Boards of directors accomplish their goals through the work and dedication of committees. Each board usually has various committees that serve in the organization’s best interest from governance, audit, compensation, security, and executive. The executive committee is core to the board of directors’ business strategy. The executive committee is comprised of the organization’s most senior executives and the board chair. Key tasks of this committee include acting as a collaboration center for the executive director, a forum for conversation, a panel for vetting strategic plans, and a critical decision-making entity.
Standing and Ad Hoc Committees
Board committees are often comprised of 2 categories, standing and ad hoc. Standing committees, sometimes referred to as operating committees, are in operation continually. The board’s bylaws usually dictate the standing committee structure. The executive committee falls into the category of a standing committee.
Ad hoc committees, by comparison, are formed for a limited time to address a specific need of the board. However, members of the executive committee sometimes chair ad-hoc committees as part of their duties.
At its very core, the executive committee is responsible for implementing the will of the board. The board chair and other committee members provide an appropriate level of input from the board before making any decisions or implementing any strategic plans. This standing committee is also the direct line for selecting, hiring, supervising, and evaluating the CEO. However, one of their primary duties is creating a collaborative partnership with the CEO, who usually also serves on this committee.
Executive Committee Collaboration and Open Forums
The executive committee should act as a valuable think-tank for the executive director. Because this committee is made up of the highest-ranking officials in the company, the executive director should use the diverse expertise of the committee members to discuss new strategies or raise difficult decisions that are awaiting resolution. The executive committee also should function as an open forum for members to discuss and plan.
Each member of the committee should be an expert in their area, respect the opinions their fellow members, and allow for respectful discussion. Likewise, the committee must allow time on the agenda for members to have the opportunity to voice their ideas, suggestions, and concerns.
The Executive Committee Vets Decisions and Strategies
The executive committee often works as the liaison between the CEO and the board. Therefore, the executive committee is the perfect place for executive directors to pitch ideas to generate advice and feedback before taking a plan to the board itself. The committee members should vet strategies, problem-solve, and polish presentations before they are submitted for approval.
Also, because the executive committee is in charge of selecting new executive directors, the nomination or search committees can present their top candidates to the committee before presenting them to the board for consideration.
Acting With Authority
One of the most significant roles of the executive committee is working with the authority of the board when a decision needs to be made quickly. The committee members can convene quickly when they need to handle an urgent issue, resolve an emergency, or crisis. The executive committee is made up of many key decision-makers in an organization, so the flexibility to meet and arrive at a timely strategic plan is critical.
The Executive Committee is the Key Communication Channel
The executive committee also functions as a critical communication channel between the board, executive directors, and other members of an organization. This group often has the luxury of meeting more frequently than the board and is a bit more flexible. In addition to serving the needs of the board and CEO oversight, guidance, and collaboration, the executive committee also focuses on workplace issues.
Executive committee members often decide what issues should be taken to the board level when the executive director voices a concern. They also determine which issues can be handled by the committee alone.
The executive committee is also responsible for some policy development company-wide including human resources, security, and environmental. Members of the committee often chair the ad hoc committees that oversee company policy implementation.
Executive committees are a vital component of any board of directors. They have the ability to act as a liaison for the board, make decisions on the board’s behalf, and function as a collaboration outlet. They also have the ability to meet the needs of large and disparate boards. The ability to fill specific gaps in the decision-making process is critical to governance best practices and the essential duty of this standing committee.
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