Bette Weseman and Jeffrey M. Evans | 07-01-1990
A community association board of directors and the manager play on the same team and must have the same goals and objectives if the team is to win. Both are in the community to serve the needs and interests of the members/property owners. Both the manager and the board must know and understand their role in the community association setting. In general terms, the board of directors of a community association sets policy, adopts rules and regulations, and approves an annual budget. The manager's role is to carry out the policies set by the board, enforce the rules and regulations adopted by the board, and provide programs and services to members/property owners within the confines of the adopted budget. The following articles offer two perspectives: how the manager views the board and how the board views the manager.
The board and manager must work together to serve the best interests and carry out the objectives of the community association. Regular work sessions should be held between the manager and board members to ensure both are on the same "wave length." The board must respect the manager's opinions, for the manager was hired with the understanding that s/he is knowledgeable and reliable. It is the manager's role to let board members know the problems, what needs to be done, and how it can be accomplished. It is the board's decision in the end, however, and the manager must respect and abide by the board's decisions.
The average term of a property/ community manager is less than two years, so how does a manager perform his/her duties and create amicability with a board? At the top of the list is keeping board members informed. No one likes surprises, especially board members. The manager should prepare complete monthly reports - more often, if necessary - which contain "the good, the bad, and the ugly" news. The manager should do the "leg work" for the board - provide the board with all the information it needs, in a reasonable amount of time, so that the board can make informed decisions. The manager should give the board the credit for positive things and share in the blame when something isn't right. The manager's job is to make the board look good.
AN IDEAL BOARD MEMBER
Being a board member isn't easy. From a manager's point of view, the ideal board member has a genuine interest in the community as a whole, is able to look at the big picture, and is able to differentiate between pet peeves and major problems and concerns. The ideal board member is not interested in actually managing the community, does not make decisions based on his/her own likes and dislikes and understands the chain of command. The ideal board member has no hidden agendas! The ideal board member comes to the board with at least some experience, preferably through the committee system of serving on the board. Finally, the ideal board member is willing and able to give a reasonable amount of time to the work in order to be informed.
The manager can help the board fulfill its elected duties by providing new board members with a history of board activities and decisions. The manager should provide all new board members with a minimum o one year's past minutes well in advance of their first meeting. Another helpful tool to educate both new and old board members is a "behind the scenes tour" of the facilities and a visit to ongoing recreation and maintenance activities. The tour should include those facilities and equipment which are not commonly known, but are necessary to the day-to-day operation of the community association. The board needs to know and understand the total operation of the association. The board can then assist the manager by staying out of day-to-day operations. It will help the manager if board members encourage property owners/members with problems to call the manager directly. Board members should not try to solve problems themselves, and above all, board members should not make promises.
The manager and the board must never forget they are on the same team, have the same goals, serve the same constituents. Both must work together to provide what's best for the community association as a whole.
Author's Note - The tape Serving on the Board by Larry Pothast should be worked into the orientation procedure for all community association board members and the CAI booklet, Community Association Leadership - a Guide for Volunteers should be in all new board members' orientation packets.
The Board's Perspective
By Irene L. Soskin
In theory, board members and managers play for the same team: the association. In reality, they often wind up like the Hatfields and McCoys. Certainly, there are times when the manager is at fault. Nevertheless, even though board members may not like to admit it, they often have unrealistic expectations of their manager. The board may look for a candidate who: * Exhibits leadership * Solves problems * Shows honesty * Demonstrates loyalty to the association * Establishes and maintains good rapport with association personnel * Knows unit owners and treats them with respect * Prepares for board meetings * Radiates confidence * Is available 24 hours a day. * When the new manager fails to meet this ideal profile, board members may be too disillusioned to see his or her strengths.
