The community association board meeting is where the rubber meets the road for practically all matters that come before an association and the community it serves. Order and civility are essential for effective meetings, and their erosion will only snowball into growing disfunction and disharmony.
The effective use of Robert’s Rules of Order as the general format for association board meetings serves a solid platform on which to build upon for successful and orderly meetings. Board meetings adhering to Robert’s Rules generally include a call to order, the establishment of a quorum, a review and approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, new business, old business, and adjournment.
Some associations also add an open forum for input and discussion from owners in attendance at the meeting, but as further addressed below, efforts to streamline agendas and make meetings more efficient may result in the removal of such an item to the extent it is not required in accordance with the association’s governing documents.
However, following this meeting format is just a starting point. Many factors may contribute to effective and efficient meetings. For example, it has been suggested that the manner by which the directors themselves are seated at meetings may contribute to effective meetings. Some have found it helpful to arrange the board members so they are seated in a “C” formation — with the open end facing the attendees — citing that this seating arrangement helps to avoid the misperception that the board members are only speaking to the unit owners in attendance but not to each other.
Maintaining civility during interaction with attendees is also a factor to be considered. Directors should avoid speaking and interrupting individuals’ remarks during discussions. Directors and all others in attendance should be mindful of the need to listen attentively to all the remarks, take notes if necessary, and hold their own questions or comments until after the remarks are concluded.
Agendas should also be crafted in a manner that promotes efficiency. Directors need to remain focused on the agenda items for discussion and avoid straying off topic. Allowing meetings to devolve into discussions of non-agenda items can be a recipe for disorder and confusion, so any important new topics that come up should be set aside and added to future meeting agendas and discussions.
Long meetings should also be avoided. Often times, directors are overly ambitious with regard to the amount of business they desire to accomplish at a meeting, resulting in meetings that may last longer than many would like and could be overwhelming. To limit the length of meetings, directors and managers should avoid lengthy agendas and prepare themselves in advance by reviewing all the meeting materials/presentations beforehand.
If discussions devolve into excessive and repetitive arguments, it is best to close the debate once all the positions have become clear. At times, it may be more productive to have meetings held more frequently with agendas containing less topics for discussion – so as to provide directors the ability to quickly tend to business while avoiding the risk and frustration of prolonged meetings at which it feels business does not get accomplished.
Association directors should also use reasonable judgement to rein in any misbehavior that may arise. Possible measures and repercussions can include warnings, votes to censure, or ejections for anyone who interrupts, talks over others, and becomes disruptive. With that in mind, in the event that matters at a meeting seem to be heading toward violence or danger, then the board may be advised to adjourn the meeting to prevent a volatile situation.
Association board meetings should encourage frank, open and civil discussions of all viewpoints, and not everyone will agree with every decision. In fact, it is expected that association directors may disagree, and there is nothing wrong with board decisions that are reached via mixed votes.
By establishing and abiding by meeting format and code of conduct rules, associations can effectively avoid disorderly and chaotic board meetings that can sow discord and diminish overall community morale.
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