Being a community association manager goes beyond carrying out the policies of the board and overseeing daily operations. It means interacting with board members and residents who have a diverse set of opinions, making communication a crucial part of any respectable manager’s skillset.
T. Peter Kristian, CMCA, LSM, PCAM, general manager of Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners’ Association in Hilton Head, S.C., and a CAI past president, has learned to address different opinions and make himself open and approachable to residents in his more than 35-year career as a community manager.
“I do a community meeting every other month … and I basically give (residents and board members) a report of what’s going on in the community and allow them to ask any questions,” says Kristian. “I think it’s that type of open communication that they feel comfortable with.”
Before he became a community manager, Kristian was a high school teacher and, later, a special education teacher. He says the techniques he learned while teaching children and teenagers have proven useful in interactions with board members and residents.
The best way to approach dissenting residents when disagreements inevitably arise is to listen to them and remain composed even if tempers flare up, says Kristian.
“You have to be careful not to take the bait and (let) someone get under your skin. No matter how divisive someone may seem to be, you are the professional, and you need to be nice,” he emphasizes. “Even though they’re disagreeing with you and you may disagree with them, you listen to their side.”
It’s also crucial for a community manager to have a good relationship with the association’s board. This means listening to the board empathetically and providing them with good information and options to steer them toward doing what’s best for the entire community, “not just the 1% who may be bending their ear on a particular topic,” he notes.
Kristian advises, however, that community managers know the responsibilities of their role and be mindful that the board decides how the community should look, how it should be run, and how much money should be spent.
“It is the board that makes policy and it is the manager who carries it out. You are there to give them professional advice, but remember that it’s their community,” he stresses.
This may seem like a lot for those who are new to the community association management profession, but Kristian says he’s had many mentors throughout his career that he looks to for guidance. He recommends that new community managers find mentorship, ask questions, pursue continuing education, and attend professional workshops.