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What Your Managing Agent Faces: A Reminder Empathy Is Part of Leadership

Doug Kleine in Board Operations on May 31, 2012

New York City

May 31, 2012

Twenty years ago, I said there was a leadership crisis in condominium associations and cooperative housing. Any education of co-op / condo board members at that time seemed to be teaching them how to manage and make property and financial decisions, not about how to lead and govern. Would future leaders learn governance? Would supporting organizations teach governance?

In general, the answers are yes and yes. Education content for condo and co-op leaders now includes key elements of leadership, including communication, conflict resolution and planning. In 2005, the National Association of Housing Cooperatives launched its "Excellence in Governance" customized course for boards. In 2007, another national organization serving condos published two "best practice" guides, one on strategic planning and a second on governance, venturing so far as to expose boards to governance models used by large nonprofits like the American Heart Association.

Burnout Rate

'People-lovers' are good

with boards and residents,

'tool-belt managers' with

contractors and staff.

One thing that has not changed much over the decades, however, is the high burnout among the building managers with whom boards work. Some boards are willing to meet first thing in the morning, and some are experimenting with virtual meeting services like Skype. But evening meetings are still the norm, and the practice is not family-friendly for managers. 

In analyzing the manager's job, behavioral research of 20 years ago found that managers must operate with two conflicting personality styles. They must be order-givers and also order-takers. As a result, the "people-lovers" are good with the boards and residents, and the "tool-belt managers" are good with contractors and maintenance staff. An obvious solution is team management, but that has not happened, perhaps because it comes with a cost.

Progress has been made and the challenges of managing condos and co-ops have taken new twists in the past 20 years. Board practices have matured with the support of management companies, education organizations like Community Associations Institute and the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums, and media like Habitat. Technology has helped in ways not anticipated, particularly with remote monitoring, the web as a service tool, and mobile communications.

The nagging unsolved issue, however, is that of finding and retaining good management personnel for a job with demanding requirements.


Doug Kleine, former executive director of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives, runs Professional Association Services.

From Habitat May 2012. For more, join our Archive >>

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