A good [or great] strata meeting is about much more than just the rules …
Knowing and following the rules for running a strata meeting is just table stakes in the meeting and decision game as they’re just the processes and not the objective of a meeting. Rather, good strata meetings need smart preparation, soft skills, and subtle techniques. So here are some ideas about those things …
All strata buildings have meetings as it is the primary way they make decisions about small or big things, routine or unusual events, and, easy or hard issues.
Plus, there are a lot of complex and detailed rules in the strata laws about how strata meetings should be convened, notified, and held as well as how strata owners should vote and how decisions can be made at those meetings.
So, it’s not surprising that most strata stakeholders’ attention is focused on complying with the rules so that strata meetings and decisions made at them are valid. Whilst that’s admirable and necessary it’s not really enough. Strata stakeholders need and deserve better. And, it’s only reasonable to expect the people in charge of running strata meetings to know more and do more in relation to those meetings and decisions than just to be able to follow the rules [especially if they’re being paid].
After all, if your Uber driver kept bunny hopping, swerving, braking late, and making erratic lane changes but defended their driving by saying that they followed the road rules, it’s unlikely you’d be happy with that.
Running great meetings by making use of talent, time & ideas
Running a great meeting starts with understanding that meetings are not in themselves the destination but the vehicle for reaching other strategic objectives. That’s the way meeting facilitators in business, personal and diplomatic forums approach meetings.
That concept applies equally to the management of strata buildings and their meetings.
So, I encourage you to incorporate the following principles and ideas into your strata meetings as well as applying the rules to those initiatives so they are compliant.
Managing successful meetings on behalf of a strata building requires a good mix of planning, preparation, and facilitation skills. Meetings should aim to energise and empower strata owners to tackle difficult problems, balance competing interests, and get the required works done.
By making better use of the collective resources, ideas, and talents of your strata building’s stakeholders, your strata meetings are guaranteed to be more productive: resulting in more efficient and cohesive strata buildings.
The three key facets of a productive meeting are [in my view]:
- content and meeting structure,
- meeting methodologies, and
- interpersonal relations.
Deficiencies in any of these elements can prove destructive to the ultimate goal of uniting strata owners behind the decisions that are made for their strata building.
PRE MEETING STUFF: The agenda, notice, and materials
A well thought out and prepared meeting agenda will ensure that strata meetings cover the key issues and core concerns of the strata owners.
In general terms, strata meeting agendas should list all topics proposed for discussion at the meeting, announce discussion leaders and speakers, allocate the expected duration for each topic area and indicate expected [or even recommended] outcomes and/or actions.
Strata owners’ decisions in a meeting will only be as good as the information they receive. So, doing this gives meeting participants the opportunity to adequately prepare for and remain focussed during all discussions.
So, when preparing for your strata meeting, you should also consider doing one or more of the following things.
- Prepare the agenda well in advance.
- Include a sentence or two that differentiates each agenda item and explains why it is being discussed.
- Prioritise the agenda items as the meeting business order is not fixed and should make sense.
- Ensure that the agenda only covers a limited number of topics in a limited amount of time to avoid strata owner exhaustion and consequent negative outcomes.
- Make sure to indicate benchmark times against each topic area to help maintain momentum during the meeting.
- Provide appropriate background information that is relevant to each issue to be discussed at your strata meeting to strata owners so they can more easily understand the issue/s.
- Make sure a comprehensive information package is separately available for strata owners if they want it [but not automatically supplied] that includes relevant minutes of the previous meeting and any other relevant reports and documents relating to the issues being considered at the meeting.
- The agenda and a meeting package should be circulated at least 14 days before the meeting [or longer if the strata laws require that]. Allowing your strata owners sufficient time to evaluate the items and materials prior to the meeting should result in greater consensus and more informed decisions on the relevant issues.
- Also, ensure that your discussion leaders and speakers [such as committee members, managers, advisors, and consultants] are properly briefed prior to the strata meeting. Ask contributors to be informative, but succinct. Advise them that they must stick to the point and the time allocated to the item.
- Contributors should give quick status reports of various projects, as well as allowing time for follow-up questions from participants. The scheme’s treasurer should also be prepared to give a brief report about the financial position including any trends or concerns, as well as reviewing the proposed budget for the proceeding annual year.
METHODOLOGIES: Duration, tempo, and style
Everything from the basic details of your strata meeting to the methods you use during the strata meeting can either help or hinder the efficiency and general mood and, as result, the outcomes of the meeting.
