This Co-op’s Holiday Tipping Point Was a Very Big Bed

Jonathan Vatner in COVID-19 on December 11, 2020 For Habitat Magazine

With New Year’s Day just three weeks away, it’s safe to say that never before in recorded history has a year passed so quickly. The days last about 20 minutes; the weeks are over in half that. It’s possible we accidentally skipped May. Which is the only explanation for the pandemic year of 2020 coming to a close almost before it began.

Yes, it’s already time once again to tip the building staff, to thank them for working tirelessly to ensure that our home lives during the pandemic remain frictionless and safe. But this year money hardly seems adequate. In March, when the entire tristate area went into lockdown, the staff at our Westchester County co-op became heroes. My husband and I spent the second half of the month in a daze, worried and fearful, but the staffers donned their personal protective equipment and kept the co-op running. I’m in awe of their selflessness and courage in the face of a mysterious, deadly disease.

Their courage got personal. In April, my husband and I came down with COVID-19 and its unnerving symptoms. While we recuperated in isolation, our super came up multiple times a day to deliver our packages and take out our trash.

The staff’s fortitude during the pandemic was cause for peak gratitude, but in truth, we’ve been relying on the staff for favors, small and large, almost every day – most commonly, signing for and guarding our deliveries. In this year marked by worry, fear and anger, online shopping has become my avocation and solace, and it’s not unusual for us to receive three or four packages in one day: books I lack the concentration to read, clothes I might never wear, and so much flavored seltzer, the doormen probably think we bathe in the stuff. Our cats have more toys than most children, and we have finally achieved the American dream of owning a TV large enough for our neighbors to watch from their apartments.

Our friendly and skilled handyman and super have cleared bathroom clogs (plural!), sealed up a window draft and carted away an old couch. Late one night, I called the front desk to complain that a screeching sound from the building’s ventilation system was keeping us awake; the super immediately got out of bed to fix it.

I’m grateful to the staff for all those kindnesses, but in tipping this year, I’ll also be hoping to expunge my guilt over one favor in particular. A few weeks into the pandemic, we decided to replace our bed frame. Not only was our existing metal frame very prison-chic, it also squeaked at the slightest provocation. So we splurged on a new frame and a gorgeous handmade headboard crafted from solid oak.

We were promised white-glove delivery into our bedroom. But the day before the bed was to arrive, I received a call explaining that because of COVID-19, the shipping company would leave headboard outside the building. The caller also mentioned that it weighed 1,800 pounds.

I panicked. I can barely lift myself out of bed in the morning; I couldn’t imagine lugging nearly a ton of oak in from the sidewalk. I asked our handyman what to do. He promised to help, as long as the delivery came before his shift ended at 4 pm.

The truck arrived at 4:30. When I stepped into the lobby, I saw the driver unloading the shipment across the street. “Wait!” I shouted, running toward him as the electric loading ramp descended. Could he at least drive the shipment up to the door closest to the elevator? As he pressed the button to lift the ramp back up, the headboard tipped toward me, and my death flashed before my eyes. But he managed to control the monster and steer it to the correct entrance with his electric dolly.

As it turned out, the headboard did not weigh 1,800 pounds – maybe a third of that, which still didn’t put it in the featherweight class. And the dolly did not fit inside the door to the building. The porter on duty offered us a smaller dolly, and with all my strength, I helped the driver lift one end of the box onto the dolly. My pelvis hurt for a week.

He pushed the box while I guided the dolly inside, and together we maneuvered it into the basement maintenance room. Then the handyman explained with a pained smile that the headboard was too long to fit in the elevator. And there was no way that behemoth was going up the stairs. Over the next 30 seconds, I passed through the five stages of grief and agreed that we had to return it.

Here’s the rub: We can’t find a delivery company willing to move something so heavy; the shipper that brought it refused to take it back. For the foreseeable future, the monster bed must remain in the maintenance room. At least I’m sure no one will steal it. I dare anyone to try.

I feel profoundly guilty for leaving it there, making it harder for the staff to work, but as a testament to their patience and good nature, all have tolerated the blockade. The whole ordeal has put a fine point on what I knew already – that we are lucky to be cared for by this unparalleled team of professionals, deserving of our deepest gratitude. And, of course, generous tips.

Jonathan Vatner is the author of “Carnegie Hill,” a novel about the members of an Upper East Side co-op board. “The Bridesmaids Union,” his new novel about an online support group for bridesmaids, will be published in 2022.

3 Habits That Will Separate Real Leaders From Mere Dreamers

BY MARCEL SCHWANTES, FOUNDER AND CHIEF HUMAN OFFICER, LEADERSHIP FROM THE CORE@MARCELSCHWANTES For Inc.

