What Makes a Director Outstanding [Part 1] – Attitude

What Makes a Director Outstanding [Part 1] – Attitude

A community association is no better than the board of directors which leads it, and excellent associations require excellent volunteer leaders. Truly exceptional volunteer governance is not a happy accident, and it often has little to do with a volunteer’s background, training, and experience. Instead, it is the result of hard work and the pursuit of proper values, foundational understandings, and perspectives. This week launches a four-part series regarding what makes (or should make) a volunteer director truly outstanding. Attitude makes the difference All the knowledge in the world and the best experience means nothing if the volunteer has the wrong attitude regarding the position of HOA director. Look for people who demonstrate the attitudes described below. Excellent board members understand that their position is one of service rather than control. They serve their neighbors; they don’t supervise them. A service-forward attitude fosters a less defensive perspective in which new ideas and opinions are welcomed and not perceived as insults or threats. The best leaders know that board service is not an accomplishment or distinction to be defended and preserved. Directors seeing the position as an achievement will be less likely to receive criticism and new ideas in a healthy manner, may be less willing to listen to the advice of others, will be threatened rather than encouraged by new ideas, and will be more deeply offended by disagreement. Directors concerned about their status may be prone to overly attend to protecting their reputation rather than the association’s welfare. Directors must understand their limitations The best accept that they do not know everything; they rely upon managers, consultants, and...
El Presidente Is Not El Jefe

El Presidente Is Not El Jefe

The office of HOA president is often misunderstood, and very serious disfunction for associations and their boards, as well as heartburn for the president, can be the outcome. At the outset, it is critical to understand that the role of the HOA president is dramatically different than the for-profit corporate president. The typical for-profit president is hired to be the boss, and can hire and fire, create or terminate contracts, and otherwise run the show. On the other hand, the HOA’s boss is not the president, but its board of directors. Corporations Code 7210 confirms the chain of command in the common interest development – “the activities and affairs of a [non-profit mutual benefit] corporation shall be conducted and all corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the direction of the board.” In a for-profit corporation, the day to day running of the business is typically the responsibility of the president, along with hiring and firing staff. In most associations, day to day execution of board decisions is executed by the association’s paid professional manager. The association president has just one vote on the board, and that vote is no more valuable than any other director. Directors who always automatically defer to the president are not fulfilling their responsibility to the association – which needs each director to contribute. A “super-director” does not exist in the HOA world – each director is just as important as the others. HOA presidents often feel that it is their responsibility to instruct the HOA’s manager, employees, or vendors on how they should perform their jobs. However, in doing so without express...

New Year’s Resolutions [Part 4] – The Service Provider

As the association’s service provider, I resolve to: Number one: Follow the Golden Rule. [treating others how I want to be treated] Proposals: Give the board the best proposal I can. If I think the association’s request for proposal is missing important elements of the work, I will add those elements to my proposal but will also disclose the extra costs of those items. Tell them if they really don’t need my services right now. Explain my recommendations, and never tell them just to “trust me.” Promise only what I know I can deliver. Not seek a contract of more than one year in length, unless there is no way to complete the work in less than a year. Knowledge: Pursue professional designations and attend seminars to keep me up to date. Take the Educated Business Partner course from CAI, to make sure I am familiar with the unique needs and characteristics of common interest communities. Service: Answer the board’s or manager’s questions promptly. Explain my company’s charges, taking no offense. Take instruction only from the manager or from the person designated in the contract. If a homeowner, even a committee chair or director, interferes with the work, I will immediately alert management. If work outside the contract is needed, will get written authorization for that work, for which I have quoted a price. If I recognize work outside my expertise is needed, I will not attempt the work but will immediately advise the association. Community relations: Always be courteous to every resident, aware that my work might be occasionally disruptive to those residents. Regularly provide updates to the...

New Year’s Resolutions [Part 2] – The HOA Member

I, the HOA member, resolve to: Number one: Follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. My attitude: Not refer to the HOA or board as “they,” since it is all “us.” The directors are also members who pay assessments and give their time to benefit us all. Be neighborly, because shared ownership fails without cooperation. Assume our directors are doing their best as volunteers, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Not first assume the board is incompetent or dishonest when I believe it is overspending. Avoid the “my home, my castle” attitude. We share the benefits of common interest ownership, which means we also agree to share the control of our property. Ask questions before making statements, criticizing, or even accusing. Acknowledge the board may have more information than me. This doesn’t mean the board is right, but it does mean my opinion might not be fully informed. Take the long view of our association property, supporting growth of our capital reserves fund and maintaining our buildings. Be knowledgeable: Read the information the HOA sends to me. Be familiar with the CC&R’s, bylaws, and rules. I will reduce confusion and disputes by understanding the use restrictions and rules. Read the association budget and reserve study. I will ask informed questions, particularly about deviations from budget. If I ask to review financial documents, I will not ask for “everything,” and request only documents which I really need, acknowledging my manager is not a librarian. Help board meetings: Insist the board follow the Open Meeting Act, and only handle in closed session the...