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PODCAST - AUDIO VERSION
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An interview with Gord Sheppard the author of the How To Create Awesome Meetings book, where he shares how to eliminate poor time management, arguments during your board meetings, how to become a better meeting facilitator, how to create effective agendas, and more! Meaning, shorter more effective condo board meetings where things get done!
Gord is on a mission to create awesome meetings for you and your organization. During his 25 years of experience, Gord has facilitated, run and participated in more than 2000 meetings!
He is a Professional Speaker, Meeting Facilitator, Consultant and Trainer who combines a Masters Degree in Business Administration with a Bachelors Degree in Drama to deliver a unique, people-centred approach that will help you make your next meeting more productive.
And the best news of all, he decided to share all this information with you!
Gord's 10 steps to AWESOME meetings
Rafal Dyrda: Welcome to the first ever live interview on the Condo Web Show. The place where we bring industry experts to answer your questions. On today's episode, I will be interviewing Gord Sheppard, the author of the How to Create Awesome Meetings book where he will share how to eliminate poor time management, arguments during board meetings, how to become a better meeting facilitator, how to create an effective agenda, and more. Meaning, shorter, more effective board meetings where things get done.
You see, Gord is on a mission to create awesome meetings for you and your organization. Learning has 25 years of experience, Gord has facilitated, run, and participated in more than 2,000 meetings. He's a professional speaker, meeting facilitator, consultant, and a trainer who combines a masters degree in business administration with a bachelors degree in drama to deliver a unique, people-centered approach that will help you make your next meeting more productive. The best news of it all, he decided to share all these information with you. So, make sure you stay until the end of the interview because at the end, we will be doing a draw where you will be able to win a free copy of his book. So pay attention.
Gord Sheppard: Can you imagine what happens for your organization? It doesn't matter if you're in a small business, a larger organization, and then ultimately you'll serve your customers at a higher level, and I can honestly say this ... I'll look right in the camera and say this, I am literally changing the world one meeting at a time.
RD: You know what Gord, I'm super excited. As funny as it sounds because I attend a lot of meetings. I'm part of different associations in the industry. I've owned businesses, as I mentioned, and meetings are ... great meetings are good to go to. Crappy meetings, I just dread attending them because nothing gets done.
You Must consider the cost of meetings
GS: You and everybody else. I mean and there's a lot of people now because I speak all over Alberta on this topic to different groups and different things. You mentioned association meetings. They get tuned up a little bit, the small business guys. So much of what we do in meetings is not intentional. We're allowing the loud mouth to talk too much. We're a business owner and we're not looking at the opportunity cost. We think we need to be there for whatever reason and suddenly we're losing time. Well if you're losing time, you're losing money and in a business owner's case if you're a nonprofit setting you're going to be not serving the end user in the best way. The meeting is really where it all comes together. The leadership isn't there, the strategy should be involved and all the good technical things. So again you got me here, let's let her rip.
RD: How long have you been doing this for?
GS: I've been doing this now in a concentrated way for about five years. So facilitating meetings and allowing the consulting part to then reinforce what's going on. I wrote the book in 2015 so that was sort of a great thing to get my thoughts down and have these ten steps. And what's crazy now is the steps work. I just know it, I apply it when I go into teaching situations. The workshops that I'm delivering when people get the 10 steps, and I'm glad you brought a pen and a paper. Write tons of notes. I could be talking to 150 people, 50 people, four people, it doesn't matter. They're really getting a lot out of this and I'm going to be really revealing those 10 steps for everybody here today.
RD: And those steps are covered in your book.
RD: Which is a great read. It's not a very long read. It's straight to the point with some great ideas, some great points and examples. And I think anybody that's running a meeting should read this. So you've been doing this for five years, over 2,000 meetings. Tell me the most challenging meeting you have ever facilitated.
The most challenging meeting
GS: It's so funny because I think we could all pick from a handful of those ones. And when I think about challenges in meetings it often comes when people aren't self aware. So they've come together in a meeting situation and I can think of one where, pick one where cell phones were an issue. And I'll start the meeting and say kind of what are the ground rules for the meeting that we're having right now. And I'll just say immediately what are we going to do with cell phones? Because it's not actually even about cell phones, it's actually about getting a feel for the room about who's going to do what.
A lot of people just sort of put them away. Well there's a couple people in this one meeting that wanted to argue about not having cell phones. And it was a five hour meeting. And I'm being brought in and I'm being paid to do the meeting. I'm like, are you kidding? You're going to pay a guy to come in here, and you have to have this thing where you're not going to be together in the situation? So I think that was one of the toughest ones where I had to navigate gently and in fact I gave permission. I was so surprised because I think again, meetings if you're getting together I didn't get together to watch you read your texts right? And we get into this jam a lot these days.
But again sometimes there's lots of reasons why people are reading their texts and why they're not engaged and we're going to jump into that here today. Yeah.
How to deal with attendees that are disrespectful at the meeting
RD: And you know what? I'm happy that you brought up cell phones at meetings because whenever I go to a meeting and I find people on a cell phone it shows me that they're not respectful to anybody at the table and to themselves, right? Because they're wasting their own time. So you respect others but you also have to respect yourself.
GS: Well here's the thought in their head. They don't want to be there either. So now why is it such a big deal to say "hey you don't really wanna be here? Why don't you leave?" I'll say shocking things like that all the way along here. Because it seems culturally like we're tied into "well I'm going to put up with that guy and his cell phone." Let him go.
What I find now in situations, I'll give you an example. I was in a nonprofit board setting where I was facilitating a strategy session. The chair came in about 15 minutes late, started talking about his dog, and the good consultant facilitator is supposed to sit back and go "are we finished with that story now and we're done?" Something happened to me. I started standing up, I looked this guy right in the eye, and I said "you're late, you're talking about something that these other 10 people could care less about, what do you want to do about it?"
Now I thought, I'll pack my bags and go because I'm just going to get kicked out. Here's why I tell this story. The guy, and I always look around the table at the people I've been dealing with. The guy over who did the financials gushed and he went "oh thank goodness somebody said something." And I say that because this is what people are thinking. So why are we putting up with cell phones, lateness, all these things? And really it's almost evangelical. I really want to get the word out to say again I'm telling you the end user's waiting for those meetings to be better. So it's all connected.
RD: That's a great great point. At condo boards a lot of people join the board because they have a personal agenda, they're not respectful to others, they won't let others speak, they feel that they're the most important person at the table. How can a condo board deal with that?
Setting the team up for success
GS: Yeah so we're going to jump into this. I don't mind jumping around because we're going to kind of work through the 10 steps here. But the basic thing is to make a meeting successful, to set the team up for success, you've gotta have the right people in the room. Just showing up and being a warm body who is breathing, I'm not sure if that means you're the right person for the job. Condo boards deal with serious issues, serious issues that are related to tens of thousands of dollars of expenditures or savings. You're protecting your investment, there's a lot of good reasons to be there. But these little fiefdoms tend to come up.
who should be at a meeting?
So the first thing I'm going to say there is who is in the room? So being aware of who is in the room. Are you an extrovert? Are you an introvert? Those are pretty simple right? Are you the guy who is going to block, are you the guy who is going to support? Knowing who is on the team and then saying do we have the right people in the room? Just because you showed up and got elected to the board doesn't mean you should be in there. And one of my favorite examples I bring up around this, and I said it when I was speaking at the condominium conference was, if you have an issue like insurance rates and you've got people in there that it's going to take an hour to explain what insurance means, should those people be in the meeting?