It’s become grudgingly accepted that roughly two-thirds of organizational change initiatives fail. Whether it’s strategic planning, acquisitions, technology implementations, or any other initiative, the results are discouragingly alike.

Despite grand pronouncements and bursts of activity, the reality is that most companies struggle with execution.

According to strategy and execution consultant Michael Canic, there are three things a leader must do to consistently execute: Develop the right focus, create the right environment, and build the right team.

Develop the right focus.

What differentiates the right focus from the wrong focus? As Canic explains in his new book, Ruthless Consistency: How Committed Leaders Execute Strategy, Implement Change, and Build Organizations That Win, the right focus has to be sustained. If it’s here today, gone tomorrow, then you haven’t truly established a focus. He recommends three practices for creating a consistent focus.

1. Strategic management, not strategic planning.

As Canic recently told me on the Love in Action podcast, many organizations treat strategy as an event instead of a process. Once they’ve created a strategic plan, the focus reverts back to the demands of the day-to-day. Canic recommends that leaders commit to strategic management, an ongoing process through which the plan is translated into time-linked milestones and actions that are tracked, measured, and managed, with clear responsibilities and accountabilities.

2. Articulate the pain of failure.

While it’s important to have a vision of what success looks like, it’s equally important to document the pain of not fulfilling the vision. Is it lost market share, the threat of going out of business, or simply squandering a major opportunity? Contrasting the consequences of success and failure creates a more intense and more enduring focus.

3. Do less.

Ambitious leaders typically take on too many initiatives. When they do, resources get diluted, people get stretched too thin, and instead of everything being a priority, nothing is. Do less. Focus on the very few, must-do initiatives, and concentrate your efforts to ensure execution.

Create the right environment

“In the right environment,” Canic says, “every organizational touchpoint is consistently aligned with your focus. It results in a culture of both engagement and performance.” There are five things a leader can do to create the right environment.

1. Connect the dots.

To engage people, they need to be instilled with a sense of purpose. Yet purpose alone isn’t enough. It’s also critical to translate that purpose into organizational goals and individual expectations. That makes purpose real and actionable.

2. Equip people to succeed.

Without the necessary resources, people get frustrated. Without the required skills, they feel helpless. Without sufficient authority, they feel they aren’t trusted. Leaders need to equip their people to succeed, not set them up to fail. That means providing at least sufficient knowledge, skills, resources, and authority.

3. Coach, don’t just manage.

Coaches ask, What do I need to do to help each team member perform at their best? Coaches regularly provide feedback and guidance about performance. They reinforce the right actions and outcomes, and hold team members constructively accountable when expectations aren’t met.

4. Design your organization to execute.

Few things irritate people more than when they want to do a good job but cumbersome processes, restrictive policies, or inadequate equipment keep them from doing so. Organizations that consistently execute are organizations that are designed to execute.

5. Connect with the heart and the head will follow.

When you demonstrate that you respect people, trust them, and care about them as individuals, you get discretionary effort — the above-and-beyond initiative-taking that enhances your organization’s ability to execute.

Build the right team.

The right focus and right environment won’t matter unless you’ve built the right team. Canic believes there is one critical element organizations often overlook that keeps them from building the right team.

“Experience,” he explains, “tells you what a job candidate has done. Skills tell you what they can do. But traits tell you what they are most likely to do.” Leaders should assess a job candidate’s traits — such as competitiveness, conscientiousness, and curiosity — as rigorously as their experience and skills.

What does it take to consistently execute? The right focus, the right environment, and the right team. “What drives all of it,” Canic says, “is leaders who have the right commitment to make it happen.”

What Do the People Around You Need from You Heading into the New Year?

Leaders know that every person needs something a little different from their supervisors. Great leaders adjust their leadership approaches to customize to what their people need.  Some people need more encouragement, while others need to be left alone.

Some people need frequent feedback, while others don’t like or need much direction.

Some people need public appreciation and recognition, while others prefer to work unnoticed.

Great leaders are smart enough to know that people are individuals, and needs differ by the person and can vary by the day.

