Assessment of the president is one of the board’s key responsibilities. The process of annual presidential assessment provides the chief executive with guidance and support, it clarifies board expectations regarding presidential priorities, it offers regular updates on progress toward those priorities, and it adds to the ongoing and evolving conversation about performance. In addition, annual presidential reviews provide the foundation for all forms of presidential assessment.
A 2009 AGB survey found that annual presidential assessment is a well established practice, with 86 percent of all institutional boards conducting these assessments.
An annual presidential assessment should be part of a larger cycle of assessment and governance review that includes a comprehensive presidential assessment conducted every 3-5 years, a periodic assessment of the board’s own performance, and a comprehensive joint review of presidential and board performance.
Elements of the Annual Presidential Review
Elements of the annual presidential review should include:
- The president’s written self-assessment, based on mutually agreed-upon goals
- 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.
Boards should seek legal counsel on confidential and open-meeting/open-record laws to clarify what should or will be confidential, especially in the case of public college or university boards.
The annual review should follow a relatively compact schedule and should be completed with one month of the president’s completion of his or her written self-assessment. This is in contrast to the longer comprehensive review that boards should periodically conduct.
Things to Avoid in an Annual Presidential Assessment
Don’t initiate a review in response to a crisis or special event. 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.