Learn How To Achieve Strategic Alignment During A Crisis

Board members are the leaders of their co-op/condo community, serving the best interests of the owners who elected them. The board is responsible for making critical decisions, creating policies, and generally, laying a cultural foundation for the people living in their building. What happens when a board has trouble coming together in making those decisions or speaking in one voice, especially in times of crisis? It’s important that co-op and condo boards come together to achieve strategic alignment. By doing so, they can act swiftly in a strong, unified position to better serve their building, the owners and residents during any emergency.  
 
Achieving strategic alignment can be challenging for many reasons, whether it be a lack of communication, differences of opinion, divergent points of view and interests, or just different personalities. In any emergency or crisis situation, strategic alignment is essential to ensure that your residents, board and management company are working together as effectively as possible.
 
Lack of strategic alignment among a board can have negative domino effects in the operations of a building and community culture. Steven Hirsch, Executive Managing Director of FirstService Residential New York, says that “a lack of alignment can lead a board to become stagnant in their decision making, fractured in their practice, and even dysfunctional. This could result in a lack of confidence in their leadership requiring reputation management within the community.”
 
Once that reputation becomes tarnished, it’s often hard to repair. When decisions and important projects are delayed, building operations can suffer. This affects the resident experience and ability to make improvements within your building.
 
It’s essential to remember that board alignment requires a unified approach to solving problems while providing the best solutions for your community. Did you know that boards that are not aligned are only 50% as likely to be satisfied with whatever solution they implement, and it takes them 36% longer to make decisions?
 
It might be time to ask yourself how your board can achieve strategic alignment and what could this look like during a crisis including COVID-19.
There are a lot of moving parts involved with achieving board alignment. We have put together the following suggestions to help facilitate strategic alignment during this, or any, crisis.
 

Using Effective Communication to Achieve Strategic Alignment

Effective communication is one of the most vital elements of board alignment. Without clear, concise and constructive communication, confusion can occur. Without a solid communication framework, it’s even more challenging for boards to communicate effectively during a crisis.
 
“I think that one thing board members can all agree on is that there’s no substitute for good communication, especially during a crisis. Communication is the cornerstone to customer service excellence. Effective boards are those that communicate well, do so with a unified voice, and communicate with their residents frequently to manage expectations,” said Hirsch. “Boards are better positioned to effectively communicate with their residents when working with a management company that has the bandwidth, infrastructure and resources available to handle the fluidity and rapidly changing nature of a crisis, and the experience in managing all types of crises and emergencies with a foundation of providing frequent, mass communications to keep all residents informed”.
 
Virtual conferences aren’t a new concept, but it’s more important than ever to understand and utilize virtual conferencing platforms to help keep your board in alignment through consistent communication. Virtual conference platforms include Zoom, Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting, conference calls and more. Each platform has its pros and cons, so it’s up to you to decide which platform best fits your building’s needs, always keeping in mind the security of your meetings. While virtual conferences aren’t the norm for board meetings, boards have been directed to switch to that method of communication to keep business going in the age of social distancing.
 
Regardless of the meeting’s venue, it’s essential to maintain meeting protocol during this time. Follow these steps to run a successful virtual meeting.
  • Designate a host to run virtual meetings. This is usually your board president or someone who has experience conducting board meetings.
  • Stick to the agenda. Focus on the topics, while keeping all discourse civil. This is necessary to achieve a successful meeting.
  • Allowing all board members to speak and share their opinions openly before sharing a second opinion will allow for a smooth conversation. Do not speak over each other.
  • Mute yourself when others are speaking to avoid any background noise or distraction.
  • Ensure that questions are being directed to the host to avoid any confusion.
  • Display proper etiquette. This includes body language cues, eye contact, and answering questions when appropriate.
  • Be polite and assume positive intent when others have the floor. If your board uses Robert’s Rules of Order for in-person meetings, continue that practice online.
  • Make your words and time count.
  • Memorialize any decisions that are made during a virtual meeting (Meeting Minutes) so that it becomes part of the corporate records. 
  • Audio recording the conference is a conducive way to reference the topics of discussion.

Managing Board Diversity While Working Toward Strategic Alignment

More times than not, a board contains people with many different types of personalities, interests and skillsets in serving on a board. And that’s perfectly okay. In fact, diversity can be advantageous allowing for constructive dialogue through different perspectives and spark innovation or creativity. What’s not okay is when board members lose sight of the purpose and privilege of being elected to serve on a board, and the fiduciary responsibility that comes with the position. When personal agendas or egos get in the way, this affects the efficiency of the group’s dynamic and can also stifle the critical decision-making process.
 
It’s imperative to understand the different types of personalities on your board and assume that everyone is acting in the best interest of your condo or co-op. In reality, it’s almost impossible for all board members to be “on board” with every decision that is made.
 
“Board members are not carbon copies of each other. Some are older professionals, and some of them are young. Some people are skeptics and it doesn’t matter what you show them or lead them toward. And some people just don’t see eye-to-eye,” said Hirsch. “With different age ranges, mindsets, experience levels and personalities, boards will often run into a divergency of opinion. How the collective board handles those differences and disagreements is the key to achieving alignment – or not.”
 
To better understand if there’s board alignment, Hirsch says that “it’s critical to know the make-up and profile of each board member – background, experience and personal or professional skillsets. What are their characteristics? What’s important to them?”
 
Pay attention to the behavioral clues of how each board member reacts to discussion during meetings. What are the physical, non-verbal, and verbal cues being displayed, what does their body language mean and how do you interpret that? A professional property manager can then use this information to work with the board members strategically. This will help the board relate to each person both individually and collectively to guide the board toward alignment, appealing to each member’s preferred style of communication. Most importantly, being able to collectively identify community needs and working towards the same common denominator is the most efficient way to eliminate egos from getting in the way.
 
As the leadership of your building, board members are committed to caring for the well-being, safety and health of the residents of that building when they are elected or appointed to serve on a board. This includes keeping open lines of communication, keeping residents and shareholders informed and provide them with the resources to stay safe and healthy. Boards should also implement virtual communication practices to maintain meeting protocol during this time.
 
To learn more about effective communication and management company support during the COVID-19 crisis, watch our webinar, Communication During COVID-19, today!