Don’t Meet if Your Meetings Don’t Need Pen and Paper

Insight #328


Now that we are all ready to take notes, let’s begin.

. . .

A funny thing happened at an executive meeting. Then it happened again. At other meetings. Suddenly, it was no longer funny. Not even funny-peculiar. It was disturbing.

Several executives showed up at meetings with no means of taking notes!

Clearly, these senior executives did not value their own meetings. They assumed their meetings would not generate ideas or actions that deserved to be captured. They saw no need for minutes or a record of their deliberations. No need for them to learn from history.

Why so? Did they have superb memories or were they superbly stupid? You decide. Their company no longer exists.

If you think this no-note-taking was unique to this executive team, then think again. I have seen this in different companies and even at different levels of management. And I have worked with many people who did not want to be bothered with taking notes during work sessions with colleagues.

Once upon a time, I chaired my own executive meetings. Those meetings only started once every participant had pen and paper at the ready. (No. Tapping on a smart phone or typing on a laptop did not count as “at the ready.” Smart phones and laptops in meetings are always distractions.)

Today I tell my clients to “write this down.” And when we discuss a pending meeting that they will have with an employee, I tell them to insist that the employee also take notes. That’s right. I tell. I don’t advise. Taking notes is simply too important.

And yes, taking notes matter in all meetings, in-person, by phone or by video. A meeting is a meeting. There is no difference.

What if you are the leader or the meeting chair? Take notes! It sharpens your memory and deepens your understanding of what’s going on. And it keeps colleagues and followers on their toes. Note-taking makes you a more effective leader.

But what if you meet out of habit to discuss what is irrelevant? Then it’s best you don’t take notes. Unless you want to embarrass yourself on record.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

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