And I said this out loud to a crowd of about 80 people and half the room was like "no don't let that happen anymore." Because you know you've been in that meeting where you're explaining something to somebody and they really don't need the information. So what are the people, what are their unique strengths? What are those people doing? Are they a good researcher, are they a good numbers guy, are they going to bring you back about electrical rates, fixed and variable that will benefit your condo board goals? Do we have the right people on the team? If we're talking hockey, maybe we're talking football or soccer or whatever you want to call it, we're not going to have 12 goalies on the field. Same thing in your meetings.
Then acknowledging and having the respectful ability to say "I don't think you need to be in this meeting." Now we're so worried about offending each other and that's really at the heart of the whole matter that we don't want to say anything. But the sooner you can get those people off and you can get a good fit ... whatever your quorum is. Five people, seven people, whatever that is, get that group functioning really well. Invest the time of picking up tips today that will learn to get those guys going. But who's there? Knowing their personality traits, getting their unique ability to go forward, and then feeding that to them. But that thing of explain everything to everybody and everybody tells their personal stories, well how often do condo boards meet? You've had experience in this, how often do they come together?
RD: Oh we try to meet about every six weeks.
GS: Every six, about 10 times a year maybe. Maybe nine?
RD: About, yeah.
GS: So just think about it. You're running a two million dollar situation and you meet nine, 10 times a year, and you're going to make two million dollars work?
GS: Please, this is a business question it's not a someone showed up as a warm body. I mean to just bring it to that level. And it brings relief I think to ... I know when I'm in the room and I actually respectfully say "well you don't need to be part of this" some people are offended and I work through that as a facilitator but really it gives relief to the situation because then the people that know what they're doing can go off. And I never say kick them out. It's not to be mean. It's to say "what's that person good at?" Maybe they're just really good at the social part of what this meeting comes together for.
So you get them off, and I call it shiny objects. Give them something that they really get excited about, keep them engaged, but in the core activity you need the right people on the team.
RD: Right. Everything starts with the right team in place, right?
GS: And it's funny because we get caught in this, I don't know if it's being good Canadians or what's wrong with saying that. Except we get stuck with it. And then suddenly you've got guys that are think about the condo board. You've got business guys in there, you've got retired people that ran banks, all kinds of people. There's people that never had any business experience and they came from all these different walks of life. Well you want to make sure you're getting the best people making the best decisions. Especially when you're commanding hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars.
The true cost of condo board meetings
RD: Yeah. It's funny, you keep on bringing the cost of a meeting into this conversation.
RD: And I know why because at the board level, at the condo board level we have a lot of people that are not business owners so they don't think of the amount of time that they spend at the meeting and they don't put a cost or a price on it.
GS: Well look around the room. So at a condo board meeting what's typical 10 people? 12 people?
RD: Depending on the size of the condo. It can be between three to eight, nine people.
GS: So you've got eight, nine people. Let's call it 10 just for round numbers. What do you make an hour? 200 bucks, 500 bucks, a thousand? It doesn't matter, just pick a number and then go around the room really fast. This is a quick formula and we just add up, the actual wages for this meeting, and we're not getting paid Gord we're volunteering. Wait a second, just make it wages for a second and say it's 50 bucks an hour. Suddenly you're at 500 bucks. Well you've gotta put the lights on right? You've gotta pay for the space to meet for an hour, three hours, whatever you're meeting for. Suddenly you've got a real cost. And I'm going to say, I always say this, I think any meeting that you're going into costs $1,000.00 an hour. And if you add that up then you're going to be at 10 times, you get $10,000.00. And you're looking over what a million bucks or two million bucks?
GS: Put all that together business wise. And it's funny we hold up the business guys and this is for them because they love the cost stuff. There's good things that other people can bring in because maybe there bringing in soft skills right? ... So the business guy oversees the numbers part, that's great. But maybe the soft skill person, the retired teacher, somebody who is able to come in and say "we've got some soft issues around people interacting, people not fighting." And they'll have good perspective too. So this takes a team to raise that whole thing.
RD: And you know what? Sometimes the team is so disorganized, unprepared, and at times they don't really know how to run a meeting right? They have those issues. They've never run a business, they've never attended, they've never been part of an association or a board of any kind, and they do need help. So what can they do then?
Fire a bad facilitator & chair
GS: Here's the first thing I'm going to say about ... This is step four in my book and this is one of these sort of really critical steps. I'll say right away, fire a bad facilitator. "Gord we can't. He's the chair. That's not possible." Listen here's what I mean when I say that. You want to get them the skills so they know how to run a meeting. So when I say fire them it's not necessarily that you need to kick them out right away. But just because they're the chairman, just because you're the CEO, the owner, the whatever. You've got this chair role. It doesn't mean that because you have a title that you know how to run a meeting. This is a critical lesson. So don't get caught in that trap.
The second practical thing that I'll say is rotate the chair. So you've got a bad meeting leader but someone comes in and says "hey I heard about this thing where we can actually take turns running the meeting." This gives the guy running the meeting who is maybe not good at it, guy, gal, whatever, and they're going to get a chance to then have somebody else do it and they can watch and learn from someone who is maybe a little bit better at that. Or maybe you say because we want to just share that role. And I'm trying to give you techniques that give a bit of relief by not getting stuck with that one guy who is the chairman, chairperson, whatever you want to call it, and they're the one that's always doing it. And it's trying to feed them information or get them ways to get out of that.
The next thing that they need to do to become good facilitators is get some skills in if they don't have them. And it actually starts back on step one of my book which is I think that great meetings start with you. Right? So if you can take responsibility for yourself in a meeting, it doesn't matter if you're the leader or the follower. You want to make sure that you have some self awareness and you're going to go in there and if you're going to be a participant be the best participant that you can be. If you're going to be a leader take the time to lean how to run a meeting. There's a great story that inspires me about having a choice in a meeting. Because you can choose, literally, how you act during a meeting. You can look at your cell phone or you can be engaged. You can sit here with your arms crossed or you can actually get into what you're doing. You can stay mad for 20 minutes or you can actually nod.
And there's a story of a guy named Victor Frankel. Did you ever hear this story before?
RD: I don't believe so, no.
GS: Victor Frankel was taken prisoner of war in the Nazi concentration camps. He was a psychologist and when he went in there, here's what happened. They have a one in 28 chance of making it out. There was that many more people that were murdered. So around him people are being murdered, starved, tortured. He is being beaten. He made an interesting discovery. He found out that in between stimulus and response, in between what was happening to him, beaten, all those sort of awful things and his response there's a gap. And in that gap is the power to choose your reaction. And if you can choose your reaction, you can choose your freedom.
Now the book that he wrote this in is a book called Man's Search for Meaning. And I think this is one of those bucket list books that hopefully the audience can put on their bucket list. It's a short read and I think this is a very powerful concept because it gets back to that thing of, if you can choose how you act during a meeting no matter who you are in that meeting, there's a good chance that your condo board meeting is going to run better.
To Make a Great Point use the word: POINT
P - Prepare, O - Optimize , N - Name Hurdles and Solutions, T - Take Action
Another great way to choose how to act ... is to use the word point.
GS: To make a great point. And here, I'll explain it to you. I explain this a lot in the workshops.
