Board of Directors and Meetings
From the Volume 17, Fall 2023 issue of the CCI GHC Condo News Magazine
There is a lot to cover under the headline of Effective Leadership. During the recent CCI Golden Horseshoe Chapter Annual Condo Conference I gave a presentation on some key points of Effective Leadership.
The Definition of Leadership is constantly evolving. Authority-based leadership was prevalent in yesteryear, and probably many of us have worked for an organization or Leader that reminds us of this top-down approach, where the “Boss” is above all the employees and wields power and even a certain level of fear over their employees.
Thankfully leadership evolved. Today leadership is more collaborative in nature where the leader is working hand in hand with employees motivating everyone in the organization working towards common goals and the leader is assisting employees on their own leadership journey.
Then there is the reality of the modern world. Leadership of people takes a lot of effort, time, and emotional capital, the competition to have people work effectively while they are constantly being distracted by life events and notably by their phones. This involves a delicate balancing act.
Leadership is all three of these points, and more. Sometimes it is necessary to use authority-based leadership to achieve certain goals and to maintain healthy work boundaries. Leaders need to look for the opportunity to lead from the front and be seen doing so, helping the team reach the goal. If you can strike a balance in the first two points, the third may not apply too often, although I am sure there is not a leader reading this article that hasn’t felt at some point like they are the only ones moving the needle.
Leadership is hard. Many people shy away from becoming leaders, as it involves making people both accountable and responsible for the work that has to be completed as well as juggling all the dynamics of employees’ ever-changing needs and demands.
The Leaders drive the Culture of a workplace. Workplace culture is a huge part of why employees are engaged at work. At any organization, including Condominiums, a great culture will ensure that people stay longer and this in turn increases continuity within the community.
So, it’s about retention, and engagement as an engaged employee will do more voluntarily on their own accord. They will essentially lead themselves within a framework provided by leadership.
In today’s job market as we all should know by now there is a shortage of competent and capable Licensed Managers in Ontario so competition to attract and keep talent is top of mind for service providers and should be by the Board as well. Combine that with the continued growth of Condominium construction and add the demographic cliff we are facing where approximately 50% of current Licensed Managers will be retiring in the next 5 to 10 years it becomes clear why a positive culture is so important.
Why should condominium directors care? Isn’t that the management company’s problem. Well, it’s not enough for the company to have a great culture. Directors have a big role to play as how Directors interact and treat staff will ultimately factor into engagement levels and longevity of the people that work for the community.
Leaders in both the management company and the condominium board will either help with retention and engagement that will lead to positive outcomes or they will churn through managers and management companies resulting in loss of continuity for the community.
We all get way too much communication from all different sources, and the volume can be staggering. However, there is a way to manage the inbox and even reduce the amount of communication necessary to get tasks completed. It starts with being thoughtful and intentional on approaching communication and reduce the steps needed to convey or respond to a message.
Behold the Communication Loop, the key to successful communication is to close the loop.
Step 1: Communication is received and here the sender is expecting a response from the receiver - an acknowledgment that their communication has been received that typically should be within two working days or 48 hours. It’s a sliding scale as emergency situations require an immediate response, while unit 104 can wait a few days to receive a response on a more trivial matter.
Step 2: This is where we determine the action required, identifying the decision makers, if the action needed is beyond the management contractual limitations. Remember the board is always the ultimate decision maker; however, they may need to seek professional assistance in coming to an informed decision, an engineer, lawyer or other industry professional, who can provide subject matter expertise to the board, then once the board has the facts, a decision needs to made and direction provided.
Step 3: The task is assigned to the appropriate entity to complete. Avoiding time traps and setting realistic expectations are critical here. Appeasing people in the moment, knowing full well that the time constraints they are imposing can’t be met will damage the credibility of the board and management.
Step 4: Close the loop. Advise the sender of the communication and any other parties involved of the decision, any action that will be taken and provide relevant information. By doing this and being clear, on this final step will bring the matter to a close.
The board can also help tremendously in streamlining communication by assigning one person on the board to be the point of contact with the Manager. The board can discuss an issue amongst themselves and then deliver one email to the manager, instead of a barrage of conversations and questions on a topic.
Prepare Plan Execute
Running a condominium takes a lot of effort from everyone involved and it can be daunting to think about all these possible tasks that need to be considered, identifying potential challenges, and confronting them before they become a crisis. Preparing, planning, and executing strategies will result in positive outcomes for the community or at the very least minimize negative ones.
Preparation is the process of looking at the known events the condominium will face in the short, medium and long term as well as preparing for the unknown events that may occur or are likely to affect the condominium now, and beyond the horizon and preparing responses to those possible risks.
