Board and Staff - Clarifying the differing rolesThose who work in commercial businesses generally have clear, documented roles and responsibilities. Community groups should operate with the same efficiency as any successful business.
If a group becomes incorporated and takes on the legal responsibilities of an organisation, then under the laws in the various Australian states a person or group of people (Committee of Management or Board of Management) must be appointed to take care of the organisation.
Legal requirements aside, it is only common sense that an organisational structure is needed if the group's mission is to be accomplished. Within that structure the roles of each position need to be clearly defined. In particular, the roles of the Board and the staff need to be clarified.
Why do we need to separate the roles of the Board and the staff?The Board and the staff are separate entities with different functions.
The Board acts as the highest authority of an organisation. It looks at the big picture. It is responsible for setting the organisation's policy, monitoring that the organisation's finances are generally in order, vouching that the organisation's operations are legal, providing an oversight of the effectiveness of the organisation's procedures, and providing leadership and direction. The Board is responsible to the members, to the community, to the organisation's clients, and to the public.
The Staff (under the Chief executive Officer/Manager) is responsible for informing and advising the Board, implementing the Board's strategic plans, and conducting the day-to-day operations of the organisation.
The Board, the CEO and the staff should work in partnership for the greater good of the organisation.
Defining the rolesThere are some roles which are not clearly a staff or board responsibility, rather a joint effort. However, there are duties where a clear distinction is necessary.
The following are generally board responsibilities:
Staff have contact with the Board through management channels, and in most cases the formal responsibility for staff functions will rest with the CEO. The following are generally staff responsibilities:
The following activities are best conducted jointly:
What happens when there is conflict between the Board and the staff?Friction will almost always occur at some point between the Board and the staff or the management (it is always easier to criticise another's job when you are secure in the knowledge that you won't actually have to do it). Some disagreement is healthy, and it is better to deal with these areas of disagreement rather than to ignore them and let them fester. The important thing is to have procedures (and conventions) in place to manage conflict when it arises.
To minimise conflict the organisation must have a clear mission statement, so that both the Board and staff know exactly why they are there, and clearly stated guidelines for the organisation, detailing roles within the group's structure. Regular contact and free communication between the staff and Board will also go a long way to maintaining a healthy relationship.
To minimise conflict:
Both parties should come to a conflict resolution meeting with an open mind. People should always remember that they are dealing with another person, who has feelings and deserves respect. A session blaming one another is fruitless; patience and listening skills will help resolve a problem, while accusations will only infuriate people and move the problem further from resolution and closer to a disaster.
If a resolution does not come out of a meeting, make sure there has been some progress, even if it is only an agreement on another date for a meeting. Keep moving forward.
As an overall rule, an organisation should review its operational procedures and programs annually. This gives both board and staff members the opportunity to vent any dissatisfaction. It also means potential problems or conflicts may be detected before they become huge disasters.
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