RD: I'm interested, okay.
GS: So let's start with the letter P in the word point. That's preparation. Now of course when you're getting ready for a condo meeting you're getting what? You're getting research in. You're talking probably to some experts and that kind of stuff. Talk to your colleagues, we want to know what the issues are because we're getting ready for the meeting. The thing I think that gets lost in preparing is what I'll call blue sky time. So I was spending some time with the chief financial officer of a multi-billion dollar company. And I can't stretch out here because we're on camera, but here's the thing: he was sitting in his office one day and he had his feet up. He's looking out the window. Another executive comes in, looks at him and says "what the heck are you doing?"
He says this, "I'm thinking." And I explain it that way because what happens is when we have something important to say, what's an important issue that you would bring into a condo board meeting? Something about what? Give me an example.
RD: Oh, fees going up, water leaks, damage to common property.
GS: These are massively important, they have huge implications. You're going to end up paying more money, your property value is going to be impacted, you want to be ready. So you actually just don't need to get one piece of information. That might be a very important point where you need to think about all the different things that you need to do around that. That's the P in point.
The O in point is to optimize what you're saying. So if I had a white board here guys I'd be just sort of going P-O-I-N-T up on the board. So now we're on the O. You want to optimize what you're saying. What does that mean? Well before I came here I was in the mirror driving myself crazy, practicing all my stuff, trying to sound slick. You're getting ready. You want to get down to your elevator pitch right?
GS: It's like when I rode the elevator up here if I had 30 seconds with you on the elevator, that's what I want to say. Well imagine if everyone in the meeting did it that quickly.
RD: Well wouldn't that be awesome?
GS: Wouldn't that be awesome? Right? So we're optimizing and then I deliver so I'm in the meeting and I say my thing. The I in point, remember we're over here to our five letters, the I in point is to invite feedback. Now when I say invite feedback we have two ears and we have one mouth, not a bad ratio for speaking and listening right? If we can remind each other about that. In my case my mom used to do this because I talked so much and I was vocal. She'd go like this. And that meant zip it and throw away the key. So I'm the guy who needs to put my hands, so I say my thing in the meeting I put my ... just like this and I listen.
And when you invite feedback the temptation physiologically is to jump somebody. Hey the fees are going up and I explain this thing and somebody's like "oh wait a minute." And you're like "no no no what I-" Practicing not saying anything just for a few minutes to allow other people to have input if that's why you're meeting is really important and it's a practice skill.
The N in point as we go down the whiteboard here is to name the hurdles and solutions. So what's going to stop us from getting this done? And how can we get it done? And finally the T in point is to take action. Who is going to do it? When are they going to do it? And what has to be done? And hopefully those three things, the who, what and when, goes on the agenda. Right? Because we want to meet the next time and we want to say "Rafal, you said the last meeting you were going to do this thing and you either got it done or you didn't." But it's on the agenda now and we have a record of how that goes forward and that really helps for the follow up.
So take responsibility for yourself. Be aware of yourself. Choose how you're going to act during a meeting.. Great point. Imagine how powerful it would be if everybody did it, you could get to the wine faster right? If everyone made a great point.
RD: I wish everybody followed that formula, stuck to it, because meetings wouldn't be three hours long.
RD: Which some board meetings are. Our board meetings right now around about 15 to 40 minutes long right?
RD: We get straight to the point, we know exactly what we need. But it took us a while to get there.
GS: How did you get there?
RD: Actually having a discussion, doing things between meetings, not just leaving everything, every decision, every discussion to the meeting. And we slowly started creating little strategies which is the next thing that I want to get into.
GS: I love where this is going. Can you hear? Instead of reading a textbook and studying for three years to have a good meeting, you said "we just started to get it done." So that group of people at that time, we did one little thing and we got it ... I love this approach. Because everything that I do is all practical. The word point as an acronym, you guys could teach any group of people that literally in three minutes. Then it's just a matter of practicing it and you can hear the good meetings that you guys have gotten to right? Especially, imagine getting two hours back in your life right? Instead of wasting. I love it.
RD: I remember when I started on the board back in 2007, our meetings were a little bit excruciating. Three hours, four hours. And it took us a while right? We had to get the right people on the board, we had to have the right agenda, we had to have the right discussions. And we actually had to have as I said a strategy right?
GS: But now do you guys understand how valuable that effort was?
RD: Oh it's priceless.
GS: Priceless, right? So this is the inspiration that I hope, and I hear this in different sectors. So I hear it, it's so good that this condo board is doing it, I see it down at association levels, I see it down in corporate settings. This is what it is. It's incremental. ... Watching this show here today and do one thing when I go back to my next meeting and then we're going to add that on and add that on, and that's the only way to do it I think.
RD: You know how you've told, right? It's like little baby steps.
GS: That's it.
RD: If you do too much at once, you're going to be overwhelmed, you're going to say "it's not working for us, this is useless" and you're going to move away from it. Little baby steps. You can't implement everything in one sitting, right? It'll take time. It'll take time, it'll take training, it'll take people will have to adapt, people will have to listen right? You have to be open to new ideas and slowly things will start improving.
RD: But in step five of your book you're talking about linking a meeting to a strategy. A lot of times boards meet for the sake of meeting because we have to meet, because we have to discuss things right? And those meetings tend to go longer than they need to right? So tell us if you could share with use how could we link a meeting to a good strategy.
GS: Great. Thanks for bringing that up. This is the step I'm really sort of, if I think I have a unique contribution in this ... And I train facilitators and I help people with agendas and I followup and all those things. This is the piece that I get really excited about it. But listening to what you just said. "Hey guys let's get together because we have to get together." How does that work? Right? And yet of course we know that in these requirements of the board that that might be the case.
What I think I'm hearing in the condo board setting is that people think they're getting ready. They're getting together to what? Save money and what? Keep their property values? Is that sort of it?
RD: Keep their property values up, reduce complaints, hopefully keep their owners informed, actually get things done.
GS: So it sounds very detail-y, do you know what I mean?
GS: Whereas if I sit here and I say "I want to change the world one meeting at a time," that's a vision.
RD: That is a vision.
COndominium & Meeting Vision Statements
GS: So this might be awkward but maybe your condo board actually can create a vision statement. Now that might be going too far. "That's too much Gord, we don't go that far." And I don't mean spend hours and hours or hire consultants. I mean, what is the reason that you're all getting together? I think, I'm hoping that keep my property value higher so I can pass it along to my grandkids or make sure that my costs are lower because I really need, I hope that those are really what you might call almost a vision. Then those are key strategic objectives. And if we sat down from wherever you worked, it doesn't matter where the people on these condo boards worked, these visions, these strategies are there.
What I think the opportunity that we have in meetings is to bring those strategies to life. So let's just say the vision was in this case someone made up their condo board strategy. The vision is to keep my property value as high as it can so that my grandchildren will get as much as possible. That's a great vision. It may not be the same for everybody. But let's just say that was the vision. Then if you at the beginning of your meeting instead of starting ... meetings minutes or whatever, last meeting's minutes. What if you started with saying the vision statement out loud? That focuses the tone of the meeting.
