Building a Better Board Common Traits of Successful Boards

 Working in groups can be a challenge. Working in groups when people’s homes—and possibly their life savings—are involved can be a far greater challenge. It’s one faced every day by those brave souls who volunteer to serve on their co-op  or condo board. While there is no sure-fire recipe for building a board that is  100 percent successful day in and day out, there are definitely traits and  tactics that the most well-run and effective boards share.  

 Don’t Get Personal

 One of the biggest components to success is ensuring that those individuals who  are elected to the board do not come to their new duties with a personal  mission. It’s important to make sure that no one looking to join in saying, “‘If I can get on that board I am going to change whatever that one little thing  is,’ or that thorn in your personal side,” says Jane Beddall, president of Dovetail Resolutions, a mediation and  consulting firm based in New Haven, Connecticut. Beddall, who also presides  over the New England chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution, says  other bad motivations for joining a board include, “it looks good on your resume, or you’re trying to impress your neighbors or your friends.”  

 Board-member aspirants need to keep in mind that the job is to serve the  building—and act in the interest of the association as a whole. Criterion No. 1 should be  that “you have a genuine interest in whatever it is the board does, the mission of  that organization,” says Beddall. Aspiring board members also need to have a clear picture of what the job really  entails. She adds, “You have to be clear in your mind that you can honor the commitment that you  make.” The best board members are the ones who prioritize fair thinking and who  remember to put the needs of the building community as a whole above their own  preferences.  

 It’s also very important to have a proper understanding of what a board wants from  you as a member. Whether it’s your legal expertise, your deep pockets, or your time, “if you don't know what the expectation is before you say yes, then you’re not honoring the commitment because you don’t know what your committing to,” says Beddall.  

 Problems can also arise when board members have issues with not getting their  own way. If you are a member of a five-person board and three people vote  opposite of you, it’s important that you respect the decision. Otherwise, the board may not operate  with trust and mutual respect—which is to say, the board is dysfunctional and potentially headed for trouble.  

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