Intentional Supervision: Part 2
Updated: Oct 27
Part 2: Who Reports Directly to the Board and How Does it Work?
The members of your staff who report directly to the board are professionals who have extensive experience in their field and are expected to work independently as leaders of the organization with no oversight, direction, or task management. Additionally, those who report directly to the board do not have professional advancement expectations (in your organization) as they are already in the top roles.
DETERMINING WHO REPORTS DIRECTLY TO THE BOARD
Use the filter tool below to help you determine if a member of your staff should report directly to the board.
This chart utilizes three essential questions to evaluate if a staff member is a candidate to report directly to the board.
Question 1. Are they in the senior-most role in their field at your congregation?
Every congregational department will have a senior-most staff person in that department. This would include senior educators and facility managers as well as senior clergy people and executive directors. Anyone who is not the senior-most staffer in their department in your congregation should have a direct supervisor on the staff regardless of their professional experience or roles held prior to this inside or outside your community.
Question 2. Do they have multiple years of experience both as an expert in their field and in synagogue work?
In some cases the senior-most staffer in their department is also a new professional to the field. Staff members in the early years of their career as a Jewish professional (regardless of age) benefit from the support and guidance of a supervisor with experience in the field. This is an important consideration when a staff person has replaced someone who had more experience than they have. Supervisory structures may need to be reevaluated to accommodate for the professional support that new professionals need and deserve.
For those staff members who are at the top level in their field AND who have multiple years of experience and expertise in synagogue work, consider the third and final question.
Question 3. Are they tasked with determining the tone, vision, direction, and strategic plan for your congregation?
Not every staff member is hired with the expectation that they will set the course for the future of the congregation. While some might be asked to play this role for a specific department, it is usually only the senior-most clergy person who has this mandate congregation wide. If your staff person is in the highest level in their field at your organization, AND they have multiple years of experience in the field of synagogue work AND they have been hired to set the tone, vision, and direction of the community - they should be working without direct supervision and will not benefit from day-to-day oversight of task management.
On the contrary, micromanaging the staff who have been hired to inspire and lead your community will hamper their ability to be successful and create an unappealing work environment which will impact the entirety of your workplace culture. Expecting senior clergy to react to instruction or oversight from members of the board regarding their task management or work product is disrespectful of their status as experts and an inefficient way to run an organization. It is also a quick path to frustration, animosity, and high staff turnover.
Occasionally you may encounter a circumstance where a staff member requests to be supervised by the board due to a challenging personal relationship with their intended supervisor. It is important to remember that difficult relationships among staff members, especially those in senior roles, are not going to be resolved or made better by side stepping established supervision structures in favor of board oversight of a staff person who does not satisfy the qualifications for board supervision.
STRUCTURES AND EXPECTATIONS FOR REPORTING DIRECTLY TO THE BOARD
Staff who report to the board should have one officer of the congregation (the President or a VP), who is their primary board contact for employment questions, work related issues and challenges, feedback, and support.
Because the board contact person does not have superior experience or expertise in synagogue leadership, their role is not hierarchical but rather a confidential, knowledgeable, confidant for the staff person and necessary truth-teller on behalf of the board if there is feedback that the staff should hear.
Staff should expect to meet with their board contact person on a regular schedule (likely not more than monthly and not less than quarterly) and should come to those meetings prepared to be open minded, receptive, and respectful. The board contact person should be someone who is balanced, thoughtful, and able to put aside their own agenda or preferences in their role as a representative of the board and (by extension) the congregation.
Feedback and reflection from the board should be channeled through the board contact person and shared with the clergy person in focused and intentional ways. Receiving unexpected feedback from congregants is an accepted reality of Jewish professional work. Your senior most staff people should be prepared to manage those moments as a part of congregant care, however, feedback from the board and its members should always be shared thoughtfully and through the established relationship between the staff member and their board contact person.
Congregations should also facilitate a periodic performance review (every 2-3 years depending on length of employment and other factors) for staff who report directly to the board. Detailed discussion around performance reviews will come later in this series accompanied by resources for establishing an easy yet thorough and balanced performance review process in your congregation. Part 5 in this series will include an overview of the annual performance review process for all staff including those who report directly to the board.
Setting Your Supervisors Up to Success: How best to provide resources, support, and training to staff who supervise others.
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