Getting Along, Getting it Done How Boards Can Build Consensus

 Sometimes, just getting two people to agree on what to have for dinner or what  movie to see on a Saturday night can seem like an overwhelming task. Now  imagine trying to get five, seven or nine people to make million-dollar  decisions that can affect hundreds, even thousands, of people. That’s the challenge that faces co-op and condominium boards each and every day.  

 There’s an art to building consensus among disparate members of one co-op or condo  community. After all, the people elected to the board may come from a different  backgrounds and different circumstances. They may have conflicting views on  money or vendors or even what color the lobby should be painted. Add to that  the fact that some board members come to the table eager to make changes or  perhaps pursue their own agendas, and the potential for disagreements becomes  significant.  

 Working Toward Consensus

 It takes hard work to create an environment conducive to open discussion and  collegial debate, but with the right attitude and a willingness to listen,  compromise and thinking about the big picture, board meetings can hum along  smoothly.  

 “If one is trying to build consensus, the biggest challenge is that it takes  time,” says Peter Glassman, executive director of Mediation Matters in Albany. “For some people, that can be frustrating and become what appears to be gridlock.”  

 Most successful boards require the right mix of personalities. “You need people with patience, an openness to having different views and a  mutual understanding,” Glassman says. “First, seek to understand, and then to be understood.”  

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