March 23, 2022 Published by South Alberta Chapter - By Lauren Larre

Ten helpful tips to be an effective board member

From the Winter 2022 issue of the CCI South Alberta CCI Review

Congratulations, you’re on the board of directors for your condominium corporation. Whether this is your first time sitting on a board of directors or you’ve been doing this for years, keeping up with the fiscal responsibility for your community is a big job.

Each officer on the board of directors has a fiduciary relationship with the corporation members and must act in good faith. This relationship imposes obligations of trust and confidence on the board in favour of the corporation and its members. Board members must act in good faith and in the best interests of the corporation members.

Acting on behalf of others in your community may sound like a daunting task, but following these simple, common-sense tips will make your time on the board a valuable and enjoyable learning experience.

Tip #1: Community wants and needs supersede personal agendas.

Everyone has a unique vision for their community, and the kind of lifestyle the want to see. People will have different ideas of what kind of projects will bring value.

Now that you’re a board member your own needs may have to take a backseat to community needs. The decisions you and the board make now affect everyone in the community, today and tomorrow. You might have to walk in someone else’s shoes at times during your role to see the big picture.

Cassie Henderson, Manager Service Excellence at FirstService Residential, agrees. “We understand how critical it is for board members to honour their fiduciary obligations while acting in their property’s best interest, and this may mean setting aside personal agendas. Establishing common goals and timelines from the beginning, and especially after elections, goes a long way in helping boards work together and achieve their goals.”

Tip # 2: Your friends & neighbours may be on the board.

It’s an enjoyable experience when you can work alongside people who have common interests. Community residents all want the same thing — a well-managed home. Not everyone will agree all the time and differing opinions can side-track get you.

Keeping your board’s community vision and goals at the heart of every matter helps manage expectations, provide reasoning for decisions, and work through conflicts.

On the bright side, different perspectives and opinions can be a healthy way to reach the best solution, as long as everyone maintains respect.

Tip #3: Learn, listen, and educate yourself.

Your community is a treasure trove of information. Get to know the property and people who live around you. Understanding your community needs, what residents want, and the kind of community lifestyle the board wants to create will turn community dreams into reality.

Educating yourself helps with informed decisionmaking. Not only do you need your ear to the ground in the community, why not tap into knowledge and support outside your corporation. Seminars, books, condo events and networking with other condo corporation boards are valuable and nurture new ideas.

Tip #4: Engage with your community.

Your community is stronger when you work together, and people like sharing their ideas. Consider hosting community events and getting to know your neighbours. Whether it’s a food drive, holiday party or fundraiser, this is an excellent opportunity for a meet n’ greet between neighbours.

Events are a great way to learn which residents are game to work on special committees. Many people want to contribute, and hosting informal events encourages people to come forward with ideas and knowledge sharing.

“Knowledge should be shared,” says Glenne Manlig, President of FirstService Residential. “Trust is earned when we empower residents through transparent, clear communications and managing expectations — while fostering strong community relationships.”

Engaging with your community can also be a form of ‘succession planning’; people attending an event or volunteering on a committee may be future board members.

Tip #5: Set a good example.

Being a role model is a significant part of your job. You’re part of a leadership team, and essential that people see you lead by example. How you portray yourself influences how others perceive you, and positive behaviour cultivates respect and trust in the board and their decisions. When board members embody community values and abide by the policies, others will follow suit.

Leading by example could be as simple as behaviour like taking time to listen to residents and following up on all issues in a timely manner. Or it could be more involved where following a community by-law means making certain sacrifices; like pet restrictions.

Tip #6: Be prepared.

Board meetings keep people engaged and on the same page as you meet community goals and follow your vision. Remember, board roles are volunteer positions and another activity in busy lives. Come to meetings prepared.

If you have materials to present, distribute them ahead of the meeting. Please read materials in advance when you receive meeting material beforehand. Being prepared acknowledges and values people’s time and ensures efficiency and informed decision-making. Ready board members elicit more robust conversations where everyone feels informed and on equal footing.

Tip #7: Be responsive.

Concerns and issues always pop up in communities. Some may need to be dealt with immediately, while others aren’t critical to attend to right away. Don’t procrastinate. When someone in your community raises a concern or issue, address it, don’t put it on the back burner.

Henderson believes that “Highperforming boards are committed to protecting the interests of the property and owners, which means maintaining and enhancing common areas. The goal should always be improving residents’ quality of life.”

Whether the matter at hand is critical or can wait for a while, get to it. Wouldn’t you want your concern cleared up as soon as possible?

Tip #8: Be transparent.

Adopt an attitude of sharing. The rumour mill is fraught with inaccurate information, and speculation among residents about a community issue can quickly turn into a bush fire.

Remain transparent, keep the lines of communication open, and share news regularly — with residents, tenants and fellow board members. Encourage people to attend open board meetings. You’ll be sharing important news and information while hearing new ideas.

Transparency isn’t a viable option when confidentiality is at stake. However, you can still be transparent by informing people that you are aware of the issue and gathering information to facilitate decision-making. Assure them they’ll be informed once the board has a clear direction to follow.

Tip #9: Consider hiring a professional condo management company.

Alleviate some growing pains and look into hiring some experts to manage your community. We aren’t all-knowing, and some board work may be unfamiliar to you. Your board likely consists of experienced and new members. Either way, condominium management companies are a value-added resource.

Property or community managers are highly beneficial because they have the expertise and knowledge to prevent costly mistakes. They’ll keep your board on the right path by providing planning, budgeting and project management advice, in addition to managing your operational obligations.

With the new amendments to the Condominium Property Act, all property managers must be fully licensed by Nov. 30, 2022. The coursework is demanding however once complete, property managers will receive a professional designation with their full license.

With a licensed property manager at the helm of your community operations, you’ll find a little peace of mind your community is in good hands.

Tip #10: Work with, not against, your community manager.

Your board role is to set policies, make policy decisions and plan for your community. Your community manager is your partner, providing guidance and advice.

This role distinction is crucial. You and your board are the decision-makers, and your community manager carries them out. Based on the board’s direction, the community manager will enforce policies and manage all property operations.

Make your journey easy and work in tandem with your community manager. They’re a valuable partner providing you with free learnings and navigating any pitfalls along the way.

Your board journey promises new learnings and partnerships, meeting new people, and participating in your community. Follow these easy tips, and you’ll be rewarded with a well-run community, and satisfaction that you’ve made a difference.

Never forget: A cohesive community means residents and boards work together in creating successful governance of one of your most important assets — your home!


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