We manage almost 100 associations and our Community Managers attend over a thousand board meetings a year, so we have participated in both productive, unproductive and sometimes downright hostile meetings. Let’s compare the two. How does an unproductive meeting occur?
The Unproductive Meeting
- It is adversarial. The community shows up to complain about decisions of the board, or anything on the agenda, or about a neighbor to neighbor issue, and for the duration of the meeting, there is give and take between the owners and the board. The owners go on the offensive and the board is defensive. It can easily become argumentative and personal. Most board meetings have the board members at the front of the room facing the community, which by its nature, is adversarial.
- It is personal. Owners attack board members personally. They threaten legal action. They may even threaten a recall of one or all board members. The board defends their decisions and usually the President speaks for the entire board.
- It takes too long. Between the bickering, discussing items not on the agenda, idle chit chat and extended debates, the meeting lasts too long. We have had meetings that lasted 3 or 4 hours. Most management companies will start billing the community for any meeting that lasts more than two hours.
- It does not improve the community. These types of meetings do not create good will and convivial neighborhood. Instead, it creates tension, animosity and more neighbor to neighbor disputes.
What does a productive meeting look like?
The Productive Meeting
- It is a board meeting. It is right in the name. This is a meeting for the board to do the business of the community. For some very contentious communities, we have the board sit around a table, and the rest of the community is behind them. The owners have up to 3 minutes to address whatever is on the agenda or issues they would like have the board hear, and that is it. For the rest of the meeting, the board discusses items on the agenda and votes accordingly. There is no back and forth with the owners, they are there only to listen.
- It sticks to the agenda. The board, or preferably the Community Manager, will take notes as owners speak. Perhaps they mention there is an issue with a sprinkler in the community area, or they don’t think a vendor is doing their job properly, or something germane to the association, which can be addressed at the next meeting or handled by the management company; but that is it. That issue is not discussed by the board and certainly not voted on; it must be put on the agenda for the next meeting. The board sticks to the agenda, votes on matters, and those decisions are recorded in the minutes.
- It moves quickly. If the board has an annual calendar, the agenda has been posted at least 4 days prior to the meeting, and the board adheres to the agenda, the meeting will go quickly. Most boards use “Robert’s Rules” to make sure there is order and fairness to the meeting, and by doing so, a full meeting should require less than 1 hour. I was Mayor of a medium sized city (about 50,000 people) with our own police force and fire department, and our meetings rarely lasted more than 2 hours. It is a good policy to “trust but verify” the work of your management company, but a board who has an agenda, sticks to that agenda and has a proper meeting, can have an efficient meeting.
- It moves the community ahead. A productive, cooperative meeting does the business of the community efficiently. Since it is not divisive, the community pulls together for the common good. Because there is order in your meetings, there is order in your community. Owners are heard but not debated. Problems are resolved after proper discussion and the owners are head by the board.
It is your conscious choice whether you want to have a productive or unproductive meeting. When a board works together for the collective good, other owners recognize their service and you may find others in your community want to participate with a productive board.