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Association Vertigo
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Minnesota Community Living September/October 2011

Association Vertigo

By Gene Sullivan, New Concepts Management

My father, a military pilot with the United States Marine Corps, told me of a story of his early training days where the Corps’ fixed wing training unit in Pensacola, Florida became increasingly concerned over the number of young pilots who ended up ditching their plane in the water over and over again while beginning take off.

What was initially being written off as a bad batch of recruits, who couldn’t be taught how to fly became an early lesson in understanding vertigo. "Vertigo” is that dangerous state of mind all pilots will face at some point in their flight experience where they become confused with their direction and orientation. This can easily happen when you are forced to react by putting your aircraft in quick and tight maneuvers. For that brief moment the pilot does not know which way is up or down.

Upon further investigation it was found that the cause for the increased pilot error was that the base had changed the direction of the runway for take-off. This meant the pilots had to take a steep bank or turn while initially ascending. This, coupled with having to reach across the cockpit to perform some specially timed procedures, caused these inexperienced pilots to become briefly disorientated as they tried to "correct” what felt like the proper maneuvers to in order to stay in the air.

In managing Common Interest Communities, "Association Vertigo” is a common experience we must all learn to fight. This type of "vertigo” is usually the result of good hearted, well intentioned people who are constantly being driven by the tyranny of the urgent.

The voices and concerns that a volunteer Board of Directors can hear from those in their community can be absolutely dizzying at times. While what you do in performing your role at any given time might seem trivial or mundane, it does take discipline to plan and to look continually ahead.

Science fiction author Robert Heinlein once was quoted as saying "In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved to it.”

See if this doesn’t sound all too typical. Your monthly Board meeting is ready to begin. You have an agenda prepared with a full slate of items to be discussed and decisions needing to be made. However, at the homeowner’s forum just prior to the meeting, several homeowners ask for you to discuss other concerns. Instead of having the discipline to say "We’ll discuss this if time allows this evening,” or "We wish to give this request serious thought, let us put it on the agenda for next month,” your efforts go into another marathon meeting.

Why? Because in your sincere desire to take care of the issue "now” you realize that you have spent your time discussing something no one is prepared for instead of spending your time discussing and enacting upon the items you had come prepared for.

What is the end result? Homeowners and Board Members alike ask themselves, "Why does it seem that nothing ever gets done around here?”

Does this mean I am advocating that Boards never take the time to answer the "quick question or concern”? No, but as Mr. Heinlein was quoted earlier in this article: In the absence of clearly-defined goals and a methodical approach in resolving them, you will find yourself developing the bad habit of allowing yourself to get caught up in the immediate, instead of the necessary.

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