As a property manager, dealing with board members with a lot of different, and sometimes difficult, personalities can be a real challenge. It can be hard to keep the peace while advising on tough decisions. To help you, we've put together our best tips to help property managers work well with difficult directors.
When it comes to this topic, some experts recommend focusing on person-specific tools. They usually suggest:
1. Seek to understand a “difficult” person
2. Look for underlying issues that could be affecting the individual
3. Apply the right tool, technique or approach
An approach like this assumes that managers have a comprehensive tool kit in their back pocket and that “difficult” people can be fixed. Person-specific approaches might work for some managers, but most lack the time, experience, understanding of psychology, and analytical skills to build an adequate tool kit.
Many situations with difficult people arise spontaneously and require managers to think on their feet. The need for applying an immediate fix can be challenging. In this scenario, directors must sit through listening to the back and forth commentary of the manager trying to fix the problem. Everyone is fed up and usually the board members end up sitting on their hands, hoping the rants will end.
A board-focused approach looks at the interactions between property managers and directors and proposes ways to structure director and manager relationships. Nothing can fully stop all bad behavior, but strategies can be put in place to significantly reduce it.
A better way to handle situations such as these, would be to stop referring to people as being difficult or having difficult personalities in the first place. Instead, a board-focused approach looks at the interactions between property managers and directors and proposes ways to structure director and manager relationships. Nothing can fully stop all bad behavior, but strategies can be put in place to significantly reduce it.
The first steps require adopting a different mindset and establishing meeting guidelines. Here are some ideas to consider:
Think of directors as people, not problems
Seeing directors as people and not as problems open the possibility of creating amazing positive working relationships with every board member.
Different people, even challenging ones, bring diverse perspectives to board meetings. Boards need different views, healthy debates and disagreements to make sound decisions. Without different opinions and perspectives, boards can fall into groupthink and spiral into a decline.
Never single-out bad actors
If the thought of reprimanding a director comes to mind, don’t do it! Property managers never win when they butt heads with a director, who is also an owner. Never forget that owners pay the manager’s salary.
Make every director a favorite
Some people make a property manager's life much easier. It might be tempting to focus on these people, but never pick favorites. Love everyone equally!
Insist that directors end every meeting on a friendly basis. Directors do not have to be best friends but must be friendly neighbors.
Always “be nice”
Remember to be “nice.” Being nice means remaining professional, always. The professional property manager never uses language that doesn't stand up to public scrutiny. If anyone fails to act accordingly, stop them until their manner changes. Do not let the squeaky wheel get the grease.
Establish meeting guidelines
Creating meeting guidelines leaves open the opportunity for excellent discussion and debate without frustrating anyone.
Here are some suggestions:
- Set a maximum time for a board meeting and keep to it – no matter what.
- Always assign a director as the chair for a meeting. If possible, ask a different director to chair the next meeting.
- Use a round-table approach to get input from each director on every topic.
- Allocate a set amount of time for each director to speak.
- Use techniques that help the board make decisions on a consensus basis, where possible. A consensus is desirable because it contributes to good working relationships.
- Set an amount of discussion time for every agenda item. Ask a director to be the timekeeper and keep track of the time. Bring a timing device that can be viewed by everyone. Rotate the job. When the time is up, move on to the next item or table the item for a subsequent meeting.
- Get the board to adopt the meeting guidelines formally with a resolution.
- Insist that directors end every meeting on a friendly basis. Directors do not have to be best friends but must be friendly neighbors.
- Review after every annual meeting. A yearly discussion can add new ideas and keeps the guidelines fresh in the minds of directors. New directors will benefit from learning about them as soon as they join the board.
It will always be challenging to have meetings where free speech, lively debate and respectful conversations take place. Occasionally, a meeting will end with everyone exasperated with each other and the outcomes. Always persevere. With practice, these kinds of meetings will occur less and less.
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