What EVERYONE needs from their leadership right now:

  1. Crystal clear vision. Everyone needs to know where we are going.  Leaders need to clearly define the vision so everyone understands where the organization is going in the new year.  The vision should be clear enough to be understood and exciting enough to get people enthused about the idea.
  2. Clarified expectations. Every person must know what they need to do to be successful in the organization. Make sure everyone in the organization knows their roles and responsibilities.  Everyone should realize that if they are late on a deadline or don’t do what they are supposed to do, it affects other people.  This is a common problem.  Even the best leaders sometimes hold up their teams because they left a report unsigned, or they didn’t make a decision in a timely manner.
  3. Use of deadlines. People not only need to know what they need to do, they need to know when it needs to be done. We have all had situations where we needed a report, some information, or some project-specific numbers by a certain time and date, such as before a big meeting with a new client.  If we don’t have the information before that  specific meeting,  we just don’t need it.  If deadlines are not clear, we either lost the client, and therefore the time preparing the information was wasted, or the time was wasted because we couldn’t use the project.  Great organizations use deadlines to manage work flow.  Leaders help their teams stay on track by implementing systems that include deadlines, and those deadlines are promulgated, known, and adhered to by everyone involved.
  4. More consistent information. Any time there is confusion or uncertainty people need more information on a more consistent basis. Uncertainty and fear, left alone, leads to speculation, assumptions, and unproductive behaviors.  Leaders can mitigate these problems by communicating more frequently.  Daily emails, social media blasts, and newsletters need to reinforce the message the lead is conveying.  Many people need more than one message to pay attention to the message, so repeating the message more than once is usually necessary.
  5. Guidance and direction. No one likes working for an arrogant boss, but people do like working for a confident boss. Great leaders have the ability to be calm in a crisis and provide the right guidance to help others move forward.  People want to know that their leadership has a plan to move forward.  To make sure leaders are considering a variety of options, they can hold town halls and focus groups and to encourage ideas.  Once they consider ideas and they make decisions, leaders can increase trust and motivation by making their plans for the future clear and letting people know that they have considered other input.
  6. Path for Success. People want to do a good job, and they need to have milestones and feedback to help them along the way. People need to know what they need to do so that both they and their supervisors view the milestones as accomplishments.
  7. Quick wins. Anytime people have stress, they need quick wins. Leaders can help by breaking down large projects into smaller chunks to make the finish line seem closer.  If a project is going to take 40 hours, people procrastinate because they don’t have 40 hours right now.  Leaders can help by constructing the 40 hour project into 10 four-hour blocks.  Completing one block gives people a win.  Especially during times of stress, people need to feel a sense of accomplishment.  It helps them stay focused, on track, and motivated. 

People take their cues from their leadership.  When leaders are transparent, motivated, and goal-oriented, their people will be as well. 

What To Do When You’re Feeling Exhausted

By The Eblin Group

Last week I got a question from one of my all-time favorite executive coaching clients. At the beginning of the call, the first thing he said was, “I’ve got to ask you a question. Is everyone you’re talking to feeling exhausted?” I didn’t need to think about that one at all. My answer was an immediate, “Yes, absolutely. Everyone I talk to, me included, is flat out exhausted. You’re not alone.”

He’s not alone; I’m not alone and neither are you. This has been the mother of all exhausting years. Even for those of us who have been fortunate enough to stay healthy and employed during the pandemic, 2020 has taken a huge toll on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual reserves of almost everyone I know – family, friends and clients.

So, that raises a practical question – what do you do when you feel exhausted? I’m not asking for a friend; I’m asking for myself. Last week, because of an innumerable range of business demands all coming down at once, was the most exhausting week of the year for me. You’d think that since I wrote a book on how to get past being overworked and overwhelmed, I’d know what to do to get myself back on a healthier track. But, news flash, I’m human just like everyone else. Sometimes we get so exhausted that we can’t find the bandwidth to make the simple choices that will help us feel better and be better.

Fortunately, I’m married to the best person I’ve ever met at coaching herself out of a funk. My wife, Diane, is highly, highly skilled at assessing her own problems and then taking simple, practical steps to bring herself back to being at her best. Two weeks ago, she recognized that she too was exhausted. And then, as she almost always does, she recognized what was going on and took some quiet time to make a list of the steps she needed to take to bring herself back. Last week when I was close to crashing, she was at her best.

Last night, as we sat by the fire pit, I asked her to go over with me what she’d done. She reminded me that she had already done that twice but I was so stressed that I hadn’t processed what she’d said. She agreed to tell me again if I took notes this time. So, I did and, with Diane’s permission and encouragement, I want to share them with you.

Admit to Yourself That You’re Exhausted – This is the key starting point. Instead of putting your head down and grinding on even though you’re exhausted, cry uncle and acknowledge that you can’t keep doing things this way. It’s not a long-term strategy for success. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite of that. You’re not creative. You’re not doing your best work. You start overlooking critical things. You’re not helping yourself or anyone else by grinding it out all the time. When you’re feeling exhausted, you need to step back and assess. For Diane, that came through her daily practice of journaling each morning. That’s when and where she does her self-observation of what’s working in her life, what’s not and what adjustments she needs to make. I’d say that this is the secret super power that fuels her effectiveness. The cool thing is that it’s a super power that almost all of us could adopt if we chose to.

