9 Ways to Improve HOA Board Communication (Hint: It Starts With You!)
Developing effective HOA board communication skills involves two key elements: active listening and thoughtful responses. Yet, we've all experienced moments of unintentional disengagement during lengthy meetings or preoccupied minds formulating responses instead of truly absorbing what the other person is saying.
Effective communication within a board is crucial for achieving collective goals and maintaining a strong reputation. Whether your board is already communicating well or facing obstacles, there are practical steps you can take to improve. By investing time in internal communication, you can promote mutual understanding, enhance cooperation, and strengthen relationships. These efforts will ultimately contribute to the attainment of your community's or building's vision. Additionally, proactive and healthy board communication is essential for maintaining an excellent reputation with residents and increasing property values within the association.
Here are nine proven board communication techniques to consider:
1. Actively Listen Even When You Disagree
When someone presents a different idea or opinion, our natural response is often to defend our own thoughts instead of truly listening. This common reaction can hinder productive discussions. As a board member, it's crucial to actively listen to your fellow members and consider their perspectives. By taking notes and empathetically understanding their viewpoints, you can guide the conversation in a constructive direction and make everyone feel valued. Mastering the art of active listening is the key to more productive board meetings.
Remember, having a difference of opinion can be a good thing to promote change and improvements. Learn more about effective board alignment practices in our article, Is HOA Alignment a Unicorn? 3 Boards Share What It Takes.
2. Speak Strategically and Encourage Discussions
Strategic HOA board communication skills are essential for guiding your board's discussions. To speak strategically, you must be concise, adopt the appropriate tone, and ask insightful questions. Here are some practical ways to communicate strategically at your next board meeting:
- Redirect questions and comments – Encourage other board members to engage in answering questions or comments (even if you want to answer them yourself!).
- Paraphrase – Actively listen (see tip #1) and then restate what someone else has said in your own words.
- Encourage participation from everyone – It's not the most popular task, but it's best to ask those who have not yet shared their thoughts to offer their views.
- Change the perspective – Encourage the board to consider an issue from other points of view by "playing the devil's advocate."
- Ask for 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?"
3. Recognize Communication Strengths in Others
To maximize collaboration, engagement, and HOA board communication, it is crucial to acknowledge and appreciate the diverse communication strengths of each member. Some individuals may excel in delivering concise and straightforward messages, while others might thrive in elaborating on their ideas. Additionally, certain members may demonstrate exceptional writing skills, while others shine in public speaking.
It is essential to be mindful of the varying communication styles and not overshadow timid board members or abruptly interrupt others during discussions. Every member deserves to be heard and valued. By recognizing and embracing these differences, you can foster a more inclusive and productive board environment.
4. Respond to Challenges With Proactivity and Preparedness
When facing a challenging situation or a community crisis, it is important to approach it with proactivity and preparedness rather than responding impulsively. Prior to making any decisions as a board, it is crucial to take the time to gather all the necessary information and explore potential solutions. This can be done through thorough research both online and offline, consulting with your community management company, and involving association attorneys, if needed, to gain a comprehensive understanding and find a resolution. The more proactive you are in seeking information, the better equipped you will be to critically analyze situations and enhance the decision-making process of your board.
5. Practice Patience and Focus on the Bigger Picture
When welcoming new board members, it's important to be patient. Starting something new can be a learning curve for everyone, even if they've been on other boards before. If they're completely new, they'll need time to understand the local, state, and federal laws that impact resident and board member interactions. Take the time to familiarize yourself with this knowledge as well. It may seem overwhelming, but with patience and understanding, your board will become a strong, united force that works towards bettering your community.
6. Understand Your Role and Expectations
Enhancing board communication hinges on understanding your role and responsibilities. While many individuals enter their roles with good intentions and a desire to contribute to a worthwhile cause, they may not fully comprehend the expectations and requirements of their position. It is crucial to recognize that your association functions as a professional business entity, necessitating efficient management and unwavering dedication. To navigate effectively, you must be familiar with local, state, and federal laws, as well as your governing documents. These frameworks grant you authority in certain areas, mandate action in others, and can even curtail decisions that may be detrimental to your community. As a board member, it is essential to understand the boundaries in each of these situations.
7. Set a Deadline for Decisions
Efficient decision-making is crucial for a productive board and successful community projects. While it's important to thoroughly discuss and investigate matters, it is equally essential to avoid unnecessary delays. By setting decision deadlines and clearly outlining timeframes and target dates, your board can ensure that projects progress swiftly.
To facilitate this process, collaborate with your association manager to establish realistic timelines for board decisions and community projects. This proactive approach will enhance efficiency and keep your community moving forward.
8. Put Your Request in Writing
It's common for individuals to struggle with communication in high-pressure situations or when caught off-guard. However, there is a simple solution to enhance board meeting effectiveness. Consider putting your questions and requests in writing prior to the meeting. By doing so, participants have the opportunity to research and prepare their answers beforehand, ultimately saving time and avoiding awkward silences during the meeting. Additionally, a written request serves as a tangible reminder for board members to address specific discussion topics. Taking this proactive approach can lead to shorter and more productive meetings, benefiting both the participants and the community.
9. Be Objective
Objectivity is the key to successful communications and gaining trust from residents and your community. As a board member, it's imperative that you remain objective when challenges or issues arise and that everyone on your board has the opportunity to express different opinions. Be sure to consider all points of view and what will benefit the community before finalizing a decision. Avoid making decisions that will only help you or one person on your board.
HOA board communication is the key to effective board meetings that will bring positive changes for the community. Board members are most effective when they communicate well with each other. By improving interpersonal skills, you’ll be able to create a thriving community, which can impact your association’s overall reputation and increase home values.