Comprehensive Presidential Assessment

Take Aways

A comprehensive presidential assessment is a regular event, conducted every 3 – 5 years, that provides both president and board with feedback on ways to continue to strengthen leadership and the president-board relationship.

The emerging concept of comprehensive presidential assessment recommends that the board solicit the perspectives of faculty and staff members, students, alumni, and other stakeholders.

Presidential assessment provides the occasion for a board to deepen its understanding of the presidency, the president’s leadership, and the organizational context for the work of both president and board.

Key Questions

Who should be involved in the assessment process?

Do we have a written process for comprehensive presidential assessment? What should be in it?

How can we ensure an appropriately thorough process that is respectful to the office of the president and to the institution’s constituents?

Regular assessment of the president is a primary board responsibility. In addition to annual assessments, the board should engage the president in a comprehensive assessment every three to five years. In contrast to the recommended annual presidential review, the comprehensive review should take a broader review of the president’s performance to include the relationship between the president and the board, the effectiveness of the board itself, and the progress of the institution in achieving goals since the last comprehensive and annual reviews.

The comprehensive presidential assessment draws perspectives on the president’s effectiveness from interviews with a cross-section of the campus community. To accomplish this, the use of a consultant is recommended, which allows for objectivity and provides campus constituents (faculty, staff, students, alumni, and others) the opportunity to offer anonymous feedback through confidential interviews.

A 2009 AGB survey found that 61 percent of boards of independent institutions and 53 percent of boards of public institution conduct these comprehensive assessments.

A comprehensive presidential assessment should be part of a larger cycle of assessment and governance review that includes annual presidential assessment, a periodic assessment of the board’s own performance, and a comprehensive joint review of presidential and board performance.

Elements of a Comprehensive Assessment

An effective comprehensive presidential assessment includes the following:

  • A board committee—standing or ad hoc—charged with sponsoring and overseeing the process
  • A clear process, developed in collaboration with the president
  • Sufficient time, typically several months
  • A process for communicating with the campus
  • The president’s written self-assessment, based on agreed-upon goals and informed by previous statements from earlier reviews
  • An agreed-upon list of individuals and groups to be interviewed and a fair, disciplined process for these confidential interviews
  • A board evaluation of the president’s performance in meeting mutually agreed-upon goals
  • A face-to-face meeting between the president and the board chair or the committee charged with responsibility for presidential assessment
  • A follow-up report to the full board
  •  A letter or memorandum from the board chair to the president, describing the process and the general results of the review
  • Depending on the institution and board, an outside consultant to lead the process.

Things to Avoid in a Comprehensive Assessment

  • Don’t initiate a review in response to a crisis or special event.
  • Don’t rush the process.
  • Don’t impose a process on the president. Include him or her in shaping the process.
  • Don’t breach confidentiality.
  • Don’t use rating scales and survey sheets. They don’t adapt well to the complexities of presidential leadership.

References

AGB Consulting

Morrill, Richard L. (2010). Assessing Presidential Effectiveness.

Atwell, Robert H. (2007) “The Craft of Presidential Assessment.” Trusteeship. March/April 2007.

AGB Statement on Board Accountability (2007).

Need more help? AGB’s reference librarian (available to members only) is available to research specific governance questions, provide sample documents, or recommend resources. Contact her here.

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