10 ways to keep your job

Chief executives are almost never made redundant, because an organisation will always need a leader. Chief executives are rarely dismissed for misconduct reasons, as they are generally individuals with high personal standards of conduct and integrity. Usually, chief executives are also highly capable and experienced employees, so performance issues are rarely formally raised against them.

The single most common reason a chief executive is asked to leave his or her position is through a breakdown of trust and of the employment relationship. Every chief executive is well advised to focus on retaining the trust and confidence of the board of trustees and of their senior management team. A CEO may sense that such relationships are not quite right, but in many cases it comes as a surprise when an issue is suddenly deemed so serious that the CEO needs to be asked to leave the organisation.

Chances are this will never happen to you. But if things do begin to go wrong, the position can very quickly take a turn for the worse.

Here are our 10 tips for areas to watch out for and where you can be proactive in retaining the trust necessary for a good working relationship.

The board of trustees

A good relationship with your trustees may sound an obvious strategy for preserving your employment relationship. However, building and preserving such a relationship requires work on your part as well as theirs, and this is sometimes neglected by CEOs. Focusing on the five areas below should safeguard against difficulties.

1.Establish with the trustees clear goals and priorities and agree a clear strategy for the charity
2. Identify clear boundaries between the chief executive role and the function of the board
3. Communicate with the board regularly and keep lines of communication open/on-going
4. Ensure trustees understand their corporate governance responsibilities – arrange training for them if necessary
5. Avoid duplication of effort through efficient co-operation, so neither the role of the CEO nor the board is undermined

The senior management team

As a CEO, you need to gain and retain the full support of your senior management team. If you were to lose the goodwill of the SMT,  a grievance or two raised against you by another employee - however unfair these may seem from your point of view - may result in your removal. Sadly, it is always easier to replace you, even if the trustees have to pay a settlement to you, than to replace the entire SMT team.

6. Establish clear job roles, responsibilities and job descriptions for each member of the SMT.
7. Communicate fully with the SMT through an 'open door' policy so you know of any concerns or discontent before these build up within the team itself.
8. Make sure you conduct annual appraisals. Performance reviews help set targets and are an opportunity for the individual to comment on how well they work with you and to address any ongoing issues.
9. Have regular SMT meetings (and make sure you personally attend these) to ensure everyone has an opportunity to discuss and participate in the management of your organisation.
10. Do not usurp a function delegated to a member of the SMT which may undermine that individual. Make sure you use appropriate management techniques and employment policies to deal with any issues of underperformance.

If you do ever find yourself in a position where matters begin to go wrong for you, it's sensible at an early stage to seek guidance and talk this through with an independent advisor.

ACEVO's Governance Helpline is a confidential service offering a safe place for members to talk through concerns about governance processes, relationships with trustees, leading change, taking problems to boards - or just airing issues. We will work through these with you and come up with advice, guidance and an action plan.

And if things don't get resolved, our CEO in Crisis helpline will give you support in trying to turn the position around for you. If this is not possible - often the case if one party is not willing to try to rebuild the relationship - then we can assist in safeguarding your legal position and assert your employment rights while negotiating a settlement agreement for you through our legal partners. Alternatively we can seek to resolve the matter through mediation.

Members are urged to speak to us asap, don’t ignore any niggles or worries! Get in touch with Jenny Berry

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