One of the central functions of a community association’s board of directors is holding routine board meetings to carry out the policy and financial management of the association. Let’s face it, far too often association board meetings can run adrift and lose focus, and before you know it, you’re running overtime and haven’t concluded important business for the night. Running efficient and effective board meetings is essential to a well run and smoothly functioning community. In this post I’ll go beyond meeting mechanics, and offer three key factors in getting the most impact out of every board meeting.
1. Focus is Essential
Begin by setting expectations for an efficient business-like meeting by using and sticking to a timed agenda with allotted time for each item, and show the time for adjournment. Only items on the agenda can and should be discussed. Designate a board member, or the manager to keep track of time and keep the meeting focused on the agenda. If a topic is running too long and timely decisions are difficult to reach, make a motion to continue that topic on a future agenda. Perhaps more information is needed or more time is needed for consideration. When new topics come up, make a motion to add them to the agenda for the next meeting and assign research of any information needed to the manager to track down in the meantime.
Remember that under California Civil Code, the board may not discuss or take action on any item at a nonemergency meeting unless the item was placed on the agenda included in the notice that was distributed. Of course, that doesn’t prevent owners at the meeting from bringing up new topics and questions. The board should always take note of the issue or questions, provide brief factual responses when appropriate, and request its managing agent to report back to the board at a subsequent meeting concerning any matter, and place the new matter of business on a future agenda. A good association manager is key to helping and advising the board on meeting structure, policies and process to keep all meetings running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
2. Be Prepared
Well run board meetings should focus on the decisions that need to be made at the meeting, discussion and presentation of possible solutions related to those decisions and setting new priorities that get placed on the next meeting’s agenda. In order to maintain this focus and make decisions efficiently, preparation in advance is key. Poorly planned meetings can result in confusion and inability to move business forward. The manager should be prepared to give updates on all projects and issues and provide formal reports ahead of time for the board to review in advance. Have committee reports prepared several days in advance as well.
The manager should consult with the board president and relevant committee chairpersons on topics to be included on the agenda. Once the agenda is set, be sure everyone who has a role on the agenda is well prepared with the information they need to present or make decisions on. The board should rely on their manager to gather and disseminate information that is needed for decision making. A well organized manager should present a board meeting packet with management report to the board a week in advance of the meeting. When all members of the board have the information needed for productive discussion before the meeting, and also take the responsibility to read through and consider it in advance, the meeting will run smoothly through the agenda items and achieve business objectives in the time allotted.
3. Have Clear Policies on Conduct
It’s no secret that HOA politics can come out in less than productive ways at HOA board meetings. Passions can run strong about issues that matter deeply to people and affect them at home in their communities. The key is to know how to channel that energy, provide structure, and have clear guidelines for conduct. Keeping things calm and professional will have the biggest effect on productivity and positive morale. If you have an angry homeowner in attendance, first listen and try to understand the underlying reasons. Redirect the complaint by asking them to explain, and resist arguing any points. Often feeling heard calms ruffled feathers. If your association experiences chronic complainers or owners that tend to dominate at meetings, consider adopting a meeting conduct policy. The policy should provide for an owner open forum with a speaking time limit of 2-3 minutes per owner, establish conduct rules and expectations, and state what steps the board will take if the meeting gets out of hand. Taking a break is always a good idea, or in extreme circumstances, adjourn and reschedule the meeting. Having a policy and communicating the policy expectations to owners will get your association off on better footing for productive and civil meetings.
When the Board and Manager work together to conduct meetings according to these key principles, the community association will be able to move business forward in an orderly fashion with regular progress forward and efficient community governance.