Most people will agree that making a decision as a couple is not always easy. Imagine if other people’s opinions are added to the equation, that the decision is based on consensus, and that the consequences of each decision have a direct impact on the wallets of people who are not involved in these decisions. Yet this is what the Boards of directors of co-ownerships face on a regular basis, both during formal meetings and when decisions must be taken punctually, sometimes in an emergency.
The opinions of the directors differ because the skills and individual experiences of the various board members are varied indeed, and that the evaluation criteria for determining whether a decision is good or bad are based on very personal values. So, for example, the importance given to a small hole in a wall, can be considerable for a member who greatly values aesthetics, while another will see little interest, preferring to manage the finances of the syndicate very tightly. If, on the whole, the decisions will be taken relatively easily and under the banner of collegiality, there will always be situations where it will be difficult, if not impossible, to reach a consensus. The arbitration necessary for an “optimal” allocation of resources will inevitably generate conflicts, especially if the criteria for value differ greatly among Board members.
As a general rule, the Board must speak of one and the same voice. Directors are not subject to ministerial solidarity, however, coherence in the message is important for co-owners, at the risk of creating factions that will have negative effect on the quality of life of the community. Indeed, sad is the spectacle of directors quarreling at a general meeting, in front of a group of co-owners dumbfounded and stunned. The solidarity of the Board members must be tangible for the co-owners; the credibility of all the decisions that will be made and executed by the Board is involved. “One for all, all for one,” wrote Dumas, a motto that would never apply better than at public speaking by a Board of directors of a co-ownership syndicate.
Limit potential conflicts – A few tracks
Plan of reception
It may be worthwhile to recall annually the importance of the solidarity that directors must show, especially when new directors join the group. Warning! solidarity does not mean the muzzling of any discordant opinion. The expression of opinions and debates of ideas should be encouraged, but decisions taken by majority are those of the Board as a single entity, and it is only right to support the decisions of the group.
Depersonalization of debates
All current directors want to make the best possible decisions for the building. Unless you are in the presence of individuals who wish to advocate for personal goals or interests (which of course is against the law), all Board members share a mission in common. The Chairman of the Board can recall this prerogative when some directors become too attached to specific projects or issues. It is necessary to take a step back, to depersonalize the debates, and to refocus them on the conservation of the building.
Creation of committees
If members have widely divergent views on certain topics, the creation of Board committees can promote the free expression of members who really want to pay special attention to these same topics. The previous example, dealing with aesthetics, would allow for formal follow-up of files on these aspects, and to monitor the concierge elements with care. Members less interested in this question will refer to the committee, knowing that a budget has been established with which the committee can work. Internal governance rules usually provide a good framework for these committees. Otherwise, the Board can simply set upsuch rules.
What about dissent?
To include dissent in the minutes of a meeting should be limited to cases where a deep and marked disagreement seems irremediable, particularly in decisions where the responsibility of the Board and its directors is engaged. Repeated dissidences show a dysfunctional dynamic within the Board, and the inability to find common ground. That said, making decisions truly controversial can justify that directors register their disagreement.
The roles of directors in co-ownership syndicates are often ignored, even when they are identified and attributed. However, beyond the legal aspects, these roles can promote the delineation of certain responsibilities among directors. In all situations, the Chairman of the Board plays a leading role in maintaining an effective advisory dynamic: he must, in a way, play the role of mediator! If your Board meetings are still going on without a hitch, do not underestimate the need for backup safeguards for the future. After all, directors are subject to an election every year, and only one new person can radically transform adynamic yet well established.
Published March 5, 2019 by the Chartered Administrators Order of Quebec