Hands-on vs. hands-off

September 09, 2018

We're having a bit of a debate in my HOA about the role of the board.

One school of thought thinks we should act like the board of a large business, especially given the association has permanent employees and about a thousand residents. Quoting Fred Wilson:

However, the Board should not run a company. That is the role of the CEO and his/her senior management team. The Board's job is to make sure the right team is at the helm, not to be at the helm themselves. Boards that meddle, that get too involved, that undermine the management team are hurting the company, not helping the company.

The opposite perspective, which seems more popular among the "deal people" coming from real estate, is that we should act more like the state department: a bunch of political appointees, controlling and setting policy for a permanent staff.

I see the logic of the second but think we need to be more the first. In my view, delegating and trusting the staff is the only viable option beacuse there's too much to do. Our meetings are already approaching two hours every month given our translation requirements (all of our meetings are translated serially into Cantonese), and we're all a bunch of volunteers who might not be around after a year or two. In my view, the right course of action is installation of a great staff capable of running things day-to-day without us.

I suspect this is a common problem in large nonprofits and would love to hear how others have handled it.

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