Planning is the function of taking that list of prepared for eventualities and developing and analyzing appropriate responses to each one. This does take time however the complexity of tasks that condominiums face means leaving it to some sort of last-minute response is not an appropriate strategy.
Executing the plan. It’s great to prepare and plan but if the plan is not actually implemented and the appropriate action taken it will be for nothing.
It is important to ensure there is implementation on the key deliverables of the plan. We have tools, like the annual plan of tasks for the condominium or the Reserve Fund Study plan to name a few; ultimately, it’s done by ensuring everyone involved knows who is responsible, who is accountable, who is being consulted and who is informed.
Making Difficult Decisions
The condominium board must make difficult decisions. They are the ultimate decision maker for the community, and that may lead to some sort of conflict as you can’t please all the people all the time no matter how hard you try. Here some of the hurdles that boards may face:
Politics on the board - Let’s say a director has been elected to the board on a platform of reducing operating costs or holding the line on common element fee increases. That premise will influence any decision they face moving forward, even if doing so is obviously the wrong way to go. A great way for boards to address this mindset is to put in place a director onboarding meeting. After each new director is elected this meeting can provide the opportunity to review the overall plan for the community and what challenges they face.
Oil and Water - What if the directors don’t like each other and board meetings are testy. You don’t have to like each other or agree on every issue. A carefully written reminder or statement at the beginning of each meeting as to the mandate of the board and why we are all there may be enough to bring a more reasonable approach to decision making, and if things get out of hand the chair can point to that statement to bring those in the room back on track.
Decision Paralysis - What if a board has a real challenge making important decisions. This is not uncommon as some decisions have unclear outcomes or are in the millions of dollars range and may be the largest financial decision, they have ever been involved in making. Here boards need to remind themselves they are not alone in the process, there is a group of directors making the decision also, the manager, and various industry professionals are all there to assist them in making the best-informed decision with the available facts at the time.
If you really want to be a leader of people, you will need to learn to delegate effectively and get comfortable with being uncomfortable with it.
When a manager is promoted to overseeing other managers, it’s usually because they are great at being a manager, being a leader requires different skills which need to be developed and delegation is one of the most important.
In my mind this is where the new leader and the organization they work for struggle the most and with good reason. The newer leaders existing skills gaps become more apparent and failure of others under their supervision has to be accepted by both the new leader and the organization, for that failure is part of their leadership growth.
Being responsible and accountable for someone else’s results is a leader’s obligation that skill takes time to grow. It’s filled with failure and frustration as that high performing manager may feel they are just not up to the challenge; it can be achieved within an environment of controlled failure where the impact is reduced, and they have a mentor to guide them through that part of leadership journey.
Without a strong understanding of emotional intelligence, Leadership will be very difficult for you. I don’t mean you can’t perform the tasks or the functions well because you will get it done, but you will struggle enormously with the weight of leadership and everyone else you’re leading will have a horrible time. There will be yelling and screaming, crying, firing, and quitting sometimes all in the same board meeting. If you haven’t attended a board meeting containing all that drama you simply have not lived.
However, the best part of emotional intelligence is it can be grown.
There are five categories of emotional intelligence beyond a good sense of humour:
Self-Awareness - This is understanding your own competence. What you know versus what you don’t know.
Self-Regulation - Keeping your response to situations routed in facts avoiding distorted thinking, be less impulsive.
Motivation – Support, Role Models, a positive Work Environment, Setting goals.
Empathy – Bias, it’s part of who we are, recognize your own bias and work on putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, put your own feelings aside. Be more human as a Leader, give people the benefit of the doubt.
Social Skills – Interacting and communicating with others often, don’t make yourself unapproachable to your team.
Recognize common blind spots like setting unrealistic goals, inadequate resource allocation, misjudging time needed to complete tasks, and my personal favorite - micromanaging your team. Finally, remind ourself to be even kneeled as there may be days of wild swings from highs to lows and back again, keep these emotions in check.
Craig McMillan is President of Maple Ridge Community Management (MRCM) an Associa Company. He has been a Condominium Professional since 2003. Craig holds his RCM designation from ACMO, and his ACCI and LCCI designation from CCI-National. He is a member of the Project Management Institute and holds his Certified Associate in Project Management designation CAPM. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for ACMO and ACMO’s Membership & Programs Committee as well as the Condo Conference Committee He also serves on the Professional & Business Partners Committee and the Communications Committee with CCI - GHC, as well as CMRAO’s Advisory Committee. He is a frequent speaker at industry events & conferences, as well as contributing articles for various industry publications.
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