Mistakes happen - they're part of everybody's learning curve. There are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes in the course of running a residential building; in nearly three decades in the building operations field, I've both made and been witness to quite a few of them myself. The trick, however, is to minimize the impact of our mistakes and make sure we don't make the same one more than once. Below you'll find a short list of some of the mistakes I've seen happen again and again in buildings all over the city, along with tips on how to avoid such problems in your own building community.
Some are concrete - like knowing when your building is due for a new boiler, for example - while others are more ephemeral and people-focused. All will help things run more smoothly in your building, whether you're a board member, managing agent, or super.
Failure to develop and use good communication skills is probably the single biggest mistake made by administrators, directors, and staff members in co-op and condo buildings. Times have changed since the days of information on a need-to-know basis, and communication between managers and supers is key to any building's functioning - along with communication between the super, the manager, the board, the residents, other building staff, and any contractors who may be working on the premises. When communication breaks down or is absent altogether, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, so to speak. This can be a disaster in the making. If you are not pleased with your superintendent or manager, then the dissatisfaction needs to be communicated to them in a civil way and not as a disciplinary action - more as a corrective action.
One good way for boards, managers, staff, and residents to communicate with each other is via e-mail. As a building super, e-mail has made my life easier by reducing the time I spend playing phone tag and automatically generating a record of what I communicated and when. It also allows me to communicate the same thing to more then one person at a time, and should I leave something out, I can always send an amendment. If your building staff aren't wired for e-mail, it makes sense to get them online - the time and effort it saves is well worth the investment.
Supers are responsible for everything in our building, from maintenance to staffing decisions to discipline when staff members don't perform up to scratch. A common mistake made by supers is blaming performance problems entirely on staff members. For example, if the doorman falls asleep or reads a newspaper on the job, it's not really the doorman's fault. It's the super's fault for not properly training him or supervising him.