Or maybe you start with one of your strategic objectives? You say "wait a minute our strategic objective, remember at the beginning of the year we got together and we had our strategy? The objective is to save as much money as possible so we can keep as much money in our pockets as possible." So let's say that in the beginning of the meeting ... let's get to the end of the meeting and at the end of the meeting the facilitator can say "did we serve that key strategic objective?" Now if you didn't, you'll know it right away. [inaudible 00:24:28] ... About the gluten free hotdog issue for the summer barbecue that we're planning. And I say that comedically because I've been in that meeting and it was a sad thing. I'm talking about meetings I didn't want to be in.
But if you get to the end of the meeting and you did serve that objective it means you're on track. So if you're on track with your strategy then you know exactly why you're meeting. And if you know why you're meeting the meeting's going to run well. So I think these strategies are really important if you can articulate them. They don't need to be overly complex. If you don't have one sort of off the cuff. But certainly those two key objectives are there. Like a woman I met up in Morinville who states the vision statement at the beginning of the meeting and then at the end asks that question. If in every meeting that you're in you know you're serving your strategy, then that meeting can't be offtrack. It just can't. So I think that's a powerful concept that's easy to practice and easy to do.
RD: You know what? It's funny how you mentioned that because we at our board level we don't have a vision or a strategy on paper. However we do want to keep our property value high, we have a lot of developments going in the surrounding areas, we want to stay competitive, and that's out goal. Right now we're planning on renovating our lobby and then every floor coming in the next couple years because we have to do that. So in a way that is our vision and a strategy. So our viewers, I would like to task you with this. Once you go back to your board meeting have a quick little chat, and what is your strategy or your vision for your next year? Because I think that little vision or strategy or goal will help you get your meetings a little bit more effective and tying into that, you're talking about blockbuster agendas.
GS: I'm excited about the agenda thing and I can't wait to talk about that. I just want to tie in one other thing to what you just said. I like maintenance as a line item. You've gotta talk about that. So do you invest in maintenance or do you not? It comes up. So should we repair the foundation or should we wait a couple years? If you don't have a strategy to back that up then every decision that you're making in a meeting is reactive. And down the line we can pull out all kinds of examples where that can become very costly.
One of my favorite ones that I heard, I was reading about today getting ready for this one was condo board regulations. So in this one place everyone had to have carpet. Well somebody rolled into someone's place and upstairs they took out the carpet and they put in hardwood floors. Well suddenly this lady had been there for a long time. It sounded like, she could hear the high heels and everything. Then they sold it upstairs and a dance school moved in. And it sounded like jack hammers were pounding on the floor above this person. Then there was legal action in terms of how this all went down where this lady had to sue that guy. The judge came back and said the condo board should have enforced the by-law to make sure there was carpet. It came back to the condo board meeting. Which is getting back to being connected to your strategy.
So it all ties together. The issues that result, they result from that meeting. That's where it's going to go down. Yeah. Blockbuster agendas. Sorry I threw you off.
RD: No I'm interested in that because agendas are the key to a meeting right?
GS: Well yeah agendas are critical obviously in terms of ... So you've run meetings before right?
RD: Yes I have.
GS: How long do you spend on the agenda? If you're getting it ready for a meeting.
RD: Well I'm preparing about 30 minutes.
GS: You do? I'm glad to hear that. Most people spend zero, really typically. But if I'm hearing 30 to 45 minutes that means you've been thoughtful, it means that you're respectful of the people's time and you're going to roll in there. Heres the thing about agendas for me, and I'll just ask your viewers maybe for a second and they can I don't know if they're interacting or I can ask you. What's your favorite Hollywood film?
RD: Oh the Matrix series.
GS: The Matrix right? The blue pill and the red pill. I'm like Godfather era. When I'm in working with younger audiences I don't know any of the movies they're doing. Except my kids take me out, I get to see Thor and the Hulk and stuff. Anyway I think every meeting that you go to should be as exciting as your favorite Hollywood film. And when I say that, every great Hollywood film has a great script. It has to have a great script to start. So every great meeting has to have a great agenda. And if you're the kind of guy who wants to be a good script writer, a good agenda writer, then you know they're going to get paid off in the end.
I'll give you another one of these acronyms, and I'm sorry I'll just go to my whiteboard here which I know is not there. We're going to take the word agenda and I want to work you through that for some of the things. And I just want to show you this here. This is a workbook that I take into my workshops when I teach the workshop and I just want to pop it open to the agendas thing here and I'll give this to you.
RD: For sure. Let's make it happen.
GS: So the A in agenda for me is an attention grabber.
GS: If we show up in a meeting what's the first thing that you cover in meetings that you're in typically?
GS: Financials, hey does that get everybody excited?
GS: Right? So if we're getting together why not just pick something simple about, in a condo board meeting it could be something as simple as "hey we made a great decision on our gas bill and guess what? We saved 50 grand. Yay." And just announce that as the first thing. The one's that's killing a lot of meetings is "can we have a motion to approve the meeting minutes?" And the energy is just gone. So the A in agenda is for the attention grabber.
The other thing I would like you to think about and I'll try and throw this up on camera for you guys, is start to think about your agendas. Can you see here? Maybe I can show you here. You can see there you see how I have blocks in there? It's not like a list. It's not like one thing and one thing and one thing. It's blocks. So I think I was mentioning earlier that on an agenda I think there should be some ground rules and we want to talk about cell phones... have a fight in a meeting how are we going to deal with it? Well in one of those blocks on the agenda, what I'm hoping is you've put the word ground rules. It could be up in the right hand corner. Maybe put the vision statement up in another part of the agenda, it's on the agenda. We know why we're there.
I'll just refer to the ground rules for a second and say if you're going to have a fight the best suggestions that I could have besides going to therapy and doing everything you need to do is put simple things on the agenda. So one person speaks when there's a disagreement and make it about the issue and not about the person. But the reason to put it on the agenda is that we've all agreed on that. Those are our ground rules. Don't put in the exact words I've said. Those are our ground rules, we know they're right there. So when something, a dispute comes up we know exactly what's going to happen and that one person speaks is really critical to doing that. So there's the attention. So I said the A in agenda was the attention grabber. So we've got everybody's attention by announcing a great thing.
Then we're onto the next one and that is, can I flip back here? Let me see if I can find it. We've got the ...
RD: I need to follow this, I'm writing this stuff down.
GS: Here we go. The G in agenda is for what I'm going to call great goals. So if you're spending this 30 minutes to prepare the agenda, you can put the word financials or you can actually wordsmith this a little bit so that people will actually read it. Because I don't want to read the word financials. I want to put "we're going to save another 50 grand, find out how." Those are things that are going to grab, if you want people to read the agenda before the meeting or get excited. So make those goals great goals as you're going along.
The E in agenda for me is to create excitement. Now excitement can be brought in a couple different ways. One thing you can do is bring in a quote that's related to the meeting. One of my favorites is by Ben Franklin. "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can get done today." If we've got that on the agenda that's going to feed into the fact that we're working on followup as a team and we can refer to that and that creates a little bit of momentum and excitement. So whatever way you kind of get excitement into the situation right? Maybe you're announcing things you're doing to the building or whatever is happening.
The next thing is the navigation tools. That's the N in agenda for me, so A-G-E-N. The navigation tools are these things like learning how to fight and what do we do when a fight comes up? So that could be int he ground rules or the navigation tools. And then the D in agenda, and this might be my favorite one, is I think you have to put the words decide now right beside every line item on the agenda. Because if you're getting together to make decisions, remind yourself that that's what you're there for. The thing that's killing meetings is "let's table that to the next meeting. Let's put it off." Right?