Get Things Off Your List – After she realized she needed to make some changes, the first thing Diane did was go through her to-do list and calendar for items and events that could be postponed, dropped or cancelled. One example was an idea we had for a virtual Zoom party of past and current clients and colleagues to help us celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Eblin Group and to thank them for being a part of our history. That was definitely a nice to do but not a have to do. After I wrote a heartfelt blog post early last week that said a lot of what we would have said at the party, Diane concluded that trying to pull off the party was just more than we have capacity for this month and we needed to drop the idea. So, we have. We still love and appreciate our clients and friends (we do and you know who you are!) but Diane rightly concluded we’d be much more ready to serve them if we didn’t have the stress of bringing them together for a party. What’s on your list right now that’s a nice to do but not a have to do? If you’re exhausted, give some strong consideration to dropping at least some of them.

Change Up Your Input – Diane recognized a long time ago that to change what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, you need to feed your brain with different input. Changing up the input changes up the thinking. Changing up the thinking changes up the action cycles that left unchecked lead to exhaustion. Instead of constantly obsessing over all of the personal and professional stuff that remains on her to-do list, Diane has been intentional about giving her brain fresh input. For instance, when I came downstairs from my office a little while ago, I heard a familiar voice and heard her laughing. It wasn’t a conversation; she was listening to a funny story in the latest chapter of the Audible edition of Barack Obama’s new memoir A Promised Land. The 44th POTUS has been her companion recently on long walks and when she’s doing odd jobs around the house. It’s hard to think about what’s stressing you out when you’re immersed in a good story.

Do Things That Are Fun and Bring You Joy – In her self-analysis, Diane realized she wasn’t taking time for things that are fun and bring her joy. Once she recognized that, she immediately started doing some of them. For her last week, that was wrapping Christmas gifts, connecting with friends and sending a Christmas cookie decorating kit to our oldest son and his girlfriend. (They sent pictures of their cookies. They’re awesome.) What’s been fun and joy inducing for me this year that I’m getting back to this week is also connecting with friends and family and continuing to learn how to play my Stratocaster.  What will it be for you?

Pick Something You Can Finish Quickly and Easily – One of the reasons this year has been so exhausting is it feels like it never ends. One way to counteract that is to pick simple and entertaining things that you can finish quickly and easily. This, of course, is why Netflix was invented. For us, consuming the latest season of The Crown in about a week and a half served the purpose of finishing something quickly and easily. We’re all doing important work, but it if it’s always about work, the work is eventually going to suffer. Choose something like a TV series season, a good book or a hobby-type project that you can finish in relatively short order. It will absorb you enough to give your brain a break without adding the stress of “When am I going to find time to finish this?”

Eat, Move, Sleep – When you’re exhausted you tend to short change your best practice routines related to eating, moving and sleeping. Diane recognized this in herself about a week before I did with myself. Her water intake was down and her wine intake was up. She was going to bed later. She was cutting corners on her 10,000 steps a day goal. Check, check and check on all of those for me as well last week. Once she got clarity and a handle on what was going on with her exhaustion, she started making the changes I outlined above. The stress reduction that resulted from doing those things made it a lot easier for her to get back on plan with her eating, moving and sleeping. She would point out that you don’t have to make every change at once and you don’t have to be perfect. For some ideas on how to set your trend in the right direction, check out my post from a few months ago on simple physical routines for successful stress management.

For your use and future reference, here’s a handy dandy summary of Diane’s checklist for what to do when you’re exhausted. Just clip, save and break glass in case of emergency!

Unhappy with the way your HOA is run? Here’s what you can do to improve the board.

A Q&A from The Washington Post Real Estate section by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Q: I wanted to comment on your recent column relating to the use of a homeowners association (HOA) pool during [the pandemic]. Halfway through your answer you wrote, “You and your fellow residents voted in the board and they represent you.”

That seems like a reasonable statement, since in theory that’s how it’s supposed to work; but not in our HOA. We don’t have elections! We’ve only ever had one, when the property was turned over from the builder, and even that wasn’t much of an election as there were seven people running for five positions, but at least there was a campaign and voting.

Our board floats between three and five positions, so if only three people step up, that’s it, that’s your board — no voting, no election. If four people step up, they decide to have a four-member board and that’s it. If five people step up, then we’ll have a five-member board; and that’s your board whether you want them or not, whether they’re qualified or not. We need at least six people to run before it even triggers an election and voting, and again, that’s not much of an election. What should we do?

