“Growing up” in human resources and volunteering on boards that support my profession, I have seen my fair share of the good (collaboration, teamwork, effective change management) and the bad (discontent, frustration, misunderstandings) when it comes to interpersonal interactions. I believe my professional and volunteer experiences have taught me how to identify and separate “real” problems from all of the “noise” that complicates getting to a resolution. Even with my many years of training and experience, I was not prepared for what went down at my neighborhood’s HOA meeting and annual election…and the aftermath that followed!
I will try not to over-elaborate on all of the popcorn-worthy details, but this recent experience had enough inter-workings to be a case study that a college-level human resources class could dissect for an entire semester – inclusive of finger pointing, spewing cuss words, slamming doors, three people being escorted out (one for being too aggressive and the other two for their own protection), and many personal attacks that are continuing on Facebook days after the big, or should I say “main,” event. Having experienced this very sad chain of events has reminded me of some key pillars for achieving successful change. These are great reminders for us all as human resource professionals or volunteer board members. (You may also find that they could be applicable to members of homeowner associations too!)
Don’t let things build up. Provide regular feedback.
Whether you are in the role of a manager, an employee or a member of an association, if you see a way that things can be done better, more efficiently or at a lesser cost – speak up! Waiting until an annual performance review or an annual meeting to cast stones on past performance ruins trust and only puts the other person(s) on the defense. Providing regular feedback encourages open, two-way communication and paves an easier path for your feedback translating in to change.
Be informed. If you have to make an assumption, start with innocence.
Collect information. Even with a pile of data in front of you, do not draw a conclusion without asking those involved “how” or “why”. Even with information in black and white, there may be external factors that contributed to an action that are not reflected in the documents you have or minutes that were recorded.
With a leadership role, what others expect from you changes.
Once you accept a leadership role the need for trust, consistency, and respectful communication is heightened by those who are looking to you for guidance. As a leader, recognize that even if everyone is angry and complaining, what you say and do will be noticed and may become fuel for discontent or fuel for constructive efforts to move forward.
Learn from the past. Impact the future.
I have little tolerance or band-width for complaining. By nature, when I identify or hear of a problem my focus becomes the resolution. Dwelling on what happened in the past can create a cycle of negativity. Learning from the past, applying problem solving efforts and creating a plan or sharing an idea for the future ensures fruitful conversation that will hopefully lead to a better future. Until someone invents a time machine and allows us to take a step back in time, there is no way to change the past, only the future.
Growth happens outside of the like-mindedness.
Diversity is a good thing. You have a group of people who believe an idea is a great idea or should be the top priority of the organization. Why not reach out to someone who is of the opposing view? Understand what their concerns are and if there are hurdles that you could overcome to gain greater acceptance of the effort. Maybe they are right, and point out things that you cannot overcome? Make an effort to reach out to those who do not think like you, encourage openness and make an effort to grow from the experience.
Let’s face it – people don’t get that emotionally involved unless they care – (and you can say that we have a lot of people that REALLY care in our neighborhood). The trick is finding ways to refocus that energy and excitement from blame and error and harnessing it for positive efforts that will impact the future. (Hence, my newly appointed position of Communications Chair for the HOA.)
About the Mouth
Jenna Dobbins, SPHR has been practicing her out-of-the-box problem solving skills in human resources for over 10 years for industries such as manufacturing, construction, transportation and solutions outsourcing. She’s a self-described builder by nature, having a true passion for rolling up her sleeves and developing stronger, leaner, and more effective processes to impact the human resource needs of an organization. She received a masters degree in education with an emphasis on instructional leadership and organizational development from Jacksonville University, was recognized as HR Professional of the Year by SHRM Jacksonville, and currently serves on the HR Florida State Council. She works with Pontoon Solutions, a workforce solutions provider, as a human resources manager and can frequently be found cheering on and photographing her kids at their flag football games.