RD: Unless we need some information to back up our decision which is understandable. But I agree with you. Back in the day we had things tabled for months on end.
GS: Tabled for months on end.
RD: It's, might as well take it off because it's never going to get done. I agree with you, it's like if you can make a decision on the spot make a decision on the spot. Otherwise there's certain, you need a quote so you have to have some supporting documentation information to make a decision but I'm all in. I'm with you.
GS: I love what you're saying about that because what type of meeting are we having? Are we having an information meeting? Are we having a social meeting? Call it that. But don't make it a social meeting if it's supposed to be a meeting where you're getting things done right? I know one guy for example, he's a senior leader. They make sure all the decision making happens. So say there's a two hour meeting, what he does is he knows he doesn't need to be there for the whole time so he calls the meeting leader in advance and he says "can you just put me in the first 10 minutes?" He's on the agenda, comes in, says his very important information and then he's gone. It's a great use of his time in terms of how he's doing things right?
So I think decide now is going to prompt you to say "is this something we want to make a decision about?" And we don't want to table things, we don't want to put things off if it's possible.
So then the final one there is the accountability check in, which is the A in agenda. And that is who needed to do something, what did they need to get done, and when did it get done? And it's right on the agenda. Now the neat thing that I learned in one of the workshops I was doing is there's some people who have what's called a running agenda. So I don't know, do you use Google Docs yourself?
RD: Not at our board but I use it in our business.
GS: In your business. So something like Google Docs where you can have a document that everybody can edit, everybody can have input on. Take that agenda and imagine having an agenda that keeps the history of all the agendas in one document. Well that's a great tool, in fact it could be ... I'm not sure I won't say this for sure but it might be almost a legal reference for condo board meetings if you're keeping it all in one place. But that running agenda then it's all going, we cascade down everything that's getting done and we have a history for the organization. So that's the A in agenda.
So again you want to make sure you've got an attention grabber, you've got great goals, create excitement, have navigation tools, decide now, and then finally with these agendas use them as an accountability check in. And I think that's another great way to make agendas a little bit more robust.
The other thing I'll say about agendas, like Hollywood movies, is we know Hollywood movies are there because we see stuff on cereal boxes and on billboards and there's a promotion. One of the things I think you can do very simply is get your cell phone out and maybe work with the chair of the board and if something exciting is going to happen during the meeting shoot a little one minute promo and then send that out to everybody on the board. You want to get really excited about marketing the agenda? Here's something you could do, you take the agenda itself and you would have, you would print it. On the back you write a personal note to each board member and then go crazy and put it in the mail. If it's an important enough board meeting and they get something in the mail with a specific directive on the back that'll really get their attention. Now you won't do that every meeting, but it's another great way.
So think about you've put the time into making the agenda, you need to market it as well and get people excited. And I'm not saying take a lot of time. Do these quick techniques that allow you to do that.
RD: Right. I have one quick question for you.
RD: It's not entirely tied into the agenda item. However you mentioned that when people argue they make things, they focus on the personal and not on the issue itself and they take things personally as if they're being effected. They are but they don't focus on the issue itself. Can you give some advice on how to solve that?
GS: So again the first thing is put it on the agenda. So we all agree that when there's a fight, one person speaks we're going to make it about the issue and not about the person. Now as a facilitator I'm able to focus that very very quickly. For folks that have maybe less experience, if you want to ... you want to be able to get back with a simple question of why are we here to meet? Right, so the fight's happening and maybe I don't know these things get very passionate. Why are we here? And if we have this reminder on the agenda and then we have this sort of agreement, we want to answer that question. And I'm not here to attack you or make comments about your jacket, that's not it. ... It's a nice jacket, give me a break.
RD: Thank you.
GS: What I'm saying is what we're here to do is we're here to get things done because remember we're back to our strategy which is we want our property values to be better and we agreed on those things. So if it gets down into that deep personal, if it gets to the point where someone's gotta get out of the room then you've gotta do that stuff as well very intensely. But I hope the why is going to drive people mainly. Yeah.
RD: I have another question.
Importance of Condo Board Meeting Location
RD: Actually it's a big issue that I have personally even though I shouldn't be taking it personally. Where boards meet. Certain boards meet in their condos, in the owner units, there's instructions, restaurants, there's alcohol involved which is totally a thing, in my book totally against something to do in a meeting. Can you tell us a little bit about meeting in the right space?
GS: So I think where you meet is as important as what you're meeting about. So what are you meeting about? Are we meeting to socialize? Great have a social meeting. But don't mix in discussing the electrical bill or the foundation repairs when you're doing that. So I think you want to be really clear about why are we meeting? If it's sort of an innovation session set up the room with whiteboards and stuff up on the walls and really start to get your ideas flowing. That's an ideas meeting. If it's the type of meeting where you're going to be making decisions, we've got that great agenda we're going to roll through things very quickly, we're going to set a limited amount of time.
By the way if you're ever having a condo board meeting and it's going too long, just get rid of the chairs. You kick all the chairs out of the room and here's what happens. Especially with the age demographic at board meeting, folks get too tired. They last about 20, 25 minutes and that's it. So kick the chairs out of the room, it's a great way to slow things down in terms of getting things done, and then you watch. That little story about their vacation in Hawaii is going to get a lot shorter. So I think that's one of the things you can do as well when you're moving things along.
RD: I wrote that down. That's a great idea, it's a great piece of advice. Do you have any other resources that you can share with our audience?
GS: So we're talking about this fight thing. One of my favorite books is a book called Fierce Conversations. So if you Google that, Fierce Conversations. It's a woman named Susan Scott. Great speaker, wonderful writer. And in this book it gives you many techniques because we were talking about going in depth with how to deal with controversy. One of my favorite concepts in her book Fierce Conversations is she says you should let the silence do the heavy lifting.
RD: That is deep.
GS: And one of those funny things as a facilitator is you want to practice that. Because sometimes it's better to say nothing. "Hey guess what we just got hit with a $75,000.00 bill because the electrician left the window open, the pipes froze." ... That can get more done than all the blather that happens. I think that's a really really good resource.
And then another great resource if you get a chance, please visit createawesomemeetings.com. There's a podcast there with 23 episodes, over 6,000 downloads. I'm meeting people from around the world through that podcast, really exciting. The book is there. There's some great blog articles. This is all free information. Jump on there, find resources that you need, there's concepts explained that we're talking about today. Just get the help you need to make your meeting better. I think that's another good resource for you.
RD: I listened to those podcasts. They're fantastic. And I got the book from the site as well which is a great resource. I have this at my office so anytime I need to have a question I refer to this thing. And I only got it about a month and a half ago. This is a book that every business owner, every board should have. So go to the website. We're going to also post a link under the video once the video goes, once it's recording and we post it. So invest in yourself, invest in your condo. Get this, read it.
GS: And one of your colleagues was talking about reading it as well and the concept of followup came up and I was so glad to hear him mention it because it was one of those giddy things for me of like, I got the book and now I'm going to take action and do something. And I love this followup piece because I think it's so critical.
What steps should you take after the condo board meeting ends?
So here you are, you know why you're meeting, you know your strategy, you've got a great facilitator because they've been working on their facilitator techniques. You've actually got a great agenda because they've spent the time and you've gotten into, you've prepped the space. And then the meeting ends. Well what happens when the meeting ends right? You've run meetings, what do you do when the meeting ends?
