Executive Director Question Bank
1. What qualities do you think makes an Executive Director an effective leader?
Probes What are your leadership strengths? What leadership skills would you like to improve, and how would you do this? What have you learned from your own leaders about effective leadership?
Desired Responses Demonstrates a clear understanding of the behaviors for leadership success; Demonstrates a strong sense of their strengths and development needs
2. Can you tell us about an important mentor in your own life, and the difference he or she has made to your success?
Probes How has this personal experience shaped your own view about the importance of mentorship? What are the elements of mentorship that you would emphasize to attract volunteers or funders?
3. How have you evaluated the effectiveness of a non-profits' programs in the past?
Probes How have you measured the impact of programs that you have been involved with in the past? What are some ways that you think would be valid to measure the impact of our programs? How could you “sell” the positive impact of One Voice in the community?
Desired Responses Demonstrates an understanding of how to assess the impact of programs; Demonstrates passion about how they have successfully promoted other programs; Demonstrates the ability to clearly articulate 'why' people should support One Voice by differentiating our 'brand' in the marketplace
4. How have you partnered with others outside your organization to advance a common cause?
Probes What do you think is key to a successful long-term partnership? What is the partnership you are most proud of, and that you believe made the biggest difference to the community? Who are the partners (or types of partners) that you think are relevant to explore as One Voice's ED?
Desired Responses Actively networks; continuously renews and builds relationships that create opportunities for their organization (funding, program, volunteer); Demonstrates understanding of how to work in and sustain partnerships (communication, win/win,etc); Demonstrates honesty, integrity, accountability and appropriate transparency in their relationships
5. Would you describe a situation where you devoted considerable time, effort and resources to an effort that did not succeed (or to the extent you had hoped)?
Probes What was the situation? What was your role? What was the role and expectations of others in this event (e.g. other employees, board, volunteers); How did you maintain others' confidence in you given the outcome was not what you had hoped for? What did you learn from the experience that could make a difference in the future?
Desired Responses Demonstrates optimism, focus and tenacity especially in challenging or stressful situations to achieve the best outcomes; focuses on finding solutions rather than finding excuses not to succeed; Learns from, and is not discouraged, by “failures”; does not dwell on past mistakes.
6. Can you describe a 'difficult' relationship or partnership (e.g., funder, internal/external partner) that you were able to turn into a rewarding one?
Probes What was challenging about the partnership? What did you do to change the relationship for the better?
Desired Responses Demonstrates optimism, focus and tenacity especially in challenging situations; focuses on finding solutions (rather than finding excuses not to succeed) Demonstrates a sensitivity to the communication needs of others; is able to relate and establish a 'connection' with different types of people and groups (audience, volunteers, staff, board members, media) Demonstrates honesty, integrity, accountability and appropriate transparency in all relationships; Builds trust through a direct approach in delivering both 'good' and 'difficult' messages
7. What are your thoughts about how you would ensure a successful relationship between yourself and the Board?
Probes What experience have you had in dealing with Boards? What are your expectations of a board? What are the key delineators between board and ED accountabilities?
Desired Responses Demonstrates a good understanding of the role of the Board vs the role of the ED
8. Have you ever had to implement a change that others did not understand or support?
Probes What was the change, and why was there resistance to it? How did you work with others to get them on side?
Desired Responses Demonstrates a clear understanding of the organization vision and mission, and is able to confidently focus others (staff, board, volunteers) on its priorities Is able to motivate and focus others through both good and challenging times; takes the time to recognize and celebrate successes Demonstrates strong listening skills; is able to create an inclusive environment by actively soliciting and valuing others' opinions It is increasingly a challenge to engage and retain good people (e.g., employees, volunteers).
9. What do you believe is key to employee/volunteer engagement and retention?
Probes As a manager, what have been the engagement, or retention challenges you have been faced with, and how did you address them? What are the key challenges facing not-for-profits to attract, engage, and retain employees and volunteers today? What are some of the ways you think not-for-profits could more successfully attract and retain volunteers and employees?
10. What are your strengths in engaging others?
Desired Responses Provides strong mentorship to employees; is able to clearly establish performance goals, monitor progress, and coach employees to a high standard by providing the performance feedback and recognition that is important to their success, engagement and retention; Anticipates barriers to on-going engagement and retention of employees and volunteers (e.g., GenX values, competitive compensation), and creatively finds ways to enhance the value proposition to maintain a win-win partnership
11. What are the indicators that you would look for to assess the 'health' of an organization like One Voice?
Probes How would you assess the financial health of the organization? How would you assess the organization's strengths from a Human Resources perspective?
