Hopefully you have a cohesive and harmonious Board that works collectively to accomplish the duties, goals and tasks of your Association. Many Boards, however, have levels of inner conflict. Conflict can be both good and bad. Minor disagreements on how to response to a homeowner request can lead to some constructive dialog. To a contrary example, major differences in opinion on the philosophy of Reserve savings can lead to passionate debate which can, in turn, lead to destructive attitudes corrupting the group dynamics of your Board.
Functional Conflict – An optimal level of conflict can prevent stagnation, stimulate creativity, allow tensions to be released, and initiate the seeds for change. Often times a Board that has a long period of continuity can fall trap to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. A new member may be elected and that long-standing dynamic is disrupted. We’ve all seen the eyerolls when the “newbie” ask questions. Embrace it! Fresh ideas and, perhaps inadvertently conflicting opinions, if presented in constructive ways and embraced with open minds, can lead to wonderful things for your Board and Association.
Dysfunctional Conflict – Excessive levels of conflict can, without a doubt, be disruptive and destructive. It will hinder your effectiveness, reduce productivity, decrease satisfaction and increase turnover of your Board. Most commonly it is simply attitudes that lead to conflict. A lack of leadership and unwillingness to collaborate will make opinions become gospel, tensions will then inevitably rise and the Board will become fractured. Here are a few things you can do to reduce this type of conflict buildup.
1.) Positive Assumptions – as hard as it may sometimes be, assume everyone joined the Board because they want to make the Association a great place. We know there are exceptions, but put positive thoughts first.
2.) Add Your Full Value – prepare for, show up at, and contribute to meetings. Meetings take a democratic process for a reason. Everyone has a voice and vote. Everyone is of value.
3.) Empower Others – be the one that enables and encourages others. Not everyone is good at the points mentioned above. Everyone is of value, so help bring that out.
So long as there are people coming together in groups, there will always be some level of conflict. Just remember that a low level of conflict within your Board is not all bad. Embrace the functional type and help rid the dysfunctional kind.