The success of any condominium community is in its ability to effectively communicate among all parties involved. The major concern heard at every Annual General Meeting is how can Management, the Board and the residents communicate better? How can the status of monthly maintenance items, major projects or emergency items that impact the residents be communicated more effectively?
I believe effective communication begins with the Management team to ensure that the information needed by residents is available and delivered in a timely manner. It is important that a phone call is returned with a phone call, an email with an email and a hand written note with a letter response. However, most importantly a prompt response to any enquiry should be received. The initial response may not provide the full answer, but will indicate their request has been received and will be answered shortly.
Communication does come in many forms but can be summarized as one-way communication or two-way communication.
One-way communication is when information is provided to the Board or residents without any response required. For condominiums this would include notices advising residents of upcoming projects or maintenance items and any social events for the building. This type of communication should provide all the necessary information to answer any possible questions that may arise from the notice.
With the advancement of technology, more and more condominiums are moving toward software systems that make the delivery of information more immediate and effective. Paper notices are becoming a thing of the past and these important notices are now being delivered by email or by the corporation’s software system. Interactive touch screens are being used in elevators and lobby areas to announce items and remove the unsightly paper notices taped or pinned to the lobby and elevator notice boards.
However, the same software solution may not work for all condominiums so it is best to discuss your needs and select the most effective solution for your building. A simple email distribution list may provide the results that all parties are looking for or you may require a full software system with a resident portal and website which would be more interactive for the residents.
Two-way communication is when two or more parties interact with one another to discuss or solve a problem. Without proper two-way communication the possibility of a message or request being misunderstood, causing frustration to all parties involved, can be quite high.
For effective two-way communication there are four key components that all parties should adhere to:
1. The party asking the question or stating the issue needs to be calm, clear and concise with the issue for it to be understood. If there is a language barrier it may be best to see if another staff member may be able to help or have the issue written down for clarity.
2. The other party must listen; let the individual tell you the whole story. If needed, take notes and write down any questions you may have. Do not interrupt the individual to ensure the full story can be communicated and they do not lose their train of thought.
3. Your chance to speak. Repeat the issue back as you understand it to ensure you have captured the concern accurately, ask any questions you may have and allow them to answer or clarify.
4. Lastly, respond with the answer or course of action you will take, ensuring that it is understood by the other party and provide them with the resolution and timelines in writing as well.
Using the steps above also works well for Board meetings to clarify an action item or the direction in which the Board wishes to take on a particular item. Understanding clear direction will allow you to confidently move forward with the item in an efficient manner.
An effective communicator always remains calm and in control, even during a heated conversation. An individual’s frustration is generally not with the individual they are speaking with but with the situation at hand. Understanding this and working with the individual to explain the circumstances and come to a resolution, even one that they may not agree with due to their responsibilities as a condominium owner, is always the end goal.