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True or false? A great board meeting involves zero disagreements and minimal resident feedback. 

False. Of course being on the same page with your board and hearing fewer complaints is a positive sign, but it turns out agreeing on almost everything isn’t all that healthy. On the other hand, too many negative and unbalanced opinions can make a board meeting tense and unproductive.

A great board meeting should have a balance of diverse opinions and discussions that are rooted in your community’s overall vision. This helps foster better relationships among association, staff and residents and can improve your community’s reputation in the market at large, which benefits property values.

How do you take your board meetings to next level? Start with these 6 easy steps:

1. Plan ahead.

Before your meeting begins, review the agenda and other need-to-know information with your community manager. An accessible and responsive community manager, properly supported with the right resources from a great California community management company, can develop an effective agenda for you. At FirstService Residential, community managers typically send out a board packet about five days before the meeting. This packet includes the meeting agenda, suggested motions and answers to frequently asked questions.

Getting defensive? In our latest HOA survey, 16.4% of surveyed board members said they defend the association at all costs when dealing with disruptive residents rather than thoughtfully listening and partnering with management to come up with a solution.  

2. Be professional.

Remember, it’s not personal, it’s business. It’s best to treat your position on the board as you would any job and keep personal agendas off the table.  If you wouldn’t bring something up in a business meeting, don’t bring it up in an HOA board meeting. To that end, make sure that you and your board members understand the basic meeting structure and procedures involved (e.g., making and seconding motions).

Need a little help on running meetings professionally? Your California association management company should facilitate training on board meeting procedures and communication tactics. 

3. Keep it concise.

Who likes long meetings? Spoiler alert: No one! This is especially the case with board meetings, where long meetings can often hinder decision-making and dilute important messages and initiatives. That’s why you should aim to keep the meeting at about 45 to 60 minutes (yes, it’s possible if you have the resources and support to prepare ahead of time!). Work directly with your HOA manager to create a brief but effective agenda; he or she should have the support and resources they need to help you keep the meeting concise and purposeful.

4. Create a no-venting zone.

If you’ve been a board member for any amount of time, you know how easily a board meeting can become grounds for a personal venting session. To help stick to your agenda, set up some speaking parameters. For example, you may want to limit an individual’s time speaking on a topic to a maximum of three minutes. A well-trained community manager can help you put together and facilitate proper guidelines for board meetings.

According to California Civil Code, the board should establish “a reasonable time limit for all members of the association to speak to the board or before a meeting of the association.” 

5. Abide by a code of conduct.

Board members and residents alike are held to a code of conduct that should be outlined in your governing documents. These policies are designed to ensure a respectful and courteous environment. Your board’s code of conduct should include time limitations on speakers and identify who can attend and speak at meetings, among other policies. If you don’t have a code of conduct, your community management company should be able to help you both develop and enforce one.

6. Be a good listener.

As a rule of thumb, listen more than you speak. Often, board members and residents just want to be heard and valued. Even if you don’t fully agree with what an individual has to say, you should actively listen to their concerns and opinions. Show them you have their attention by responding with a summary of what they said. By hearing different opinions, you gain respect with residents. Their feedback may even spur an idea for a community improvement or opportunity.

Next steps

A healthy board meeting goes a long way in establishing your association’s reputation among residents and in the community at large. Partner with your California association management company on the best practices above to help you avoid common roadblocks and hold more successful and productive board meetings.

Thursday April 11, 2019