If your HOA board is plagued with constant bickering, morale problems, or just an overall lack of productivity and follow-through, they are not serving their community well. There are many professional approaches to solving these issues. Many boards hire experts in team building. Here’s why that approach often doesn’t work.

An ill-tempered and dysfunctional board is likely just the outer layer of larger foundational problems such as leadership or policy issues. Having members, who probably don’t like each other much at this point, fall into each other’s arms in a team building exercise is not going to solve the underlying issues.

If your association does hire an expert, they should be focused on board development, not team building. You can also take a stab at turning things around within your group. There are many good resources for nonprofit board development that are applicable to condo association boards. Here’s how to start:

  • Acknowledge that the board is frustrated. Rather than asking them to stop bickering and get along, focus on getting to the bottom of the deeper issues. Identify the top three items.
  • Starting with the first item on the list ask these three questions:
    1. What is holding us back on this topic?
    2. Why is this important?
    3. How is this keeping us from better helping our community?

This exercise helps the group focus on issues and the community. It is up to the President or person chairing the meeting to keep that focus, and no let it drift to personalities or finger pointing

Here is an example of this exercise in action from help4nonprofits.com:

“By asking “What is this bickering stopping us from doing?” the condo board might note that the bickering was keeping them from doing their job effectively. When asked “Why is it important that the board do its job effectively?” some board members might smile shyly and admit that they really don’t know. Now the board can begin talking about their uncertainty about their role in the organization, and how they don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing. By asking “How is this keeping us from better helping the community?” the discussion can lead the board to realize that if they don’t know what their job is, they can’t do much to make the community any better.”

Can you guess what the real problem is? The problem is not the bickering, it is that they do not understand their role and don’t know their part in accomplishing the goal. This can lead to board members feeling insecure and meetings being ineffective.

Perhaps the example condo board has not yet done a strengths assessment of each board member and assigned them to a committee. In committee, projects are broken down with each member taking a piece of the work. The role and assignments become clear, people feel more productive and meetings have better outcomes.