Is HOA Agreement a Unicorn? 3 Boards Share What It Takes
“The challenge of alignment is that you’re not going to keep everyone happy. Instead, you want to act in the best interest of your community – that’s the key.
—Gary Turner, Board President of Trilogy La Quinta Maintenance Association
While maintenance, events, committees, and budget are all crucial aspects of managing a homeowners’ association, there's one even bigger challenge that board members face: HOA agreement and alignment. Without board alignment, essential projects get neglected, policy decisions stagnate, and the overall improvement of the community and resident experience is jeopardized. Furthermore, a lack of alignment can damage the board's reputation with residents, leading to hostility and even recalls. Discover how achieving board alignment is crucial for a thriving HOA and a harmonious community.
Gain insights from actual board members of thriving homeowners' associations, who have perfected the art of making effective and unanimous decisions. Read on to discover the secret to successful alignment among diverse individuals with distinct values.
But first, what is board alignment?
We can start with what it’s not. Alignment is not agreeing on every single decision and having the same collective perspective and opinions. In fact, this is one of the most common myths when it comes to effective board decision making (learn more in our article on 5 HOA decision-making myths.)
Achieving real board alignment is about coming together for the benefit of your community and finding a common agreement. It doesn't require you to have the same personality, life goals, or motivation. So, how can you make this alignment a reality?
Tip #1: Start with the right “why.”
Gain clarity and maximize impact on your HOA board by focusing on your own motivation and purpose. Don't worry about others, but rather ensure that your intentions are in the right place. By doing so, you'll be better equipped to make decisions that benefit the community as a whole.
Trilogy La Quinta Maintenance Association is a prominent 1,238-home active adult community in La Quinta. The board has accomplished major projects over the past several years because of a strong focus on strategic planning and thoughtful capital improvements. In fact, they accomplished 4 major construction projects in 4 years, including a major renovation of 60 acres of the nearby golf course perimeter landscape. How did they do it? By putting the community first.
Gigi Martin, treasurer at Trilogy La Quinta Maintenance Association, said that true alignment starts with your “why.” She said, “If you go into the process understanding that you’re a board member because you want to serve the community and you have the community at the very heart of what you do, then it makes it [decision making] easier. If you go into the process of being a board member as something that you want to do for yourself, that doesn’t work.”
The right motivation can go a long way in HOA agreement and accomplishing positive change in your community. Gigi said, “As long as you’re community-centric and you look at the community as the most important thing that you’re doing, then you don’t have a problem aligning as a board.”
Tip #2: Hear each other out (even when you disagree).Respecting and listening to each other may seem simple, but in a room full of diverse personalities, it can be challenging. However, embracing these qualities can have a huge impact. So, how does it manifest in a successful association?
The Mark is a 95-unit high-rise association located in Scottsdale, Arizona. The building features large, thoughtfully designed units and a prominent location in the heart of the city, near boutique hotels and popular dining and shopping attractions. Because of the building’s high caliber and reputation, the board is singularly focused on maintaining their reputation and property values. Recently, they successfully navigated a difficult arbitration case, with the help of former attorneys on the board and a commitment to work through the challenges together. By respecting and listening to one another, they were able to win a critical case.
Michael Nagle serves as board president of The Mark, and he spoke to the importance of being respectful and listening to others’ opinions. He said, “We don’t agree on everything all the time because there are 5 different people here. That’s a good thing, because then we talk about things and someone can very easily bring up something that I’ve never thought of and change my mind.”
As Michael explained, alignment is not agreeing on everything all the time. A successful board shares differing opinions, keeping the community’s best interest at heart for every decision.
Tip #3: Stick to your association’s mission and strategy.Putting your community's best interest first, despite different motivations and desires, is crucial. And it all begins with a strong mission and strategic plan. These essential elements hold the key to ensuring success and alignment for your board and the entire association.
Crafting a clear mission and strategic plan created through HOA agreement holds the key to effective board decisions. With a concrete roadmap for the future, you'll be able to assess each choice with confidence. Simply ask yourself: "Does this decision align with our mission? Does it reflect our strategic plan?" If the answer is no, it's time to reconsider. Don't settle for anything less than what's best for your community.
The most successful boards have implemented a strategic plan to mitigate changes in board members and keep the board singularly focused on their community. As Gary Turner from Trilogy La Quinta put it, “It’s a planning tool for us for the next 5 years. Without that, the community would not progress in a logical manner. The community’s priorities could change from one board to the next. This plan gives the entire community a roadmap to where we’ll be in future years.”
Tip #4: Leave your ego at the door.If you don’t remember anything else, remember this: There’s absolutely no room for ego if you want to have an effective and high-performing homeowners association. When you’re on a board, the motivation should shift to the community rather than your own personal agenda or initiatives. What does that look like?
EastLake II is a 2,357-unit single-family home association located in Chula Vista, California. The community has placed a tremendous focus on community involvement, amenities and events, including an annual barbecue where the board personally serves the residents. The board is proactive and hands-on, with well-funded reserves and carefully thought-out maintenance projects. Why have they experienced so much success over the past couple of years? Because of a shared commitment to put their egos aside and focus on the community.
Debora Stacker, treasurer at EastLake II, said, “We’ve been successful as a board because we leave our egos at the door.” She said, “You have to recognize that what you’re doing as a board needs to be based on what’s best for the community, not based on your personal opinion and preferences.”
Why board alignment mattersAchieving HOA agreement and alignment is crucial for a successful board. It is a key characteristic that enables boards to bring about positive change in their community. However, a lack of alignment can result in a dysfunctional board, impede decision making, and damage your community's perception of you.
To learn more about aligning on board decisions, read 5 Myths About HOA Board Decision Making.