Board of Directors and Meetings
Reuniting the Divided Board: How to Make it Work Together
From the Winter 2022 issue of CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine, Volume 27, Issue Number 2.
A Well-Run Condo Board Benefits Everyone
Leading a condo corporation board or working with one as a site manager is often exciting and can sometimes be challenging. The real challenge comes when you have a condo board that is divided and resembles a heated battlefield each time you have a board meeting. This can create a situation where nobody wins, leading to the loss of the condo community at large.
When the board is united and acts in good faith and in the best interests of the owners, the outcome fosters a well-run condominium corporation to be enjoyed by all.
A divided board, on the other hand, will often fail to deliver prudent direction and the condo corporation may suffer.
Signs of Divided Board
Below are some of the signs that your board is divided or, even worse, dysfunctional:
- Directors resign often and no one wants to run for a new position on the board
- Directors fail to attend meetings, or do not participate (with the recent popularity of the on-line meetings – it’s so easy to mute the microphone and turn off the camera)
- Directors come unprepared or unwilling to make decisions.
- Meetings occur in an environment of hostility and distrust. Heated discussions turn into personal attacks.
- Meetings are inefficient and run long hours with few to no decisions made
- Decisions are made outside the board room and not at a duly called meeting with no professional minute-taking
- Directors meet in groups at “secret meetings”
- Directors engage in spreading rumors and gossip, making unfounded allegations and tarnishing another director’s name.
- Manager sends a critical email requesting an urgent input or approval from the board – no response comes for days
If more than two items sound familiar, your condo community may be in trouble. Don’t lose your cool; with some commitment and dedication, your board can be put on the right track. Here are some tips on how to reunite a divided board:
Talk to your colleagues in person, face-to-face and off the record. Hear them out and try to understand their motivations, goals and agendas. Use affirmative, sincere communication and empathize with them.
Consider what motivated your colleague to become a director. The following could be the major reasons:
- Genuine interest in helping the community. Hopefully, this motivates the greatest number of directors to run and serve on the boards!
- Thirst for power and desire to always be in charge
- Business networking
- To build character, learning opportunities or keep themselves busy
- Hidden agenda with a potential conflict of interest (e.g. bringing a contractor for personal gains)
It’s not uncommon for these points to blur. Often it is the case that there are two or three reasons combined together that determine the key factors as to why your neighbor wants to get elected and stay on the board.
Condo Comes First!
Find common ground and review your goal. Focus on a Common Vision. Suggest reviewing your condo corporation’s Mission Statement (create one if you don’t have one). All directors must be reminded that your condo corporation comes first, not personal agendas or little pond powerplays. A successful business starts with a Common Vision and Mission Statement on which all partners agree. The same applies to your condo corporation; it’s a business too. The Mission Statement of your condo corporation needs to be updated every few years to keep everyone focused and united.
Learn the Ropes
If you are new to the scene, take the CAO’s directors mandatory courses and don’t stop, continue getting educated. There are many great courses and workshops provided by CCI and ACMO. Get familiar with the statutory documents of your condo corporation: declaration, by-laws and rules. Learn about the Condominium Act and keep yourself updated on the latest trends in the industry by reading condo industry magazines (Given that you are taking the time to read this article, give yourself 10 out of 10 on this point!)
Ensuring a Productive Meeting
Come prepared for the meeting by carefully reading the meeting package sent by your site condo manager, important emails and updates, quotes and attachments. If anything is not clear, send an email to your manager and request clarifications. If you are President of the Board, you are entitled to chair board meetings. Your management must prepare and help conduct the meeting but should not dominate it or overpower it. Remember it is your corporation’s meeting. All board members together are hosts of the meeting, the rest are invitees. If you don’t know how to chair, allow your management to chair one or two times, then learn the ropes and chair meetings yourself.
A good chair will treat every director equally, keep everyone focused and move the flow of discussion forward towards resolution and a viable decision. At the same time, you want each director to feel that they have a fair chance to provide their input and have it considered by others. Knowing how to control that flow to keep the proper balance is what makes a President a great chair. Set a procedure to follow when the board has to make decisions with a considerable price tag or vote on serious and potentially divisive topics. Acknowledge that not every director may agree on the result of the decision, but the voting process must be respected and followed.
A Good Working Relationship Helps
Holidays and events such as Halloween, New Year and Winter Holidays are great opportunities to bring your community together, to network and to get to know each other. Use your community events to build friendly, business working relationships with directors.
Finally, always remember that all condo directors are the elected representatives of the unit owners who must serve in good faith and in the best interests of the corporation using expert’s advice and prudent business judgement.
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