Remember your first day at a new school? Most likely, you didn’t know a soul, had no idea what the students were learning and you probably felt nervous, intimidated or maybe even afraid. In most cases, this is what it’s like to be a new board member. A newcomer walks into a meeting for the first time, may or may not know a fellow neighbor volunteer, has no idea what is or has been discussed and might also feel nervous, intimidated or even afraid. Getting elected to a board is a big job and the members can also find themselves unsure of what they've gotten themselves into.
New Kids on the Block
To help a new student calm their jitters and get them up to speed with their peers, a teacher will often appoint a current student to show the newbie around, share books, introduce him to other students and give him the lay of the land. The same concept works great when it comes to new members on a condo, co-op or HOA board. “Veteran board members should mentor newcomers,” says Peter Santangelo, president of Community Advantage, a financial organization located in Palatine. “It will assist the new member to get up to speed faster on protocol and procedure.”
“Any profession, whether it’s the legal profession, finance or property management, a person can be really good at what they do if there is a professional, experienced person guiding them,” adds Timothy Haviland, CMCA, president of Community Associations Institute’s Illinois (CAI-IL) chapter in Roselle. “It can make the difference between someone being good at what they do and someone being great at what they do.”
In addition to being mentored, Cheryl Murphy, CAI-IL’s executive director, recommends that new board members listen and observe. “Every board is different so in the beginning it is essential to just learn how the board works together,” she says. “When I was a new board member, I didn’t receive any help or direction. It was on-the-job training.”
It’s standard operating procedure that every board member in an association normally signs a code of ethics. The document states that board members will act in a professional, ethical manner, the most important thing is the general welfare of the association and that personal agendas are not important.