have wider nonprofit implications.

  • The search committee must be unanimous in its hiring decision.
  • Executive sessions are destructive to the CEO-chair relationship.
  • Trustees in conflict with administration regarding operational issues must recuse themselves or leave.
  • Bullying by board members is a disease the chair must address.
  • Serious discussions are necessary, but severe, abusive criticism is usually unwarranted and often destructive.
  • Secret board meetings demonstrate the worst possible behavior.
  • Allowing board members to badly treat the head and other administrators suggests a lack of leadership by the chair.
  • Once a process has been established and decisions made, reversing a decision because someone simply disagrees is unacceptable.
  • No board member is exempt from giving something to fundraising efforts.
  • Board term limits are useful and vital.
  • It is critical that the head be part of selecting new trustees.
  • Always remember why you got into this profession.
  • Trust and respect must be at the core of all relationships.
  • It is not the board’s responsibility to address concerns parents bring to them.
  • Staff members who complain to a board member without trying to resolve an issue internally might be committing insubordination.
  • Trustees who expect special treatment or make intrusive requests do not provide proper leadership.
  • Effective, enlightened leadership makes all the difference in the world.
  • The head or appropriate staff should always make personnel decisions.
  • There are essential characteristics that must be present to ensure a healthy relationship between the chair and the head/CEO.
  • The chair should not represent extremes in philosophy or action.

As we celebrate our 36th year, NPT remains dedicated to supplying breaking news, in-depth reporting, and special issue coverage to help nonprofit executives run their organizations more effectively.