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Managing Conflict in Community Board Meetings

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Jul 04, 2019 | 0 Comments

Board meetings can become emotional or hostile fast – here are some strategies to keep things under control and on track

Community boards are usually made up of home or condo owners, so their members may have differing opinions about what's acceptable, what's necessary, and how to approach conflict. Unfortunately, the mixture of backgrounds and interests on a board can lead to emotional arguments and even the complete derailment of important issues.

However, there are strategies you can use so that these conflicts don't occur – and if they do, it'll happen rarely. Remember that it's common for any type of group to have some conflict, especially when its members gather regularly. As such, approach the situation with understanding and compassion instead of the assumption that disagreement always means failure. Sometimes, arguments can even lead to changes for the better.

Here are some tricks to keep your board meetings running smoothly and efficiently.

Structure is key

It's crucial for the success of a board meeting that it follows a set structure. Each meeting should begin and end the same way; for example, start each meeting with a summary of the last one by going over issues that are ongoing or have been resolved, or end each meeting with a discussion of upcoming holiday or weekend plans.

Creating agendas for each meeting will also help the group stay focused on what's at hand and will keep everyone informed about what's going to be discussed. In the same vein, adding an item for sharing and discussion time could help members to know when they can share as well as when it's not OK to talk.

If a conflict does arise, an agenda gives the moderator a chance to push the conversation toward the next item, moving on from something that could turn into an explosive argument. Along with helping the group avoid conflict, agendas can also keep meetings on track and within the necessary and reasonable time frame.

Leadership is required

Many boards argue because there's no clear leader or organizer. This lack of structure can lead to each and every member trying to take charge, thinking they know best – which in itself can cause a lot of conflicts. A meeting can become a power battle, and that's never good for a board that's trying to make important decisions about an entire community.

Establish leadership roles specific to meetings, such as who will run them, who will be the moderator, and who is responsible for the agenda and for keeping the group on track. This could be the same person or multiple people. It's also reasonable to try out different methods to see which works best for your board.

Communication can make or break a board

Another crucial consideration for your community board meetings is communication – everything from email to community announcements to marketing to in-meeting discussions. It's a good idea to talk through the overall message the board wants to send to residents and the greater community. Is it clear that homeowners can come to the board with issues? Is there an open-door policy governing the way problems and interactions are handled?

The board should then create a strategy with this key vision in mind. This overall atmosphere of collaboration should also apply to communications between board members. Emails, phone calls, and meeting discussions should feel professional yet comfortable, allowing members to speak up, share their opinions, and respect what everyone else is saying.

Adopt stress-reduction techniques

There's no point in sugarcoating it: sometimes, being a member of a board will be stressful, even if each of these strategies is followed. Putting a group of adults in a room together is going to lead to some form of conflict, even if it's passive aggressive or only between a couple of members.

This is why it's a good idea to implement stress-reduction techniques. Whether you go the seminar route or just encourage board members to take a yoga class together or meditate individually, stress reduction can have a big impact on both how members interact and how successfully the board functions overall.

The lawyers at PeytonBolin are ready to help you with association law, whether it's related to a condo association or a homeowners' association. Get in touch with our team today to learn about the services we provide in the Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Bay, and Orlando areas of Florida.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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