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Agony Lance: Bad director

Just surveyed almost 99 health NGOs. Big question: how do you get rid of a director who won’t pull their weight? @Nz_nicola

Sadly, the problem getting rid of directors is a recurring one amongst boards, perhaps because of their older nature.

The responsibility for director performance falls clearly on the chair’s shoulders. If the relationship between the chair and the director is strong, then a quiet word from the chair to the person that they are falling below the expected level of behaviour (along with some suggested changes) is a good start. If the behaviour persists, then the whisper can become increasingly firm about leaving.

However, in some cases it’s not so easy to ask directors to leave. Elected directors or councillors, such as those on District Health Boards, are chosen without real reference to their ability in the boardroom. In these cases, I would endorse ongoing director feedback and education, and a strong chair to set and hold expectations of meeting performance.

Combine that control from the chair with excellent – yet short – board papers that focus discussion on the right things, and formally surveying the board now and then to generate 360-degree feedback on each director, hopefully making the gaps obvious.

If a director keeps standing for election, then consider talking to their supporters and suggest that they might like to back someone else of similar political persuasion.

In some circumstances the director may be there as a large shareholder, who has a board seat by right. You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve seen successful attempts to ask these directors to stand down, especially when they understand that doing so is in the best interests of their shareholding. Don’t hesitate – engage the director early and be firm. 

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