A Guide to Being Politically Smart for Board Members
Whether you serve on the board of a condominium or HOA, it’s important to be politically smart. As a board member, owners may not only look to you for leadership, they may also look to you as someone to blame when things just don’t go their way. Being politically smart will help you avoid conflict and make your life easier.
There are a few simple rules to being politically smart that will make being on the board easier and less stressful.
Rule one: never make it personal. While it’s ok to disagree with a fellow board member or an owner, be sure you disagree with an act or decision and that you do not attack the person you disagree with or make any disparaging remarks about them.
Rule two: be prepared. When answering questions or participating in a meeting, have the facts about decisions that will come before the board and know what you are talking about before answering any questions from owners. If you don’t know something, don’t fake it, say so and then find out how and where you can get the information you need.
Rule three: listen to the experts. Your association hires professional managers, engineers, attorneys and many others who have loads of experience and knowledge in their fields, their opinion should carry more weight than those of non-experts. Your association hires these experts to help make sure that things are done correctly and that the association is protected from unnecessary liability. They should be treated as partners not as peddlers.
Rule four: be transparent. Keep your fellow owners and the rest of the board informed. Owners have a right to know how their association is being managed. This includes a right to see the books, contracts and all of the other association records (except those which must be kept confidential by law). The easier you make it for owners to have the facts the less you will have to deal with rumor and innuendo.
Rule five: give everyone a chance to be heard. This does not mean you have to respond directly to everything that is said. In most cases it’s a good Idea to let any owners that have questions or comments for the board at a meeting to ask their question or make their comment without making a direct response until all owners have had a chance to speak. This saves time and avoids confrontation by not allowing a question or comment to turn into a personal argument. Sometimes people just need to vent and it’s best to let them vent and say nothing more about it then ‘thanks for letting us know your concerns’.
Rule six: give yourself credit when credit is due. The board always gets blamed when something goes wrong, but it seldom gets the credit when something goes right. It’s ok to toot your own horn and let folks know about the cost saving measures the board approved or the project that has been successfully completed.
Rule seven: don’t say anything or write anything down you would not like to see published in the newspaper or headlining the news on TV. Think twice before you send that email or make a disparaging remark about anyone.
While politics is a dirty word in some circles, for a board member, being politically smart can mean the difference between conflict and peace on the home front. The true mark of a good board member is not how well he or she says yes to owners’ requests or how often they agree with their fellow board members, it’s how they deal with ideas they disagree with and people that are disagreeable without creating enemies or bad feelings.