It’s an oft-repeated refrain that co-op and condo boards are groups of unique individuals with their own perspective and opinions, so no two boards are ever the same. That being said, there are certain overall organizational characteristics that can unify a board and help its members run their building smoothly and efficiently.
Diversity is Key
One of the leading characteristics that makes a board successful is having members who come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. “With all of the boards that I work with, I recognize that every board member has a unique strength,” says Kevin Kelliher, who is the chief executive officer of Lundgren Management Group based in Chelsea, Massachusetts. “Whether it’s a background in architecture or a strong understanding of the history of the association, each person brings a valuable set of skills to the group. The key is to identify everyone’s strengths and capitalize on them.”
A board that’s top-heavy with accountants, or engineers, or retired teachers may lack the breadth of experience—and variety of ideas—that will be found on a more well-rounded board. Since every board member brings his or her own professional and personal experiences to the job, with a wide range of backgrounds, it’s more likely that new ideas will surface. At the same time, it’s essential for those people to be willing to listen to each other’s perspectives.
That leads to a second characteristic of successful boards: Openness, and being receptive to a variety of ideas.
Just the Facts
“The board has to be open-minded,” notes Jasmine Martirossian, PhD, a leading expert in group dynamics and board decision-making. “You don’t want people trying to retrofit all the facts to what they wanted to decide, but are open-minded about their decision. Too often, people decide to do something, they get married to the idea, then they discard any facts that point in a contrary direction,” says the author of Decision Making in Communities: Why Groups of Smart People Sometimes Make Bad Decisions. Listening only to ideas that will lead to the conclusion that board members wanted in the first place, she warns, can be a shortcut to disaster.