You’ve been elected to sit on your condo’s board of directors. Perhaps this is your first term, or you’ve been re-elected to your condo’s board over several terms. Ideally, you already possess well-defined hard skills that may include, for example, accounting, strategic planning, marketing, computer programming, or finance. It’s because of these hard skills that you feel you can contribute to your board and help run the condo corporation.
Mandatory CAO director training
Training and ongoing education are integral components of being a director. The Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) requires mandatory director training be completed within six months of appointment or election to a director position. If a director is re-elected to the board, as long as the training was taken within 7 years of the election or appointment, the CAO director training does not have to be taken again. The CAO’s foundational training modules give directors “a general understanding of their obligations, establish best practices for good governance and foster a positive community culture.”
The CAO is also offering Advanced Optional Director Training. This training can only be completed following the completion of the foundational director training modules. There are 6 modules as follows:
- Condominium Governance
- Emergency Planning & Preparedness
- Issues Management
- Overseeing Condominium Managers
So, hard skills – check. CAO training – check. There is another skills aspect, sometimes downplayed, to being an effective director. How do your soft skills measure up?
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are often referred to as people skills – in other words, soft skills are the ability to engage, motivate and interact successfully with fellow board members as well as unit owners, property management and trades. As a director of a condo board, you are one of a select group of people who are the voice for ensuring a positive living experience for all unit owners, tenants and guests. Soft skills are no less valuable than hard skills. In fact, in today’s intricate condominium communities they may be equal to or more important than hard skills. A Forbes.com article by contributor, Naz Beheshti, states, “There is an ongoing debate about the relative importance of soft and hard skills that imply a competition between the two. However, they are both necessary and complementary to one another.”
Here are five soft skills that help make a good condo director.
Leadership – approachable, accessible, compassionate, always learning (especially the Condominium Act and changes to regulations, new technologies, attending conferences and seminars), sees the big picture
Open-minded – sense of curiosity, inclusive, non-judgmental, receptive
Emotional intelligence – motivation, empathy, self-aware, views the glass half full
Communication – good listener, empathy, patience
Attention to detail – directors should possess critical thinking, organization, time management
How do soft skills make you a better director?
There are plenty of examples in a condominium corporation setting where intuitive soft skills are required. Here are two examples.
Scenario #1 – Elder care for unit owner
Joyce (not her real name) has been a condo unit owner for more than 20 years. She has always been chatty and active. Lately, neighbours have noticed there has been a decline in her memory and function. She seems withdrawn. On occasion she has locked herself out of her unit and left the water running causing minor damage to the unit below. Condo management reached out to Joyce’s family to relay these issues. They discussed that perhaps independent living is no longer suitable. Situations such as these are becoming more commonplace and require an empathetic, patient response. Safety of all residents is paramount. Directors must display leadership skills as they weigh the rights of all unit owners.
Scenario #2 – Conflict resolution
Not every unit owner appreciates the condo corporation’s rules. Provisions in the Declaration, By-laws and Rules are in place for the good of the entire community. After a verbal warning, management has written a letter to a unit owner enforcing a parking rule. This causes the unit owner to behave badly, pushing the boundaries and re-offending. When considering next steps, directors (and managers) should try to avoid escalation by finding common ground with the resident. Listen to their concerns without judging. Show empathy by expressing understanding. Now is not the time to be dismissive. As a director you should understand your corporation’s governing documentation, be patient and explain calmly why rules are required and enforced for all owners and residents equally. Outline the value of achieving a resolution to avoid CAT proceedings, mediation, arbitration or legal action.
Remember, it’s not a competition between hard skills and soft skills. A good director will possess a combination of both. A great director will recognize when their soft skills need improvement and will work on upgrading them frequently.