Where are the minutes?

Hopefully today the meetings were a little shorter and a little more productive, its Tuesday after all. Do you take notes in the meetings you attend? I know many people don’t like taking notes, but meetings have to be followed up with the minutes. One of my earliest lessons in the corporate world was – What’s not written, is not done and has not been said.

Very often at the end of long meetings, somebody asks, who took notes? and everybody looks at each other and realises that nobody took notes. There is also this feeling that if you volunteer to take notes, you will miss out on all the action and “visibility”. Effective meetings have a designated note taker always and note taking is an important skill for every leader. I have all the notes from my 1:1 meetings with my direct reports and of course the notes from my coaching sessions. They are filed away date wise. There are only two other people I know who do this better than me – Mohit Mehra and Jane Lally… I thought I was good but these two are something else.

With today’s technology, note taking is actually quite easy. You have the option of recording the entire meeting on applications like Notability and then making notes afterwards. The best is to make notes as the meeting progresses. How to do that while contributing to the topic being discussed ? Well, as everyone discusses the point, listen keenly and do make your point as well. At some point in time the discussion will reach a conclusion, stop everyone at that time and restate the final action or direction agreed upon. Note that down. Keep doing it till all points are discussed and never miss closing the meeting by reading out your minutes. Ideally learn to type in the minutes into an email as the meeting is progressing on your laptop/tablet and have everyone who attended marked on the email. Just send the email at the conclusion of the meeting. That way, all action items are captured and nothing is missed out.

I have made note taking as an activity to be done on rotation by all my direct reports and in larger meetings, many young managers were entrusted with this. It keeps meetings on track and productive.

Just think of the scenario where there are no minutes taken and you assume everyone has completed the task assigned to him/her. Chances are, a month down the line, you are wasting time trying to pin accountability and getting stressed out solving interpersonal issues.

So here are some tips for note taking in a meeting –

  1. Designate a note taker at the start of every meeting.
  2. Record the meeting if possible after informing all the people present that you are recording. The note taker will have to find a safe way of deleting the recording after the minutes are taken.
  3. The note taker should take down the minutes in an email while in the meeting and send the email right after the meeting is done.
  4. Note taking should be done on rotation with everyone getting a chance to be a note taker. Develop the skill of note taking.
  5. Minutes are bullet points… not novels. So be brief.
  6. If there is an action item, someone must be responsible to get it done within some time.

So did you take notes in the meetings today ? If not, its not too late even now. Everyone will remember what was spoken in the morning. So jot down what you remember and circulate the notes right away.

All set ? Great, now where are the minutes?

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