George Bernard Shaw once made the observation: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
The playwright might have also been referring to dilemma faced by committees in strata communities.
The need for good communication is pretty self-evident – you’re either rubbing shoulders with other residents, or have absentee owners who need a clear understanding of what is happening in order to make informed decisions.
Keep It BRIEF
E-mails have become the preferred method of communication over the past ten years. When it comes to conveying a complex issue, the temptation is to include every last detail in the name of being thorough.
However, human nature being what it is, there is the chance people may not read through to the end, or become confused about the issue being discussed.
Writing an effective e-mail (or letter) is all about remembering the acronym BRIEF.
B is for Background – Provide a quick background summary of no more than one paragraph. This will be enough to bring most people up to speed on the topic being addressed.
R is for Reason – Why is this issue being raised? Is it an annual renewal of insurance (for instance) or perhaps the issue requires immediate attention, such as a significant repair.
I is for Information – Include two or three paragraphs on why this issue is important. If the issue warrants it, you can direct high detail people to the end of the summary or to an attachment.
E is for End – Just a paragraph is needed to outline what the committee intends to do, or what action you want your fellow owners to take.
F is for Follow Up – This is one of the most important parts of the communication. Use deadlines –for requesting feedback and response or, depending on the subject of the communication, a firm date on which the committee will return with an update.
Communication Is A Two-Way Street
As a committee member, your ear is likely to be bent by lot owners who have complaints or suggestions. Sometimes you’re going to feel like you’ve been dropped right in the middle of a conversation that started without you.
In addition to listening, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions says that you are actively listening as well as helping you get up to speed on the subject.
After the conversation, make notes to ensure you remember the details. If the topic requires, send an e-mail back to the lot owner with a summary of the conversation which makes sure you’ve each remembered the details correctly. If the matter is something the entire committee should be across, be sure to copy them into the e-mail too.
Making effective communication a priority of your committee will go a long way to preventing small issues from escalating, reduce misunderstandings and eliminating stress for you and your fellow committee members.