Five Steps to Better HOA Board Meetings
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One of the most challenging aspects of being on your homeowner's association (HOA) board can be running board meetings. It's not always easy to keep everyone tuned in to the business at hand. In addition, you must be able to manage the inevitable disagreements among board members. How do you keep these HOA board meetings running smoothly?
Not to worry! We've put together five guidelines for making your meetings more productive. You'll find even more tips in our complimentary infographic, "Six Principles for a Better Board Meeting," which you can download simply by filling out the form below.
1) Follow "parliamentary procedure."
A parliamentary procedure means following a body of ethics, rules, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies abiding by specific established meeting rules.
The purpose of following a parliamentary procedure is for a group to conduct its businesses in the most efficient way possible while considering the rights of its members. With HOAs, these are outlined in your bylaws and include standard protocols, such as providing notice of the meeting, creating an agenda, calling the meeting to order, requiring a quorum, and voting on motions.
If your bylaws don't provide enough specifics, get your guidance from Robert's Rules of Order, a commonly used book on parliamentary procedure.
2) Focus on your agenda, but not too much.
Build some time into the agenda for increasing affiliation and trust amongst members. This type of agenda can enhance the Board's ability to think together; connecting at a more personal level with a "check-in" at the beginning of meetings can put something on their mind aside and encourage the group to get into a listening mode. This technique works best when all board members receive a quiet or personal minute before going around. This is especially important with virtual HOA board meetings.
Sticking to your agenda keeps discussions on track and reminds board members of your objectives. If you are working with a management company, you'll want your community manager to be present so they can help you redirect any discussions that go off course. Using Robert's Rules of Order, make sure only one subject is before the group at one time, all members get equal time, and one person may speak at any given time. This way, all members feel heard and get equal time to talk. You want to allow all members to speak and feel as if they have a voice.
It's essential to keep things flexible within your agenda. If you stick to a meeting agenda that is too rigid, you can lose the ability to adjust and adapt. If the Board or community is going through a period when change is happening too rapidly, it can be critical to allow agility and flexibility in your meetings.
Try to move away from meeting agendas that routinely include the presentation and discussion of committee reports. If a report does not raise important issues or require a policy decision, but you want the minutes to show that the Board has seen it, the chair should ask: "Are any items in this report that anyone feels needs board discussion?" Also, allow time at the end of your agenda to discuss last-minute or off-topic or questions.
3) Establish action items and responsibilities.
Board members should come out of meetings knowing what action items need to be addressed, who needs to take responsibility and when it's due. Every single board member should have follow-up items assigned to both staff and Board.
If you are not running a board meeting that results in specific follow-through items, revisit your board meeting philosophy and structure. Reiterating the list of action items at the end of your meeting will help ensure that you haven't overlooked any important tasks and have made it clear to the members who are responsible for what and when.
4) Beware of time drains during HOA board meetings.
Ideally, HOA board meetings should last about 60 – 90 minutes at most. However, sometimes a board member will become passionate about a topic that they want to discuss endlessly. We've all been there. Keep each member's discussion short and to the point, making sure "negative" motions are generally quick or not up for debate.
Focus on creating a list of action items about the issue and assigning responsibility for each item. Make each member appointed a task accountable for their portion and have a resolution prepared by the next meeting. Reassure the member that the issue is recorded in the minutes and distributed later to look back on for reference.
5) Manage disagreements by remaining neutral.
Board members will inevitably have different opinions. These differences are usually an asset for a Board. On the other hand, if these differences lead to heated debates, refrain from taking sides. Following Robert's Rules of Order, try to keep "negative" motions to a minimum if permitted at all. If you are working with a community management company, your manager should have the experience to help defuse the situation. Get their help to find common ground for the disagreeing members and keep it short so the topics don't get lost in the shuffle.
Bonus tip for successful HOA board meetings:
Share some food! Having a pot of coffee and a plate of cookies, cheese and crackers tray, fruit tray, or a dish of candy to pass around is suitable for setting a positive atmosphere. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner time meetings; if there are resources to provide a meal, even if occasionally, works well in helping build a social atmosphere that cultivates trust and the ability for the group to work together.
You're least likely to meet with grumpy members if their stomachs are full!
Remember, everyone in your HOA benefits when meetings run smoothly. Follow these simple tips, and you will be well on its way toward holding more effective and productive HOA board meetings. They will have more time to focus on other topics, make better decisions, and generally feel more inspired.