Updated: Sep 13, 2021
Some thoughts for Boards as communities reopen
By Julie Adamen from Adamen, Inc.
Seldom do we have such an opportunity to revitalize, not only how we as Boards actually do things, but how we think about doing things (full disclosure, I am a board member of two associations… what was I thinking?!). As difficult as this past year has been, let’s face forward to how we can do things better in the coming months and years for ourselves as Board members, and our communities. It all begins with us.
Renew forgiveness: Heal ourselves and our community
Let go and give grace. Lockdowns, masks, social distancing. Loneliness, anger, resentment. Civil unrest. Violence. High political tensions… This has been a very hard year on all of us, especially those in states where COVID restrictions have been severe. Residents cooped up at home for months with little to do except look out the window, focus their attention - and emotions - on their community and its’ Board. At times, it has gotten very ugly and very personal, as tensions ran ever higher with no real outlet. We as Board members may have felt attacked, hurt, and not likely to forgive anyone anytime soon. I say to you: The past is past. LET. IT. GO. Community healing can’t take place without it. Don’t hold that grudge, give grace those who may have been, shall I say, less than civil this past year. Face forward, and move on.
Rebirth: Where do we want to be as a community?
THINK BIG! As a Board, it’s your (our) job to set policy, and let staff (and some volunteers) carry out that policy. Let’s commit, right now, to getting and staying OUT of the weeds. How to start? First take stock of where you are as a Board. Task each member to provide a short, honest evaluation of what they believe should be the Board’s priorities (you can do this in an informal meeting or “study session” if your state allows you that luxury). Then as a body, discuss and decide on which of those answers are the top 3 for the coming year or two. Once these priorities are identified... How will you get there? Start the journey by adopting (or revising existing) Vision and Mission Statements, and adopting Core Values.
Seems like a lot of work, I know. But for a Board to be effective (and get out of the weeds), they must have a common sense of larger purpose and direction; and the members must feel they are a part of something positive and greater than themselves. By having your Board work together and ultimately agree on what will be your shared reason for existence (Mission Statement), shared concept for the future (Vision Statement), and a shared philosophy that will represent your culture (Core Values), your Board will become the team they are supposed to be and greatly strengthen the notion of big picture thinking.
Re-imagine Board action based on the Big Picture: Where we want to be will provide a clear picture of what we need to do
Make a Business Plan. Develop a 1-year plan identifying 3 macro-issues (i.e., rewriting the Rules and Regulations or the CC&Rs, remodel the clubhouse, etc.) facing your Board and the community, then assign study groups (a subset of Board members or reliable owners, or a mix thereof) to make recommendation on action. Set benchmarks (dates/events) for achievement by the groups and hold them accountable for achieving their respective targets (ensure their group/committee is on every agenda until the tasks are complete). Working through big issues in such a systematic way promotes not only the confidence of the Board, it establishes a successful procedure for future problem solving. As an added benefit that cannot be downplayed, it will bring credibility to the Board in the eyes of the residents.
Re-imagine communication: Put the unity in community!
Be intentional with all communications between residents and the Board. I recently did some “unofficial” consulting with a local community association, and their Board told me they can never get a quorum for the annual meeting and the owners don’t pay attention to the Rules or Architectural Guidelines. “It’s like no one cares!” they said. Then I asked: What communications come from the Board to the owners, outside of violations or meeting notices? Yep, you guessed it: Crickets. This Board never communicates with the residents other meeting notices and violation letters. They’re right, the owners are apathetic because they perceive that the Board doesn’t care enough about them, and the community, to communicate.
It is absolutely critical that we Boards communicate relevant, positive information to the community on a regular basis, and no time is better to commit to this task than now: We are ramping up, we are meeting in person, our facilities are re-opening and things are happening! This is great news, and should be shared as such – in the newsletter, e-blasts and on our websites. Regular, positive communication = positive resident engagement (unity). If we aren’t filling the information gap, that gap will get filled with rumor, innuendo and generally fake news (none of which ever seems to be good). When there is commitment and policy to regularly communicate relevant and positive information, Boards are bringing residents in to the process of community administration. People “in the process” become a part of the consensus, and not a part of the angry mob.
The COVID disruption has caused liberties to be removed, businesses shuttered, and fear thrown at us from every direction. Truthfully, we are suffering from a collective post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, we are able to come out of our sheltered life and it’s time for us as Board Members to embrace a moment of grace, renew forgiveness, heal ourselves and, in turn, our community. We cannot move forward if we cannot forgive. This is a great opportunity to take a fresh look at where we want to be! This "forward vision" will provide focus for the Board and a statement of what we can be to the community. Lastly, we need to communicate, and do so often with intention. Through communication, we build unity within the community. Unity allows us to become what we imagine ourselves to be. We, and our communities, will find our way forward with clear direction, action, efficiency and perhaps better cooperation. And who doesn't want that?