Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Relationship vs. Roles?

This thought provoking article from Nonprofit Quarterly starts off:

It is a pervasive and deeply held belief that clarification of roles and responsibilities between an organization’s board chair and executive director is the primary means for building an effective partnership.
The article then makes the case that focusing on roles and responsibilities has very little to do with a working partnership between the Board Chair and the Executive Director—the key is really relationships.

Key characteristics of successful relationships included:

1. Flexibility in negotiating roles

2. Trust between the Board Chair and Executive Director

Where there was a high trust level there was no need to draw distinct lines of responsibility as both parties were comfortable with the other’s roles. Where there was a low level of trust the Organization needed to rely more on prescribed structures to function.

The article is right on target. As with any interactions—relationships are the key to success. It is important for the nonprofit to seek to improve the relationships as their primary focus. However when the relationship is strained or dysfunctional, a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities can provide a framework that can lead to a restored relationship or at very least, a functional relationship. The issue isn’t really relationship vs. roles but relationships and roles.