Checklist: Giving difficult feedback to chief executives

By governance expert Mike Hudson

Mike Hudson
Mike Hudson

The performance of many charity chief executives is outstanding. However, even the best sometimes need feedback on an aspect of their behaviour that is causing problems. The chair is then responsible for anticipating, planning and initiating those conversations.

Difficult feedback can be given only if the relationship between the chair and the chief executive is based on mutual respect and trust. Ideally, it should be given as part of an annual appraisal. When feedback is needed at other times, the chair has to decide on the degree of formality required for the nature of the feedback.

Whether it's a brief chat or a more formal conversation, it should be done in an appropriate environment, when there won't be interruptions and when ample time is available for exploration and discussion. The feedback should be set in the context of achievements, be based on robust evidence and be clear about the problem and the solution. It should be illustrated with recent, pertinent examples and lead to agreement about the behaviour expected in future.

When these conversations are constructive, they can lead to more open and trusting relationships and set a good example for the board and the rest of the organisation.

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