Presidential Assessment

Take Aways

Presidential assessment is one of the board’s most critical responsibilities because it helps ensure strong, ongoing leadership.

There are two types of presidential assessment – annual reviews and comprehensive reviews. The distinction lies in frequency, the amount of time required, participation by different constituencies, and criteria for evaluation.

Presidential evaluations, especially annual evaluations based on the president’s self-assessments, have become much more prevalent as part of accreditors’ expectations for institutional accountability.

Presidential assessment should be undertaken as part of an ongoing effort to support and improve the president’s performance, not as a special occasion to assemble a record of faults

Key Questions

How should the board work with the president to develop the criteria by which his or her performance will be reviewed?

Who should be involved in the assessment process?

How does the board ensure that regular feedback is provided to the president beyond the annual and comprehensive assessments?

How effective is the assessment process in providing support and constructive comments to the president? How could the process be improved?

Has the board considered linking its own assessment to the assessment of the president?

Assessing the performance of the president or chancellor is a critical component of board work. The board’s responsibility for presidential assessment is linked to accountability and to good leadership development, but it also can be tied to expectations of accreditors and state statutes. This assessment helps the board contribute to the continued effectiveness of the president, strengthens the relationship between the executive and the board, and informs compensation decisions.

Presidential assessment should be part of a long-term cycle of governance review that includes periodic assessment of the board’s own performance and comprehensive joint review of presidential and board performance.

Types of Assessments

The overall plan for presidential assessment should include a mix of comprehensive reviews (every three to five years) and annual reviews to ensure developmental feedback as well as the alignment of the president’s goals and priorities with those of the institution.

The nature of presidential assessment will vary by institution. For example, large private boards may delegate the review responsibility to the board chair or a board committee, whereas smaller public boards commonly conduct the review themselves. It is important that a board obtain legal advice regarding the confidentiality of presidential performance reviews and the requirements of applicable open-meeting and open-record laws. This is particularly important for public institutions.

Standard Features of Presidential Assessments

While comprehensive and annual performance assessments are conducted differently, there are some common features of effective presidential reviews:

  • A policy describing the process that will be followed, developed by the board and president together
  • The president’s self-assessment against an agreed-upon set of criteria or goals
  • Board or board committee review of the self-assessment
  • Board or board committee assessment of the president
  • Private conversation with the president and board or board committee to review the assessment and provide board feedback on the president’s performance
  • Clarity among board members as to what will be confidential, who will be included in meetings, and to whom documents will be distributed
  • Setting of goals for the subsequent year
  • A reasonable timeframe

References

Morrill, Richard L. Assessing Presidential Effectiveness (2010)

AGB, The Leadership Imperative (2006)

Shelton, William E. & Smith, James L. “Barriers to Effective Presidential Assessment,” Trusteeship, November/December 2008

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

AGB Statement on Board Accountability (2007) 

2011 NCT Preconference workshop “Preparing for Presidential Assessment”

AGB Consulting on Presidential Assessment

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