How to Act Effectively as a New Condo Association Board Member

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Learning to be an effective new Condo Board member is a process.  While you may come in with the greatest of expectations and designs, reality is messy and different.  Before anything else, you first need to “learn to learn” – one of the hardest steps.  Now that you’ve got things under control, you’re ready to get work done and make your community better.  Then the question becomes: How do you act effectively as a new Condo Association Board member?

Figure out How the Board Does its Work

It should not take cryptology to figure out how your Board operates.
It should not take cryptology to figure out how your Board operates.

You thought you were done learning – unfortunately, you’re never done learning!  First and foremost, you need to channel your learning and identify how the Board carries out its work.  Every Board is a little different.  Some are very consensus-driven and collaborative.  Some trust their committees and let them lead.  Others will empower Board members to go forward and do their thing.  Some Boards will do none of the above and instead enjoy mediocrity.

You need to consciously identify how the Board carries out its work.  The last thing you want to do is spend 40 hours on a project you think will make the community a better place just to have the Board dismiss it or send you to a committee.  Figure out how other ideas are identified and implemented, and seek to follow the same pattern for your own.  

Secure Board Support for your Ideas

You don’t want to “table drop” an issue on a Board and scare everyone.  Boards can be very skittish and cowardly.  The key is to figure out how to gradually introduce the Board to your great ideas and then move forward with them.  Once you have a good idea of what you want to do, you can bring it up to the Board in one of a few ways.  If your Board uses digital collaboration tools like Slack or a forum, you can bring it up there.  You can ask for the item to be formally placed on the agenda of a Board meeting . Or you can discuss it at a Board meeting where the agenda is light and there’s extra time.

Regardless, you want to get a feel for what your fellow Board members are thinking.  Are they interested and engaged?  Or are they dismissive?  These are all important factors for you to examine.  Equally important in this phase is you need to make it clear that YOU will do the work.  You won’t waste other people’s time – you’re willing to put in the time to make the idea a reality.    

The best case scenario is that your fellow Board members tell you something like “OK, sounds like a good idea.  Go work with the right people – such as Management, a committee, or on your own – and come back with a proposal for us to evaluate.”  If you can secure genuine support like that, you’re in good shape to act effectively as a new Condo Association Board member.  

Be Ready to Do the Legwork

Not that kind of legwork. But you should consider squatting, it's great for your body!
Not that kind of legwork. But you should consider squatting, it’s great for your body!

Once you’ve secured support, it’s time for you to get to work.  If you aren’t willing to do the work yourself, chances are you don’t care about the issue.  However, if you feel confident that you’ve got the support of the Board, you can dive right in.  This can include online research, working with a Condo Association committee, calling vendors, or working with Management to learn how other communities have done similar work.  Bringing in other Owners and Owners is important to this phase.  You want to show this isn’t just about you – it’s about the community as a whole.  

A key thing to keep in mind is to not get too committed to something that is in the exploratory phase.  You work in a democracy and a Board setting.  That means that nothing is done unless a majority of the Board approves it.  You might have a perfect plan, but if the rest of the Board doesn’t see it that way – for legitimate reasons or not – that’s just how the chips fall.  It doesn’t make them bad people, and you can’t hold a grudge.  You need to invest work in something you think is right because it’s the right thing to do, not because you automatically expect to get your way.  Learning this patience is key to act effectively as a new Condo Association Board member.

Work Hard and Make the Community Better

Much of the work in any initiative is based on doing the legwork up front.  Make sure you create a structure with your fellow Board members that makes them understand what you’re trying to do and why.  Make sure you’ve learned how the Board operates and what they will and won’t support.  Build their enthusiasm and support before you start making any major time commitment on your own.  If you want to see your initiative made real, get the outreach done before the work.  


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