Instilling Respect and Consensus among Board Members

The success of a board depends on the effort members make to work together, no matter how wide the chasm of differences. Every difficult decision a board has to make is exacerbated when board members engage in antics, games, arguments, power struggles, secrecy, exclusion, cliques, and “ego-lympics.” Serving on the board is not about “winning” or losing. When someone “wins”, by contrast, someone else loses. It’s not a competition. It is specifically about managing assets of others as well as your own, in the most responsible way, and making decisions based on what is best for the community.

Serious discord among board members can increase the costs of an association exponentially. And the more entrenched or dysfunctional a board becomes, the higher the ultimate cost. Because when boards become deadlocked, paralyzed by infighting, unable to achieve quorum, discouraged by a bully, or resign en masse, it adversely affects the ability to accomplish important business, and discourages others from participating in association affairs and stepping up to relieve other members on the board.

Strategies for Preventing Difficult Situations

Research and Report on Conflict Resolution

If someone on the board can spend some time learning techniques to deal with the types of interpersonal issues that get in the way of thinking rationally and acting reasonably, he or she may be able to “crack the code” in an association that is experiencing dissention among directors. Of course time is an issue, but have you ever tallied up the time that is wasted when boards fight? The toll can be staggering. It can tear down defenses and cause people otherwise willing to give time to service to go running the other way. 

Create a Safe Forum for Business

Promote a healthy business atmosphere by using parliamentary procedures and executive committees. These procedures help promote security, consistency and confidentiality.

Hire a Trained Professional

There are professional facilitators and also some attorneys and managers that are skilled in working with boards – helping directors listen to each other, find areas of agreement, addressing inappropriate behaviors, finding solutions to impasse, locating and utilizing resources and information. Using a good facilitator or educated or experienced professional to step in or make suggestions may be just the pill the board needs.

Employ Board Powers

The board has the power to choose and officers, issue mandates, encourage codes of conduct or commitment, and provide leadership. The bylaws of the association usually give the board the right to appoint, and unseat, officers, at will. Although the board cannot remove a director, members can often “neutralize” the problem by taking away the director’s office and re-appointing another director to fill that office.

Seek Solutions to Break an Impasse

Continuing to fight to the point where important business cannot be moved forward is a breach of fiduciary duty. Bring in additional information or a facilitator to help resolve the conflict. If considering litigation, choose a process that is less contentious or expensive such as ADR – alternative dispute resolution.

Article adapted from “The Value of Consensus and Respect in an HOA Board” by Beth A. Grimm, Esq