"Now I saw in my dream that... they drew near to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain; and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was "Despond." Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt."
An interesting phenomena that occurs from time to time in an HOA is a board's inability to break with the mistakes of the past. Longtime infighting and discontent has created malevolent stagnation. Recrimination abounds, credibility is lost and the board flounders in its own Slough of Despond. This HOA is stuck in quicksand that is sucking the life and joy out of the community.
To those so entrenched, it may just seem business as usual. Another board meeting, another shouting match and little gets done. Adrenaline pumps, hearts and fists pound. It's Friday night at Pro Wrestling. It's Gettysburg with brothers and neighbors locked in mortal combat against each other.
Okay, quick! Show of hands. Who wants to volunteer to serve on the board? [sound of crickets] No, really! We need you to step up. [sound of pin dropping] Nobody? I'll never get off the board!
Effectively, an HOA like this plays out a self fulfilling prophecy. And tragically, getting bogged down like this is not all that uncommon. Some folks love to dwell on the past to keep others off balance. It's a form of control that keeps things in a brouhaha. But who in their right mind wants to play the game for long?
In this slough of despond, however, is a great opportunity. Learning from past mistakes is some of the best education there is. Dwelling on them is fatal. If the board is in a dwelling place, it will take a strong decisive action to break free. Here are some of the ways:
- Mediate. Get some objectivity into the mix with a trained mediator. These folks can often sort out heated issues and personalities to forge compromise. There are usually a number of inexpensive mediation alternatives in every city, some are even free.
- Board Retreat. Having a retreat to discuss concepts can be helpful in getting repointed. It's advisable to include a facilitator who ensures that all get heard and that the discussion doesn't degenerate.
- List of Goals. Having written goals helps the bogged down board stay focused on its mission.
- Written Agenda. If your board meetings are agenda-less, they can easily be twisted into personal agendas. Have a written agenda and a tight time limit for getting it done. Stick to it and opportunities for disorder will vanish.
- Purge the Old Guard. Some people simply are too inflexible to change. They should be encouraged to step down. If they refuse, start campaigning new blood for the next Annual Meeting election.
The board has significant responsibilities to grapple with. Making them as pleasant as possible is the only way to attract and keep good volunteers. If your board is bogged down with infighting and personal agendas, it's time to redirect the action. Learn, not burn, from past mistakes.
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