Meetings with a Mission, Part 9: Appoint a Note-Taker

Monday, March 17, 2014




9. Appoint a note taker.

With your prioritized agenda in print and in hand, it's almost time to get to the actual task of meeting together.  Almost.  But not quite yet.  

It's interesting how often the small things are overlooked, right?  I lead an executive team which essentially functions as the corporate team for the business we oversee.  While reviewing our employee handbook one day, one member of our team noticed that we had missed one minor detail.  We forgot to include a section which explained the nature of our business!  We laughed and laughed, yet with a slight shock inside that the executive team could forget something so essential, even though it seemed so very small.  

Having a meeting with a mission is no different.   These kinds of things happen to every leader.  But we don't want to let that kind of thing happen twice.  If just one important item in this series is missed, then it will become quickly obvious to everyone that something is missing.  And then time that could have been used in productivity is used unproductively, trying to figure out something that should have been figured out before, even if it does seem small.  Since meetings happen so often, missing the "minor" details can often end up costing a company untold exponential labor expenses.  So the little details in meetings are not things to be missed more than once, if at all possible.

Having a person who's been appointed to take notes during the meeting is one of these "small" items.  But try to continue on in a meeting without someone taking notes, and any meeting leader worth their salt with quickly realize that a major error has been committed.  If there's no one to write down what is being discussed, no one writing down decisions made, and no one writing down the action items to be delegated...  Well then, you've pretty much wasted everyone's time and the company's money in the process.

If you're looking for someone to take notes in a meeting, you shouldn't pick just anyone.  Here are some things to look for in a note-taker for your next meeting.
  • They are already going to be in the meeting as a team member.  There's no need to invite someone else into the meeting, unless of course the person who you think best fits the following criteria is someone not already invited to the meeting.  In this case, you may consider whether this person ought to be doing other key administrative and operational tasks for the company overall.
  • They can follow directions.  The agenda is already prepared with discussion, decision, and delegation points.  With this road map the note taker can be a person who also meets the next criteria.
  • They have the guts to help keep the meeting leader on track.   They do not replace the meeting leader, but rather work with him or her in an effort to ensure that what is said is accurately written down, and what is written down has accurately unfolded in the meeting itself.
  • They have an obligation to participate in the meeting as a team member, assuming they are a team member already invited.  If so, this is a tough task and requires the next key element.
  • They have a mind for multitasking.  The note taker should be someone who can participate effectively and follow the agenda while recording pertinent information.  This means...
  • They have an ear for detail.  They can listen with a keen ear to something that needs to clarified, something that needs to be reviewed, something that needs more discussion, etc. 
  • They have an eye for organization.  They see how information coming out the discussions needs to be organized in terms of decisions and delegated tasks.
  • They have the clarity to review everything one final time at the end of the meeting.  When it's all said and done, the note taker reviews every decision and delegated task to ensure that what is going down on paper is what was actually decided upon and delegated, along with deadlines on each action item to be completed.
  • They have the follow through ability to send a copy of the meeting minutes to the rest of the team within 24 hours of the meeting.  This is key.  The note taker should take the digital copy of the agenda, update it with the notes actually taken during the meeting, and then share the updated agenda with the rest of the team.  Each team member then has a working copy of what was discussed, decided upon, and delegated, and each person can follow through with their own responsibilities accordingly.
In some cases, the note taker may be asked to prepare the next meeting's agenda.  In such cases, starting the notes for the following meeting should begin with a follow up to what was delegated in the previous meeting.  This helps the meeting leader to know what to tackle first in terms of accountability and follow up to ensure team members are acting responsibly.

Note-taking at a meeting is not for the employee with ADD or ADHD or the daydreamer.  And it's not for the employee who is the idea machine or the discussion-hog.  The note taker is a calm and steady person, able to separate emotions from discussion so that the content can be recorded accurately while simultaneously interacting with the discussion points on the agenda.  Choose this person wisely and your meeting productivity with skyrocket!

In closing a word about note taking tools is helpful.  In Part 8 I discussed the collaborative advantages to using Google Docs as the foundation for preparing a meeting agenda.  When this is done, the appointed note taker then has a base from which to take notes.  Meanwhile, other team members can also add their own comments into the agenda during the meeting while also watching as the meeting minutes are recorded by the note taker.  When the note taker emails the team within 24 hours, the Google Doc should be locked with only commenting permissions enabled for team members.  This way no one has permission to change the actual content, but may add comments along the way indicating when they are finished with their delegated tasks.

Read Part 10: Discussion




About the Author: Rob is a follower of Jesus at Jubilee Church.  From there he pursues Jesus' mission at Revive Consignment as the Business & Operations Development Director, as well as at Jubilee Church of Atlanta, in Woodstock, GA. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 20 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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