Ten Quick Ways to Transform Difficult Board Members into Positive Forces

The great thing about community association boards is the variety of people who volunteer their time to serve the association. They bring with them different perspectives, divergent attitudes, and refreshing points of view.
Sometimes, this results in conflict – and that’s okay. A little healthy opposition can go a long way toward preventing one member from dominating the entire group. Opposing points of view help add perspective and allow time for thought and careful consideration.
Yet there are some people – and we’ve all met them – who enjoy conflict for the sake of conflict. They are contrary by nature, and they at times can derail a board’s progress.
So how do you deal with these board members? Start with these ten strategies.
  1. Foster an environment of caring.
    Taking the time to legitimately care about what others are saying, how they are feeling and the issues they are facing can help transform the culture of any organization or group of people. Even when your most difficult board member is at his or her worst, you won’t get far if you don’t extend the courtesy of caring. Hopefully, this attitude will spread to everyone.
  2. Stay positive.
    Being cynical, defensive or sarcastic just isn’t constructive. And those attitudes tend to engender a tit-for-tat interaction that results in ongoing insults and hurt feelings. Everyone wants the last word, and when it’s a hurtful one, the damage just goes on and on.
  3. Withhold judgment.
    This is a hard one, because we all tend to judge whether we mean to or not. Be aware of your preconceived notions about all board members, because these uninformed opinions might unintentionally bias you against their good ideas. This applies to your difficult board member too – try not to judge him or her. Chances are they’ll have a great idea (or more!) sooner or later, and if you’ve already pre-judged them on their character, you might be blinded to a contribution that could benefit your community.
  4. Easy on the advice.
    You were elected to the board because you know what you’re doing and you have valuable experience, right? While that may be the case, nobody wants to be reminded of it over and over with an endless stream of advice. Check this inclination, and allow others to contribute before weighing in with an opinion of your own – and perhaps then, only when asked. For the challenging members of your group, if they tend to be overbearing at times, make sure you solicit the opinions of others before asking them to contribute.
  5. Define expectations.
    Make sure everyone in your group understands that they have the freedom to be clear about what’s expected of them, and what their limits are when it comes to what they can and can’t accomplish. This will minimize frustration and disappointment and will keep your parameters manageable.
  6. Learn the power of “no.”
    If you have a challenging board member who seeks to push an agenda that the rest of the group disagrees with, there’s no shame in saying “no.” Likewise, if there are members of your group who seem to want to make up for another member’s shortcomings, let them know that it’s okay to say “no” to those additional responsibilities, too. Knowing when you can’t help is just as valuable as jumping in when you can.
  7. Make sure everyone’s appreciated.
    Create an atmosphere of good-natured collegiality by regularly recognizing what people do well, and encouraging more of that behavior. This goes doubly for your challenging members – positive reinforcement may help them direct their considerable energies into more helpful avenues.
  8. Agree to disagree.
    If changing a rule is a point of contention, agree to disagree – and work together to find a meaningful interim solution until the issue is fully resolved. Don’t let conflict put a halt to a functioning group or a meaningful solution. Follow the “consensus” principle. Not everyone has to agree on the decision being made but a dissenting board member will accept the decision for the good of the community.
  9. Be prompt.
    If there’s conflict over an agreement, or if an agreement is broken, request a discussion with all board members. Use this opportunity to move swiftly toward a decision about the policy in question. Decisive action is a good way to address those who are trying to further personal agendas, rather than the agenda of the board.
  10. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
    That one word pretty much says it all. Even difficult board members should be accorded respect. By the same token, they should reciprocate that courtesy by respecting the opinions of others and the process in return. Remember, you don’t have to agree with someone to respect them.
The power of different perspectives is what makes boards so effective. Just remember these ten tips, and you’ll be able to get the most out of the diverging personalities. For further resources on maximizing the dynamic within your community association board, reach out to FirstService Residential today. 
Tuesday July 22, 2014