The board must recognize their responsibility as an independent arbiter of facts, without prejudice. It may be that the board’s monitoring of the CEO is minimal or non-existent, which puts a level of onus on the board for an escalating issue. Sitting down with the CEO to gain insight and discover what support he or she needs should be the first step when any issue is brought to the board’s attention.
Your board and your community (which you represent) are too deeply invested to allow for a lack of proper oversight sidelining your CEO – and potentially your organization’s mission and vision. Remember, your role with the CEO is a partnership!
As a nonprofit consultant, I’m particularly cognizant of the issues raised by this article. I’ve heard that among the membership of just one national nonprofit association, in the last year there have been about 12 member organizations that have gone through tumultuous leadership shifts, with this being the primary issue.
While the board must step in when appropriate, there must be policy and procedure in place that is closely followed. Only when serious ethical or fiduciary malfeasance is found should a board step in directly. Developing, protecting, and reconciling the relationship with their sole employee, the CEO, is their primary job.
In light of these concerns, one of the first assessments I recommend is a board survey to highlight any governance and policy issues or disconnect with the CEO. In a majority of my cases so far there have been indicators of a need for board/CEO training in monitoring and policy creation. Every effort at deepening the relationship and trust with your CEO will pay dividends.