As a board member, you’ve confronted (and hopefully, overcome) a lot of challenges. You’ve learned your role. You’ve tackled projects. You’ve teamed up with residents. But there’s one challenge that plagues members, both new and experienced: communication. Part art, part science, communication is the key to building strong relationships and effectively meeting your obligations as a board member for your community association. Of course, there are entire college majors based on this subject, so we could go on and on about communication. Instead, we’ll boil it down to a few quick tips:
1. Emphasize transparency.
While some matters – such as pending or proposed litigation and issues involving private information – require confidentiality, for the most part you’ll want the actions of your association board and its members to be completely transparent. When every member of the board is operating with full information, then each member is able to perform his or her function to their utmost ability. The notion of transparency applies to the relationship of the board to community members, too. Keeping residents apprised of community information encourages participation and helps facilitate compliance. A great property management company will provide tools to help you do this, such as an online community portal or management reports.
2. Establish a system.
When communication is a free-for-all, the inevitable result is confusion. Create a specific system for communication whereby committee members report to the committee chair, and then that chair makes reports to either specific board members or the association board as a whole. Likewise, when dealing with a residential property management company, establish a single board member as the liaison with your designated property manager. A point person can improve efficiency and prevent conflict. Just remember that this liaison isn’t granted the authority to make unilateral decisions; rather, it is his or her role to be a point of contact that relays information to the board as a whole.
3. When in doubt, shout it out.
How much information should you give residents? Well, a good rule of thumb is erring on the side of more rather than less. While you don’t want to inundate people with flyers every time they walk up to their door, you also want to make sure everyone stays apprised of current projects and upcoming activities. Some of these are critical – like construction projects that may affect parking, or plumbing repairs that may require the water to be shut off at certain times. In other cases, keeping residents updated is just a matter of courtesy. After all, it’s their community too, and they’ll be glad to know where their dues are being spent. This is another place where an excellent property management company can help you shine; with an online resident portal, where all of the information they could want is just a few clicks away.
4. Encourage accountability.
Nobody on your board – or in your property management company – should be allowed to hide behind bureaucracy. Each board member was elected for a reason, and each should have a specific realm of responsibilities for which they are held accountable. Similarly, your community association’s property manager should have a clearly defined role that they completely understand (incidentally, the board should also be clear on the manager’s scope of responsibilities). When everyone is held responsible for their actions, you’ll find that people are a lot more open and willing to share information.
While communication can present its share of challenges, it’s especially gratifying when it’s done well. Keep those channels open, keep everyone accountable, and maintain an orderly system of delivering information from property managers to board members to residents. With that, you’ll avoid confusion and, more importantly, enhance your relationships.
For more communication tips, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s homeowner association (HOA) management leader.