By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published August 2021
Sticky boards stick together. When different ideas clash, they know they must work together to get through their differences for the good of the community. Unity is the glue that sticks the board together.
Sticky boards have vision. They see the bigger plan rather than small, short-lived personal agendas. They think strategically.
Sticky boards may have strong disagreements, but they know how to fight fairly. No personal attacks and no back biting once the meeting is over. They present a united front when all is said and done.
Sticky boards have good leadership. Leaders who know that changing traditions (this is the way we have always done it, or we’ve never done it that way before) and deeply entrenched patterns, no matter how unproductive or useless or illogical they may be, are beyond hard to do.
What makes a sticky board come unglued? Lack of unity. And what can cause a lack of unity? Landmines, inconsistency, and failure to communicate.
Some landmines could include meetings and the board members in general:
Board members could avoid other landmines by remembering the following:
Inconsistency occurs when the board members do not know their association has a statutory and documentary mandate, i.e., mission statement. The purpose for Florida community associations is (1) to protect the property and its value, (2) to maintain the common elements and areas, and (3) to enforce the restrictions on the owners’ use rights of their units and homes.
Board meetings that focus on the three-fold mission statement will tend to the business of the corporation rather than waste time and energy on agenda items such as owner-to-owner issues. Board members are often expected to handle other matters that may seem to be their responsibility, but those issues do not relate to the mission statement and should not take up board meeting time.
Likewise, line items on the budget should be consistently tied to one of the three points of the mission statement. Board members must consistently apply association funds for operations and maintenance, not social activities.
Many of us will remember the movie quote from Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” When a board fails to effectively communication with each other and with the membership, that failure to communicate creates predictable reactions:
Two common misunderstandings are that the board of directors represents the wishes of the people. The actual role of the board of directors is to fulfill the mandates of the governing document and statutes.
A second misunderstanding is that if they have hired a CAM or management company, the board members’ responsibilities shift away from them. They do not. Management is the responsibility of the board; the buck stops with the board. The board members may delegate their tasks to professional management, but they may never delegate their fiduciary responsibilities. Managers and management companies work for the board of directors. The board members are the decision makers of the corporation.
Board members often share management tasks with their CAM. Being clear on who does what will prevent misunderstandings and possible conflict when one person thought the other was taking care of a certain task.
Board presidents who hold hostage the agenda items (will not let other board members place items on the agenda for discussion and possible action) or who withhold information needed by other board members to make informed decisions (will not include all board members in emails), breed mistrust, and their actions lead to contempt.
Failure to communicate clearly and consistently has the same result as the “telephone game.” By the time the unclear message gets to “the end of the line,” it has been changed and embellished and infused with personal interpretation and amplification, all of which leans toward a negative message rather than a positive one.
At the end of the day, a lack of communication can seriously hurt community culture. Community culture relies on communication. That communication begins with the individual board members. Everyone needs to be on the same page about what their roles are, what is expected of them, and the purpose of the corporation. Boards should also seek professionals who can assist with the decision-making process. Decisions likely mean some sort of change from “the way we always do it.”
It is amazing how often the fiercest battles are over the color of the buildings or moving the TV room within the clubhouse instead of some complicated paragraph in the bylaws. A sticky board knows that changes in traditions and patterns within the community are inevitable. Virtually nothing stays the same forever. Boards that think and act strategically will know to go slowly through those changes as they arise. Unity will be the glue that holds the board (and, ultimately, the community) together as the board navigates those changes. A united board will be strategic in its decisions, not reactive.
Sticky board wisdom says, “Go slow. Owners are a lot like horses. They don’t like to be startled or surprised. It causes deviant behavior.”
Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA
Florida CAM Schools
Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. Subscribe to CAM MattersTM at www.youtube.com/c/cammatters. For more information, contact Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com, call (352) 326-8365, or visit www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.