Getting the Right Training to Be a Successful Board Member

Most people who join the board of their condominium corporation aren’t experts. Rather, they are well-intentioned, dedicated volunteer-leaders who want to protect property values and ensure their community continues to be a great place to live. If you’re a new board member – or even a seasoned one – it’s important to get the training you need to govern effectively and address the issues you may face.

Find out about upcoming board training with FirstService Residential.

An educated board member is a more effective board member. The board is best able to act as a cohesive unit and focus on important tasks for the condo corporation when everyone on the board has become educated about what they really need to do and the right way to do it.

So what kind of training do you need to be an effective and knowledgeable board member? And how should you go about getting it?

1. Start with some self-education.

Get to know your bylaws, as well as provincial regulations. Since your condo corporation is a legal entity, it is required to comply with both. In addition, it’s important to have a good understanding of your corporation’s policies. “When you become a board member, one of the things you should do within the first 90 days is become familiar with your governing documents and the statutes and local laws that pertain to condo corporations,” says Carli Gilchrist, community training and development manager for FirstService Residential.

2. Seek training that provides the basics of governing a condo corporation.

A good introductory training program – whether it’s provided by your property management company or an outside organization – should teach you some fundamentals about being on a board:
 
  • Board member roles and responsibilities. What are your fiduciary duties? What’s the best way to avoid conflicts of interest? Is your board being as transparent as it should be? Knowing the answers to these and other questions about board member responsibilities – as well as how individual responsibilities vary for the different board member roles – creates the building blocks for subsequent learning.
     
  • Running effective meetings. One of your board’s functions is to run meetings. There’s both a science and an art to executing even the most rudimentary functions of a board, and that begins with holding effective meetings.

    Get to know the different types of condo corporation meetings, how to prepare for and conduct meetings, what to include in your agenda and how to take minutes. In addition, you need to learn how to prevent meetings from getting off track.  One thing most people forget to talk about is how to deal with difficult people.
     
  • Preparing your budget. The financial health of your condo corporation is closely tied to budgeting. Training should help you understand what you need to consider as you create your budget. You also need to understand how to read your financials and what to look out for.
     
  • Creating a positive board culture. Successful condo corporations begin with successful boards. The fundamentals of crafting a positive working environment for board members (for example, establishing trust and open communication) are elements worth studying.
     
  • Understanding insurance. Insurance is a hot topic in condo corporations lately. Although many board members understand their residential insurance, they don’t really understand their corporation’s commercial insurance. It’s important to know what insurance is necessary for a condo corporation and what coverage you may need in your specific area or to meet your unique needs.

Want more pointers on how to be a great board member? Download our infographic, Community Management 101: Top 10 Tips for Board Members

3. Make learning an ongoing part of the job.

Training shouldn’t be a one-time event for board members. Laws are always changing, and so are trends. The Condominium Property Amendment Act was passed in 2014 with changes being implemented in 2019 – do you know what to expect? You have to continually seek education to stay informed. Also, if you haven’t had to apply something, a refresher is a good idea.

4. Take advantage of alternative training options.

Training doesn’t have to mean hours of classroom time. There are other options available that work around your schedule or provide opportunities to network with board members from other condos:
 
  • Seminars. Generally lasting no more than a couple of hours, seminars are one-time events that revolve around a specific topic, such as a timely legal matter, current legislative changes, finance and budgeting issues or recommendations to increase policy compliance.
     
  • Conferences and expos. Conferences and other large events like expos provide day-long or even multi-day opportunities to gain knowledge about a variety of topics. You’ll get to attend breakout sessions with industry pros and meet vendors who provide products and services to condo corporations. You also get to discuss your corporation’s concerns and issues with other board members.

5. Find out if your property management company offers training.

A large company will have the resources and in-house expertise to provide basic and specialized training classes. As a board member, you deal with a host of issues, from landscaping and engineering matters to legal and insurance concerns, so you can learn a lot from experts in these areas.

A good expert will share their knowledge and when the information is presented professionally, they can directly quote things like state law. If a presenter gets defensive when asked a question, it may be a sign that they don’t have the depth of knowledge they claim to have.

Knowledge is not simply power. It’s also crucial for success. Proper training is the key to gaining the knowledge and leadership skills you need. Armed with the right information, you’ll be able to carry out your duties more effectively, keep operations running smoothly and avoid exposing your corporation – or yourself – to unnecessary risk.

FirstService Residential hosts regular free board training sessions on a number of topics that effect board members in Alberta. Sign up to receive alerts on our upcoming events.