HOA 101: Master These 3 Genius Board Meeting Tips
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Okay, you know what it takes to be a board member. You understand your role and responsibilities (if you need a head start, check out our first HOA 101 article here). Now what?
After getting up to speed on your basic roles and responsibilities, your next step should be improving your effectiveness and taking your association to the next level (e.g., going from good to great).
How do you do that?
It starts in the boardroom.
The truth is, many of your association’s biggest triumphs will come from decisions or policies you landed on during a productive board meeting. The greatest improvements come from a well-aligned and purposeful board that understands what it takes to create a great resident experience and enhance property values. Start with these three tips:
1. Be Business-Minded First.
Read our article, HOA Board Toolkit: 4 Proven Business Strategies to get a wealth of great business tips for your association from resources like Harvard Business Review, Stanford and Forbes.
The best approach to your role on an HOA board is to treat it like a professional job. That means adhering to best practices, following the law and abiding by a code of conduct. You may be a volunteer, but your duties as a board member are critical to the shaping of your association, a non-profit entity. That’s why it’s key to treat your position on the board with the same level of care that you would in a professional business. In fact, you can take a cue from some of the most successful businesses. What qualities do they have in common, and how do you embody them as a volunteer board member? Read below:
- Professionalism: Board members are prepared, well informed and ready to work together from the start of each meeting. Whether you’re meeting virtually or in person, you recognize that each member has taken time out of their day to contribute to the association. Even when you disagree with one another, your goal is to treat one another with empathy and respect, with the association’s best interest in mind.
- TIP: Work closely with your management company to ensure you have updated board packets and information on all items prior to meeting. FirstService Residential uses its proprietary Meeting Management System to ensure that managers and board members have easy and quick access to meeting notes and minutes. To learn more, watch a brief video:
- Participation: Phoning it in isn’t an option in the business world (you likely wouldn’t last long with a company), and it certainly shouldn’t be an option for HOA board members either. When you join a board, you make a commitment to work hard on behalf of your community. That means providing input during meetings, being an advocate for residents and making decisions with the best interest of your community in mind.
- Vision: It’s easy to focus on the day-to-day challenges and decisions when you are on the board of an association. However, professional businesses and the best association boards operate with a solid long-term vision and strategy. Partner with your manager and management company to develop a long-term strategy, including a mission statement and 5- to 10-year plan.
2. Be Prepared to Disagree.
Ready to take a deep dive? Read our article, 5 Myths About HOA Board Decision Making, to find out why decision making involves healthy dissent and conflict.
Not everyone on your board has the same personality or perspective. That’s not a bad thing. Experiencing dissent or disagreements during your board meetings can help inspire new ideas and help your board come up with new solutions. For example, when you see an issue from a different perspective than yours (anything from deciding on a new amenity to selecting a new vendor), you may come up with a compromise or a more effective solution. On the other hand, agreeing just to be agreeable can adversely affect your association. By nodding along to key decisions without critical thinking, you may be missing critical details.
While you should be prepared to disagree, it’s also important to cushion those disagreements with empathy and a listening ear. Forbes Council Member Lola Gershfeld, Psy.D., said, “The success of a board relies on feelings of emotional connection.” Successful boards “help each other step out of these negative patterns and soothe one another” (Gershfeld 2019) 1 . That means actively listening to one another, encouraging fellow board members to speak up and simply putting yourself in another person’s shoes before you jump to conclusions.
- TIP: Ask your manager and management company to help facilitate a team building or communication workshop for you and your fellow board members. Taking a professional communication course can help you learn how to listen to differing opinions and align on important decisions.
To read more about healthy board decision making, read the article, 5 Myths About HOA Board Decision Making.
3. Be an Ally for Your Association
Read our article, Is Board Alignment a Unicorn? 3 Boards Share What It Takes, to learn the secrets to board alignment, from unscripted board members.
The sole reason you should join an association board is to create positive change in your community or high-rise. That needs to be the driving force behind any decisions you make, policies you create or communications you send out. Put your association and resident needs first and act as an ally or spokesperson for your community.
The most successful boards put their own personal interests aside; they recognize that acting on behalf of the community will pay off in dividends. A strongly aligned board and residents that feel heard and supported will strengthen your associations reputation, leading to an improved resident experience and enhanced property values.
"Our board has been incredibly successful because they are laser-focused on the community. Of course, they have their own opinions and input, but they know that the community’s best interest trumps personal agendas. Because of this mindset, they’ve been able to accomplish many projects and sustain property values in a very competitive market."
- Pamela Dobson, General Manager, The Mark High-Rise Association
To learn how successful boards prioritize alignment, read the article, Is Board Alignment a Unicorn? 3 Boards Share What It Takes.
1. Gershfeld, Lola. 2017. "Board And Team Dynamics Starts With Emotional Connection". Forbes.Com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/11/16/board-and-team-dynamics-starts-with-emotional-connection/#75f0563f50f4.