Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Help Sheet

Who does what? Committee of Management and staff relationships

In this help sheet, the term 'Committee of Management' (COM) is used but it is intended to apply to whatever governance structure your group has, such as a Board. The term "CEO" (Chief Executive Officer) is used but it is intended to apply to whatever name your group has for its head person (coordinator, general manager, chief executive, executive director etc.).

The Committee of Management (COM) of a community group is the highest authority in the organisation. In the last analysis, what the Committee says goes.

If the staff can't agree to implement COM policy, it's the staff that has to resign.

The COM has to provide purpose, leadership and overall strategy, and it has the responsibility of assuring the public that the organisation's finances are sound, its operations are legal, and its procedures work.

On the other hand, it's generally the staff that has a deep understanding of the day-to-day working of the organisation. They are closest to the needs and opinions of your community and supporters, they know what kinds of fundraising initiatives have worked before, they feel the heat when there are staffing pressures and they are on the front line when the photocopier is too old to carry on for another day.

Governance and management

What the COM does is known as governance; what the staff does is management. The functions are separate and different but they should operate as a partnership. If there is any confusion in an organisation about roles and responsibilities, it can lead very quickly to conflict, inefficiency, low morale and irritation. This happens surprisingly often.

Management has to be done by a manager, and no COM member is likely to have the time, the skills or the day-to-day know-how to be able to out-perform the staff.

Similarly, governing Committees are carefully chosen to provide the right mix of expertise and "hands-off" guidance; staff members are usually far too close to the group to provide the clear-headed objectivity required for a governance role.

The partnership

Every large community group will have a CEO in charge of the management and its COM has a Chair. As these two roles mirror each other it is vital that the individuals in question are able to maintain a good working relationship.

Similarly, the COM as a whole and the organisation's staff must strive to achieve an amicable and productive relationship - with both parties committed to working for the good of the organisation.

Clarifying the roles

The following lists may be useful in helping COM members clarify where their responsibilities begin and end.

Committee of Management Responsibilities:

Staff Responsibilities:

Joint Responsibilities:

When things go wrong

A successful relationship between COM members and staff comes from:

  1. Suitable processes and procedures
  2. Clearly defined management roles
  3. Defined boundaries
  4. Clear limits to the authority of the staff
  5. A CEO whose performance is adequately monitored by the COM.

Some friction is normal. The staff will always gripe about some of the things the COM does or says, and the COM will always feel that there are things that they would do differently if they were running things. In moderation, this is neither unusual nor undesirable.

Regular managed discussions on issues with representation from both sides can be very productive for an organisation. However, if there are issues that aren't being resolved, the first thing to do is to invite those involved to have a coffee together and see if they can work it out. If the troubles go on, the problems are going a lot deeper and some further steps will obviously need to be taken.

1. Is there a clear vision and sense of purpose in the organisation? If not, it should not be surprising if different parties start to pull in opposite directions.

2. If you think your goals are clear and that everybody knows what they are and agrees with them, then the problem lies in the implementation of your strategies. Check your processes, procedures, your materials and your management structures.

Effective functioning of a community group requires the commitment and perspectives of both the staff and the COM. A productive partnership will smooth the path to clear and solidly grounded decisions that everybody can fall in behind.



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