RD: We go our separate ways, right?
GS: We go out separate ways.
RD: And we try to have following the agenda, following the tasks that we decide at the meetings in between meetings. But sometimes, what usually tends to happen during board meetings and at the condo boards, people don't talk until the next meeting. They'll task the condo manager, the property manager with something to do and they're hands off. And then they go to the next meeting which is four, six weeks later and they have a wonderful three hour long meeting. And that's usually what happens.
GS: And that's the reality of many places. This is not just condo boards. This is the reality of what's going on. If I'm running a two million dollar organization and I do ... we're going to be as good as what we do in that room. Basically, I think there's too much responsibility to not have a good follow up scenario. I'm going to just jump in here guys and I'm going to show you, this is from the workbook as well and you can find this information on the Create Awesome Meetings website.
How To Followup After The Condo Board Meeting?
The first thing in followup, and I'm going to use the word fast. Back to my big whiteboard here. Here we go. I put the F up here for fast. What is the feedback loop that people use when they followup? And when I say feedback loop I'm really talking here about modality. So on a condo board these days I'm guessing we've got some older people and some younger people.
RD: A little mix of both yeah.
GS: Older people like to talk in person. Younger people like to get a text. What do we do after meetings usually? Mass email. The mass email is not getting used. It's not getting used corporately, it's just nowhere near. You type up all these notes, the meeting minute takers are sending all these minutes. The materials are not getting used. Well one of the things I challenge meeting facilitators to do, and they're going to say "no, no, it's going to take too much time," is actually deal with each person.
If you're only talking about eight or 10 people find out the way that that board member wants to be communicated to and communicate with them in that way. So if it means three steps or four as opposed to one, then but what's happening when we do the one step with the mass email, we click and then we get to the next meeting and we're like "did you read the stuff?" And it's like "nope." So send the text to the young person, have the one on one with the person who wants the one on one, give the phone call to the other guy. You will save time because they'll start to get more engaged. And if they're more engaged, and let's say they've been tasked with again getting research around some of your utility bills, they're more likely to get that work done because they're being allowed to do that. It also gives another touch point for the meeting leader to be with them. So that's the feedback loop.
The next one is the A in fast which is to, what I say is to astonish each other. So "hey guys guess what all the effort that we put into in this board meeting lead to a $75,000.00 savings." And we want to get that information out clearly to everybody so again we're generating excitement in between things.
Finally, we want the S in fast to be standardize the followup process. And I heard you referring to this earlier. We were doing it a certain way, it wasn't very efficient, but now we did this and this and this and all I'm suggesting to you is just write down the five or six differences that you made and that's your condo board's standardized process. I don't mean a 20 page document, I don't mean that. What are the five things we did differently? Well we threw out the chairs and then we did whatever, all those things. Get them down and then the next guy that comes along to be the president or whatever doesn't need to reinvent the wheel. They've got a little standardized way to followup and they know how to do things.
And finally, you want to track progress. And I keep saying Google Docs because it's a common place. Maybe those by-laws go into the folder and this running agenda is there, but we want to be able to track progress so that anybody at any time can go in and look at that. And when I say Google Doc folder, it's a place sitting on a computer in the cloud essentially where everybody can get to it and my goal for you guys and yourself would be to never email an agenda again. If it's on the cloud then people have to learn to go get it. And if they can go get it then they can go edit it, then they can get engaged in it. And remember we're writing better agendas now so they're going to get engaged in the agenda.
So that's kind of a hope that I have for people because the one tired excuse that I hear is "I didn't get the email or I didn't read it." So they're arriving in the meeting and they're not ready, and here the facilitator has taken the time to get ready. So if you can create this other little step where people know where to go to get the information and they can all see it, that's one way to go. Yeah.
RD: One thing that people don't really consider, it's like you mentioned if somebody's the techy person send them a text or make a phone call or meet in person. Most board directors, they say "I don't have time to volunteer." However if you track back and if you really think about it, if it takes you 30 seconds to send a text message and get a reply right away instead of waiting until the meeting where you're going to have seven people at a table talking about the same issue, just think about the amount of time you're going to put in at that stage.
GS: And you're educating and they're having to learn it for the first time. And these are big issues. Fix the foundation, pretty big issue. Major tenant dispute, these are major issues. So you don't have three months to wait. In your business you wouldn't wait three months to deal with those things, and this is a business. So if you can really treat it in that way I think it's a good idea.
RD: And that's why our meetings are quite short because we are pretty tech savvy and we have a younger demographic on our board so we solve things right away via email then we have a meeting to vote on an item, to approve it, then we add it to the minutes and off we go.
RD: You have to be a little bit more active in between meetings.
GS: I love what you're saying because what I'm hearing is best practice.
RD: Of course.
GS: And one of the opportunities that condo boards have with each other is actually to learn from each other. And it's a concept I haven't talked about yet, it's called meeting mentorship. So in your own life do you have a mentor in your own experience?
RD: I do.
GS: Yeah, what's that like one on one for you when you work with a mentor?
RD: Oh it's fantastic. They help me get through problems, they give me suggestions and tips and guidance and they put me on a path that I would never consider myself.
Why Should You Look For A Board Meeting Mentor?
GS: Imagine if you had a meeting mentor. And your meeting experienced the same thing that you just explained with the same level of excitement. What do I mean when I say meeting mentor? So this is someone who loves running meetings, they're really good at it, they produce great agendas, they create excitement. So what you're going to do, and let's say there was another condo board that just heard about your condo board and you're doing some things right and there's someone in your board that wants to volunteer as a meeting mentor. I'm not talking about a big exercise here.
Here's the steps. What you do is let's say you were the meeting mentor and I was the facilitator and I come to you and I say "my meetings aren't running well, would you please come and do two things for me? One, can you come and attend a meeting." So your amount of time commitment would be you attend the meeting. You're going to observe me in the meeting running the meeting and then we'll go for coffee afterwards and you'll say "Gord you're good at this, you're not good at that." And I get to learn from you because you got to watch everything happen. The next meeting, and here's the magic. You'll run my meeting. So then I get to sit back to the side and I get to watch you run the meeting.
Here's the response that I get. When I get paid to be brought in as a professional facilitator the neat thing that I hear from senior leaders is they're like, "you know what happened is I got to sit back and I got to watch my team." This is a great gift for business owners, presidents, whatever but for the condo leader you get to sit back and watch the dynamic so you can learn. So now two things are happening: you're watching your team and you're watching a great facilitator. I get to learn from you about tips and what to do. And that's been two meetings worth. That's a very easy commitment.
Well imagine what would happen in the condo community if we knew that there were volunteers in the condo community who just love running meetings. And they had to do this very simple offer. How many more condo boards can we strengthen by having that simple process? And I'm not talking about ... if things are bad you can pay people to come in. This isn't even paying, this is volunteers come on in and what bottom line implication would that have going down the road? And the relief that comes from that for the people on the board is there's an option. Remember we were talking about the facilitators. "Hey I heard about this meeting mentor for condo boards. We're going to have him come on in." "Okay." You can't turn that down, and you get this process going.
So I'm looking for what there's thousands of condo boards in northern Alberta alone? If we look in Canada and wherever, imagine if in each community we had this resource to reach out for each other. Yeah.
RD: We gotta get it started.
GS: It's pretty simple, yeah.
