Great board members are created, not born with the innate knowledge of association agendas and responsibilities. Some would argue that good board members are hard to find, yet with the right support and training, interested homeowners can easily fill this role and succeed. Attributes of great board members include the ability to find balance in their roles, contribute to their communities and lead effectively. Community managers need to provide the right tools and information to encourage and create an environment where a member of the community can succeed as a board member.
There are key success factors that are attributed to becoming a great board member including respect, knowledge, effective leadership and education. Managers can provide support so that members can develop these skills needed to effectively run communities.
Respect should be at the forefront of all business dealings with the board. Respect is essential when working with homeowners, vendors, other board members and the overall general public. Great board members know that respecting privacy and treating all vendors as well as each other with respect will create a professional environment where almost anything can be accomplished.
Respect also involves trust. Board members are entrusted with a great deal of information, ranging from violations to delinquencies, and it is the board members duty to discourage and not engage in any gossip relating to their business dealings while serving on the board.
Every board member also has a fiduciary responsibility to the members of the association in which they serve. A fiduciary duty requires the highest standard of care of either equity or law. Every board member has been entrusted to handle the business affairs of the association with the highest standard of care. To this end, every board member must take their fiduciary role seriously and maintain trust to the community members of which they serve.
Knowledge is power! As noted earlier, a board member is a fiduciary, one in which has been entrusted the “highest standard of care.” In order for a board member to make the appropriate decision for the rest of the community, regardless of the community’s size, it is vital that each board member know as much information as possible to make informed decisions. When taking on a role as board member, one should be aware that there is a time commitment necessary beyond their attendance at board meetings. This commitment involves reading the pertinent information prior to a board meeting, studying and understanding financial statements and asking the questions about unfamiliar items.
When a new member joins the board, a manager has the opportunity to provide the tools and pertinent information to help the board member succeed. Before the first board meeting, the manager should take the time to meet with the new member and provide the vital information so that the new board member is equipped to tackle their new role. Essential tools and resources critical for a new board member should include: past 12-months of minutes, copies of all contracts, copies of all governing documents and summary of projects and recent events.
It is also important to note that board member’s deal with a variety of subjects and trades. As most people are experts in every field, board members must seek and consider information and expertise from outside professionals. These professionals help guide board members by arming them with information to make educated decisions. By seeking information from the appropriate industry professional, a board can often times help prevent a lawsuit.
Effective leadership is essential to running a successful company. The same principles apply to running an association. Effective leadership is essential in every community. Leaders understand key factors in running the day-to-day operations of their organizations including:
- Avoiding Micromanagement: Leaders set policy and entrust that management will handle the details.
- Getting All of the Information: Leaders collect all information before coming to a conclusion. Effective leadership does not involve jumping to conclusions.
- Forward Planning: Leaders will not only focus on current issues, but will look beyond for trends in order to avoid pitfalls. Leaders consider information and input from those they serve to enhance their organization/community for the future.
Understanding the Financial Picture: Leaders understand the financial picture of their organization. Similarly, board members must understand the financial finances of the community (income, expenses, delinquencies, etc). Board members are responsible for the maintenance and repair of long-term assets and must consider these assets when planning and budgeting. Board leaders spend money wisely, engaging the appropriate experts such as construction managers, attorneys and other experts when dealing with large projects. By engaging the right professionals early, board members who demonstrate leadership know that they will ultimately save money and accomplish their project.
Education is important as a foundation to board member training. The role of the board member encompasses many functions and right information should be available to enhance and expand their experience while on the board.
Trade organizations focused on the common interest industry are a wealth of information. Trade organizations, such as CAI, offer opportunities from training classes, printed information (books/magazines) to online resources.
Vendors can also provide good information in their respective fields ranging from the landscape company, legal counsel to the management representative. Vendors are key partners in running the community and can provide training, information and resources for specific projects or tasks facing the board.
In conclusion, great board members can exist with the right support. It’s a matter of providing the necessary tools, information and resources in order to turn an interested homeowner into a great board member.