Community Association Management, Conflict, Real Estate

Conflict as Sport

Conflict

Is it possible that some people enjoy sowing seeds of discord, creating conflict and drama, or setting a “small brush fire” with partial truths, and then standing back while the fire takes hold? I submit that indeed there are. In my experience, some people need drama. If it is not happening; they will create it. What drives this type of behavior, and how is it manifested in community associations?

There has been a steady coarsening of the American culture, and we need not look much further than our local, and national elections to see how polarized our country is at this stage in our nation’s history. Community associations are microcosms of the larger outside political, social and cultural climate we are currently experiencing. There is an undefined mistrust of the board of directors, committees, management, neighbors, vendors, guests and even the delivery people!

There is, and will always be, a small percentage of the population inside and outside of community associations who are chronic complainers, malcontents and troublemakers. It’s a given; however, recently I have become aware of a new adaptation of agitator that seems to engage in conflict as sport, entertainment and amusement.

This new-to-me type of rabble-rouser automatically takes the opposite position on virtually any subject almost before it is completely uttered! There is an almost perceptible crouching,…tensing of the body as one is communicating a position. Before the last syllable is out of one’s mouth the other party is immediately dismissive and proceeds to outline the reason for rejecting the offer, solution or compromise often without any background information or relative experience on the issue! It is utterly fascinating. I am sure I am the only one who is experiencing this kind of exotic behavior. [Sigh].

I had just such an experience recently. The argument against my proposed solution to a problem was immediately discounted as too expensive and time-consuming, although I had not yet shared either the cost analysis or the completion timetable. I stood there in stunned disbelief; shaking my head trying to comprehend what was happening. As I looked at the other party, it became evident that this was a duel (no swords, or feather hats, mind you) of wills. I promptly surrendered. “The decisions are all up to the Board of Directors” I said. If I make a suggestion and it is declined, I simply make a note for the record and move on.

No bruised ego, no whining, no contest.

Their disappointment was palpable. What? No argument; no pushback (no sport)? Nope. My response was: “You win. Let’s talk again when you’re ready.”

Next.

Endeavor to persevere.

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Community Association Management, Real Estate

Before You Store. . . . .

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As the manager of a high-rise condominium association, I have frequent conversations with owners who complain about the limited storage available outside of their units. In some buildings, there is assigned storage, common area “open” storage (generally on a first come; first served basis) offering little or no security and, the mechanical closets, stairwells and on balconies which should be off-limits!

The owners who improperly store paint, flammables, clothes, cleaning supplies, food, linens, boxes, and other various and sundry items may create a risk liability for the other owners and the association.

In fairness, many owners have moved to a condominium from a single family residence, and parting with their treasured possessions is difficult. If they have been in their prior home for decades, it is even more difficult to identify what stays and what goes.

Why are we compelled to keep so much stuff? When did it become “a thing”? The concept of self-storage started around the late 1960’s and became popular in the 1970’s. Rather than being a temporary convenience, self-storage has become a place where we pay a fee to store our belongings often with no real plan of using them again. Why do we pay rent for our material possessions? It’s like paying for them over and over and…..well, you get the message.

I understand the dilemma. This blog is not to admonish you for storing your treasures. I merely want to provoke you to consider carefully what to store; before you store.

 

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Community Association Management, Real Estate

Press Your Pause Button

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It is effectively the (unofficial) end of summer. What is your current state of mind? It is likely that you are feeling overworked, overwhelmed and underappreciated. As managers, we work hard to achieve and maintain a high level of productivity, accessibility and accountability. If we have neglected to take time off to relax and recharge, we may be experiencing a greater sense of anxiety because we are nearing the end of the calendar year having neglected to take our earned time off….again. Is there nobility in skipping lunch, missing workouts, cancelling dates or worst of all; not taking any vacation time?

As we approach the last quarter of the year, perhaps we should consider pressing the pause button. What have you been putting off for a “better time”? Today is a great day to make a plan before the busy holiday season is upon us! Invest your time wisely with those who really matter to you. Have been making your work priorities more important than your family, faith and friendships? Wrong order.

Grab a calendar. Choose some dates and coordinate them with your loved ones. Make memories. Relax, reconnect and recharge. The work will be there when you return, and you will be better able to manage the tasks yet to come.

Endeavor to persevere.

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Community Association Management

Let’s Avoid Analysis Paralysis, Shall We?

16064489288_5221bd6ccc_bAnalysis paralysis occurs when we, as managers, are so afraid of making a mistake we over-analyze the options in lieu of executing a decision. As community association managers, we have to make dozens of decisions everyday from the moment we set foot on the property! Unfortunately, we also have to be right all of the time. Our choices have real consequences for owners, tenants, guests, staff, and vendors. For some managers, the weight of the responsibility renders them unable to “pull the trigger”, make a choice and own it!

