Like Herding Cats
At times, it can appear that trying to unify the board of a homeowner association is like herding cats. Freedom of expression is what America is all about, right? Well, yes and no. While it's true each citizen is allowed freedom of thought and expression, having a group of special interests fighting over the same turf is contrary to the interests of the homeowner association at large. It is up to the president to build a team, a coalition that can prioritize and get the job done.
Coalitions take the strengths of differing viewpoints to accomplish a unified result by focusing on a common objective. In the case of homeowner associations, the primary objective should usually be to maintain and protect the members' property values. This is the "filter" or philosophy by which most decisions are made.
So what does it take to build a coalition of cats? For this, we turn to the supreme artists of change, politicians. Here's what successful politicians do:
Don't Wait for Crisis. Like the Boy Scouts, "Be Prepared" by getting to know your board members personally. Understand their motives for serving. There may be more to it than you imagine. This information could be very useful in the future.
State Your Purpose. Establish your "filter" right up front. For example, a good basic filter could be "creating harmony by sustaining property values." This filter allows disagreement on priorities but forces all issues to answer the question: Will this action sustain our property values and create harmony?
Partner with the Opposition. Look for someone that wouldn't be a natural partner. Be prepared to support some of their issues with the expectation that they will do the same for you. Those in the middle will be naturally drawn into the cooperative spirit.
Focus on Consensus. When divisive issues begin to take center stage, it's time to refocus the group on the priorities which hold clear consensus. This may require diversionary tactics. For example, if a director or homeowner demands satisfaction on some divisive issue, appoint that person chair of a committee to "research" the issue by polling the owners. Ask for a written report with recommendations gleaned from the poll. This method shows clear concern for the divisive issue without endorsing it. And, in the vast majority of cases, the issue will vanish when the committee chair is actually faced with the prospect of building real consensus among owners. Talk about herding cats!
Sell the Vision Thing. Create some bigger than life goals for the board to accomplish. Instead of just sustaining property values, cast a vision that will increase them. For example, in older communities, signage gets tired, building colors become dated and newspaper boxes and illegal signs leer like ugly weeds. Suggest bringing in a color consultant from the local paint supplier to provide contemporary color combination alternatives. Have color boards prepared and get the owners to vote on their favorite. Declare war on the trashy signs, newspaper boxes and rid them from your community. Vow to unclutter and bring a fresh clean look to the community and set a timetable to do it. The Vision Thing is contagious, especially when folks begin to see results.
Herding cats and coalition building has everything to do with moving forward, not merely treading water. Cats stay interested when there is movement.
Be a lion tamer. Round up those cats, crack the whip and watch them purrrrrrrrrrr.
Source: Richard Thompson