Desired Responses Demonstrates an understanding of how to develop and interpret budgets (e.g., where funds are coming from); is able to ensure a good mix (and reserve of) funds to minimize negative impact of unforeseen circumstances; Demonstrates resourcefulness and fiscal responsibility in deploying resources; Demonstrates a thorough understanding of all aspects of Human Resources
12. What is a significant change or improvement that you have made to improve the management of a department, or entire organization?
Probes How did you determine this was a priority? What was your role in the change? What steps did you take? What difference did the change make? How did you measure its success?
Desired Responses Demonstrates a clear sense of priorities; Takes initiative
- Solid knowledge and skills in competency area relevant to role of ED
- Exceptionally clear, compelling and confident response to questions
- Provides strong evidence they have demonstrated this competency in the past, and will demonstrate it at a high level as an ED
- Demonstrates optimism, focus and tenacity especially in challenging situations; focuses on finding solutions (rather than finding excuses not to succeed)
- Learns from, and is not discouraged, by “failures”; does not dwell on past mistakes
- Enjoys a fast paced environment with multiple priorities and stakeholders; exercises sound judgment to determine the “right” priorities (recognizing that trade-offs are always needed to achieve the best outcomes, and avoid burn-out)
- Is proactive in seeking help to resolve problems and challenges, e.g., develops a network of informal, trusted advisors both inside and outside the organization for advice and support
- Demonstrates a sense of humor, the ability to laugh at themselves, and put things into perspective
- Demonstrates a healthy “work/life” balance; is committed to personal wellness and managing stress (e.g. takes vacation, makes time for family, friends, and personal interests) Relationship and Public Relations
- Acts in a manner that is consistent with being a leader in an arts and social justice organization, both in the community, and in private-life; recognizes they are the face of One Voice and the responsibility in upholding its reputation
- Demonstrates passion about the GLBT movement; easily engages people through their positive energy and visibility in the broader community
- Actively networks; continuously renews and builds relationships that create opportunities (funding, program, volunteer) for One Voice and the GLBT movement
- Demonstrates honesty, integrity, accountability and appropriate transparency in all relationships
- Demonstrates a clear understanding of the One Voice’s vision and mission, and is able to confidently focus others (staff, board, volunteers) on agreed-upon priorities
- Is able to clearly discern and articulate the relevant issues to the board, and provide the required background and education to support their decision-making; similarly, is able to communicate the impact of board activity and decisions to employees to facilitate internal alignment
- Demonstrates the ability to assess others’ (employees, board members, volunteers) strengths and interests, and leverage their unique talents; is able to determine skill ‘gaps’ (e.g., fundraising skills) that threaten deliverables and actively engage people with the desired competencies
- Demonstrates strong listening skills; is able to create an inclusive environment by actively soliciting and valuing others’ opinions
- Is able to motivate and focus others through both good and challenging times; takes the time to recognize and celebrate successes
- Is able to tailor their leadership style depending on the audience or situation; is able to respond quickly and decisively in crisis situations
- Establishes, monitors and enforces high quality standards to maintain a highly professional organization (e.g., proposals and letters are professionally written)
- Demonstrates the ability to translate strategy into implementation plans (e.g. fundraising strategy); demonstrates strong project management skills
- Demonstrates a thorough understanding of all aspects of Human Resources (Employment legislation, performance management, compensation, termination, etc.); is able to make tough decisions (e.g., vacation preferences, raises, termination) based on a sound rationale, and consistent philosophy
- Demonstrates an understanding of how to develop and interpret budgets (e.g., where funds are coming from); is able to ensure a good mix (and reserve of) funds to minimize negative impact of unforeseen circumstances
- Demonstrates resourcefulness and fiscal responsibility in deploying agency funds
- Demonstrates the ability to keep well-organized files related to the ‘running’ of the organization, e.g. documentation, policies, procedures, systems, to facilitate the transfer of knowledge (knowledge management)
- Demonstrates creative ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking
- Actively seeks external partners to create new opportunities (e.g. new funding streams) that are aligned with strategic goals
- Demonstrates good strategic and analytical thinking in deciding where to focus fundraising efforts based on potential outcomes; recognizes the need to make tradeoffs in activities, (e.g. speaking, meetings, grant writing) to achieve fundraising goals
- Develops a customized strategy on how to ‘pitch’ to different fundraisers; is able to clearly articulate (both in writing and speaking) a compelling reason to support One Voice, and provide ‘evidence’ of outcomes
- Demonstrates flexibility in revising strategic plans and goals to minimize the impact of negative trends, or capitalize on emerging opportunities