WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer - We would like to set up an appraisal system for our chief executive. Should the trustees do the appraisal or should we employ an external consultant?

STEPHEN BUBB, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to:

As the voluntary sector develops in size and complexity, it is important that systems of best management practice are in place to support and monitor all staff. This is now normal, professional practice.

The overall aims of a formal appraisal of the chief executive are: to provide support for the chief executive; maximise his potential; provide a longer-term overview of his performance; provide a benchmark of his accountability; reassure (or otherwise) the trustees that the chief executive is performing effectively; identify potential problem areas; achieve the best management of the voluntary organisation.

In deciding what format is right for your organisation, a number of issues need to be considered:

- Resources available. Including the time available and the experience of the appraiser and appraisee;

- The purposes of the appraisal. Are there any specific problems to address?

- The accuracy of the job description;

- The size and complexity of the organisation and its current situation.

For example, have there been recent important changes.

Considering some of these issues will help you to determine the appraisal process which is right for you. As a basic rule, the appraisal needs to be as straightforward and as uncomplicated as possible, conducted in a relaxed and confidential setting, without interruption and with enough time to complete the process without hurrying. A specific time and date should be set for the event.

Who or what should contribute to the chief executive's appraisal depends a great deal on the purpose and the nature of the process.

The appraisal should normally be led by the chairman, supported by two or more honorary officers - usually the vice-chairman and treasurer. A new chairman, particularly if also new to appraisal, will probably benefit from some training and should be supported by other members of the board.

Some organisations use an approach known as "360 degree appraisal".

This involves seeking views about an individual's performance from all parts of an organisation. However, it is time-consuming and needs a proper investment in staff training.

There is no right or wrong approach, or right or wrong people. You have to find what is right for your organisation.

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