Avoid these 7 common board member mistakes
Serving on your community association board can be challenging. No matter your level of experience, mistakes can happen. Although some of these missteps have simple solutions, the ideal scenario would be to avoid them altogether.
What are the seven common mistakes board members make?While these are not all-encompassing, it is a starting point to help new and even seasoned board members avoid potential pitfalls and succeed in their roles.
Getting personalThe board's role is to act as the managing body for the community association, make daily decisions for property operations, and follow the community’s rules, regulations, and bylaws.
Typically, homeowners volunteer to serve on the board to help manage the community and increase residents' enjoyment. However, emotions or personal disagreements can sometimes get in the way and create rifts within the board or community.
Solution: Always be professional and make rational decisions.Learning to prioritize the community's needs is crucial for any board member. This means recognizing that you’re not acting as an individual. Seasoned board members know the importance of navigating their emotions. This includes accepting the council’s decision – even if you disagree. Once a decision is reached, the community must see that the board is moving forward together.
MicromanagingThe board’s role is to set the strategic goals and policies of the community. The management company enforces those policies and manages the association’s day-to-day operations.
Some board members may initially feel they need to stay on top of everything. As a result, they either interfere in the duties assigned to their property management company or delve too deeply into the details of their community’s operations, thereby hindering operating processes.
Solution: Partner with a trustworthy property management company.A good management company works with the board by offering training, identifying cost savings, assisting with the annual budget, and more.
Boards should ensure that the management company they hire is trustworthy and capable of fulfilling its role without constant oversight. In a good partnership, board members and the management team understand their responsibilities and work together to carry them out.
Insufficient trainingNew board members may be excited about their role and look forward to joining. However, members who haven’t spent time reading the governing documents, learning the expectations of their new role, or understanding the history of the community can quickly run into some challenges.
Solution: Undergo training.Upon joining the board, new members should read their governing documents. This ensures they fully understand the community’s current policies and their function as a board member.
If the property management company offers board training (and it should), new members should enroll. Proper training will cover topics like running board meetings, preparing budgets, insurance coverage, and more. Training goes a long way in supporting board members.
Not working togetherWhen serving on a board, you act in tandem with your fellow members. You could be liable if you make a big decision alone (like hiring a new vendor).
Additionally, when individual members take drastic measures without the authority of the membership, they may damage the community’s reputation and cause significant friction in the future.
Solution: Work alongside fellow board members.As a board member, you must respect the consensus of the board. Regardless of your personal preference, once the group reaches a decision, you should respect it.
Standing united not only helps strengthen member relationships but also improves your reputation with residents. Having a healthy and unified board helps your community reach decisions and develop policies more efficiently.
Sharing confidential informationBoard members shouldn’t discuss community business outside of an official meeting. That includes potential policies, violations, and vendor relationships. Even if a comment seems harmless, you may be putting yourself or your community at risk. Particularly if you’re not on the same page as your board.
Solution: Limit community business conversations to board meetings.Think twice before discussing business matters outside of board meetings, either in-person or email conversations. Do not share sensitive information such as legal issues, attorney opinions, appeals, or personal, financial, or health information of staff or fellow board members.
Not being open-mindedSometimes, what’s in the community's best interest is change. And this will not always align with your belief or opinion. This can range from finding a different banking institution to hold reserve funds to selecting the right property management company.
Solution: Consider the community’s needs.Part of your role is putting the community’s needs before your own and remaining open to conversations regarding current policies. Working with your fellow board members will ensure the community’s best interest is in place.
Lack of communicationSometimes the board must make a necessary but unpopular decision. This can range from raising assessment fees to not addressing a resident concern right away due to more pressing issues.
In either case, a common board member mistake is neglecting to inform the community. This can be incredibly frustrating for residents when members are difficult to reach or don’t respond to their questions and concerns.
Solution: Transparent communication with residents.Transparency is one of the main resident concerns in community associations. Your board must ensure clear communications are sent out via various channels. Emails, postal mail, bulletin board postings, and uploads to your community website are all examples of efficient resident communications.
Most importantly, board members should recognize resident concerns. Best practices suggest communicating quickly with the community to let them know their concerns have been heard. This will encourage transparency and assuage any questions.
Lean on your property management companyServing as a board member can be a rewarding experience, but it comes with a set of responsibilities. Lean on your community management company’s experience to help avoid common board member mistakes. They have years of experience working with boards and have learned how to avoid these common pitfalls.
If your community is currently self-managed or looking for a professional management company that can provide a service-centered approach to community management, contact a member of our team at FirstService Residential.