So you’re the chair of a body corporate or strata committee, meaning congratulations are in order. But now the hard work begins.
Perhaps you have oodles of experience and confidence up your sleeve already. Or maybe you feel like you’re desperately doing frantic doggy paddle at the deep end. Either way, you’re going to have to run some mega committee meetings.
Topics will be controversial, contentious and important. Voices may be raised, fists may thump tables, opinions will differ wildly, and passions may be inspired. But as chair, you need to captain this ship like a 40-year veteran of the high seas.
Over rough seas and smooth, resolutions must be crystal clear, decisions must be cool, swift and informed, an air of commanding respect must be maintained and – perhaps most important of all – things simply need to get done.
Sound tricky? Here’s how to get it done:
- Be ready and start on time
- Get others ready
- Set the agenda
- Grip the wheel
- Idealise consensus
- Encourage participation
- No cookie cutter approach
- The final word: Know your stuff
1. Be ready and start on time
Others may be rocking up to the meeting with a blank sheet of paper, but you absolutely cannot. Your preparation began long ago, when you made every effort to know exactly what topics and motions will be discussed and resolved.
It may seem like a minor point, but starting on time is absolutely critical. It means latecomers will get an immediate signal that you mean business, while those on time will appreciate that you absolutely respect their other commitments.
2. Get others ready
An effective chairman will also bring everyone else up to speed with the information they need. This is done so that time is not blown on lengthy explanations, and fresh opinions do not become sticking points that a little more thinking time would have taken care of.
3. Set the agenda
One of the ways to prepare the room is to circulate the agenda ahead of the legal time. Think of that meeting agenda like a road map, because even if you know where you’re going before you embark on a journey, staying on track can be the most difficult part of the ride.
Keep it simple. Remember, all the agenda needs to be is a succinct list of what is going to be addressed, in order of priority and with a rough allocation of time. This is to ensure the meeting doesn’t unreasonably blow out by getting stuck on a topic that is eating into time that other important topics also require.
4. Grip the wheel
Like a racing driver keeps a tight grip on that steering wheel, it’s your job to keep this powerful beast under control.
And just like a racing driver will manhandle the wheel at times, that means the effective strata committee chair will also know how to pull a misbehaving rear-end back on track.
The body corporate chair also doubles as a bit of a debate moderator, ensuring every voice that needs and wants to be heard is not dominated by the most assertive or vociferous.
5. Idealise consensus
Never forget, you’re there to ensure this meeting gets to its destination. And that destination can only be reached with decisive action and consensus.
That means every committee member needs to understand that they’re not there for themselves, they’re there for the best interest of the body corporate or owners corporation. If controlled, robust discussion doesn’t get you there, then formal votes with majority rules become the order of the day – with democracy the unchallengeable King.
6. Encourage participation
You’re aiming to be the champion of the strata committee meeting, but not everyone is so bold. The less bold of those on the table, though, can often have crucial opinions that absolutely must be heard, so ask questions, encourage participation, and foster an environment that will entice rather than dissuade the quieter thinkers from adding their two cents.
7. No cookie cutter approach
While hard and fast rules can speed you through the agenda and set out what is acceptable and what is not, sometimes it’s a little flexibility rather than ‘one size fits all’ that really makes for the most effective strata meeting.
It’s therefore crucial to recognise that when one strategy is not working, you switch to another that has a better chance of success. Charles Darwin said that it’s not always the strongest species that survives, but the one that is most responsive to change – and this absolutely applies to the humble strata meeting!
Effective Strata Meeting | The final word: Know your stuff
The easiest way to ensure everyone around you respects you as chair is to know more than them. That doesn’t mean you’re arrogant and haughty, but it does mean you really know your stuff. The strata regulations are tricky enough, but we’re also talking about those curve-ball questions and issues that require an ideal balance of knowledge, confidence, humility and delegation.
It will all come with experience, but until then, humble yourself by assuming that even though you’re chair, you could be about to be embarrassed by committee members who’ve been there, done that and read what you haven’t. It will be just the fuel you need to up your game and be the very best strata committee chair you can be.
Strata or body corporate meetings may not be a day at the races, but they are a crucial entity that will mean the properties we all care about are run and looked after as well as humanly possible. God Speed, Captain!