Lori Miles, CAM in Board Operations on August 10, 2012
Prepare a Realistic Agenda. Five-page agendas with 50 objectives may be impressive but they are unrealistic and counterproductive. You need to set a list of priorities for each meeting and focus on those issues. If you have 50 issues you want to address, spread them out over the course of the year. You will be more efficient and see better results if you are able to manage your agenda.
Set an End Time. Start the meeting when it is scheduled to begin and get straight to business. If you collectively have the focus to be finished within a set time, you'll be amazed with how much you can accomplish. If you have no time limit, the meeting will typically drag on and a lot of time will be wasted.
Be Familiar with the Bylaws and Condo Covenants / Co-op Proprietary Lease. Key elements with which co-op / condo board members should familiarize themselves are the governing documents that define the board's authority. If you have a management company, it should provide guidance on your role as a board member, fiduciary responsibility, specific board responsibilities from decision-making to administrative tasks, and how to conduct and participate in board meetings. Other vital information will include how to avoid personal liability, professional conduct at meetings, parliamentary procedures, the operating and reserve budgets, federal, state and local laws that impact your community and appropriate insurance coverage.
Come Prepared. Be familiar with the issues that will be addressed at the meeting. If you have questions, ask them prior to the meeting so that your manager can have ample time to find the answers. This will help the meeting be more effective and brief. There is nothing more frustrating to those attending the meeting than for fellow board members to come unprepared and want to discuss issues at great length.
Make the Meeting a Time for Action. Don't just discuss issues: Make decisions. Every item up for discussion should end in a vote to move forward in some way or to table it with a clear understanding of why the item is being tabled and when it will be revisited. When taking action on an item make sure it is clear who will be responsible for getting that task completed. Ambiguity cripples a board.
Don't be confrontational. Board members should recognize they are part of a team and not take a confrontational position with fellow board members or their management company. No one should have to work or conduct business in a hostile environment. Realize that at times you will not always agree, but take the position that even disagreement can bring compromise and consensus. Be concise with your opinion and thoughts and then be sure to listen to others. Be respectful of your fellow board members and staff, as well as the homeowners. The tone of the board can set the tone of the co-op / condo community.
Treat your Managing Agent with Respect. He or she is your agent, not your employee: They are professionals and should be treated as such. It can be detrimental to a board and its community to consistently be at odds with the management company, which is there to offer expertise based on experience, training and education to ensure that the board doesn't compromise its fiduciary responsibility. If your board has lost trust in the management company, have a frank discussion with the company's CEO. Perhaps a different manager can restore your trust, eliminating the need to start over with a new company.
Be a Team Player. If you recognize that, as a board member, you are part of a team of volunteers and management experts, you will be rewarded when you use those resources to make decisions that are based on sound business judgment. This, in turn, will inspire others to serve and build a team of future leaders who will want to emulate your leadership. By doing so, you will find serving on the board is not a burdensome chore, but a rewarding experience you will value for years to come.
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