Often times, there is an written agreement outlining the maximum spending threshold and bid process for major work performed on the property; however, there are hundreds of small decisions required to be made to resolve issues with staff, board members and owners. If a manager does not have the confidence of the board, or committee members, or if they are “micro-managed’ (yes, I said it), a manager may begin to frequently second guess themselves, and delay making a decision while seeking several opinions on the best course of action. The danger in delaying an action is that we risk causing further damage – which in turn, may make matters worse. The analysis paralysis becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our fears delay action; the delay causes further damage; and the result is that we begin to erode the board’s confidence in our ability. We are paid to identify problems, craft solutions and execute decisions.

Remember; we do not forfeit our humanity because we have accepted a highly responsible position. We must make the best decision based on our evaluation, education, experience, skills, training and the context of the current predicament. I encourage managers to not focus on the fear of disapproval or criticism (although, I fully understand the sentiment), but rather to focus on their accomplishments and victories over the course of their career. Simply try to do your best every day. The world will always be filled with naysayers and critics, just stay focused on what you do best.

Adversity reveals character. Endeavor to persevere.

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Community Association Management

No More “Yard-Sticking”

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In other words, stop comparing yourself and your career path to others! You define you. Everyone has seasons when they are on top of the mountain, or deep in the valley (and anywhere between the two). What may appear to be someone who has it all together may, in fact, be quite the opposite.

When we compare ourselves to others, we diminish our own accomplishments, and our ability to clearly see our path. Yard-sticking focuses on the other person; their personality, success, beauty, physique, spouse or partner, accomplishments, and yes; their “stuff”. Inevitably, we will begin to feel diminished in the process.

Remember who you wanted to be when you were little? What gifts and talents did you exhibit before someone told you that it would be better if you did X, Y, or Z instead? What activities did you enjoy freely and joyfully in elementary school? Art? History? Writing? Math? Drama? Music? Cartoons? Gym? Recess (remember recess)? Look inward; reconnect with your gifts, and you will stop comparing your life to another’s.

Endeavor to persevere.
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Community Association Management

Secure Restoration and Maintenance Vendor Contracts Before a Disaster

Help!

As property managers, we are the person who gets the call when there is water, smoke/fire and hazardous material damage or loss due to a disaster, calamity or accident. We need to know whom to call when these problems occur. It is a good idea to proactively contract with vendors who will help you mitigate the water and smoke damage and /or hazardous material like chemicals or blood. These emergencies cannot be handled by the regular maintenance and janitorial staff. It takes specialized knowledge and expertise to fix these problems. You may not have had to experience a monster storm, fire, flood or death in the course of your career (yet). Should you choose to make this a long-term career, you will. Whether you are an experienced manager, or a new manager; remain vigilant!

You may wish to schedule a meeting with a restoration service company like, ServPro or Service Master, to get on their list of communities to respond to should there be a widespread disaster as many people will be in line for service(s). Your calls will be returned first.

Roofing companies are also an important vendor to contract with. It is likely you already have a contract with a roofing company. Roof inspections, repair, and maintenance should be a routine line item in the community’s budget.  An added benefit is when there is a problem, you will get their quick response because you are a contracted client, and they prefer repeat business they can anticipate.

Identify local, private “junk” or “trash” haulers, and put their contact information in your file. You will need them as well. Do your best to only work with business that are insured and licensed (if applicable).

One more thing; remember to back-up any electronic files to the cloud or an external drive. Your paper copies may be destroyed in a flood or fire and you can easily recreate the files should you plan ahead. We all pray that these tips are never going to be used, but life is unpredictable and we have to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Endeavor to persevere…..

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Community Association Management, Property Maintenance, Real Estate

Today’s Enemy May Be Tomorrow’s Ally-Stay Neutral!

This is an important lesson for community manager’s to remember. You will occasionally be on the receiving end of a homeowner, guest or vendor’s anger. There will times when you will serve as the proverbial punching bag for their disappointment, failure, frustration or misunderstanding. They may hold you responsible for something they perceive as your fault. You will become the object of their discontent (you may be a proxy for the real person, or thing that is actual problem).

In these instances, stay frosty. Keep your cool! Let them vent (momentarily) and try to get to the root of the problem. Tell them that you hear them, and repeat what they have said to you so they hear their words parroted back to them. Lower your voice, tone, pace, and volume to reduce the “heat” in the conversation.

This method works well most of the time. Generally people just want to be heard and validated. Do your best to stay neutral and let it roll off like “water off a duck’s back”.

Don’t take it personally. Stay neutral. Do your job and keep it moving.

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