RD: Definitely it would help a lot of people and it would reduce the amount of frustration, the amount of time people have to volunteer and ...
GS: And the other thing too is when I get brought in the room one of the things I always say is I'm not in the family. So I can't believe the stuff that comes out of my mouth, I keep thinking I'm going to get kicked out but if you say it respectfully enough again back to my story earlier on. People, it's what they're thinking. So I say the things that need to be said. Remove people, keep people, train people, whatever those things are. And this is what these meeting mentors will be able to do. [inaudible 00:50:06] concept. Yeah.
RD: And I think every condo board should hire a mentor of a meeting facilitator just to put them on the right path, just to give them some guidance so they know what they're doing.
GS: Yeah, and I'll jump in there. I always advocate first, and it's not that I don't want to get hired it's just go to free first. So if you've got this volunteer pool to draw from that's great. And then if you know your condo board could make more money and build the property value by bringing in somebody then make that investment. And I actually have in the book there's a whole set, and I've done a blog article on this too about things to look our for when you actually hire a professional facilitator. It's a laundry list, including do they have insurance and all this, are they above board and are they good at it? Can they give you references? All those things really important because condo board investments, pretty tight right? It's gotta count. And I think this investment in meetings as opposed to waiting to do it over four or five years, what would happen if you did it in 90 days and things are really cooking with gas right?
RD: And you could see some huge results right away which is fantastic.
RD: You know what? I have a lot of notes and I am out of questions.
GS: Let me just jump in there because I know when I do the workshop I like to give them a summary for people and I give them a reminder of what we've covered and I kind of hit the 10 steps. So what I was remembering was is the first step is to take responsibility for yourself. I think that's really important and we want to be able to choose how we act during a meeting. The second thing is to really be aware of your team, build trust, build rapport, and get the right people in the room. Really important.
The third step, again this is back to my whiteboard and my thing right here. Is to know your total meeting cost because meetings cost money and we want to save money basically. The fourth thing is to get a great facilitator, fire a bad facilitator. I won't say fire, train them, get them some help or fire them or rotate the chair. The fifth one is connect your meetings to your strategy. The sixth, build a blockbuster agenda. Because I think every meeting should be as exciting as the Matrix.
RD: Or as the Godfather.
GS: Or as the Godfather, right. And then the seventh one is meet in the right space. So make where you meet as important as what you're meeting about. The eighth step is to get great resources, followup fast is the ninth step and then I love getting to this part because it's sort of the tenth step and the final kind of ribbon that I put on the whole thing and it really speaks to accountability.
I've worked for 25 years in a variety of settings. I've owned my own business, I've been in union, I've been out of union, I've been in management, these things. Accountability really come down to you're either going to be into it or not. There's no amount of money that's going to make you accountable or whatever. So how do we create accountability? Well I think when we talk about taking action and creating accountability, I really like to talk about what inspires you. So I'll actually just ask this question for you. Actually you know what maybe I'll start first. So one of the guys that really inspires me is Terry Fox. Are you familiar with the Terry Fox story?
RD: Of course.
GS: I hope the folks out here really know who Terry Fox is but I always explain it just in case. 1980 this young man loses a leg to cancer. He sets out to run a marathon a day and run across Canada to make people aware about this cancer research need that he felt was very important. He ran 143 marathons and when I think about him, he got halfway across Canada. I'll say this, another bucket list thing for your audience or maybe for yourself. On the north Superior shore [inaudible 00:53:28] in Ontario there is a monument to Terry Fox. And I think it's one of those places you've just gotta go and experience remembering how important it is what he does. Why am I inspired by him? Since he did that run in 1980 more than 700 million dollars has been raised for cancer research.
GS: That's remarkable. That's a bigger than life inspiration.
RD: That's truly amazing.
GS: I'm going to drill this back down and say wait a second, there's actually people in meetings that could be your inspiration. So I'll talk about my corporate experience for a second. There was a woman in meetings, I would see her now and again. Very nice lady, quiet, administrator and I didn't know much about her. And I spoke with her at a Christmas party one year and I found out that she took most of her modest salary, sent it back to another country. She built a home for her parents and she sent many of her cousins through post secondary education.
GS: She's in my meetings. I never thought to ask her for years about her story. I didn't know. She inspires me to this day. The challenge that I have for condo boards, any board, anybody meeting is here we are hung up on cell phones, all this dumb stuff. And yet underneath all of us have inspiration like this. I'm not sure if you have an inspirational story, I don't mean to put you on the spot. Is there anybody that resonates for you?
RD: You know what? I have a few people.
RD: But you know what I think we're going to leave it with Terry Fox because honestly that's such an inspirational story and I think every Canadian knows the Terry Fox story.
GS: Knows the Terry Fox ... So I'll leave it there but what I would say for your condo boards is when you're with each other there's no reason not to spend a few minutes one on one, with the whole group saying "wait a second, let's just clear all this out for a second. Why are you here? What's the driving goal?" Then back to why are we fighting? Maybe it'll clear up, maybe you'll find some empathy for the guy that you thought you were having a fight with. And these motivations.
So we get inspired by people that are right beside us. The bigger than life people, where's your inspiration? When the meeting's going wrong, remember that, hang onto that. Or be on your best behavior because that's the thing that you need to do. And I get very excited about it because I think that's what we need more of in our meetings. Because we're meetings for good reasons. Yeah.
RD: And at times we're sitting next to somebody at a table and we don't know their story.
GS: We don't know their story.
RD: And that could be the most, the biggest breakthrough you could ever come to at a meeting if you actually understand why people are there. What are their goals? Why are they volunteering their time? Most board meetings are not getting paid. There are certain boards that have decided there is going to be compensation for time they put in. A majority of boards, they are volunteers and the volunteers have the most amazing stories if we truly dig deep.
GS: So that's all in your meeting. That's all there. And it's in every meeting that you're in, not all the time. A lot of that is there. So that's something that I think is the last moment I always love to go out on when I'm explaining these things because it puts a whole bow and it and it will keep you engaged at a high level. Yeah.
RD: So you know what Gord? I think we're going to take a short little break but before we go we're going to do a draw for a free copy of your book. So for those viewers who were actually listening, how many steps did Gord cover during this interview and in his book? The first person that answers in our chat will get a free copy of his book. And after this, after a short little commercial we're going to do some Q and A. So if you have any questions, feel free to add them in the chat as well and we'll be happy to answer them. So stay tuned. ...
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Q & A
RD: What is the biggest problem with condominium board meetings and how can it be solved?
GS: So I think we've covered a lot of ground here in terms of the biggest problem but if they can keep in mind that this is a real business with real implications and it requires a business approach by everybody that's involved, I think that's the kind of thing that's going to keep those meetings on track. And the way to do that is to create a really simple set of strategic objectives and the vision that will allow each meeting, you know exactly why you're there. If you're there to have fun, great. Buy a big bottle of champagne I'll come join you. But if you're there to get things done know that it's that type of thing. So be very clear about why you're there.
RD: And enjoy the bottle of champagne after the meeting.
GS: Enjoy it at the meeting where champagne is appropriate. I wouldn't be mixing the two things up I don't think.
RD: Alrighty, question number two. Should everyone on a condo board have an opinion about everything?
