Sunday, January 18, 2015

Homeowner Associations and Dysfunctional Leadership

Without civic intelligence we are the sum of all our worst characteristics.
When we moved to our neighborhood, I thought it would be important to participate in our homeowners association (HOA). My spouse thought it was stupid. Because there are no real checks and balances on HOAs (usually due to an unengaged residential community) and there is no collective overarching belief in community (everyone is out for him/herself), personality conflicts are inevitable.

My HOA board is dysfunctional. I spent the last 15 minutes of the closed session listening to the president, the treasurer, and a member at large complain about and disparage each other. I missed the last meeting because I had a work conflict, but apparently this complaint session was a continuation of the last meeting. Three meetings ago, one of the HOA board members resigned, rather than work with another member of the board. I feel like I'm back in junior high school. If I didn't maintain the HOA website and chair the Social Committee, I might be inclined to pack it in, too. Especially since the meetings occur on the first Thursday of the month, which means I'm missing out on more fun activities to do (Phillips After 5, NoVA ASG Neighborhood Couture Group, watching Rehab Addict). In fact, ANYTHING is more fun than doing HOA board activities.

This article from the New York Times, "Why Some Teams are Smarter Than Others," states that productive groups have good social sensitivity, take conversational turns and share the conversation equitably, and have female members. I can only surmise that, despite having a predominantly female board, we lack social awareness and emotional intelligence. In a town full of former student council presidents, we have some serious power struggles.

When I was first elected to the board, I immediately researched what my role should be. I found the Community Associations Institute and used their materials to draft my impressions of what our web site and social committee should be. The board didn't provide me with any guidance on developing a charter, soliciting members, or giving me a budget. None of them has made an investment in their education on the board (like becoming a member of the CAI), or having guest speakers at the HOA board meetings. The president does not send out an agenda in advance, and the meeting minutes are inadequate: there is no assignment of responsibility and no due-outs. I understand everyone is a volunteer; it's just hard to accept. Maybe they're operating at the higher end of their potential, and I'm being unduly harsh.

 The president believes that training offered by the HOA lawyer will clear up some of the problems, but I know it won't. The only thing that will fix this HOA is some mental health sessions.

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