The board begins to form an image of the candidate before the first interview. Resumes, references and writing samples begin the process. Professional designations like PCAM and CPM also convey a message of expertise. When a candidate arrives for an interview, his or her appearance continues the communication process before the formal interview begins. Clothes, posture and demeanor say a lot about the individual. Board members, perhaps subconsciously, start to assess the person's potential. Candidates are advised to look the part. Members of an urban complex may prefer someone who wears a dark suit, while owners in a Florida retirement village may feel more comfortable with a candidate in slacks and a sport coat. For women, a conservative suit is almost always appropriate. Posture also speaks volumes. A too relaxed stance may put off some board members. At the other end of the spectrum is the "plaster suit" stance that gives the impression that if the person's body were suddenly to disappear, his or her clothes would remain. The plaster suit candidate, impeccably dressed, sits rigidly through the entire meeting, attempting to convey self-control and attentiveness. Actually, the candidate may scare interviewers, or make them suspect that he or she lacks self-confidence. Gut reactions to specific manager candidates count for a great deal. "From the moment I met her, I knew she would get the job done" is a comment that typifies this emotional response. While such opinions may be unfounded, they are nonetheless important. When a candidate speaks, more than words are heard. An arrogant tone may create the impression of stubbornness. Board members may be wary of a candidate whom they. believe will usurp their authority. But they are also likely to shy away from "yes men" who agree with everyone and wind up pleasing no one.
TALK ABOUT IT
The manager who perfectly suits one association may not fit in elsewhere. Some boards may want a "drill sergeant" through whom all work is delegated. Others may prefer to hold power more directly and seek a less commanding person. For some board-manager relationships, the term communication gap may be more accurately called a communication gulf. Many managers lack both written and verbal communication skills. Board members are busy people and want short and factual reports. A manager who reports on every step of the process may fail to communicate the heart of the matter. A one-hour report can create confusion, while a well-worded 10-minute version may answer most questions. A succinct report requires planning time that belies its length. Before writing a draft, the manager should contact board members and residents to learn their views and concerns. A good manager listens at board meetings and welcomes suggestions. S/he gets board members to balance their suggestions with reality and move toward a mutually agreeable solution. in addition, a manager's decision will earn more support from board members who feel the manager has at least considered their ideas. While no manager wants to be caught unprepared, such situations are bound to occur periodically. on those occasions, it is wiser to simply state the fact that, "I don't have an answer right now, but I'll find out."
Candidates campaigning for the board sometimes find it easier to suggest changing management than changing board operations. Such a campaign strategy stirs up residents, brings the candidate attention and may win votes. The manager could decide to avoid politics altogether. Alternatively, the manager could touch base with all the candidates for the board, discussing his or her goals in light of each candidate's platform. This approach gives the manager a chance to correct problems before new board members take office. Managers obviously have a problem when anti-management candidates win election to the board. Avoiding the new board members will only cause greater animosity. Direct confrontation would have the same effect. When faced with blatant antagonism from board members, a good manager is quiet but firm. "You have a good point, but..." A prepared manager always has the facts to support his or her viewpoint. In addition, a manager may turn enemies on the board into allies by asking for their suggestions. When the board accuses management of making a major mistake, the manager should never rush into denials or counter charges. Instead, the manager should immediately research the charge. If the board's charge turns out to be accurate, the faster management admits and corrects the mistake the better. If the board's charge is unfounded, the manager and board should discuss what went wrong with communications. When the board fires a management firm, the new firm hired has a brief, critical transition period in which to make a good impression. The new management will also have to deal with its predecessor. Records, procedures and a variety of other services will have to be transferred. The outgoing manager should explain pending contracts and continuing projects. Before the new manager starts, he or she should be invited to audit board meetings. The board and the new manager should establish a realistic time frame to resolve the problems that undermined the old manager. At the same time, the board should ask the residents to show patience during the transition.
GET OUT OF THE OFFICE
Managers who spend all day behind a desk are courting trouble. Despite their heavy administrative duties, managers are expected to watch closely the association's property as well. Twice a year, one successful general manager includes board members and committee chairpersons on his inspection tours. This helps improve the physical condition of the property and strengthens ties between the board and management. Conflict is inevitable even in the best working relationships. Successful people feel strongly about their work and their success naturally gives them confidence. On occasion, this confidence may lead to stubborness and then to conflict. Good management often calls for compromise. Just as a manager his to know when to defer to the board, the board needs to know what it can realistically expect of managers and how to help the manager reach these expectations.
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