Why Body Corporate meetings can go wrong.
March 9, 2022
The dynamic of a Body Corporate meeting can vary greatly depending on the members present. If you have ever left a meeting wondering what just happened, you might enjoy this article.
Forget a path with no end, is there even a path?
Have you ever been in a meeting that seems to float around without ever getting anywhere? Let alone a string of meetings where the same items are discussed again and again without any action being taken. This can happen all too often in a body corporate without clear direction. Bodies Corporate can become so reactive that we forget to stop and ask “Where are we going? What are our goals this year?”.
Having clearly defined goals sets a purpose for meetings, it gives a committee framework and owners an understanding as to the intentions of the body corporate for the year. Lacking goals can lead to dissatisfaction from all parties: the committee, the owners, and the body corporate manager.
My recommendation is to make the time at the beginning of each year to set out clear goals (maintenance, improvements, investments, cash flow) that the body corporate intends to achieve. Make sure to check in on these goals at each meeting. If you complete them, great! Set more goals! If you don’t, re-evaluate what is stopping you. Maybe it’s one of the next few points.
Oh Captain my Captain!
A lack of leadership can leave a body corporate to flounder. Meetings are long but nothing gets achieved. It can be scary to take a leadership role, or you might not want the extra responsibility. That’s fine, but there needs to be a leader. Someone needs to drive. It can be the chairperson, but then I’ve met many a chairperson who are happy to play second fiddle to a motivated treasurer or secretary. It could be your body corporate manager.
This person has to be ready and willing to direct meetings, including keeping people in line (we can’t all stop to chat about our newest grandbaby or gossip about the people in unit 3). Sometimes we need a gadfly rather than a soft touch. Often your body corporate manager will be more than prepared to take this role for new or unsure committees. However, as a service provider, they still need clear instruction and input from committee members and owners. There may also be a cost involved in asking them to drive body corporate goals and actions.
What if the committee has a leader who can’t lead, but you can? Nominate to be on the committee. Participate. Be involved.
Who are you and what are you doing here?
Another hinderance to a successful body corporate meeting is a lack of understanding of participants roles and responsibilities.
Some are legislated, like the chairperson who is required to open and close meeting, and at a general meeting declare the outcome of resolutions or motions out of order. Other positions are contracted, like the body corporate manager, whose duties often (but not always) include minute taking for the meeting.
While caretakers (building managers, onsite managers, whatever you want to call them) will often have a contractual provision to obtain quotes for the maintenance of common property; often committees will ask the body corporate manager to do this duty. While a BCM can obtain quotes for maintenance, it is often an additional service that will be charged to the body corporate. This can breed discontent as the meeting failed to understand the roles of each party involved.
Waffle House doesn’t have a monopoly on waffles
We all know someone like this, be they a committee member, owner, or even a professional like a body corporate manager. Why say something in 5 words that can be said in 500 right? We have to remember that in the forum of body corporate meetings we need to be concise in our submissions, information and replies. To paraphrase T.P Koehler in “Practical guide to effective written communication” (2001), if our audience fails to understand our message, we fail in our attempt to communicate. If you are unsure of your message, or you know you tend to carry on beyond the point, the best recommendation is to make notes. Define what the point of your submission (what is your goal / what is the outcome you want to achieve); a brief on the steps required to achieve that goal (dot points, leave the lengthy details for a written plan); and any necessary information needed to achieve that goal (like cost). If people require clarification, they will ask questions (concise questions) to allow you to elaborate further.
Am I the Drama?
What is your intention at this meeting? If it’s just to air your grievances without allowing for any response, or even despite a response that may have been provided to you earlier; you might be the drama.
Conflict is often unavoidable when relative strangers live in close proximity but being part of a body corporate and attending body corporate meetings, means you often have to put conflicts and disagreements aside and make decisions in the best interests of everybody. And yes, sometimes that means setting aside your preferred choice or dispute.
I have a long standing saying that I like to present to new committees when they first encounter the ‘drama’ in their body corporate: “There’s a crazy person in every building; and if you don’t know who that person is, it’s you.”
While it always gets a laugh, it does make people consider their actions and reactions in relation to their neighbours. In a body corporate meeting we are not restrained by professionalism or mutual respect that might stop us from speaking our minds at a work meeting. This lack of framework can lead people to do or say things that they would not do in a professional setting.
I always encourage my committee members and owners to set aside the personal and walk into body corporate meetings in the same way you would walk into a work meeting.
At the end of the day, it should be the intent of a committee to arrive at constructive, practical outcomes and build as harmonious an environment as possible. It would be my recommendation to review your current meeting outcomes with this in mind and seek guidance on how to better improve your meeting structure if you are not getting the results that your strata community requires.