Working in groups can be a challenge. Working in groups when people’s homes—and possibly their life savings—are involved can be a far greater challenge. It’s one faced every day by those brave souls who volunteer to serve on their co-op or condo board. While there is no sure-fire recipe for building a board that is 100 percent successful day in and day out, there are definitely traits and tactics that the most well-run and effective boards share.
Don’t Get Personal
One of the biggest components to success is ensuring that those individuals who are elected to the board do not come to their new duties with personal agendas in hand, says Angela Falzone, co-founder of Chicago-based Association Advocates, Inc., a management consulting firm. “Board members cannot have personal agendas,” she says. “So many people want to get on the board because they don’t want any more assessments” or they have some other personal goal. “That’s the worst reason to get on a board.”
They need to keep in mind from day one, she says, “that they represent the owners and the building and have to make decisions on their behalf.” Falzone adds that often the best board members are the ones who prioritize “fair thinking” and who remember to put the needs of the building community as a whole above their own preferences.
Problems can arise when board members have issues with not getting their own way, says Falzone, adding that if you are a member of a five-person board and three people vote opposite of you, “You just have to accept it.” The alternative is a board without trust and mutual respect—which is to say, a board that is dysfunctional and potentially headed for disaster.
Tim Manning, a realtor and long-time board member of a 95-unit loft conversion in Bucktown, suggests that having a broad range of talents and experiences among board members also can contribute to the board's effectiveness. “Having a diverse professional background for the board is crucial,” he says. “We are fortunate enough to have an architect, a senior financial manager, an investment director, and a homemaker—and I’m a residential real estate broker. This allows us to utilize our expertise to make decisions based on occupational experience.”