Having sat on a board for almost ten years, I continue to be astonished at how little most volunteers know about what the job entails. While it is important to volunteer your time for this position, there are things you must know in advance in order to prepare for what is ahead.
Every shareholder should consider donating their time to their board. It is a very humbling experience, but also an enlightening one. Board service can actually be rewarding if you are fortunate enough to have shareholders who understand what is involved and are willing to assist.
If full board service isn’t for you, then at least consider joining a committee. Once you see what is involved, hopefully, you will learn to appreciate those who do serve and understand the extent of the commitment some of your fellow shareholders have made for your best interest.
Here are some important factors that one should understand regarding what effective board service really means.
- To be a truly effective board member, you must trade short-term self interest for long-term commitment.
- Board service means, the building and shareholders often come first—before you, your family and your career.
- Board service means taking calls, emails and letters almost every day, and addressing them.
- To be a truly effective board member you must check your ego at the door and listen twice as much as you speak.
- To be an effective board member you must be willing to sacrifice any and all personal gain for the betterment of the group.
- You must have rock solid integrity and honesty that cannot be swayed for any one individual’s interest over the whole.
- You must be willing to volunteer all of your time, attention and resources to making the co-op a better place than when you began.
- You must learn every part of the building, its personality, its history, its people, its value and its place in the community.
To be an effective board member you must communicate as much as possible even if no one appears to be listening, because that will be most shareholders’ number one complaint.
To be a truly effective board member you must be willing to work night and day, day and night, researching and working diligently to make absolutely certain that every one of your decisions was in the best interest of the entire community of your building.
Board service is not about one’s own personal agenda, or dissatisfaction with a single issue. It must be about the dozen other issues that take priority over the one item you came in to change.
To be a truly effective board member you must be willing to sit through hours of negotiations when your fellow board members do not agree with you, until a compromise is reached without any hard feelings or bruised egos.
Board service means that you will have a fiduciary responsibility for the co-op at large.
Board service means you are the fall guy. The buck stops with the board. Complaints and annoyances are your reward for giving of your time.
Board service means that you promise to be discreet and not discuss individual shareholders’ personal or business issues outside of the board, no matter how rude or irritating that particular shareholder is to you.
Board service is the whipping post for all do-gooders. No matter how good your intentions were, someone will find criticism with what you did.
Board service is not for the faint of heart.
You must humbly accept ridicule, criticism and personal attacks, even when you weren’t the board member in charge of the project that was unpopular.
You should expect far more complaints than thanks.
At the end of the day, you must be able to look back and see that what you left behind was good in spite of the obstacle course you had to conquer to get to the goal.
Go in with your eyes open and be the best board member you can be.
Adelaide Polsinelli is a 24-year investment real estate sales broker and president of her Manhattan co-op.