A: You seem to live in a community with a handful of engaged owners, which is why so few step up to help run the association. But it’s tough to recruit owners and keep them engaged, even in the best of times.

It’s clear that you’re frustrated by who runs for the association board and their decisions regarding your community. And we also assume from your letter that you are not currently on the board of directors and have not run recently (we can’t tell from your letter whether you’ve ever been part of the association board).

We get the frustration. But that doesn’t mean something untoward is going on. You need to take a deep breath and figure out what your association’s documents require regarding board elections and how fixing that might assuage your complaints about your association.

Let’s say your association documents require five board members at all times and an annual election of board members. That’s all fine and good on paper, but Sam has seen quite a number of small homeowners associations where the boards act informally and don’t follow their governing documents. Many associations never hold meetings. Some never elect board members. Many of these associations run perfectly fine and all the neighbors get along well.

While not legally correct, it acknowledges that sometimes in a smaller association, it’s hard to put a group of people together and have them follow the letter of the law as required by the legal documents for an association. It may also not be necessary if the association is managing to get everything done, like buying insurance, managing security and maintenance, and handling other association tasks.

One example Sam sees quite often pertains to two-unit or three-unit condominium associations. The organizational documents might require each unit owner to be on the board, but in reality the unit owners may handle all maintenance and other issues informally: They may never hold meetings, they may never elect board members, they may never elect officers, they may never pass an operating budget or have minutes of their meetings.

The owners in these buildings simply work together to hire people to make repairs, to maintain the building and to do what needs to be done in and around the building.

Your association seems to fit into the category of smaller associations. You can try to formalize how the owners run the association, but it sounds like you’ll be facing an uphill battle. From your letter, there are times that only three unit owners want to work on the board. When people don’t want to participate in the management and affairs of the association, it’s pretty hard to have five board members when only three owners want to serve.

You might volunteer to go on the board and help run the organization. Once on the board, you can try to start the process of getting the board to run according to the requirements of the association documents. Consider this: What problems are you trying to solve by formalizing how the association is run? Maybe you’re concerned about the association’s finances or how the property is maintained. Figuring out what’s bothering you about the association and the way your community is run will go a long way toward understanding how to deal with your co-owners.

Now, having said all that, if you live in an association with 20, 30 or 40 units and your association still can’t find people to participate on the board, you should run for the board and recruit your neighbors to run as well. Once you get a good group of people willing to serve on the board, you and your board members can get the board running as required by the association documents. Good luck.

Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (4th Edition). She is also the CEO of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them through her website, ThinkGlink.com.

When a Condo Board Becomes Interim Manager

Key deadlines, working with the bank and relying on staff all need to be considered

Monday, June 8, 2020

By Eric Plant

When most people run for their condo board, the last thing they imagine is a situation where they’re actually running the condominium. A condominium is a multimillion-dollar business with hundreds of moving parts, something that a management company is specially trained and licensed to handle. But time and time again, a board of directors is thrown into the role of property manager.

One of the most common instances occurs when a management company is fired. While most management contracts have a sixty-day termination clause, which should allow the board time to find another company, some boards prefer not to have their manager stick around. In these cases, boards may choose to pay the sixty days, “walk them out” and end the relationship early. If this is the case, the board may temporarily find itself signing up for a new (unpaid) job.

Sadly, the condominium does not stop running if there is no property manager. Units still have leaks, fees need to be collected, and contractors continue to show up to work on different parts of the building. So how does a volunteer board of directors suddenly take on this role?

Work together

The absolute worst thing the board can do at this time is point fingers and blame each other for the condominium’s current situation. This not only takes up valuable time, but also makes it difficult for the board to get anything done. The best approach is to start focusing on moving forward. Identify the condo board members’ different skills and put them to use. For example, if there is an engineer on the board, that person may be best suited to look after the maintenance contracts. If one of the board members is an accountant, he or she may want to speak with the bank to ensure the banking is under control. Divide up the roles to keep the tasks manageable and avoid any overlap, and then put together a plan of action. Make note of critical deadlines and make sure each person is clear on their responsibility.

Key Deadlines

  • Pre-authorized payments must be collected at the beginning of each month.
  • Vendors need to be paid.
  • The Annual General Meeting must be held within six months of the fiscal year-end, although this has been extended during the pandemic.
  • Periodic information certificates are due after the first and third quarter of the fiscal year.
  • Insurance must be renewed annually.

