9 Tips on How to Improve Communication Amongst Your HOA Board
One of the biggest issues HOA boards face is how to improve communication. The best communication skills require active listening and strategic responses; however, have you caught yourself zoning out during a long meeting or formulating a response while another person is still talking? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.
No matter if your board has excellent communication skills or is facing some challenges in that department, communication skills can always be strengthened by focusing on a few practical steps. Successful HOA boards invest time in effective internal communication to achieve mutual understanding, improve cooperation, and strengthen relationships – all of which contribute to achieving the community’s, or building’s, goals and vision. We have also learned the healthy and proactive board communication is the key to having an excellent reputation with residents and ultimately enhancing their association’s property values.
Here are nine proven board communication tips to consider:
1. Actively Listen Even When You Disagree
One of the most common (and human) reactions to hearing different ideas or opinions that may not align with yours is to formulate a defense in your mind rather than fully hearing the idea out. A lot of the time, this is done unintentionally, and you may not even notice until the speaker is done talking. With numerous people on the board, fellow board members will have different perspectives on common issues that arise within your community. It is important to make sure everyone’s opinions and ideas are heard to avoid conflict amongst the board. You should actively listen, take notes, and try to understand their perspective. Doing this, you will find that board members will feel heard and their opinions valued. Additionally, this will also help guide your discussion in the right direction for a more productive meeting. Remember, having a difference of opinion can be a good thing to promote change and improvements.
2. Speak Strategically and Encourage Discussions
Guiding your board’s conversations can be made easier by learning how to improve communication. This can be done by learning how to strategically communicate which involves using the right number of words (be succinct!), using the right tone and asking the right questions. Here are some practical ways to communicate strategically at your next board meeting:
- Redirect questions and comments – You should encourage all board members to engage in conversation whether it be commenting on ideas or answering questions (even if you want to answer them yourself!).
- Paraphrase – Actively listen (see tip #1) and then restate what someone else has said in your own words. This will ensure everyone is on the same page when discussing a topic or idea.
- Encourage participation from everyone – Although participation is not everyone’s favorite task, it is best to ask those who have not yet shared their opinions to share their views to ensure everyone is satisfied with the end decision.
- Change the perspective – Play the devil’s advocate and encourage fellow board members to view an issue from other points of view. This will help avoid any miscommunications and disagreements later.
- Ask for divergent viewpoints – Foster problem-solving or the generation of different ideas by asking: "Does someone else have an opinion?" "What might those who are not here say?" or "Have we overlooked other ideas?"
- Solicit convergent viewpoints – Try to achieve consensus by asking: "Are there any areas where we all can agree?" or "What can we agree is most important regarding this issue?"
3. Recognize Communication Strengths in Others
Recognizing that everyone has different communication styles and strengths will help improve collaboration and engagement. Some board members may be very brief while others may like to elaborate on their thoughts or ideas. Some may be skilled at writing, while others may be skilled at public speaking. Be mindful not to overshadow timid board members or abruptly cut off others during discussions. Everyone needs to be heard!
4. Respond to Challenges With Proactivity and Preparedness
When a difficult challenge arises, or a crisis in your community occurs, it's better to meet it with proactivity and preparedness rather than a knee-jerk reaction. As a board, take time to learn all the necessary information and explore all possible solutions before making a final decision. Gather your information through research (both online and offline), consult with your community management company, and bring in association attorneys, if necessary, to gain a comprehensive understanding and resolution of the issue. The more you proactively seek information, the more enlightened you will be, helping you critically analyze situations and improve your board’s decision-making.
How can you manage community conflict and restore relationships? Read our article "Mediation? Arbitration? Avoidance?! Best HOA Practices for Resolving Conflict" to find out!
5. Practice Patience and Focus on the Bigger Picture
Be patient with other board members, especially if they have just joined your board. Everyone is on a learning curve when they start something for the first time. Even if a new board member has participated on other boards before, they will still need some time to learn how your association works. If they are entirely new, they will need to familiarize themselves with working knowledge of local, state, and federal laws that impact resident and board member interactions. There is a lot of information to absorb, so practice patience with yourself and your fellow board members. In time, your board will respond to situations as a cohesive unit and will work toward improving your community.
6. Understand Your Role and Expectations
Improving communication on your board often comes down to improving your understanding of your role and responsibility. Many people go into their role with the best intentions, eager to volunteer their time for a worthy cause, but they do not fully understand the role's expectations and requirements. Ultimately, your association is a professional business entity that requires efficient management and commitment. Local, state, and federal laws, together with your governing documents, empower you to act in some areas, require you to act in others and in some cases, they can prevent you from making the wrong decision for your community. As a board member, it’s important to know your limitations for each of these scenarios.
7. Set a Deadline for Decisions
While it's best to discuss and investigate matters before taking a vote, your board should not linger in the process. Set decision deadlines for your board and clearly outline timeframes and target dates. This practice will help move your community projects along swiftly. Work with your association manager to help you set realistic timelines for board decisions and community projects.
8. Put Your Request in Writing
Most people do not respond well under pressure or without preparation (because they have different communication strengths! See tip #3). Put your questions and requests in writing before the board meeting. This allows them time to research, prepare their answers and save time (and awkward silence) during board meetings. It also serves as a tangible reminder for board members to input their request for a discussion topic. More often than not, your meetings may run shorter and be more productive!
9. Be Objective
Objectivity is the key to successful communications and gaining trust from residents and your community. As a board member, it's imperative that you remain objective when challenges or issues arise and that everyone on your board has the opportunity to express different opinions. Be sure to consider all points of view and what will benefit the community before finalizing a decision. Avoid making decisions that will only help you or one person on your board.
Board members are most effective when they communicate well with each other. By learning how to improve communication and interpersonal skills, you’ll be able to create a thriving community, which can impact your association’s overall reputation and increase home values.