Micromanaging The Manager
Who loves being micromanaged by others? Not a single person I know. Have you been a manager at a property where a board member, or maybe a corporate leader, is constantly providing you with an onslaught of repetitive questions and their opinion as to how you need to do your job? If you are in the community association business, it’s a given that you will encounter this often. I’ve come to quickly identify certain character types and their usual demands. Most of the offenders are good people simply trying to perform their board member duties well. In their defense, they are not “in the biz” and may not be familiar with the normal operating procedures for management of community associations. Unfortunately for those on the receiving end of their demanding style, micromanagement is the most appropriate term.
Managers are normally a type-A personality with organizational talents and a certain need for control. The ironic part is that managers normally serve board members that also have the same type-A personality. This can sometimes become a power struggle if both sides can’t define each other’s responsibilities and recognize when they may be overstepping boundaries. Managers, and those with similar personalities have more in common than not. Managers must maintain a certain level of control and those that challenge their control, can be a bit of a relational obstacle. In the spirit of great customer service however, managers and management companies must overcome these obstacles with grace and diplomacy. At the end of the day, both management and boards must work together to achieve the greater good.
The Usual Suspects
The first position, and the one that the manager is usually directed to have the closest relationship with, is the president of the board. In my career, the presidents of the boards I have managed, have usually been a very levelheaded leaders that can communicate well and handle planning the objectives of the community. I have on occasion, particularly when consulting troubled associations, encountered the stereo-typical tyrannical president that must absolutely have his or her way. This personality type is normally headed into legal problems and cannot be reasoned with. Most of their issues originate from the way they ran their personal lives or business. Just because they ran their grocery store in New York successfully for thirty years, they think they can now manage and spend millions of the association’s dollars. Being a successful salesman, car dealership, painter, accountant, etc, does not equate to qualifying to micromanage others in a totally different field.
The treasurer is the next most important position that will require plenty of time and information from the manager. I have dealt with some excellent treasurers that have taught me priceless lessons. Most treasurers have an accounting or banking background and there is lots to learn from them. One form of overstepping that I have encountered from treasurers or finance committee members, is the request to generate additional reports to augment the standard budget, financials, and management reports. Managers should think twice about filling out someone else’s spreadsheet. For example, I cannot count how many times I have been asked to fill out a “cash flow analysis” with seventy-five different columns and forty tabs. I have always declined this request as they are not within the normal paperwork from the management company. My style is to generate my own report and answer questions as needed, and to the proper board members. Managers should seek their corporate leaders’ advice on these additional reports. Filling them out may place you in an obligatory role that may come with a bit of liability. You must also eat some humble pie at times and recognize that you may not be capable of providing a certain level of financial reporting. Leave those details to the association’s accountant or the management company’s accounting department.
Education is key. Defining roles is imperative. A board member should know what their duties are and when to delegate everything else. CAI provides endless courses and literature for guiding boards into performing their duties within the current industry standards. If a board member is not within the normal standards, chances are they may just now know any better. If they are receptive, and the manager can communicate the need for additional instruction, the process of improving board functions is not that difficult. I personally like to provide online links that have educational guides for operations and or recent legal opinions. This form of education is usually received well, and the person reading will not feel as though the manager is giving their personal opinion, but rather it is coming from another professional in the industry. If a manager is always giving “their opinion” , it will often be perceived as arrogance. It is best to provide resources from other professions that specialize in the specific subject matter.
Omissions and Circumvention
Being overbearing is not the only way to be perceived as a micromanager. If there is instruction to management to omit information, or simply not share information with other board members, this is a very bad form of controlling the association’s business. In one instance I experienced, the board president advised me that I was to only update her, and that no other information for ongoing business was to be shared with other board members. This was unacceptable and she was not happy about my refusal to exclude other board members. While there may be information that the manager shares only with the president, it can be perceived as a form of circumventing other elected board members if the information is not shared. If there are inactive board members that usually do not respond to emails, then that’s fine but copy them anyway. Steer clear of providing edited or redacted reports and financials. Yes, there is protected information on many reports but editing a Reserve Study, Appraisal, balance sheet, or something similar can land you in hot water. If a resident believes to be receiving full disclosure on documents, but later finds out they have been edited unnecessarily, you may have a serious problem.
Charters, resolutions, the management contract, GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), boundary reminders, and other industry norms will help boards achieve their goals. If there are undefined roles for committees or board responsibilities, seek legal guidance on how to set a proper policy or charter. These documents can be drawn up and even changed later. If the manager is unclear as to what services are contracted and what they are to perform, simply look at the management contract. Having these agreements and standards allows for everyone to understand their responsibilities and limitations. Board members should review the management contract often to keep the agreed services fresh in their minds.
If you wish to learn more about transparency and procedures in community associations, check out my site’s blog at https://www.homeownerassociationconsulting.com/blog
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