Get Organized

If the previous property manager was fired and walked out, there is a good chance that things were not going so well in the condominium. Important records may not have been kept in order, and the condo board may need to do some work in getting organized. Focus on the documents that are most recent and most important, like past audits and budgets, insurance certificates, contracts, fire safety reports and, of course, copies of paid invoices. An owner or real estate agent may request a Status Certificate at any time, and the condominium should be able to produce it. Once the documents have been sorted and organized, the board should have a much clearer picture of their operations. For example, a quick pass through the financial reports will show who the main contractors are. From there, the board can start looking for signed contracts. This is also a great opportunity to scan some of these documents to make them easier to find and organize in the future.

Talk to the Bank

Once you have the corporate documents sorted and you know who the suppliers are, calls can be made to clarify any outstanding questions. Most important at this time are the banks, as the board will need to ensure that they have sole signing authority to pay bills and that they can collect maintenance fees from the homeowners. It is also important to know the location of the condominium’s investment accounts and the terms of these investments.

Rely on the staff

If the condominium has a staff, they’re already handling many of the day-to-day operations and minor problems. Have one or two board members speak with staff members and go over their routines. A lot can be learned from the on-site personnel. In some cases, certain responsibilities of the previous manager can even be delegated to the superintendent. However, it is best to consult a lawyer before making any major changes to staff routines.

Get Help

While all of this is happening, the main focus should be on hiring a new management company. Most companies have handled difficult transitions and are well equipped to get the major pieces moving on a tight timeline. The sooner a new company can start, the sooner they can take the pressure off of the board. Just be sure to pick the right company so that you don’t have to start all over again in a few months.

Eric Plant is director of Brilliant Property Management

How to Stay Sane if Your Work and Leisure Days are Blurring into One

By John Rogers | Dec 3, 2020 For Real Leaders

I never expected to star in my own version of Groundhog Day. Did you? We’re about 200 days into the pandemic. For many people, that’s 200 days of relatively the same, exact day. We don’t have our usual weekend structures, making it easier for work to bleed into home life and relaxation time, so each day blends into the next. Today becomes yesterday, which becomes tomorrow, which feels like all the same.

The most devastating adjustment for many people has been the loss of rites of passage. Weddings and graduations are canceled. People are dying and grieving alone, unable to help their loved ones in the final moments before death or come together to honor their lives in funerals.

But beyond these foundational milestones, we also don’t have the lighter joys of family vacations, sporting events, or summer festivals. While not as poignant, they provide essential markers to delineate this week from the next and offer moments to look forward to. Now they’re gone.

On the macro level, a lot of people have sadly accepted this loss and moved on. But on the micro-level, stuck in our routines, many of us haven’t developed alternatives to the usual enjoyments we once took for granted.

Those routines are the antithesis of creativity—of the feeling of newness so many people need these days.

When the pandemic first struck, many articles advised people working from home to develop routines to help create a sense of normalcy. While this is good advice, the flipside is that routines can lead to ruts.

Ruts are stale. They trap us in the rigidity of thought, and rigidity of thought is a formidable, unseen enemy. They make us prisoners of our own perspectives. Without new stimuli or pattern disruptions, it’s easy for our thought processes to constrict. When we constrict, we lack creativity, which is the lifeblood of innovation in life and business. While we can tend to our home and work lives, we can’t tackle them with the creativity they deserve.

Besides this, ruts are destructive to our mental health, and until a vaccine permits some of our old freedoms, taking care of our mental health should be a fundamental concern.

So, what can we do?

  • Start with mindfulness, a practice of observing oneself. Determine if you are in a rut. Maybe you’re not. This is not one size fits all, and if you’re thriving, that’s genuinely fantastic. If you’re not thriving, pay attention to when and why.
  • Try doing anything different. Don’t underestimate the power of altering your routine. Something as simple as reading books in a new genre or reading in the mornings instead of the evenings can help change your perspective.
  • Identify and invert your habits. If you work out hard every day, take a walk instead. If you’re not working out, start. Invert the habit and see how you feel.
  • Try something new. Meditate, play games instead of watch TV, Zoom your extended family. Ask yourself what you haven’t done before and try it.
  • Develop plans for the future. What are the top ten things you’ll do when life returns to normal? Is there a favorite family restaurant you’ll visit? What about your top big life achievements? Have you always wanted to go to Greece? The pandemic has been a reminder that life is short, so make those plans you’ve always wanted to make. It’s important to have moments to look forward to.
  • Create your own mixed table. Schedule and bring people together to work on thought challenges, questions, or issues you have for yourself or what your world will look like after the pandemic. Think about what you can do about it.
  • Schedule your creative time to avoid slumping into a rut. That creativity is essential, but if it’s not scheduled, it won’t happen.

