Four Tips to Avoiding Common Board Member Mistakes

Posted on Friday March 06, 2015


Learning from our mistakes is probably the best way to ensure we won’t repeat them. But sometimes it’s better to avoid making mistakes in the first place.  We know that’s not always possible (hey, we’re human), but becoming aware of the minefields that lay ahead goes a long way to helping us choose better paths.
That holds true for community association or HOA Board members, who volunteer their service, personal time and leadership to help their fellow residents enjoy a great community, lifestyle and protect their investment.  A good property management company works closely with thousands of Board members – and that means they’ve seen it all.  Here are four common Board member mistakes, as well as suggestions for better ways to handle them – aka avoid them – when it’s your turn.

1. Losing patience.

After many years of service, some Board members see the same issue arise again and again – identical situation, different homeowner. The key to remember is that for the current homeowner, the issue is new, relevant and personal. So becoming exasperated and impatient is never the answer. Instead, try seeing it in terms of helping a new person, not trying to solve the same old issue. This will help you perceive the matter as a new challenge, rather than the same old complication. A good property management company can help you explore other ways to deal with this challenge effectively and recommend solutions to avoid repeating these issues in the future.

2. Simply saying “no.”

When the Board is voting on a measure, your “no” vote should be just the beginning. The Board gains no value from a simple dissent; instead, remember to allow all Board members the opportunity to expand on their “no” vote – even if it’s just 15 seconds or so to clarify their position. This will help other Board members gain valuable insights into how you’re thinking, what your concerns are and how you see your community’s future. The discussion portion isn’t about changing anyone’s mind, it’s about helping others understand your perspective. And diverse perspectives are what make for productive, effective Board meetings. If you see that Board members aren’t elaborating on their “no” votes, take time to concentrate on the discussion portion of the motion.

3. Resentment.

What if a motion carries, and you were against it? In an ideal world, you’d just smile and move on. But sometimes a negative feeling remains. That can’t be helped – but when that feeling turns into outright opposition, it’s gone too far. Remember, procedures provide you with an opportunity to state your position, including your reasons for your “no” vote. But, if the measure passes after that, you have no choice but to support it. The alternative means creating dissension and even dysfunction within your Board, which is a violation of your responsibilities as a Board member. If you feel that this has happened within your community, bringing in a good property manager can provide a valuable, independent third-party perspective – and that can go a long way toward solving inter-Board conflicts.

4. Going rogue.

As a Board member, your effectiveness results from being part of the larger entity – not any power you’ve been granted as an individual. So when Board members take it upon themselves to speak to vendors independently, or talk to homeowners about legal matters, or manage landscaping crews or other staff independently, they’re overstepping their authority. Beyond that, this kind of behavior also opens you up to liability that could be damaging to the association as a whole.
Serving as a Board member is a big responsibility, but there are also many rewards – including the opportunity to improve your community, bring residents together and create firm financial footing for your association into the future. Don’t let common mistakes hamper your efforts to achieve all of the positive goals you’ve been elected to accomplish. For more insights into effective Board leadership, contact FirstService Residential. 

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