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5 Effective Ways to Engage Board Members with Short Fuses

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Mar 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

Troublemakers beware: there's no room for unprofessional behavior on HOA boards.

Power struggles happen. In business, in life, and most certainly in HOA boards. While not all association boards have issues with members that have short tempers, many face this dynamic and struggle to gain control of their meetings much less to get goals accomplished. And although no one can control another's emotions or responses, you can maintain control over your meetings and keep things flowing smoothly even when tempers flare. This guide offers some proven tips to keeping board members engaged even when emotions erupt.

1. Always create and distribute an agenda

It seems like a no-brainer, but having an agenda does more than just ensure your board covers all the necessary topics and goals. It allows you to reel in discussions that may go off topic or get too heated, because everyone in attendance is aware of what's needed to be accomplished for that meeting. Distributing your agenda a few days ahead of time (some states have specific criteria for how many days in advance you need to get it to the board members), also gives all members a clear outline of what will be covered at the meeting, which often helps to curtail any individual agendas.

2. Hand out any upcoming proposals ahead of time

In addition to distributing the agenda ahead of time, providing any proposals or information that is going to be discussed in the next meeting beforehand will give all board members time to review. Surprises are often the cause of anger or frustration, so it's best to inform everyone of everything that's in the pipeline ahead of time. This includes financial items, community improvement proposals, and any other topic that's going to be addressed.

3. Create a professional setting

Just as you would in a corporate board meeting, it's important to set the tone for professionalism. Doing so will often dissuade those board members who feel they need to react emotionally or angrily by yelling or displaying other unprofessional behaviors. From calling the meeting to order officially to setting the rules for how board members can express their opinions, it's critical to maintain order.

If a board member wishes to comment on a topic, or a discussion or vote is going to take place, consider laying out these common standards:

  • When a board member wishes to comment, they must be recognized by the chair
  • It should be clear that when one board member has the floor, others are not to interrupt
  • Votes can be cast with a simple hand or a voice vote

4. Stick to the agenda

Discussions get heated up when meetings go off on a tangent. A good way to avoid this is by sticking to the agenda and letting board members know that you will only be discussing items listed on the agenda. When you do this, you are ensuring that no one person takes over the meeting or that board members get involved in secondary discussions that stray from the goals. Some standard procedures that will help include:

  • Follow the agenda in order without skipping around
  • Talk about each item for a specified amount of time
  • Give each board member a chance to speak about the topic as they wish before moving to the next item
  • Allot a specific amount of time for each person to speak and ensure they do not go over their time limit
  • Ensure that board members address all comments, questions, and issues to the board member who is running the meeting

5. Isolate or communicate privately with disruptive members

If an issue continually arises from certain board members, community associations often find it helpful to take those members aside and communicate with them privately before and/or after meetings. Informing those members that their behavior is counter-productive and upsetting and that it won't be tolerated may help them see the light and encourage them to leave their tempers at the door. Reminding troublemakers of their responsibility to the board and the community may also help.

If your HOA has the occasional issue with a board bully, you're not alone. The key is to keep a tight rein on every meeting and to follow these tips to ensure that your meetings don't run amuck. For more help on running your association board or if you're in need of an attorney who focuses on community association law, get in touch with us today.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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