Battling HOA Board Blunders: What NOT to Do

Posted on Friday January 19, 2018

Believe it or not, everyone makes mistakes.

And as a volunteer board member, what you do or don’t do can have a significant effect on your community. That’s why it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with common blunders before they occur. By preventing common blunders, you can help steer your board in the right direction, which can ultimately help improve your overall community. An experienced community management company will help you reach this goal, by providing you with the right tools and strategies to avoid these mistakes. Additionally, they should be handling day-to-day tasks, so you and your board can prioritize building your community’s brand, which can help increase property values and enhance resident life.

To help you avoid the most common board blunders, we’ve identified four mistakes and some practical ways to avoid them:

1. DON’T: Ignore board education  
As expected with any new role (whether it’s a brand new job or a volunteer role), brand new board members will not have much knowledge of their role or insight into how decisions are made. But the trouble comes when they want to “solve” community issues right away without any history into how these matters are resolved. Some new board members may be quick to criticize the outgoing board or assume that their way is right without any evaluation. That’s why every board member needs to learn more about their role, what is expected of them and what it takes to be successful. This doesn’t just apply to new board members, either. Seasoned board members should prioritize training as well in order to keep their community relevant. They should take advantage of ongoing training opportunities offered by their community management company to learn about new technologies, the latest legislation and trends from their competitors.

DO: Learn as much as you can
The truth is, going “back to school” is an essential part of being an effective board member and avoiding common mistakes. Board members need to prioritize training, with an initial orientation as well as ongoing training sessions. An experienced community management company will offer many training opportunities throughout the year, with both in-person classes and online sessions offered for convenience. For example, FirstService Residential offers supplemental BoardAdvantage® online courses that are designed to support the growth and effectiveness of board members whenever they have the time to learn. New board members should also reach out to outgoing board members and existing members to learn about community-specific issues and policies. It’s also a good idea to review past minutes from meetings to gain a more in-depth understanding of your role. A knowledgeable community management company can help with this step.

2. DON’T: Make important decisions outside of an official board meeting
It’s easier than ever to communicate via text, email or social media. Many people rely on these methods to convey a message in a matter of seconds. But when it comes to your association, it’s another story. In fact, many states forbid board members from communicating about any association-related business outside of board meetings. Nevada has its own set of rules and best practices to regulate these matters. For example, the Nevada Real Estate Division has policies in place that strongly discourage board members from discussing any official board matters outside of a formal meeting.

DO: Hold a workshop to discuss important matters outside of a formal meeting
Holding a formal board meeting for every issue that arises can seem like overkill to board members and residents. Instead, many Nevada HOA boards will hold workshops to discuss an important issue without waiting for a scheduled board meeting. Melissa Ramsey, VP of northern Nevada community and lifestyle services at FirstService Residential, recommends holding these workshops when an important topic arises. She said, “These workshops may or may not have a formal agenda, but they are a means to discuss a topic in a more official setting without waiting several months for a board meeting.” Additionally, holding these workshops helps board members comply with policies that discourage board communication outside of meetings.  
To see some additional tips about online communication with your board (or residents), complete the form on this page to download our free resource, “Best Practices for Association Board Email.”
3. DON’T: Micromanage every role
For some board members, a healthy concern and passion for their association can transform into taking on far too many tasks and decisions themselves. Some board members are eager to do the heavy-lifting themselves, but more often than not, this evolution occurs because of a necessity to get the work done. If your community management company isn’t handling the day-to-day work and helping prepare your board for the future with a strategic plan, you may end up taking on more than your share of your HOA duties. You and your board should be partnering with your community management company to keep the community relevant and truly build up your community brand, rather than being tasked with jobs like vendor management and property maintenance.

DO: Trust your community management company to handle the details
In addition to helping build your community brand and establish a strategic plan for the future, your community management company’s job is to tackle the day-to-day details. If that’s not the case, it’s time to discuss their role with them. By freeing up the time you spend on more laborious tasks, your board can dedicate more time to focusing on the big picture and building your brand, which plays an important role in enhancing resident life and property values.
4. DON’T: Make board issues personal
Keep your position as a board member professional, not personal. Many board members take their roles to heart and choose to respond in a like manner to any resident or board issues that arise. However, it’s important to understand that an association is a business before anything else, and board members should try to avoid emotional responses and reactions.
DO: Treat your position on the board as a profession
Your effectiveness as a board member depends on your ability to remain calm under pressure and avoid overly emotional reactions. Likewise, it’s your job to help others on your board respond in a similar manner. If one of your colleagues becomes emotional about an issue, you may want to ask for a break to let them cool off. Additionally, you should aim to communicate in a professional and courteous manner both within and outside a board meeting. As mentioned before, you shouldn’t communicate about business matters outside of board meetings and workshops. This same courtesy should extend to resident communications over email as well. Ask yourself if you would make the same statement to a person if you were having the conversation face to face. If you wouldn’t, don’t say it over email. For more best practices, fill out the form on this page to download the free resource, “Best Practices for Association Board Email."

Why board blunders matter
Of course, everybody is human and makes mistakes. But you can overcome some of the most basic board “blunders” and overcome future frustrations by addressing potential issues now. A seasoned community management company will help provide resources and strategies to help you successfully do your job.

Fill out the form below to download our helpful guide

Want to avoid board communication blunders before they happen? See our guide: Best Practices for Association Board Email