9 Ways to Improve Your Community Management Communications
At FirstService Residential, our team has a considerable amount of experience working with community board members. We’ve discovered that when boards invest time into communicating effectively both internally and with residents, they are typically more successful. 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 happen more frequently
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 community management communications and resident engagement.
The most high-functioning boards we have partnered with regularly put into practice the following 9 communication techniques:
1) Actively listen
Having effective listening skills means hearing what your residents are communicating to you, 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 or herself in an environment that is respectful and hospitable. So, if you find you are not being attentive, try to self-correct and become and start actively listening.
2) Speak strategicallyDesignating roles for the communication process ensures there is no overlap in efforts, and nothing gets overlooked. It also provides clarity on the responsibilities of the property manager and board members. Roles can be assigned by:
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 any 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) Highlight communication strengths
When it comes to developing strong community management communications, people have varying strengths and weaknesses. You may have a board member who is very brief and to the point, while others may prefer to elaborate on certain topics and strive to be more detail-oriented. Some may be skilled at writing, while others may be strong at public speaking. By highlighting everyone’s communication strengths, you’ll help make your fellow board members look good – which as a result – makes your whole team look good! Letting each other’s communication abilities shine will also help improve engagement, create closer collaboration and fortify both board member and resident relationships.
4. Be proactive and prepared
The easiest way to resolve issues when they arise is to 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 inform your own decision making. 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 and its residents.
5. Practice patience
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, your fellow board members and you residents when they reach out to you with issues. In time, you will be well prepared to respond to residents’ requests and concerns as a cohesive unit.
6. Understand your role
One of the most important elements of quality community management communications and resident interactions 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 fully 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.
For more information on the roles and responsibilities of board and committee members, watch the video above!
7. Set deadlines
Oftentimes, issues 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 and will have more consistent community management communications.
8. Document requests
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.
9. Demonstrate objectivity
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 and when interacting with residents, you’ll be able to create a thriving community while saving time in the long run.
For additional guidance to help foster better communication within your board, download our guide on developing effective communication or contact FirstService Residential.