Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Acting Ethically

Boards of Directors are always interested in concrete details on how to conduct their duties.  One crucial aspect of governance is ethics.  While this seems like a fuzzy subject, there are universal norms, according to the Josephson Institute of Ethics. Below you will find six values that define ethical behavior. Most of them seem like common sense - but a reminder never hurts! And by modeling the behaviors identified below, a Board member would definitely be on the right path to achieving ethical behavior.

  • Trustworthiness - Like they always say in those police procedurals, “Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.  Speak straight and direct.  Don’t betray a trust. Demonstrate integrity—stand up for what you believe, walk the walk and talk the talk.  Show commitment and courage.  Be loyal.  Be discreet with Board information.  Don’t spread rumors or engage in gossip.  Don’t violate your principles just to win approval.  Don’t ask someone to do something wrong. Keep promises—keep your word, honor your commitments, and pay your debts.
  • Respect - Judge by the content of character, not appearance.  Be courteous and accepting of differences.  Accept others’ right to decide about their own lives.  Don’t abuse or demean.  Don’t exploit others.
  • Responsibility - Consider the impact on yourself and others before you act.  Claim the consequences of your choices.  Set a good example.  Don’t take credit for other people’s work.  Be reliable.  Do your best, don’t quit easily, make all you do worthy of pride. There is a difference between what you have ‘a right to do’ and ‘what is right to do’.
  • Fairness - Be open-minded, listening and considering opposing viewpoints.  Be consistent in your actions.  Use only appropriate considerations.  Don’t let personal feelings improperly interfere with decisions.  Don’t take unfair advantage of mistakes.  Don’t take more than your fair share.
  • Caring - Show kindness, sharing, compassion, and empathy.  Live the Golden Rule.  Don’t be selfish, mean, or insensitive to others’ feelings.
  • Citizenship - Play by the rules, obey laws, respect authority.  Stay informed, vote, protect your neighbors' interests, pay your assessments.  Be charitable, help your community, and conserve resources.
Psychological and organizational factors pressure people to not act ethically.  For Boards, one concern is that ethics can cost the Association money, at least in the short term.  Doing the most ethical thing often appears at odds with your short term goals, or may not have an obvious immediate benefit.  Focus on the results over the long-term, whether you are setting precedence for future Boards, or preventing a deferred maintenance disaster.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CAM - Friend or Foe?

In today’s world of association management this is what homeowners and board members generally ask themselves.  The answer will even change depending on the situation.  Much like any other relationship, when a positive interaction occurs - the answer is “Friend”, and on the other side - if it’s negative, the result is “Foe”. 

In the association management industry, community association managers (or CAMs) are battling this issue on a daily basis.  Often the reality of the law and personal opinion conflict.  As a strong service-oriented person, we want to follow the rule of ‘the customer is always right’.  Unfortunately, that is not always true.  A board member going against the association-governed documents, based on his own personal feelings, will lead the Association down a path that not only could be legally incorrect but also costly in the litigious society in which we live.

A recent example:  a few long term board members wanted to waive assessments for owners that had hit hard times but had never been late in over 15 years.  While the thought was understandable, the manager had to make them aware this could not be done.  If allowed, it would have to be offered to the entire membership, setting a precedence that the association could not afford, nor legally could do. 

The manager (with legal explanation in hand) presented to the Board at the next meeting.  Those Board members who strongly wanted to offer the waiver felt that the manager was not being a partner and had now become the enemy against the community, the Board and the membership.  Of course this was not the case. From that point on, the manager was met with hostile, argumentative behavior.

Once this occurs, it is very difficult to move forward.   The broken relationship will need to be repaired first.   By further explaining the legal point and offering other ways to accomplish this goal - the manager can work to achieve common ground. 

To not take it personal, but yet care personally, is a fine line to walk.  Managers are the complaint department and not friend or foe, but the neutral mediator.  A manager is a partner to all.  The ground could be full of land mines or beautiful wild flowers and on occasion both.  No matter the land, we must walk confident whether or not we are liked or disliked on any particular day. 

We are service minded experts and those that truly get this ideal are successful. Doing what’s right for all is right!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Your Duty to Serve

As a member of a Board of Directors, you are charged with several duties. You might be familiar with your duty of care and duty of loyalty, however, have you ever pondered your duty to serve? What is your approach to service within your community association’s Board?  How often do you think about the duty you have to serve your association’s membership without fail? Did you educate yourself regarding the requirements and expectations to serve and give your very best?

Let’s talk about the Access Management Group approach to the HOA industry.  Looking back over the last decade, perhaps the most profound evolution when it comes to any company and it's workplace culture is the makeup of the individuals - who are essentially the company.  At AMG, our essence is providing client communities access to the best management professionals! Without you, we would not exist and without a community association management company, you would not have the tools necessary to be a truly successful and effective board, organization, or association. We LOVE to work with quality Board members who WANT to serve and who take their duties seriously.

As a Board member of a community association, your calling is a bit higher than that of other homeowners. Being a part of the board sets you apart from other association members because of your duty to serve. You are not just thinking about your own individual home ownership, you are now thinking about maintaining and enhancing the value of the entire asset, and this requires a duty to serve the association with integrity. Also, there are many challenges for a new Board (and occasionally even for a seasoned one). There are new people within the community to meet, getting to know your community association manager, the learning curve of leading a non-profit organization and probably most importantly - becoming familiar with the community's Bylaws and covenants. There are lots of rules. Are you familiar with them?

For Boards of Directors who have already learned what it takes, consider your duty to serve as a contribution to the history of your community association. There are always homeowners who want to serve, but can’t, and homeowners who have the time to serve, but choose not to serve. No matter what, if you find that you no longer feel the gusto that comes with leading the community association, reflect on your duty to serve. It is with this service that you are making your community better than it was when you became a member of it and it is with this service that you have helped to create a future for your homeowner association. 

Board members, consider your service to your community.  Do you serve above self? What caused you to be interested in serving your community? Do you find your call to serve fulfilling?   When you ask these questions as a Board reflect on this “food for thought” - while an associations’ primary duty is to maintain community value, what are you doing to see it actually grow? 

We challenge you, both Board members and managers, to recommit to your duty to serve. Consider why you are in your position, and what ways you can tap into undiscovered strengths and abilities to create a clear vision for your community. 

Finally, know that serving your best makes you a better individual and makes those around you better - resulting in a more positive neighborhood culture. And last but not least, appreciate the growth you experience as a result of fulfilling your duty to serve your community and the HOA industry!