Are We Learning?

By: Bill Magee, CCD, ARM, IAP, NAP
President – Midwest Association of Housing Cooperatives

I am aware that some of us look at the many educational conferences we attend during the year as a vacation or a chance to go to an interesting city and see things to which we have not yet been exposed.   I would never say that you should not take in a lot of what different places have to offer, but always keep your proper perspective.   In the forefront of your mind should be the many    reasons why your cooperative sent you there in the first place.  Remember you are spending not just your cooperative’s money; it’s your money and your neighbors’ money that sends you to these educational events.   It’s not some distant corporation with no face and no name.   It’s your Coop and the people who elected and placed their trust in you by financing your trip; you owe them something.   Collect all the knowledge you can while in attendance and bring it back, in the Cooperative spirit, to your fellow members.

You should go to conferences to network with members from other cooperatives, to share experiences and learn from each other.  You won’t learn at these conferences simply by networking…….you need to attend the workshops and absorb everything you can while in attendance.   Become part of the discussion, take handouts back to your own membership for their enhanced learning; it’s why you were sent to the conference in the first place.  It’s hard for me, as a board member myself, to see entire boards that go to conference after conference, year after year, and don’t understand how to run their corporation.  It’s hard for me to see many board members that are incapable of making decisions on their own without someone telling them what to do.   You were elected by your membership, you are a leader, use your talents to be a better person.   This will help you to become a much more effective board member.

Get out of the box for a minute and take a good look at yourself in the mirror.   Do you like what you see?  Do others see you the way you see yourself?

Leaders have to possess the political skill to recognize that collaboration is necessary for the success of any corporation.  Negotiation, compromise and coalition building are also practices which you should develop a love for to be successful in your duties as an effective board member.

We are all imperfect humans and at times are thrust into situations with people to whom we have no personal affection.   But keep in mind, this is not about you – it’s about your cooperative corporation. 

Effective board members move beyond  self-interest toward the common good.  They focus on serving their members not themselves.  They find ways through difficult situations to develop strategies for moving forward with their cooperative, instead of repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.  Even people that you struggle to like personally bring great gifts to the table.   Respect the will of your membership who placed you at the table with your fellow board members and check that ego at the door.   Again, it’s not about you.

Do you sit on the board or do you serve?    That is a key question.

If you sit and all you do is sit, do your cooperative a favor and move away from the table to allow someone else a chance to contribute.   Sitting takes up space and   resources, nothing more.

Serving on the other hand, is what you were elected to do.  Yes, you contribute   personal time, yes you contribute the sweat of your labor, yes you sit up at night at home worrying about the future of your cooperative occasionally and for all that the Coop owes you nothing.  Not a wage, not preferential treatment from management, not free vacations.  This is about business – not about you.

Economics in our country today dictate that we are more diligent than ever in our efforts to protect, enhance and secure the future of our cooperative homes.  Strong, effective, selfless leaders are what cooperatives of today are in need of to bring us into the future.

If it is your goal to go on many trips at the cost of others, while providing them no return for the investment of their hard earned money, then I kindly ask you to step aside in favor of those with the goal of doing good for those who elect you to serve.   Steep yourself in the learning process which is rooted in the history of our country.

They say you do better when you know better.    Are you learning?