Effective Governance: The Executive Director Performance Evaluation

Effective Governance: The Executive Director Performance Evaluation

October 13, 2021
5:31 pm

One of the key responsibilities of the board of directors is to evaluate the performance of the executive director of an organization. An annual evaluation process documents the executive director’s achievements and shortcomings, presenting an opportunity to reward accomplishments, identify areas for improvement, and discover how the board can better support the executive director in his or her role. While some board members may feel uncomfortable critiquing the organization head, constructive performance feedback will lead to a better understanding of the work expected of leadership and strengthen the organization’s overall effectiveness.

Evaluating the Executive Director

A strong process for evaluating the executive director will establish the board’s expectations for this role, direct organizational resources in support of the executive director’s professional development, and enhance communication between the board and staff leadership. Before beginning the evaluation process, we recommend your organization have in place a performance review policy so that the executive director has a clear understanding of the process by which he or she will be assessed. Below, we have outlined some steps your organization might take when conducting an executive director evaluation. These steps are meant to serve as guidelines and can be amended to fit your organization’s needs.

Download the Executive Director Performance Evaluation below:

1. Develop Performance Standards

Set performance objectives well ahead of the formal annual review. Tools that form the basis of performance expectations include the executive director’s job description, the organization’s strategic plan, and the executive’s individual performance goals. Use an evaluation tool that has been accepted by the Board and presented to the executive director prior to conducting the evaluation. In this article, we’ve provided you with a sample performance evaluation to download.

2. Determine Who Will Lead the Evaluation Process 

Identify a committee of board members that will lead the evaluation. Assign one person to the chair the group. Some boards may use an external consultant to assist in the assessment. The assigned authority should provide the board with an overview of the assessment process, including timelines, confidentiality, and anonymity of the final summary report.

3. Distribute the Assessment

Distribute the assessment to board members and the executive director. The executive director should utilize the same instrument that the board completes. Be clear about the deadline for completion.

4. Analyze Results

When all questionnaires are returned, committee members may review the responses and generate a comprehensive report. All results should remain anonymous (except for the executive director’s).

5. Deliver Results to the Board

Share results of the assessment with the board. Discuss themes and main findings. The board should agree on key messages to be brought to the executive director.

6. Discuss Findings with the Executive Director

 The chair or other representatives of the board should present the finalized evaluation report to the executive director and give feedback about areas of strong performance and areas that may need improvement. The executive director should feel free to comment on the evaluation.

7. Plan for the Future

 Prepare a plan to implement the recommendations of the evaluation report for the upcoming year. This plan should outline the executive director’s continuing professional development including what the executive director can do to improve his or her performance and how the board can support this effort.

Executive Director Performance Evaluation


Performance evaluations are valuable and key to individual and organization success. For the executive director, a performance evaluation is about leadership, professional development, sharing accomplishments, receiving feedback, and setting goals. For the board, the executive director’s performance evaluation is about fulfilling responsibility, setting goals, providing support, and individual and organizational success. With a performance review process in place, executive directors and their boards can have those important discussions that work to ensure strong and effective leadership for the future.

Download the Executive Director Performance Evaluation below:

Get New Article Notifications

This series is still being written. Enter your email to receive a notification when a new article is published.

Sign UP to receive related Insights

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
October 13, 2021
5:31 pm
Service Area
Strategy Suite
Innovation Suite
Leadership Suite
Benchmarking & Metrics
No items found.
No items found.
Share This on
Chat with an EXPERT