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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are Boards Functional or Dysfunctional??

I have recently read to blogs that depict the view of how boards operate that couldn’t be more opposite.  Which typifies the way boards generally operate? The answer is that Board operation is as diverse as the people that make up any community.  My observation of local boards operate is that they generally reflect the tone of the community in which they exist.  For Howard County that generally means civil discussion by rational residents who do really want to see our community work well.  And for the most part that is what we have.  After all isn’t the Library’s effort to “Choose Civility” a good fit for our community.  After the past few months couldn’t Congress use a little “civility?”  So what follows is a guest blog by Midnight Ryder and a repost of a blog that was written by Brian Dunn from his blog Columbia 2.0

Mr. Rogers Goes Rogue, by Midnight Ryder

Last week, Doug Miller, Columbia Flier’s Opinion Editor, produced a convincing argument for electing Board of Education members by district. While he suggests this process may improve the validity of diversity in fair representation, his piece has given cause to reflect on the concept of fair representation at work. Time and again, when those who have been elected are “…sent specifically by the people…to speak for their interests,” this entrusted representation often weakens and wanes with time…

Going one step further, what happens when the power of election transforms just and reasonable people into unrecognizable persons once elected? Enter the sweater wearing Mr. Rogers who swaps into Zorro with a swig of elected juice and swirl of a cape. Does power corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely with stature?

What is the magic elixir that has ways of transforming community unknowns into secure autocrats time and again? Yet, not everyone is affected similarly. My Dad defied this mode. He became more of someone greater for his role as opposed to more of something greater for himself, when elected Boro Finance Commissioner, while his counterparts acted in independent sitcoms. The situation is not exclusive to the extenuating issues of Board of Education Members or Boro Commissioners, personality disorder transfer relates heavily to Homeowner Association Officers (HOA’s).

Strong evidence exists that, on becoming an officer, unearthed fragments of ego excavate to the surface. Time and again, the change marvel occurs as Mr. Rogers transforms into say a daunting T-Rex. One day you are both engaged in a vibrant cause and pause to differing perspectives; the next day your differing perspective is dismissed, denigrated or devoured. Suddenly you are at cross hairs wondering what port listening and representation departed from and how the Jurassic Park replacements arrived. Not to say dinos had alter ego issues, but on the other hand T-Rex didn’t hesitate to trounce Mr. Platypus. Here, size and stature matters.

One long floated theory on personality transfer relates to the raw scarcity of interest in assuming the challenges of serving. So for those who decide to engage this may be viewed as opportunity for a guaranteed voice with option to invoke and control matters, perhaps where little flourished personally or have diminished with time. Suddenly it’s kind of like owning your own Street Car, on the purple line named Desire.

There is a huge gap between the protracted roads to political attainment to that of an HOA officer. The path from obscurity to a seat at the table can be casually suggested en route to the recycling bins or secured by chance at a meeting in jig time. The long road to political ascendance brings home the merits of learned discourse vs. skipping the learning curve as board member. Unfortunately, community relationship building skills are slow to cultivate in juxtaposition to self-worth enhancement at this stage.

Whether the Board source is your own HOA, at the Village level or elsewhere, why do boards even feel the slightest need to lead with dismissive and/or bully treatment when residents earnestly arrive in search of answers? Yes, this is not always the case, members and stakeholders do coalesce. There are significant numbers of caring, compassionate, deeply vested members doing amazing work for the greater whole with little recognition for their investment. Yet good takes a back seat when the ideal of control sides with ego; all too often leaving dominating conjecture to govern the table or polarize a meeting. On the other hand, what of Board members who attend and scarcely engage like one of three “hear no, see no, do no evil” iconic figurines? Along the way, I’ve been witness to Roberts Rules loosely invoked to stridently imposed; even re-invented. By-laws of the same and to shouting, fist pounding, insult hurling mechanics. Should universal training be mandated for all boards? I’ve heard tell a Board member hotly suggest if one did not like what he/she was doing to vote him/her out. Neigh impossible when entrenchment takes long walks in concert with lack of position interest.

There are no clear answers as to what turns reasonable neighborly folk into unfamiliar beings once the chair becomes filled and elixir is consumed. This brings to mind Prince Hamlet’s dilemma, when faced with contemplating answers on life and death issues he cannot resolve, and concludes "Therein lies the rub."  No potion. No cape. Just wonder.
The tick list is worthy of debate. Bring on your tales from the crypt or ventures from your own Jurassic Park. We are listening. Rub Away!

Now for the other view of Boards- Brian Dunn

I am in the second of a 2 year term on The Kings Contrivance Village Board, and I love it. It feels good to know that in a very small way, I am giving back to my community and striving to make it better. In the time I’ve served, we’ve accomplished a lot and I’ve met some amazing people that have given me a new perspective on what it means to lead.
Take my fellow board members, for example. Week after week, they all show up to listen to the concerns of the community and vote on the measures that come before us. If you were to go back and look at the minutes, you’d see that most of the time we had a full board sitting at the table, which is remarkable. Sure, there were times when someone was sick or couldn’t make it for some reason, but that was rare. Most of the time, no matter what else we all had going on in our personal lives, we all made it to the meeting and tackled the issues at hand. Commitment.
Of course, none of our efforts would be possible if not for the wonderful staff we have in Kings Contrivance. They work tirelessly to make our village run smoothly. They are the first contact for our residents when they have a concern, and they always conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner. A lot of what they do is behind the scenes, but somehow I think they are just fine with that. Dedication.
I also have a lot of respect for the residents who come to us to voice their concerns. They care deeply about their community, and without them it would be impossible to address all the important issues we face. Engagement.
And last, but certainly not least, I learned a tremendous amount from our local elected officials, who always make it a point to attend as many of our meetings as they can. When you consider the amount of meetings they have to endure, it’s awesome to know that they stay on top of what’s going on in their village and keep us abreast of the hot topics they are dealing with. Effective Communication.
Yes, this past year has taught me a lot about leadership qualities, and it made me realize that we have many, many great leaders here in Howard County. In fact, we have so many that I plan to write about some of them on this blog in the coming months. So stay tuned for an announcement on our first profile soon!


Anonymous said...

Interesting points of view here. The first writer writes of negative experiences and solicits more war stories along the same line. The second writer is having a good experience and is letting us know how rewarding service can be. Don't know that I would share any negative experiences I have had on a public forum. Differences are differences, and once the grumbling is over and the issue settled, it's learn your lesson, then forgive and move on. After all, we have to continue to live and work together. I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Dunn.

MidnightRyder said...

Dysfunctional boards are more common than we like to accept! So Brian's experience is unique rather than endemic to the process.Lucky Brian.

Google produced ten + pages on dysfunctional boards. On the first five pages alone there were 35 different articles and non profit sites; etc.
They ran the gamut from the Association Law Blogs: Top Ten Signs of a Dysfunctional Board;
Dysfunctional Boards - Symptoms and Curees;
8 Signs Your Community Association Board Of Directors Is Dysfunctional; Ten Things That Scream Dysfunctional Nonprofit Boards;
Dealing with dysfunctional boards « Healthcare Governance Review and my favorite: Dysfunctional Boards Pt 1, by