COVID is the neighbor none of us asked for—the kind who starts construction projects at midnight. And he’s not moving anytime soon. So, we have to learn to live with it. It is the difference between cringing at the realization that you have no idea what day it is and looking forward to a new hobby you explore every Tuesday. We don’t have those vacations, and we don’t have those summer festivals, but we can alter our routines. We can plan for the future, and schedule creative time, and infuse energy back into experiences that now feel banal and repetitive. If we’re mindful, we’ll prevent rigidity of thought from taking hold and be able to infuse our businesses and lives with the creativity and thoughtfulness they deserve.

How To Embed the CMCA Digital Badge into your Email Signature

Adding a hyperlinked badge image to your email signature is a great way to make sure your professional network is aware of your certifications, credentials and other badge-worthy recognition.  Watch this video for a quick tutorial on how to add your badge to an email signature, using Outlook and Gmail as examples. 

These instructions are for PC users. If you’re on a Mac, click here for instructions on adding your badge to email using Gmail.  If you’re having any trouble with adding your badge to your particular email client, contact the Acclaim Support TeamThey’ll be happy to help you troubleshoot. 

Step-by-step: Outlook

  1. ​From Acclaim, click the badge you’d like to embed in your email signature. Click the blue ‘Share’ button. 
  2. Click the ‘Download’ icon. Choose the small image – that will fit best in your email signature. 
  3. Click the ‘URL’ icon and copy it to your clipboard. 
  4. Over in Outlook, create your new email signature by opening a new message, then clicking ‘Signature.’
  5. Click ‘New’ to create a new signature. If you’d like to modify an existing signature, highlight it. 
  6. Name your new signature.
  7. Type any text you’d like in the signature, then click the ‘Image’ icon. 
  8. Locate the badge image you downloaded, then click ‘Insert.’
  9. Next, hyperlink the image  by clicking the badge, then selecting the ‘Hyperlink’ icon.
  10. Paste the URL you copied from Acclaim. 
  11. Click OK to save your new signature. 

Step-by-step instructions: Gmail

  1. From Acclaim, click the badge you’d like to embed in your email signature. Hover your mouse over the badge and right click to copy it.
  2. Within Gmail’s settings, access your email signature.
  3. Right click to paste the badge image into the signature. If the image appears too large, click the badge and select Small from the options presented.
  4. Back in Acclaim, click the blue ‘Share’ button underneath your badge.
  5. Next, click the ‘URL’ icon and copy it to your clipboard.
  6. Within your email signature, highlight the badge image and create a hyperlink with the URL you just copied. 
  7. Click OK to save your new signature.

New CMCAs Share Insights On Preparing For the CMCA Exam During A Pandemic

As CAMICB Board of Commissioners Chair, Drew Mulhare, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM, said in a letter to CMCA credential holders in May, “ The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has impacted our businesses, our communities, our educational institutions, our families – every aspect of our lives – each of us has been faced with the challenge of defining new ways to work, interact with our colleagues, protect and serve our client communities, and keep our families safe and connected. I believe we are all realizing that our futures will, in many ways, be shaped by meeting the challenges of the present. And the stories of perseverance, courage, commitment, and compassion that are emerging all around us are powerful and heartening.”

Six months later, those words continue to ring true.  

Also during this time, hundreds of CMCA exam candidates felt the weight of the pandemic through a different lens that meant preparing, studying, and taking the CMCA examination under extraordinary circumstances.

CAMICB caught up with a few CMCAs who recently took and passed the CMCA exam during the COVID-19 pandemic. They generously shared their experiences during this time: how they prepared for the exam in the pandemic environment, the experience of actually sitting for the exam amid pandemic restrictions, and the advice or tips they would offer current candidates who are studying and preparing to take the exam.

While many missed the opportunity to study at libraries or with colleagues at coffee shops, each of the new CMCAs we spoke with navigated a new normal to earn their CMCA credential.

Cathy Baldwin, CMCA, Owner of Baldwin Management Resources on the resources she found most useful in preparing for the exam:

“For starters, the M100 text book was a great resource. However, I wanted more detail on Risk Management & Governance, so I took an M200 level class to supplement my knowledge. In addition, the CMCA practice exam was an excellent way to determine my areas of weakness. Finally, the CMCA exam Quizlet was also a useful resource.”

Cathy also recommends, “scheduling to sit for the exam well in advance, as changing conditions during the pandemic may cause a delay. Then, I suggest allowing one hour a day, five days a week, for several months to get ready. When testing, be sure to take your time and read and re-read the test questions.”

