THE BIG PICTURE
When someone is new to the board of directors, it’s important for the managing agent to offer advice on situations that might result in a problem. One of the things I like to do when I meet with new board members – aside from the very basic things of giving written material to help the newcomers become familiar with the building – is to bring their attention to the fact that they might be put in situations with the staff, particularly the super, the doormen, the porters, and the handymen. There may be situations where either a staff member is testing a new board member and might confide in him, or ask him for particular direction about a problem and/or a building matter.
One of the things I like to make sure that board members understand is that when approached by a staff member about any matters relating to the operations of the building, it is in the board members’ best interests to direct that staff member to the management company, particularly the managing agent. A new board member should not get into any personal discussions, because when a new board member speaks it can be perceived as speaking on behalf of the entire board. Messages can be mixed and confused.
Also, if board members have particular problems – if the garbage hasn’t been picked up by a certain time, for instance, or the doorman hasn’t alerted someone about a package – I try to counsel them not to get into a direct discussion with the staff member about the problem. Bring it to our attention as the management company so that we can better handle the situation and be one voice.
It’s easy to get caught up in unnecessary conversations. I would say the same thing to a new board member about residents who live in the building – shareholders or unit-owners. If they have problems, don’t try to solve them. Direct the residents to the management company. It’s much more efficient if everything is communicated through us, so we have a paper trail, we have the information, we can follow up and be hands-on.