Take a Lesson from Town Council

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Congratulations, on your election to the city council! No, wait – it’s your association’s board of directors, isn’t it? Not such a stretch of the imagination to make the comparison. While the board’s structure is “technically” more corporate, the city council analogy is probably more realistic. Anyone who has ever been to a council meeting would probably agree.
Your board meetings are held with the intention of getting the business of the association accomplished in a timely and fiscally responsible manner. After all, the community did elect you to oversee the operation of its common elements and financial condition, not block the construction of the new mega-mart or arbitrate a dispute between supposed adults who are allowing their dog to relieve itself on someone’s prized posies, right?
Realistically, a community association is a small town and, like it or not, you are now the government. That’s why I like the comparison. Your neighbors elected you to represent their interests. Just like local politics, the general public doesn’t go to a council meeting or board meeting unless there is a polarizing issue. And as with the town council, there always seems to be a few interested folks who wish to influence the governing body at the most inopportune moment, just plain slowing down or stalling the process.
Taking a lesson from the town council model, the president and members of the board (mayor and council) have a support staff (city staff and manager/management company) that work as a team to accomplish the city/association’s business. Neither can truly be successful without this partnership.
How do we get things accomplished, while still meeting the needs of the membership?

  • Through setting and publishing goals and expectations that are reasonable and obtainable.
  • Through investigation, meaningful discussion and carrying out a thoughtful decision-making process.
  • Most importantly and without a doubt the most difficult to accomplish, being an extremely good listener.

As a board member, you not only have to be a savvy business person, you have to be a public servant, too. From time to time, you will need to garner support from your constituents to get needed funding to make major repairs or replace a prematurely failing component of the community’s infrastructure.
Combining the best parts of city council and corporate board room practices goes a long way to running a productive community association board meeting. Both require a strong leader and both need good structure to succeed.
Try running your board meeting a like the city council:

  • Use a detailed agenda, time limits and a smattering of parliamentary procedure when needed to keep things on track.
  • Be ready to conduct business and make decisions. This is where good management plays its most crucial part. The board package they provide should contain everything you need to take care of business based on your clearly articulated and comprehensive instructions.
  • Take the time to review and understand the board package prior to taking your seat at the meeting. As a board member, expect that you will have that package of information no later than close of business the Friday before your board meeting. As managers, it is our expectation of the board that you have taken time to review this information prior to the meeting and come in ready to work. Ask questions before the meeting so the manager has time to research them and provide you with answers that may not be available “on the fly” at the meeting.
  • Allow time for interested members of the community to comment, hear what they have to say and consider it when making decisions. However, it cannot be an unending debate and gentle but firm leadership must be applied. This is where your detailed agenda comes into play. If the membership knows what you plan to accomplish at the meeting they can provide their perspective during the member’s comments/open forum portion of the meeting, allowing the board to work through the decision-making process in relative peace after the issue is brought to the floor by a formal motion and second. This also permits the membership to have its say, and allows the board to make an informed decision.

If the board and management sit down at the beginning of their relationship, develop reasonable expectations, a working partnership and a realistic annual plan based on specific calendar benchmarks, volunteering becomes a pleasure and not a chore. The best interests of the community are met, and your board meeting will be less than two hour in length. I’d challenge any city council to accomplish that!
This article is provided by Select Community Services.