Bruce Hill, CMCA, Community Manager for Elite Management Professionals, AAMC made the most of the extra unplanned study time:

“I was prepared to take the exam and felt I was ready in early March. As things went into lockdown around the country, I searched for a testing site near me and they were all closed for the foreseeable future.  At that time, I was only 5 months into my job, though I come from years in Real Estate and Property Management. It turns out the additional months waiting for test centers to reopen enabled me to study more, and allowed my portfolio to grow. I was able to dig deeper into the different types of communities – so the extra study time was beneficial to me – both academically and applying the concepts in real life scenarios.”

“The CMCA Practice Exams were a huge help in switching from the test questions in the preparation/study guide to what the actual test questions would look like. I’d recommend the practice exams to anyone who is preparing to take the exam. I spent $40 for the pair of tests, and took one in March, then I saved the next for the week before my exam so it was fresh in my mind. It worked out very well!”

Wade O’Hara, CMCA, Association Manager, Classic Property Management AAMC echoes Bruce’s sentiment on the practice exams:

“The practice exams were very informative. They familiarize you with the wording and language as the exam uses similar phrasing. You have a year after registering to take the exam, so make sure you’re ready – there is no need to rush in unprepared.”

Marla Elkon, CMCA, Community Manager, Clagett Management WV VA, LLC found herself as busy as ever during this time:

“I’ve been just as busy during the pandemic between taking on new house projects and balancing the needs of my kids. I really had to make time for myself. I would carve out very specific blocks of study time and my husband and kids were terrific and supportive. For me, the key was using multiple resources to prepare including the M100 textbook, the CMCA study guide, the CMCA Exam Prep E-Learning course modules, and the CMCA practice exam – twice online and once written!  I also reviewed the Community Association Management Best Practice Reports and the CMCA Exam Quizlet was excellent – it was a different way to keep the material current and fresh in my mind.  The variety of resources each had different approaches and angles, which was helpful.”

CAMICB has recently added a brand new resource for exam candidates – the CMCA Exam Preparation E-Learning course. The course is a free on-demand resource designed to strengthen test strategies and prepare candidates for the CMCA exam. It offers constructive test taking tips, examines the composition of exam questions, offers study tips, and provides an interactive self-assessment tool to help candidates develop a study plan specific to their needs. To learn more and get started – go to: https://www.camicb.org/Pages/CMCA-Online-Learning.aspx

As Cathy, Bruce, Wade and Marla have demonstrated – along with hundreds of other exam candidates who recently earned their CMCA credential – there are a variety of tools and resources available to help candidates properly and successfully prepare for the CMCA exam even in the midst of a global pandemic. This latest cadre of CMCAs have passed a rigorous exam, demonstrating they have a proven and solid understanding of the many diverse business operations involved in being a community association manager.  Despite an extremely challenging environment, they’ve earned this internationally-recognized credential that serves as the cornerstone of their career as a professional community association manager.

Is The CMCA Retired Status Program For You?

The CAMICB Retired Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA®) program is available to community association management professionals no longer actively employed as a community association manager but interested in highlighting their continuing commitment to professionalism in the field. This program allows individuals retired from active community association management to display this new designation with no obligation to meet continuing education requirements.

Retirement Doesn’t Mean Walking Away From The Profession

For the many retired community association management professionals who obtained their CMCA and maintained it over the years, staying active in the industry is an important – and fulfilling – phase of retirement.

“I decided to apply for retired status rather than just walk away from maintaining my CMCA because it’s an honor I wasn’t ready to part with,” said Judy Rosen, CMCA (Ret.), AMS, PCAM (Ret.). “Even though I retired from full-time work as a community association manager more than five years ago, it was important for me to remain actively involved in the industry.” Rosen is currently a member of the CAMICB Exam Development Committee and a member of the CAI National Faculty.  “Displaying my CMCA (Ret.) is especially important to me, particularly when I facilitate the PCAM Case Study; the students should know I earned my CMCA credential.”

Rosen added, “The value in maintaining this new designation is the world recognition I enjoy. No matter where I go for a faculty assignment, or what CAI Chapter asks me speak at a local conference, these audiences know I’m one of them with experience and expertise in the profession.  And I believe this is particularly important to managers!”

In short, the benefits of obtaining CMCA (Ret.) status include:

  • A meaningful way to honor your commitment and years of service to the profession;
  • The ability to showcase this new designation, CMCA (Ret.), with no obligation to meeting continuing education requirements;
  • A way to stay connected to an expanding group of committed professionals; and,
  • The ability to remain active in the industry in rewarding and fulfilling areas of your choice.

Applying for CMCA (Ret.) status is simple!

  • Complete a retired status application.
  • Pay an annual fee of $25.
  • Continue to abide by the CMCA Standards of Professional Conduct.

For more on obtaining CMCA (Ret.) status, go to www.camicb.org.