- Keep your Board educated concerning emerging trends. Board members aren’t tied the latest cases, legislation, and changes that impact their roles as board members. Many allied professionals – attorneys, accountants, engineers, insurance agents – will send emails or links to posts about important new issues in their fields. Great managers take the time to read these and make their board members aware of them. While some managers are hesitant to share knowledge with board members out of fear that they will no longer be viewed as the font of all wisdom, in most instances board members will appreciate your efforts to further educate them.
- Ask questions. Too often managers, particularly new managers fearful to show their lack of knowledge in an area, are afraid to ask for clarity concerning something they don’t fully understand. Most professionals, particularly the lawyers at Becker, appreciate managers who ask when they aren’t clear about something or want more information concerning a particular area or matter. Maybe we wrote something using legal jargon you haven’t seen before. If so, ask what we mean. If a board member asks a question and you aren’t certain what is being asked, miscommunication can easily occur. Often a simple question seeking clarity will erase the possibility of a miscommunication.
- Know when to politely decline a Board’s demand to undertake services the manager isn’t an expert in. There are so many things that managers must know to effectively manage a community – ranging from finances to contract administration, to the basics of insurance coverages. But some Boards will seek to “save money” by insisting that the manager perform services that aren’t in his or her area of expertise. Typical examples include construction supervision of a significant project, preparation or review of a contract, or engineering advice. Understandably, board members want to be efficient in their use of the association’s funds, but a manager shouldn’t be asked to substitute for an engineer in connection with project construction supervision any more than he or she should be asked to mow the lawn. The key is to make board members aware that you are a professional, and in that capacity, you have certain areas of expertise. Those areas may even allow you to provide basic advice that you’ve heard a hundred times before from one of the association’s professional consultants. But when the request for services goes beyond the basics, great managers know that using the association’s professionals will not only bode well for the association in the long run, but for themselves as well.
- Respond to emails or calls from residents within 24 business hours. Certainly, easier said than done when a manager is dealing with a hundred different things. But if one complaint from owners comes up more than any other, it is this one. Even if the response is nothing more than “I received your message. I’m looking into it and will be back to you within a couple of days,” it let’s the owner know you received the message. Like any of us dealing with someone in customer service, we quickly become frustrated when we believe we aren’t being heard or no one is following up on a request.
- Continue your education. The world of community association management continues to evolve at an amazingly fast pace. What each of us needs to know as professionals servicing the boards of community associations is almost encyclopedic. The only way to keep up is to continue to educate yourself through in-house education programs, CAI programs, or asking any one of the association’s professionals to provide the association you manage with a tutorial on a subject they are expert in. They will be happy to do it and you will certainly learn something that will make you more valuable as a manager.
- Tolerate abusive behavior by an owner you serve. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, no board member or owner is entitled to abuse a property manager. Of course, we need to define “abuse.” Simply because someone criticizes you doesn’t mean they are abusive. Whether they are right or wrong about their criticism, they are entitled to express themselves, provided they do so in a respectful manner. However, a great manager doesn’t allow others to threaten them, use profanity in expressing themselves, or allow others to intimidate them. Succumbing to such behavior is likely to subject you to additional behavior if similar ilk. Talk to your HR person, management company executive, or association attorney to get counsel when you feel as if you’ve been threatened, whether verbally or physically. There are solutions to such situations that will stop bullies from continuing this behavior.
- Throw your fellow professionals under the bus. In a healthy environment, the manager, accountant, attorney, and other professionals act as a team. If, when a board member makes a demand of the manager, the first response is to blame someone else, that will soon redound to the manager’s detriment. If a professional is not meeting his or her obligations, an effective manager will let the professional know what the issue is and how the professional consultant needs to improve to meet the board’s expectations. That advice will cause a good professional to appreciate the advice and to work harder for the association, to the benefit of the manager.
- Talk down to owners. We all have “bad” days, when nothing seems to be going the way we would wish. Out of exasperation, we may lash out at someone who doesn’t deserve it. Owners know when you are talking down to them. We’ve all done it and regretted it later. Keep in mind that the best way to disarm a disgruntled owner is to hear them out – don’t interrupt them mid-sentence – thank them for their comments (as long as it has been respectfully expressed) and try to explain in plain language your response to their concern. People want to know that they’ve been heard. If there is a good reason that you are not in a position to respond to their concern, they may not be happy that you have told them what they don’t want to hear. But, if said in an empathetic and understanding manner, owners will accept it much better than if they feel they’ve been dismissed without an adequate explanation. Yes, it takes a little longer to explain why you may not be able to do what the owner wishes, but most owners will appreciate the attention even if the answer is different than what they would have preferred.
- Act defensively. Nobody likes to be criticized. But acting defensively or with excuses says to the other person we aren’t really listening to their concerns. Research shows that most disputes occur when people really do not understand the needs of the other party. Sometimes this happens because we aren’t really listening, or because the other person is not particularly good at articulating their needs. We often need to drill down to find out what the other person’s core issue is. If we foreclose further dialog by simply dismissing the other person’s concerns, we may never find out what that person’s real issue is. Often, it is not what it appears to be at first blush. Acting defensively is a way to bring a conversation to a quick conclusion – but often not successfully. Unfortunately, it takes many of us years to learn that lesson. It’s a bit of wisdom that I wish had been imparted to me earlier in my career.
- Forget you are smart and educated and take a bow now and then. You are the expert in community management. Maybe you’ve been in the business for years and have seen most issues that could possibly arise. Perhaps you’ve achieved a level of education as a manager that shows you are a professional. It’s OK to let board members know what your experience and education has been. While most of us don’t like to brag, if we don’t let others know that we have the experience to guide the board and the association we may not get the respect we deserve. If you’ve done something that has benefitted the association, let the board know. Too many times we’ve seen managers make major improvements for an association but then fail to let the board members know. Take a bow – It’s OK.