It can be easy for seasoned, veteran board members to recall both the excitement and challenge of being elected to the post. For many, the first weeks and months are a daunting experience requiring a learning curve that is not always easily afforded. Like most other situations in life, until one walks in the proverbial shoes, it is difficult to actually understand all that an experience entails. As a result, new board members have countless questions swirling through their minds: What are my duties? How do I obtain the minutes from the meeting? When can I bring my issues to the board? Are there books to read or courses to take?
There are specific answers for the aforementioned questions (and the plethora of others that arise), but one general answer speaks to the lot of them, explains Ian Gopin, president and CEO of G&G Management Elite Development Group. “Every board is different, with different size communities and different ways of approaching situations and issues, including what is expected of new board members and how they might be treated.”
In order for there to be a new board member, there obviously has to be turnover. However, Gopin said he is surprised just how little turnover there is in his Massachusetts market. “Roughly 70 percent of the clients that hired me haven’t had any changes in the last seven years,” he says. When asked why there is such a small turnover rate, he responded, “Some owners are very quick to comment and question the board but not many people are willing to volunteer their time and take on the issues.”
Whether a board has a slow or fast turnover rate, the experience for the newly elected is always trying. “When I first sat on the board, I wasn’t offered much help, and I certainly wasn’t encouraged to bring my issues to the table at first,” says Jamie Epranian, a former condominium owner who also sat on the Danbury, Connecticut Lake Waubeeka Association board for three years. “In hindsight, it would have been better for me to hang back and listen more but I wanted to be part of the process and not all the senior board members liked that approach initially.”
Learn as You Go
Dale Carnegie once said, “Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.” This adage seems to hold true for new board members, explains Ed Hofeller of The Hofeller Company in Brookline, Massachusetts.