The Grey Zone


Executive Officers (EOs) of associations have one of the toughest, challenging yet rewarding jobs there is. They get to run an organization like an entrepreneur, interact with all sorts of people and get exposed to issues of local, provincial and national scope. If you don’t like boredom, being an EO is a dream job. 

But it comes with pitfalls, like working for a different boss every year; try going from Mother Theresa to the Devil Wears Prada. From being a hero one year to a loser the next – like an NHL hockey coach? 

Here’s where it gets tricky. EOs are expected to lead, but not be “the leader” – that’s for the president and the board of directors. EOs offer alternatives, suggestions – not direction. Directors decide “what” is to be done, EOs decide “How” to do it. Easy in theory, hard in practice. This is the Grey Zone. 

In the Grey Zone you need to remember that old Kenny Rogers country hit, the Gambler “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”

I know when an EO has crossed over the line when I hear him/her say “my board, my committees, I know what we need to do” – then it’s a danger zone. 

There are tools that help; the President/Executive Officer Task List, regular President and EO meetings (setting guidelines like when and how to communicate),

an annual EO performance evaluation based on predetermined measurements and professional development budgets for EOs and directors. 

When OREA has done board/association evaluations, if the grey zone is out of whack, it’s going to be a long and difficult year.

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