In my home community, a recent vote establishing a reserve for our roads had at least one of my neighbors seeing red. While the vast majority of owners in my HOA (including me) wanted to fund the reserve to ensure money would be available for future road repairs and maintenance, Susan saw no point in putting that much money away for a rainy day. She asked questions (repeatedly) and tried to convince others to vote down the question. Ultimately, the reserve vote passed despite Susan's many efforts to derail it. While she may have raised the blood pressure of some people, I saw the value in having Susan's voice heard. Many people serving on community association boards these days previously served on corporate boards or in leadership capacities in their professional careers. One of the first things leadership training establishes is that discordant voices in an organization can be extremely beneficial to growth and the ultimate success of that organization. Think of all the highly successful companies you know and ask if they achieved that success as a result of having a bunch of "yes men and women" around.
If differences of opinion can be healthy in the for-profit corporate environment why are they so shunned in the not-for-profit community association setting? Sometimes boards discount those voices because they don't like the message; other times it is because the messengers are, frankly, not very nice people. That being said, it remains important that boards try to separate the message from the messengers. Occasionally, those "dissidents" might be seeing something important that your board is missing.
In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team; A Leadership Fable, author Patrick Lencioni, reveals the five dysfunctions that can derail any team effort as:
- Absence of trust;
- Fear of conflict;
- Lack of commitment;
- Avoidance of accountability; and
- Inattention to results.
Isn't a volunteer board of directors really supposed to be a team effort? If you agree that it is then you must not keep those dissenting voices (whether they are emanating from the owners or from fellow board members) from being heard and you must trust that doing so will not weaken the community or your board in any way. Your board is required to make tough decisions even in the face of strong opposition.
Far too many community association boards become dysfunctional by not keeping conflict in the proper perspective. Conflict, if properly managed, can actually make your community stronger and more resilient in the long haul.