In the community association world, it is fundamental for board members, managers and decision-makers to have good communication skills in order to succeed. Such skills are important in any business, but in community associations where membership and dues are mandatory, good communication is critically important.
Many problems and misunderstandings are avoided by boards exercising open and frequent communications to the unit owners. The more the owners know, the smoother the relationship will be between the board and the membership as well as the staff. Examples of tools used by boards to communicate effectively with association owners are email, social media, texts, posting notices on the association property, community newsletters, bulletins, phone alerts, resident orientation packages, rule booklet dissemination, websites and board and membership meetings. Keep in mind that by January 1, 2019, a condominium association with 150 or more units is required to post digital copies of some of its official records on a website. The statute provides a long list of official records which must be uploaded and owners are to be provided passwords to access certain proprietary records. This tool will go a long way to assist the board in delivering information to the membership.
Good communicators make good leaders. In an association setting, “let life surprise you” is not a good motto to live by. If the board knows the pool is going to be drained and repaired next month, communicate it well ahead of time so residents know what to expect. If the board is seeking that the owners approve a lobby design change, do not just provide the minimum meeting notice and proxy. Instead, let the owners know the estimated cost, show them a design rendering, give them the work schedule, the estimated completion date and which contractor has been selected for the job.
Communicators will have to navigate their audience’s shrinking attention spans — which have dropped to eight seconds from 12 in less than a decade — with the unit owners’ desires to be informed of important matters which affect their association. If you are preparing a newsletter or written communication, keep your messages crisp, clear, brief and to the point. Successful boards and managers know their community’s demographics and will focus on developing messaging that is relevant to the association members. A community made up of retirees may have more time to read a newsletter than a community of young professionals.
Communications are not necessarily verbal or written. Even physical distance is a form of communication. Humans consider personal space to be a four-foot radius that others should not invade. Get closer than that to an owner at a heated board meeting, and you just lost your verbal messaging over a violation of body space separation. In some cultures, touching during talking is not considered offensive, but touching during business communication is highly inappropriate.
In addition to cultural differences, there are gender differences in how men and women communicate. Prior to the 1990’s all human brains were presumed to be the same, but after the advent of MRI technology, scientists were able to demonstrate more than 100 biological differences between the male and female brain. Each day, women speak up to 8,000 words while men speak up to 4,000 words. The gap widens when counting the daily frequency of female vs. male gestures. While these are obvious gender-based generalizations, these insights help understand how people communicate. Regardless of the mechanics about what tools are used to communicate or who drafts the message, what is important is that communications to the membership should be frequent, clear informational and transparent.