It is a familiar scene. Something happens between Board members causing distrust, scrutiny and even rebellion. As community leaders and as fiduciaries, Board members have an obligation to each other and to their communities to set aside differences that might arise and stay focused on community business. The purpose of the brief article is to provide year-end tips for each Board to review to make sure their relationships stay in tact and to help ensure that the community’s interests remain paramount.
1. Adopt a “code of conduct” for the Board. This document, signed by each Board member, sets the standard of what the appropriate tone of discussions will be in meetings; reminds everyone to mutually respect differing viewpoints; commits Board members to fulfill their duties and assignments; and strongly outlines that rude, hurtful, or inflammatory comments will not be tolerated.
2. Make sure that each Board member has a “job.” Often times, the Board serves as the officers of the Association as well. Review your Bylaws for such duties or adopt a job description for each officer and Board member. Before you hold a Board member/officer accountable for their respective roles, you need to clearly define what is expected of each person and position.
3. Before the end of each year and perhaps each quarter, review AS A GROUP the Board’s strengths and weaknesses. Write them down (not in the minutes) and make it a goal to improve upon areas where the Board feels it can do better (such as communicate better with members; listen to other Board member’s perspectives more fully before voting on a matter; not spreading gossip or making disparaging comments about other Board members; even learning to read and understand financial statements better is a noble goal). The variety of goals a Board might want to set for itself are truly limitless – the objective should be to start identifying GROUP weaknesses so improvements can follow.
3. Request training from your attorney on the ever-changing state and federal laws and trends in the HOA industry. You will be surprised that your attorney (of course, I’m speaking as an attorney) will likely be more than happy to have training sessions with the Board and provide legal and case law updates if you just ask.
4. Create a Board member binder that contains yours Articles of Incorporation, CCRs, Bylaws, Rules and Regulations and applicable state codes. This “Board Binder” should be brought to every meeting and, at random, an Article or Section should simply be reviewed quickly at each Board meeting. Knowing your own documents, by reading them together, frequently keeps disputes from arising in the first place as you educate yourselves in a Board setting. (I am not suggesting a lengthy reading of your governing documents at each Board meeting. I am suggesting something as simple as a Board member is assigned to pick a specific provision in the CCRs – liens for example – and then the Board takes 5 minutes to read the “lien” section of the CCRs. This process continues over and over with a new topic each meeting.)
5. Community Surveys. Do not be afraid to send out regular community surveys to the membership-at-large. Such surveys are not to rate the performance of a particular Board member, but to rate the community in general…”Do you feel that snow is being adequately removed?” “Do you like the new landscaping company?” You get the gist.
6. Board Surveys. Rate yourselves as a Board. I am not suggesting that this survey go out to the membership – this is done by the Board itself. Did we accomplish X, Y and Z this year? Why not? What has been our biggest challenge? How can we prevent such challenges from arising in the future?
7. Adopt the following philosophy: I may disagree from time to time, but I won’t be disagreeable. In other words, vibrant Board discussions and even debate is healthy for your community. However, Boards need to be trained to listen to all sides of an issue, compromise when they can, but don’t disagree just to disagree. Board members must understand that once a majority has made a decision, a BOARD DECISION has now been made and you must stand behind it and not speak ill of those who voted in favor of action that you perhaps did not agree with. In fact, I often find it helpful to have an agreed upon response if Board members are questioned if they supported an action such as “…we took the matter under serious consideration and had a lot of discussion on topics X and Y. In the end, I stand by the Board’s decision…” You can have your own variation on this concept.
These are just a few ideas. I hope as 2013 is quickly coming to an end, each Board can evaluate its own performance but do so in a way that feelings are not hurt and that the community’s best interests stay above personal agendas and emotion.