Historians believe that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make New Year’s resolutions approximately 4,000 years ago. During a religious festival known as Akitu which lasted for a lengthy 12 days, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises (precursors to modern day resolutions) to their gods regarding the repayment of their debts and believed that if they kept these promises, the gods would bestow favors upon them but if they did not, doom would follow.
We are in the midst of election season for most community associations. Either the members are deciding to reaffirm their support for an existing board or they have decided to elect a new board. Particularly at this time of year, many sitting boards find themselves unaware of where they truly stand with their members including whether or not the members believe that the board has kept its promises or abandoned same. It’s best not to wait until year’s end to gauge how your board’s decisions and priorities are being viewed by the members who elected you.
Here then are some resolutions your board might want to consider for 2018:
1. Allow time at every Board meeting for a good and welfare discussion to allow those members present to “vent”. Many times, it will be the same malcontents, but, occasionally, you will hear from members with concerns you didn’t expect. I can hear the groans now from some of you regarding having additional time at meetings but you will find that the more frequent your meetings, the fewer times those meetings devolve into chaos. Some “troublemakers” may not be troublemakers at all but rather are simply people who are looking to be heard; the fewer opportunities they have to express themselves typically results in a blow-up when the rare meeting does occur.
2. If your meetings have never been well-run, decide to handle them differently in 2018. If you have someone who constantly interrupts the meeting and will not listen to reason, begin videotaping your meetings, as many people will behave differently if they know their conduct is being preserved for posterity (or as evidence). If the disruptive people are truly threatening, hire an off-duty police officer to maintain order. Also, consider adopting reasonable rules regarding participation at meetings before you need to enforce them.
3. If your community is professionally managed, re-read your management agreement to further your understanding of what your manager can and should be doing. Board members should be policy makers, not day to day managers. For items on which neither the manager nor the Board has the requisite expertise, consult with experts such as your attorney, accountant, engineer, etc.
4. Stop hiring anyone based solely on price. First of all, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. More importantly, remember that there are often other factors that impact price and, most importantly, the value of the services you are receiving. It is easy for boards to get duped by a low price tag but the true yardstick should be the quality of service your Board and members receive for their assessment dollars.
5. Attend a Division-approved class to get educated and share and hear best practices with leaders of other communities. Even if you do not need to be certified to serve on your Board in 2018 because you’ve previously been certified, attending at least one class each year helps you be a better Board member.
6. Adopt policies that take advantage of available technologies to streamline your association operations, as well as a Code of Conduct for your Board. Some of the strife related to board member squabbles occurs because there are typically no set boundaries and guidelines as to what each board member should be doing.
It is inevitable that you cannot please everyone. The greatest leaders in history had their detractors. What you can control is how you approach the role of serving on the Board (please see my emphasis on the word “serving”), how you and your fellow Board members communicate and work together and how you set and relentlessly and efficiently pursue the best interests of the community you serve.