Board Basics: How to Run an Effective Board Meeting
Running an effective board meeting may seem like a simple task where community association members come together to hold a contentious gathering. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Since these meetings are a necessary part of community association governance, the meetings are made up of HOA members and their shareholders (or homeowners). Sometimes, there are arguments, people speak over each other, and some attendees may feel their voice is not heard at all. If you leave a board meeting feeling unaccomplished, that is not a good sign. Effective board meetings come down to many factors and processes. These are our recommendations on how to get these board meetings off the ground in the right way!
1. Designate a Chair. The first step is to designate a meeting chair. The chair is the lead person who conducts the meeting and keeps track of the topics discussed according to the prepared agenda. This person thus keeps meetings organized, succinct, and courteous. All attendees should assume responsibility to maintain efficiency. In other words, this means any comments or responses should be to the point and relayed back to a topic on the prepared agenda. The agenda is usually kept in a strict format, which includes roll call, minutes, reports, motions, and voting. There should also be time kept aside for any further discussion and questions.
Once the meeting is over, the meeting chair should summarize the meeting so every attendee understands what decisions were made and is on the same page. The next step is to identify any next steps on an “Action Item List” that includes deadlines. The job of the association manager will then be to review this list with the board to inspire confidence and increase board unity.
2. Follow Parliamentary Procedure.
This is a formal term that goes back a few centuries to the Parliaments of England. If you have ever been to a board meeting, you know this procedure is still used as a way to conduct meetings today. Parliamentary procedure is a process that establishes proper rules and methods for meeting discussions and debate, which allows for order and all attendees to be heard.
3. Go Formal
For an important meeting or discussion with your fellow board members, it is only right to have a suitable business-type setting to conduct your conversations. Typically, a discussion or community meeting room is used. If there is not one available, check for nearby libraries or small office rentals you can use for the day. If you are managed by FirstService Residential, you can also ask about our meeting location options available to clients. Do not settle for having your meetings in a cramped-up space, especially in someone’s home as this decreases the formality of the meeting and seems unprofessional. This will seem very clear if there are any challenging issues to discuss or resolve in someone’s dining or living room.
Also, a meeting should be seen as exactly that. Of course, you can exchange pleasantries before the meeting occurs, but time is of the essence and it should not be seen as a social gathering. Do not participate in gossip or any off-topic discussions that stray away from the agenda at hand. As soon as this happens, board members may leave the meeting feeling unproductive or have missed important questions. A simple tip is to get the meeting done first, and then once the agenda is completed, a social hour can begin!
4. Motions, Not Emotions
When meeting with other board members to discuss improving or updating building amenities, renovations, etc., sometimes residents can exude their passionate feelings regarding the changes. While this is a good sign, there is also a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Making decisions based on emotions should not be encouraged. Instead, meetings can be kept professional by allowing board members to present their motions, and then allow a second to the motion. This benefits all members because it produces constructive criticism at length and through open communication regarding one topic. This is why a structured agenda is important – it keeps emotions in check and prevents the need to vent, and instead increases the helpful exchanges of ideas.
5. Create a Code
Respect is an essential part of any meeting, as is honesty, reliability, and other qualities. These qualities can make up a code of conduct that board members follow in each board meeting when discussing a topic. Having little courtesy for other’s thoughts and opinions has no place in a meeting. Members are giving up their time and all should be treated as equal parts of the community. If you don’t have a code of conduct, talk to FirstService Residential about developing one for your board.
6. Time Management
When an agenda for a meeting is made, there should be time blocks that are attached to each topic. No one wants to be dragged through a three-hour meeting, as quality decision-making tends to diminish as time goes on. Depending on the regularity of the board meetings, they should be no longer than two hours. Sometimes a one-hour meeting is sufficient enough to get through all of the important topics. It’s okay to go over your allotted times in this case, so add a little cushion of time in case this does occur.
Time management is also about everyone being allocated the right amount of time to speak on each topic. There will be discussions on strategy, upcoming projects, and important policies. However, if it seems that one person is taking up more time than needed or is controlling the discussion, the chairperson should step in and encourage the flow of the meeting is followed accordingly. Let everyone have their say according to the set time limits.
7. Make Minutes Count
The Board Secretary is responsible for taking the minutes at each meeting and reading the minutes from the previous meeting as part of the proceedings. Minutes serve as an official record of meetings for the association – and most association bylaws and/or state statutes give unit owners the right to see them. Minutes are a summary of motions made and actions taken, NOT a verbatim transcript of everything that was said.
Finally, don’t tolerate disruptive behavior of any kind, and remember that you have the authority to expel any person exhibiting unruly behavior from the meeting. Board meetings will be much more organized and efficient if you establish ground rules and create an agenda – and stick to them. Poorly run board meetings can make it difficult to achieve your association’s goals and thwart your efforts to recruit new volunteer board members in the future.
For more information on how to be the best board member you can be, contact FirstService Residential today.