Success By Committee: Five Ways to Make it Happen

Posted on Thursday May 29, 2014

All Strata Corporations are different from one another as they are comprised of a unique group of Council Members with different backgrounds. Just as Strata Corporations differ, so do the special committees that fall under the Strata.  You can have as many different types of experiences with committees as there are kinds of committees themselves.
Yet whether your experiences on a committee have been good, or not-so-good, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your next committee is productive, focused and an asset to your Strata Corporation.
It’s true: any committee can be a wildcard. They’re made up of human beings, after all, and that tends to mean a lot of different personalities and perspectives are introduced to the mix. But with the right structure and guidelines, this becomes a benefit instead of a burden, and committees can become an important tool in assisting both the Strata Council and Ownership as a whole.  The best property management company will play a vital role in helping steer this essential process.
For the most effective committees, follow these five steps.

1.Determine the type of committee.
Broadly, there are two types of committees: Standing (or permanent) committees and ad hoc (or temporary) committees. Standing committees handle ongoing tasks and responsibilities such as the budget and finance committee, the security committee, and the social committee. Ad hoc committees handle short-range issues and could include the landscaping committee, the government relations committee, and the Owner/Resident relations committee. Your geography may determine which committees you establish too. For instance, for communities in the Lower Mainland, you may want to create an earthquake committee to handle preparation and evacuation plans. And remember, your committees will mostly function in advisory capacities. Your specific bylaws may shed some light on the type of committees you can form and the powers they have, and a property management company can help you determine which ones will be most effective for your Strata Corporation. 

2. Choose the right kinds of people.
The most important ingredients in a committee are the people in it. Not everyone is cut out for it. But the flip side of that is some people who don’t think they’re committee material make outstanding members. The truth is, anyone who has the time to serve, is passionate (yet reasonable) about a specific issue affecting their Strata community and has knowledge or skills related to a committee’s purview is a good candidate. For example, a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) is a great choice for your budget and finance committee, but if he or she is running his or her own firm and working late most nights of the week, then it may be difficult for him or her to commit the time. In many cases, new Residents make great committee members because they see things from a different perspective and it is a great way of stitching them into the fabric of the community. No matter who you choose, just remember that a committee should be made up of three to nine members (always use an odd number to avoid tie votes), all of whom should understand the difference between their individual desires and the needs of the Strata Corporation.

3. Choose the chair.
Exercise special care when you choose the chair of your committee. This individual should possess all the qualities you look for in a committee member, but with additional leadership capabilities. Note that you’re looking for a leader of a specific type; rather than the authoritative type of leader, your ideal candidate will lead through dialogue, respect and fostering an air of open collegiality. Most of all, you’ll need someone who is adept at leading a meeting, creating an agenda and holding the committee to it. Part and parcel to this is a person who is respectful of committee members’ time. Consult with your property management company and they can help you vet your candidates.

4. Make a hard job easier.
Serving on a committee isn’t always easy, but there are some things you, as a Council Member, can do to set its members up for success. Your property management company can supply you with tried-and-true strategies for maximizing committee effectiveness, but here are a few to consider: First, help the committee establish meeting times that are convenient for everyone. “I can’t make it” is the biggest killer of committees. Further, as a committee, create a clear focus and measurable objectives for your committee and don’t overload them with tasks. Be fair and reasonable and give them specific timelines. Make sure the goals you set are achievable in the time you require, and be concrete in what the committee is meant to achieve for the Strata Corporation and Owners.

5. Communication is key.
Talk to a property management company about establishing clear communication channels, both within the committee itself and from committee to board. Within the committee, all meeting notes should be distributed to each member, especially if there is an action required. And once a report is drafted, it should also be reviewed by all committee members before it is submitted to the board. As a board, always task committees with objectives consistent with the best interests of the association and your community. Be specific in your expectations and your feedback. Clarity is a committee’s best friend.
At their best, committees are effective for Strata Corporations and rewarding for the individuals who serve on them. The best property management company can guide you through what it takes to make this happen. FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company, can help. To help position your committee for success, contact FirstService Residential today.

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