9 Ways to Improve Board Communication from Within
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As an association board member, you have generously offered your valuable time to serve your community. You no doubt have your residents' best interests in mind and want to put forth your best effort. To that end, you may want to sharpen your interpersonal communication skills. While communicating clearly and effectively with residents is vitally important, it is just as important to foster better board communication.
At FirstService Residential, we have a considerable amount of experience working with community board members. We’ve discovered that the most successful boards invest time in communicating effectively internally. In doing so, cooperation improves, mutual understanding is achieved and relationships strengthen – all of which contribute to achieving their community’s goals and vision. We’ve also seen that 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 every day. And for both of those forms of communication, clearly expressing what you want to see accomplished and why will help cultivate more effective interpersonal board member communications.
The most high-functioning boards we have partnered with regularly put into practice the following nine communication techniques:
Having 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 be better able to focus on community business and avoid getting distracted by personal agendas. Remember, every board member deserves to express him of herself 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.
When you have strong verbal skills, you are more likely to be successful in your dealings with fellow board members. Here are several specific verbal skills you might find helpful in your next 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 by asking: “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?”
Highlighting communication strengths
When 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.
Being proactive and prepared
To 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.
Learning how and why things work the way they do in your association takes time and patience. When a new board member comes along, he or she must develop a solid working knowledge of local, state and federal laws that impact resident and board member interactions, your community’s governing documents and how your property management company works. 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.
Understanding the role
One of the most important elements of quality board member communication and interaction is acknowledging your association is a real 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.
Setting deadlines for decisions
Oftentimes, 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.
When 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.
Remaining 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.
Board members are most effective when they communicate well with each other. In fact, just about everything a board does is enhanced by using strong interpersonal skills. By improving these skills within your board, you’ll be able to create a thriving community with less work.