This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to co-teach a Community Association Volunteer Leader course for CAI. For those of you that haven’t taken the CAVL course, it’s a basic level course designed to provide fundamental knowledge and problem solving strategies for anyone that works with community associations. I spent the better part of Saturday with a group of eager-to-learn-owners working through the program to better understand the basic governance of community associations. Sharing information about community association operations and practicing the necessary problem solving techniques were educational for the teachers as well as the participants. Walking away from the seminar, I was reminded of how much our clients rely on their association managers, reserve specialists, accountants, attorneys, insurance brokers, bankers and a host of other professionals. We owe it to them to bring our “A” game every day.
Additionally, I was reminded how important it is that we embrace our role as teachers. In order for associations to become the vibrant communities that we all want, it is imperative that we, as an industry, take the time to educate our boards. It’s easy to forget when a new director joins the board that he or she may have never served in that capacity. Without proactive action on our part, board members may become unintentionally rooted in misunderstandings and misinformation.
Industry veterans often “know” (or at least think we know) what is best for the associations we serve. As busy professionals, it’s easy to fall into the trap of identifying an issue and skipping straight to the conclusion. It hurts all involved to make this mistake. The CAVL course recommends a problem solving strategy that requires boards to:
1. Identify the scope of the problem.
2. Determine who has the authority and obligation to act.
3. Consider approaches and resources; formulate and implement the plan.
4. Communicate the plan.
5. Monitor and evaluate the plan.
The lessons learned in a CAVL class apply equally to seasoned industry professionals as well as green board members. It’s important that all of us take the time to analyze issues before an association decides to take action. Of course not everything is a problem or a difficult issue. You obviously won’t go through a five step plan each month to determine whether or not the association should pay their landscaper. But, when creating policy or dealing with a difficult issue, it’s important that we work with our associations and their boards of directors in addressing those issues. Walking them through the CAVL problem solving process will engage the board and make sure that they are invested in the final decision. Without their involvement in the process, board members will inevitably become an unexciting collection of owners that make sure the bills are paid, the manager’s report is reviewed, and maybe the financial statements are read, but little more. Their work will be less beneficial for the association if board members lack the knowledge and ownership over their tasks. Let’s take the extra step to make sure our associations are the vibrant, involved communities that the owners deserve.