GS: I think I said this earlier. The condo boards are made up of a lot of good meaning, well meaning people and hopefully you've got some experts on there. But if you've got an expert in insurance or someone's gone out to do all that research and they're coming in and they have the answer, if you have to spend the time to education 10 people about everything that they learned you're going to slow down and you can't actually get to all the issues that you need to deal with. So I'm going to guess that certain people need to know when they don't need to be exactly involved in all the details about everything and you're developing trust in your team that each person is again using their unique ability to do the things they they're good at. And that strengthens the whole team so you don't sort of drag down.
There's too many issues to cover in a meeting. And if you think about it, in a given year what's the laundry list? It's pretty long. So if you're spending too much time on one issue it's going to slow you down.
RD: Fantastic. Next question. What are the implications if a condo board meeting is not well run?
GS: Right. Time, money, my property value. And again I think we get back to this. I touched on the last step which is the motivation. So here's the phrase that I have for the inspiration. If you can't be accountable to anything, be accountable to your inspiration. Maybe that'll be the thing that gets you going. So it'll get you away from the petty behavior and into being, that's very significant. So hopefully it's the dollars and those business things that are driving you, but in the end if you've gotta get right down to it just dig deep and find that reason that you're going to get engaged in the meeting so you can do well for you and everybody that's involved. Yeah.
RD: Okay. Why is it so important to settle ground rules at the beginning of a condo board meeting?
GS: Ground rules set the tone. We're going to be able to know exactly what we've chosen to do and what our ground rules are. And I think they're very simple. I think ground rules you've got maybe two, three that are important. Maybe five. And if you get past five you're starting to create a textbook and you don't need that. We don't need to remember that. Yeah.
RD: Okay. Next question. What is the value of a condo board meeting and why is it so important to measure the cost?
GS: So we talked about the cost earlier but this is this idea of our time is valuable so we're talking at least a thousand bucks an hour. Condo meetings could be two, three thousand dollars an hour. I don't know if I mentioned this but the idea of opportunity cost. You could be at the condo board meeting or you could be somewhere else. You could be with your kids, your grandkids, you could be at work, whatever those things are. So it's very very precious and very very important to measure the cost so that it really keeps us all on track because we don't want to waste time when we're in those meetings.
But the other thing that we touched on is decision making in condo board meetings is so critical because it's related to these dollars. So you know that one slow meeting where you don't get enough decided could have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars of implication and I think that's why it's so critical.
RD: Okay. Question. What would be a maximum time for a successful meeting?
GS: I think the time is going to vary. But if I hear that you're only getting together ... So let's back it up. If we're running two million dollars worth of business, how many man hours do we need to put into running two million dollars worth of business?
RD: Depends on the business.
GS: Depends on the business right? So can we get away with doing this meeting nine or 10 times a year? And if that's not enough time, it's not enough time. So you have to meet more often. And I didn't touch on this, but the idea of if we can't all get together physically. These days with Skype or Zoom or these types of things, there's no reason why the subcommittees or whatever you have on these boards can't be getting together remotely. And not for long periods of time. 30 minutes at a time, this kind of thing. So I think you need to figure out how many hours do we need to put in to run this place? And then that's how many meetings that you need and how long the meetings need to be.
So we start there with the business case as opposed to saying "well we meet for three hours, that's enough." We don't know. Make sure you know.
RD: Malcolm you had a question in regards to tasks. Yes. You can definitely use those. We have two more questions here. No, one more. What can you do about a bad meeting facilitator?
GS: So gain the bad meeting facilitator, we're going to bring in quick relief. The concept of rotating the chair or getting them some training or bringing in a meeting mentor. Somebody they're going to trust so they can learn from them very quickly. Again we can't afford a bad meeting facilitator for more than one or two meetings. It's just the time is too precious, there's too much on the line. So we don't need to put up with it and these terms that are in our by-laws. He's the president for another year or another two years or whatever that is, if that's just disastrous leadership that leads to bad financial outcomes you've gotta get bold and you've gotta get in there and just be realistic from a business perspective. Yeah.
RD: So I think that is it from our chat window. ... I have a personal question.
RD: How would you go about recruiting the best board directors?
GS: So what slows us down from recruitment? Like, oh there's a warm body that showed up at the election, you're in. This is typical in terms of what often happens. What are the implications of a bad board member? Poor decision making, fights, all that disfunction. You lose more time in the meetings by not spending the time recruiting and doing the onboarding. So in fact you have to designate how much time is it going to take us to recruit? So the active recruiting is a really critical role. It often falls to somebody. "Do you think you know anybody? What if they just came on? Where are they from?" It doesn't matter. No, you actually need a criteria. So let's get back to setting a simple criteria for what a good board member looks like.
If you're lucky you've got a balance. Someone's a numbers guy and he knows that sort of area. Someone else maybe has run a company before or been in a leadership role and they can sort of be a good facilitator and they've got those skills. So you're always I think in your condo ... you want to know who's who in the zoo essentially and then you're recruiting, you're sort of continually recruiting. It never stops because you want to know who is bringing in those good skillsets. Including the soft skillsets. I don't mean to dismiss those. They're very important for maybe there's that person who is the person in the meeting who can even things out, and they're really good on the team because then the hot head guy and the numbers guy doesn't say much and you're balancing out those things.
So I think recruiting kind of never stops and hopefully what you do is you get to a point where some boards that I know are oversubscribed. Oversubscription means there's people dying to get on the board because they know they're going to make a big impact. Yeah.
RD: That's a great answer. And then one thing I deal with condos in the United States as well and in many states board directors actually go through an election so they send out letters to other owners, to the board, what their strengths are, what their goals are, how do you want to help and volunteer. Which is something that is lacking a little bit on our side of the border.
GS: This thing, it's the basic thing of "I don't have time, I don't have time. Oh wait I just got a bill for $15,000.00. I'm mad."
GS: Right? So where do you want to pay your pain? Do you want to pay later or do you want to pay now? And that time that you do need it actually is really critical. So hopefully folks can kind of find the time. This is back to that facilitator that needs to communicate to each person because it actually saves time. So don't get caught in that trap of "I don't have time, I don't have time." There's too much, it's too important, the issues move too quickly.
We didn't even talk, if you're actually making a strategic plan we didn't talk about environmental implications. Something that just came up I think in Alberta from a human rights perspective maybe you're aware of this? What's the story?
GS: Guess what? So the folks that thought they were going to be in a certain type of condominium and there's an age restriction, 55 or whatever these things are. Well that changed. Well that's a big upset. Well the board's gotta deal with that and the transition won't come for a long time for certain things but those are just environmental factors that they're coming down the pipe and there's lots of issues. So there's too much to do to get hung up on having a bad meeting. And the bad meeting is the easy thing to deal with. Really getting that good research, good leadership, really important.
RD: Awesome. Well I think that's it for questions. I think the timing is good.
RD: So Gord I would like to truly thank you for coming on our show and discussing and helping people and giving people advice how they can run awesome meetings.
GS: I really appreciate being here. I hope folks here got something. My whole goal here is again, pick up one tip, two tips. Go execute it in your next meeting, make it way way better, and send some feedback to Rafal and let him know that this made an impact because that's my whole thing is getting in here, you hear it for the first time, and you want to go take action, do something, and make your condo board meetings absolutely fantastic. I think that's great.
RD: Awesome. Thank you everybody for joining us. We wish you a great evening. I hope you learned a lot and I hope to see you on the next episode. Take care, bye bye.