Four Sources of Contention
Homeowner Association board meetings can be a great help in furthering frustration. Although another disappointment between board members and homeowners initially come to mind, conflicts between members of the board are surprisingly common and lead to problems and a waste of time. To stem the tide of discontent among board members, take time to recognize these four sources of Board Meeting controversy.
1. Conflicting personalities
Especially with entrenched boards, long-standing or glaring personality conflicts can derail productive meetings. Members who interact with the assumption that another board member is out to get them raises their defenses. The conflict that lingers over the course of years can cause condescension, judgment, and lack of empathy to rule in what would otherwise be productive. If several board members have longstanding conflicts, you redirect their unproductive conversations and ask for clarity to prevent assumptions from taking over. When personalities clash, remember that the board is a place for looking after the best interests of the community, not as a tool to soothe the ego.
2. More talking than listening
The cornerstone of listening and understanding is affirming and summarizing what others say. Members that feel like they are heard are more inclined and more likely to return the favor. Apparently, an agreement is optional; listening is mandatory to help keep meetings conflict-free.
A listening-centric meeting is only possible, however, if members are reasonable with the amount of time they hold the floor. Board meetings are not the platform for tangents of passionate venting. When a venting session happens, it is important to acknowledge the value of the board member’s opinion, but respectfully move on from impassioned tangents. Well-functioning boards should empower members to tactfully place checks on each other when the need to rant emerges.
3. Disorganized meetings
It can be frustrating to be in a meeting that seems to have no plan or direction. Board members can become unsettled when there are no established time limits, or limits are ignored altogether. Setting time limits for agenda items serves to increase the quality of decision-making. An overall meeting limit of two hours (preferably less) will help to prevent fatigue and restlessness.
In addition to limited time, the board should adhere to the proper procedure when conducting meetings. A code of conduct based on Rules of Order is vital to lead a successful meeting. Conducting business with respect for your fellow board member’s time and the agreed upon rules will help prevent dissatisfaction with the efficiency and professionalism of HOA board meetings.
4. Letting emotions rule
Allowing emotions to dictate the tone and content of HOA meeting never goes well. Ideas need to be put in motion, presented for a second, and not be addressed or discussed with abundant emotion. Lack of emotional control is the cause of many problems at many of todays HOA board meetings. Maintaining a business-like mindset and rationally exchanging ideas according to the standards of conduct will result in more cohesive discussions and decisive conclusion.
These four hang-ups are easily avoidable when board members remember the purpose of an HOA—to serve the best interests of the homeowners in a stable, organized manner.