Long and drawn-out strata meetings have a tendency to frustrate most meeting goers [and especially strata owners]. Remember that everyones’ time is in short supply. So, it is essential that your strata meetings run as efficiently as possible.
So, when running your strata meeting, you should also consider doing one or more of the following things.
- Once the strata meeting begins, follow the agenda faithfully. The agenda is your and everyone else’s meeting guide.
- Don’t allow the strata meeting to get out of hand. Discuss an issue for the time allocated to it, vote on it, then move on.
- Do not allow the strata meeting to get so behind time that important topics get ‘passed on’ for discussion at the next meeting.
- Strata meetings should ideally last no longer than 1 to 1½ hours. Anything more than this can compromise the outcomes of the decisions made as strata owners begin to rush, agree for the sake of agreeing, or just stop listening altogether.
- Your methods of discussion, problem-solving, and decision-making should be agreed upon at the commencement of the strata meeting [or at least clarified to the meeting participants]. So once an issue has been covered and a general decision has taken place, the outcome/s can be agreed and documented and the meeting can move on.
- Control the strata meeting and its speakers. Members should only speak when recognised by the chair. This not only ensures everyone gets a voice, but it will also maintain the meeting momentum.
- Also, think about the frequency of your strata meetings. For instance, some strata stakeholders believe that committee meetings should be held monthly or bimonthly. This is not true. Unless the strata buildings governing documents or strata laws dictate meeting frequency, strata meetings should only be held when needed. Most strata buildings can be just as effective by meeting only when legislatively required.
- Major strata meetings like those concerned with budgets, AGMs, special meetings, and the approval of major contracts can be scheduled well in advance.
- Consider establishing a strata meeting schedule at the beginning of each year or even over more than 1 year and inform the strata owners of those dates or date ranges.
INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS: Mood, mediation, and distractions
At strata meetings, a balance must be found between meeting the needs of the individual strata owners as well as those of the whole meeting group.
Running an efficient, well-balanced strata meeting with open and frank discussions about sometimes-sensitive topics is not easy. Even for someone with practiced facilitation skills, handling the inevitable personality clashes and the differing needs and desires of those strata owners in attendance can be difficult.
Great potential benefits can be lost if some strata owners are allowed to monopolise the discussions, while other strata owners’ contributions are rarely heard. Plus, the excluded strata owners quickly become disaffected.
So, at an interpersonal level when running for your strata meeting, you should also consider doing one or more of the following things.
- The strata meeting chairperson must maintain control at all times in a soft but authoritative way.
- If control cannot be maintained, the manager [or the chairperson, if the manager is chairing] must step in to independently restore order.
- Make sure that all meeting participants feel that there is room for their views and ideas.
- Deal with all issues at hand in a non-confrontational matter. This will promote an open, positive and energised meeting.
- Do not allow any one person to dominate discussions at the meeting.
- And certainly, do not tolerate inappropriate behaviour by any strata owner or other meeting participant.
- The strata committee’s chemistry is also vitally important and can influence the direction and outcomes of your strata meetings. If it’s good it should be visibly demonstrated at strata meetings so strata owners become confident in their strata committee.
- Similarly, care should be paid to the selection of strata committee members to the extent that is possible. After all, the strata committee is responsible for the business of the scheme. The effectiveness of the executive is determined largely by how carefully volunteers are recruited. The executive should be a blend of individuals with talent, tolerance, and experience. Try to find the best candidates possible and always be on the lookout for those owners with the right qualities.
- The strata manager’s ability is also vitally important and can influence their ability to effectively advise, guide, and lead the strata owners. So, strata managers should act in ways that enhance their standing with strata owners at strata meetings. And, they should definitely not act in ways that reflect poorly on them.
- And, finally, strata owners who take the time to participate in strata meetings should be thanked for that effort and told that it is valuable and appreciated. Not all strata owners bother to do so and it’s surprising how well even the most banal or simple appreciation is received.
Once we move beyond just running a legal compliant stratum meeting to running a good [or even great] strata meeting, we need to apply hard and soft skills before and during the meeting.
It’s not easy and it can take time, experience [and few mistakes] to get better, good, or even masterful at running a strata meeting. But, believe me, it’s worth it.
But, it’s not always like trying to get a bunch of cats interested in what you’ve got to say even if it’s in their best interests.
Imagine the strata owners clapping in appreciation at the end of a well-run strata meeting. Sounds unlikely … well, I’ve seen it happen, more than once.