Improving Board Communication from Within
At FirstService Residential, we have considerable experience working with board members to develop robust communication plans for residents, as well as tactics to improve board relationships. The latter will also improve overall cooperation, achieve mutual understanding among board members, and strengthen board relationships – all of which contribute to achieving the goals and vision you have for your building. When good communication is lacking from within, misunderstandings, errors and frustration can develop.
In your role as a board member you communicate verbally and in writing regularly. No matter what form of communication you lean into, clearly expressing what you want to see accomplished and the reasons why will help cultivate more effective interpersonal board communications.
The most high-functioning boards we have partnered with regularly put into practice the following communication techniques.
1. Listen ActivelyHaving good listening skills means hearing what’s being communicated by your fellow board members, regardless of the manner in which the message is delivered. People have different styles of communication. Therefore, it’s a good idea to listen even more intently to someone whose style differs from yours. In doing so, you’ll have more capacity to focus on the business at-hand and avoid getting distracted by personal agendas. Remember, every board member deserves to express themselves in an environment that is respectful and hospitable. So, if you find you are not being attentive, try to self-correct and become an active listener.
2. Speak StrategicallyWhen you have strong verbal skills, you are more likely to successfully convey your ideas, opinions and insight with fellow board members. While every board member communicates differently, try deploying these verbal tactics to facilitate an effective board meeting:
- Redirect questions and comments. – Encourage other board members to answer questions or comments that were directed at you.
- Paraphrase. – In your own words, restate what someone else has said to confirm active listening.
- Encourage broader participation. – Ask those who have not yet shared their thoughts to offer their views.
- Change perspective. – Encourage the board to consider an issue from other points of view by “playing the devil’s advocate.”
- Solicit divergent viewpoints. – Foster problem solving or the generation of different ideas. Questions might include – “Does someone else have an opinion?,” “What might those who are not here say?” or “Have we overlooked other ideas?”
- Solicit convergent viewpoints. – Try to achieve consensus by asking: “Are there any areas where we all can agree?” or “What can we agree is most important regarding this issue?”
3. Highlight Communication StrengthsWhen it comes to communicating, people have different strengths. You may have a board member who is very brief and to the point, and another who prefers to elaborate. Some may be skilled at writing, while others may be skilled at public speaking. By playing up everyone’s communication strengths, you’ll help make your fellow board members look good. Letting each other’s communication abilities shine will also help improve engagement, create closer collaboration and fortify board member relationships.
4. Be Proactive and PreparedTo best resolve issues when they arise, take time to gather the facts and become informed. Quickly reacting to situations and forming opinions without having all the necessary information is counterproductive. Instead, proactively seek all the necessary information to help make better decisions. Whether it’s through off or online research, consulting with your property management company, attending a regular board meeting or asking a committee, you should work toward gaining a thorough understanding of the issue at hand to respond appropriately. The more you proactively seek information, the more enlightened you will be, which will place you in a better position to critically analyze situations and communicate ideas. By preparing in advance, you’ll save your board time and improve its decision-making for your community.
5. Practice PatienceLearning how and why things work the way they do in your association takes time and patience. When a new member joins the board, they must develop a solid working knowledge of local, state and federal laws that impact virtual annual meetings, governing documents, building inspections, energy management, reopening amenity spaces and the basic responsibilities of your management company. It is a lot to absorb, so practice patience with yourself and your fellow board members. In time, you will be well prepared to respond to residents’ requests and concerns as a cohesive unit.
6. Understand the RoleOne of the most important elements of quality board member communication and interaction is acknowledging the board as a business entity that requires efficient management. Many people go into the board member role with the best of intentions, eager to volunteer their time for a worthy cause, but do not really understand what’s expected or required of them. Local, state and federal laws, together with your governing documents, empower you to take action in some areas, require you to take action in others, and in some cases, they can prevent you from taking action. As a board member, it’s important to know your limitations for each of these scenarios.
7. Set Deadlines for DecisionsOftentimes, matters placed before a board for consideration need to be discussed and investigated before a vote can take place. Setting deadlines for decisions keeps board members moving forward at the same cadence. By clearly outlining timeframes and target dates, your projects will remain on track.
8. Document RequestsWhen soliciting other board members for their input on various issues, you’ll get a better response if you document what you are requesting in writing prior to meeting with them. By doing so, you are giving your fellow members time to weigh how they intend to respond. At the same time, a documented request functions as a tangible reminder that their input has been requested.
9. Demonstrate ObjectivityRemaining objective is one of the most beneficial interpersonal skills you, as a board member, can possess. Consider all points of view and what benefits your community (and not necessarily you) the most before arriving at a decision. Personal agendas are not helpful, nor welcome.
Keep Reading: Communication Best Practices for Board MembersWhile your property manager is equipped to handle communications between the board and building residents, board members often prefer to take ownership of day-to-day communications. To help streamline your messaging, begin by creating a communication plan that includes a robust schedule of content, roles and responsibilities, the most accessible communication channels and a consensus on what is most important to your residents.
These four components of a successful communication plan will help your board create and deliver effective messaging throughout the year.
Download our comprehensive communication guide for even more recommendations on how to keep your residents and board members connected and informed!