In a homeowners’ association (HOA), communication skills are key to success. For an HOA’s board of directors, communication efforts help shape the community and foster collaboration and transparency. One of the most essential skills needed to strengthen communication is good listening. Good listening allows the board to have a better perspective on the business of the association and to stay in touch with needs. By mastering this skill, board members are equipped to make informed decisions and fulfill their fiduciary duties. Follow these guidelines to become a better listener and, through that, a better community leader.
Why Listening is Important in HOAs
Effective communication has the power to drive the future of a community. Facilitating a positive and cooperative spirit, communication can create a pathway to improved partnerships, successful negotiations, and constructive decision-making. Part of being a good communicator includes being an active listener—someone who hears, understands, and acts on the wants and needs of the community they serve. When a board of directors is actively listening:
- Homeowners feel heard
- You promote transparency
- Teamwork improves
- Homeowners see the board cares
How to Become an Active Listener
In an HOA, quality communication can bring speedy solutions, minimize confusion, prevent gossip, and build trust. As a board member, when you don’t just hear the words spoken, but take the extra step to understand them, you can craft messages, notices, and information that resonate with the community. And connecting with community members makes it easier to shape and improve the association. When thinking about how to actively listen, look at the concept through these three categories:
- Cognitive: Active listeners pay attention and take the time to comprehend messages. Conversations aren’t just in one ear and out the other. Take notes during conversations, and always think of how you can directly respond to what someone is saying.
- Emotional: Active listeners understand emotions and react with appropriate emotions. This could mean showing concern for a resident’s maintenance issues or excitement when meeting a new neighbor.
- Behavioral: Active listeners express themselves with eye contact and verbal and nonverbal comprehension. Stay focused on the person speaking with eye contact and avoid distractions.
5 Ways to Listen to Homeowner Feedback Better
Being an active listener can improve your interpersonal skills and your relationship with community members, HOA vendors, fellow board members, and more. Because you care and are thoughtful, relationships become stronger and you can drive positive change for the association. To encourage homeowner feedback and cultivate an atmosphere for active listening, you should:
- Provide opportunities for communication.
Always provide a way for community members to speak up and get in contact with you—whether that’s by phone, email, or in person at a board meeting. Emphasize to residents that you want to hear from them. It not only shows that you value their thoughts and feedback, but are also focused on a collaborative approach to building a successful community.
- Ask questions.
The more you know, the better off you’ll be. When you ask questions about a situation, you’re able to gain information on the factors that may affect your community. Knowing the extra details allows you to find the most appropriate solution.
Make sure you’re asking the right questions. Open-ended questions invite discussion and idea sharing. Remember that your tone and body language should also be welcoming and helpful. Here are some general questions you might consider asking concerned residents:
- Can you describe what happened?
- How have you been impacted by this?
- What do you suggest we should do moving forward?
- What ideas do you have that would meet both our needs?
- Keep an open mind.
If you disagree with someone, you may not want to listen to them. However, listening helps form common ground and manage conflicts. Clear your mind of any preconceived notions, avoid interjecting, and take all discussions as ones that could benefit you and the community.
Removing biases allows you to be open to what others are saying, helping to avoid future miscommunication. As a board member, you must do what’s best for the community, not yourself or a group. Keeping an open mind and remaining neutral are major ethical standards that are crucial in fulfilling your duties as a board member.
Want to learn more about mitigating conflict in your community? Read our ebook, “6 Conflict Resolution Best Practices For HOA Board Members,” for ways to maintain a positive environment.
- Show empathy.
How you manage and respond to an issue is important. Be empathetic, and when talking to a resident, put yourself in their shoes. Take a step back from your own emotions and beliefs and try to see things from their perspective. Doing what you can to diffuse situations as much as possible can help bring the community together instead of apart.
- Don’t rush to find a resolution.
You don’t need to have the perfect response or an immediate solution for everything. Be honest about needing additional time to respond, if necessary. Identify a timeline of when you’ll reply with an answer or feedback. A patient approach gives you time to consider what’s been said and think of the best way to turn words into action.
Improving Listening Skills to Improve Communication
Improving your listening skills is a great way to strengthen your communication efforts as a board member. To ensure your board is optimizing all avenues of communication, read our FREE ebook, “8 Proven Communication Tools for HOA Board Members.” In it, you’ll learn about the most effective channels for communication in an HOA and how to use them, from board meetings and bulletin boards to community apps and websites. By knowing how to speak out and listen in, you’re well prepared to lead your community with confidence.