For property managers who work on the front lines of condo corporations, day-to-day business may include interacting with owners who might be unfriendly or keeping up with a busy and sometimes demanding board of directors. It takes a special person.
Fewer and fewer people seem willing to take on this high-stress job, it seems, as the industry faces a declining number of certified managers. Meanwhile, the number of condo corporations continues to increase. Condo boards may soon face a crisis in finding good condo managers to handle their operations.
Creating less tension in the condo is one way to support managers who may be exposed to various levels of stress within their work environments. Here are ten measures boards can take to help managers thrive, increasing their likelihood to stay on the job.
Low-stress boards are well organized. These boards have job descriptions for directors, hold meetings regularly, come to meetings prepared, understand the meaning of “fiduciary responsibility,” and a host of other items that improve the overall organization of the condo board. Being well organized makes life less stressful for property managers and helps them provide the kind of service that owners and boards demand.
Code of conduct policy
A code of conduct spells out expected behaviours. One aspect is how owners and directors communicate with property managers. The policy clearly identifies that interactions must be courteous and professional at all times; in other words, owners are expected to be nice.
Being nice doesn’t mean an owner can’t raise an issue of concern to the manager. But it does mean that the owner presents the problem courteously and professionally. Boards may need to educate unit owners on how to interact with managers and should always step in if any owner transgresses the policy. Property managers should never need to be worried about nasty emails or confrontations.
Yes, directors are unpaid, but they shouldn’t make excuses for not accomplishing a task because they are volunteers. Property managers are far too busy to be kept waiting when directors fail to meet deadlines. Knowing directors are reliable helps mitigate stress arising from the uncertainty of unfulfilled duties.
These are the types of informal agreements or policies that go beyond the contract that the board has already signed with the management company. For example, directors know that their role is to govern, and they never expect their managers to take on this role. Directors, most definitely, should ask their managers for advice and recommendations, but should never expect the manager to make decisions for the board. Having such expectations are stress inducing. Managers manage and boards govern.
Directors and managers will disagree. Hopefully, serious differences occur only occasionally. The best directors know that the relationship with their managers is professional at all times and always open to resolution. Never let personal feelings attend board meetings, and when conflicts do arise, resolve them as quickly as possible.
All for one and one for all
Debate and discussion are expected during board meetings, but once a decision is made, all directors need to be supportive of the outcome. When appropriate, decisions can be shared with owners, without commentary that differs from the board decision.
This translates to managers receiving clear instructions and guidance from the board—always knowing exactly what to do. If more than one director offers instructions or is unclear, managers may get stressed while trying to figure out what to do next.
Keeping up to date on current condo affairs
Being a director means keeping up-to-date on condo affairs by following relevant blogs, surfing the Internet and attending educational sessions. Rather than educate directors on every intricacy of condo life, managers need to save time for other tasks
Given that the majority of interactions between boards and managers take place during meetings, this time must be well spent. Every director must promise to come to meetings fully prepared and ready to contribute productively. Directors who are unprepared waste everyone’s time, especially managers who are looking to the board to make decisions. When the lack of preparation delays the board from making a decision or results in a bad decision there are consequences. It could delay the manager from implementing a task or it could lead to problems because the decision was not clearly thought out in the first place.
Meeting minutes are essential documents. Draft minutes need to be provided as soon as possible after meetings since directors and managers rely on that information. As the minutes serve as a record of the board’s decisions, they are essential communication tools for the manager who works from these decisions. Obtaining this information promptly reduces the possibility of any confusion arising as to the board’s decisions.
Openness to technology
New technology has already changed the way most people work. Boards need to be willing to learn about new technology that could help streamline a property manager’s work.
An added bonus
Implementing these strategies will significantly reduce property managers’ stress loads. They also create a welcome but unintended consequence of lowering stress among directors who benefit from increased efficiencies and organization. A win-win result benefits all.
Since this article was originally published in the March issue of CondoBusiness, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and upended the work of property managers and added to their workload and stress levels. It means that directors need to be even more mindful of the work expected from their property manager. Failure to implement at least some of the suggestions in this article could push managers over their limits and accelerate their exit from the industry.
Pat Crosscombe is the founder and CEO of BoardSpace, a company dedicated to bringing the best software to condo boards. She is also the past president of her condo corporation and has been actively blogging and writing about issues facing condo board directors and managers. This is her sixth article for CondoBusiness Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org