Productive and efficient meetings are not happenstance but are the result of committed and prepared volunteers, normally assisted by a great professional manager.
To help bring about the best board meetings:
Read the agenda packet
Come to the meeting prepared, having already read the agenda and the supporting materials. The packet is provided in advance to prepare you to make the decisions presented. Reading it for the first time at the meeting disrespects the other directors, indicates lack of commitment, and delays meetings as one “gets up to speed.”
Stay on topic
A single director can derail discussions by moving on to a different topic before the current one is concluded. Politely remind colleagues when deliberations stray from the matter at hand.
Talk to the board, not the audience
Directors attend board meeting to deliberate with board colleagues, not the audience. Grandstanding by speaking to the audience disrespects other directors and encourages raucous meetings.
Ask the manager for input on most motions
The board’s most frequent protector under the Business Judgment Rule is the manager, so seek the manager’s input. The manager often has years of experience and training; take advantage of that background. If a manager’s input isn’t being sought, why have them in the meeting?
Treat open forum as an important event and pay attention
California law requires open forum at all membership meetings and open board meetings. That is the time for the board to listen to the community. Take notes and don’t interject or argue. Open forum reminds directors that they are there to serve their community, and often helps the board learn things they need to know.
Don’t comment on every motion
If there is a clear consensus and if other people have already said it, there is no need to say it again. Make sure your comments count. If there is nothing new to say, “I agree” is perfectly sufficient. Get the matter to a vote and move on to the next decision.
Boards act on most matters by majority vote. Unanimity is not required. Allow yourself and your colleagues an environment in which dissenting votes are not viewed as negative. Insisting on unanimity for routine motions puts unnecessary pressure on the board. Directors may disagree on one motion and agree on the next. Disagreement is not the same as disrespect, and disrespectful disagreement should not be tolerated. Don’t make it personal.
Respect your board colleagues
Someone can be the smartest, most prepared, and experienced person on the board, but if they do not exhibit respect and grace to their colleagues, that person will probably be the board’s biggest problem and its worst director. Never forget that you are volunteers and neighbors trying to do your level best. Set a high standard of behavior in board meetings and contribute to a culture of mutual respect. Elevation of board conduct is always a good thing.
Set the bar high!
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.