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Overcoming Decision Paralysis for a More Effective Community Association

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Apr 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

It's a group effort, so everybody has to feel empowered to be a part of the decision-making process.

It doesn't seem to make much sense. Enterprise companies with deep pockets spare no expense to hire a group of experts to solve an obstacle holding the company back from growth. These experts distinguish themselves as proactive decision-makers who get things done. Yet, when assembled as an all-star team, they fail to develop a solution.

Further investigation uncovers that it isn't for lack of ideas on how to solve the obstacle. It is that the team can't find consensus. They become victims of decision paralysis. While this can cause a wobble at an enterprise company, it can cripple a community association. Here's what we've learned about overcoming decision paralysis.

Two types of board members

In the first chapter of our eBook, we describe what makes a great community association. We found that our best clients were making a difference in their communities because they were decisive. What aided them in this decisiveness was that they viewed the association as a business.

We also write about our identification of two types of board members. We call them the “overly engaged” and the “not engaged at all.” Our experience in consulting with community associations shows us that the approach to treating the association like a business is what generates board member engagement. They understand the bigger picture, as well as their role in the association's success.

So, if you're a board president or even just a board member, how do you generate engagement and move away from decision paralysis? It gets back to looking to how successful businesses are run.

Empowerment as a motivator

Your team of enterprise superstars might all have earned their stripes as effective individuals, but curious things happen to the decision-making process when group dynamics is applied. Often this is caused by a breakdown in trust.

Group decision-making succeeds with the team is confident they have the freedom to make decisions. They make these decisions when they feel they're trusted by leaders to make changes. Even when a team understands they have the authority to make decisions, they can struggle with the ability to conclude they've made the right decision.

To put this into perspective, it's why a group of board members can find themselves becoming a nonproductive association. They may be looking to the board president to be the decision-maker while the president looks to them for consensus.

How do you break the logjam? Your board president and his fellow members must change their self-perceptions. An association where people are engaged and empowered must see their leader as someone who facilitates decision-making, rather than controlling it.

Re-engaging with a question

It's up to the leader to make this change in perception. And, it might be as simple as a pause. Most of us are not very good active listeners. Often, we are forming our response or what we plan to add to a discussion instead of truly listening to what's being said.

Successful leaders are aware of this. They take extra efforts to ask their team for input and participation. Then they will pause before asking one good question. They'll also counsel their team members to take a pause before participating as well.

A Columbia University study shows that 88% of award-winning outcomes began because members of the team adopted this practice. They paused and focused on asking another question, rather than moving forward with a decision.

And while this might seem like it would only add to decision paralysis – remember that the reason for this paralysis is usually a lack of empowerment to make a decision, not an overabundance of options.

Re-engaging with the community

Decision making is a group responsible for the community association board. It's important to remember that as board members, it's also your responsibility to represent the community itself.

“Who in the community have we talked to about this proposed decision?” Reaching conclusions and making decisions are facilitated by moving outside of the inner circle of the board. It's also a valuable way to ensure you truly are representing the community as its chosen leaders.

If your board suffers from decision paralysis, take a step back and examine how you approach your roles. Overly engaged leaders – and even other board members – make it difficult for the rest to feel they're participating. They'll disengage. You'll get little accomplished

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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