HOW TO TAKE GREAT NOTES AND GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MEETINGS

You’re there again…sitting with the team or the boss or maybe a client or colleague and want to make sure you don’t miss anything important. Later, as you review the meeting notes, you may be struggling to understand what they mean. How can that be? After all, you were there and wrote the notes. Though some of the notes may resemble a really impressive collection of doodles, meaningless symbols or some foreign language. Other than this meaning that you were supposed to attend medical school, it is a very common affliction we could call “Notus Incompletus.

You almost never need to write everything down that’s said in a meeting; in fact, you probably shouldn’t. Writing too much during a meeting can keep you from being totally engaged with the conversation happening right in front of you. However, you do want to capture the important themes and to do’s from the meeting.

Fortunately, Voltage Leadership has some helpful options for making your notes super-efficient. Try one of these strategies in your next meeting:

  • One Summary Sentence. If one person is speaking, then, you only get to write one sentence to summarize what they said. This forces you to process the information they shared (as opposed to automatically writing it down) into what is meaningful to you.
  • Make Each Meeting Point a Single Word. Try to distill each person’s point into just one word. Often, a person is really only trying to express one main point, even if they use copious words to get there.
  • Only Write Down Questions. When you have a question, write it down. When you get the answer, write that down. That way, you have a record of everything you thought was important enough to ask about.
  • Go Last - Wait until the end of the meeting to take notes. What did you learn? What do you need to take action on? If you had to get someone else up to speed on this meeting, what would you tell them?
  • Be Present for Whomever is Speaking. If you’re having trouble focusing on the topic at hand, try focusing on the people instead. Set a goal to give every single speaker your undivided attention.
  • Ask if You Really Need to be there.  You don’t have to be rude in order to get out of a meeting. Ask the organizer if you are really needed in this meeting? If are not essential for the meeting but need the information, ask if you can read through someone’s notes after the meeting.
  • Develop a Team member by Sending Them.  Make sure the organizer is not expecting you to bring something your proxy won’t be able to provide. You can catch up later on what you need to know.

Give these note taking methods a try to find the one that works for you. We hope they'll help you become more focused and engaged during your meetings.

For a more detailed discussion on getting the most out of your meetings, check out our radio show, VoltCast: Illuminating Leadership.

Executive Present: The “It” Factor

If our impact is 7% words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language, is it any wonder that leaders who learn how to say what they need to say end up getting better results?

I will never forget the lunch meeting I had several years ago. Our team was meeting at a restaurant located on a busy Chicago street. If you have experienced the lunch rush in downtown Chicago, you are familiar with the pace and volume of people walking hastily to their destinations in the lunch hour. This lunch was memorable because of what happened before I even reached the door.

When I arrived, I found the leader already waiting. Outside. He was standing just to the side of the front door at the sidewalk, so that he could meet and greet us and welcome us to the meeting. He greeted me, shook my hand, and thanked me for coming. After a few words, he gestured for me to continue inside to our table while he waited for the remaining people to arrive. This habit of hospitality made an impression. I left that meeting feeling appreciated and valued: he had stood outside and waited to greet me and thank me personally for taking the time to come. He respected my time as well as my thinking: during the lunch he made sure he heard from everyone at the table, he reviewed the agenda we had prepared, and he checked to see if there was anything new we needed to review.

The experience is a bright spot in a sea of professional interactions I’ve had over the years.

The number one differentiator between a good leader and a great leader is their capacity to attend to their impact and be intentional about designing and delivering messages that come across well.

Thinking about the experience you as a leader are delivering to the people you serve with is an important habit of mind. As you prepare for your next meeting, take a moment to think about the experience you want to deliver.

  • How can you communicate appreciation for the time people are taking to come together?
  • In what ways can you set shared parameters for the focus of the meeting so that everyone participates, time is used efficiently, and the best thinking emerges from around the table?

Simple acts of warm hospitality make people comfortable, and open up people’s state of mind to more naturally trust and share. Focus throughout the meeting keeps people on track and allows for bright, creative thinking to emerge. Good habits of discourse allow no one voice to dominate and all voices to be heard creating environments of collegiality and creativity.

To get the best thinking from all the people make a habit of Rounding.

Rounding is simple.  You set 3 expectations and ask a question:

1.       “We are going to go around the circle and hear from everyone in turn.”

2.       “Hold your questions and comments until we are done going around the room.”

3.       “Be concise with your comments, as we will have a deeper dive once we finish the round.” (You can even set a time limit for everyone. 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, depending on the depth of thinking you are trying to bring into the room.)

Then, ask you question, and start your round!

One more tip for successful rounding, if you have an important problem to solve, send the question the day before so that the people who prefer to think through problems more thoroughly have the time to do so. This ensures equitable participation by everyone at the table.

What experience are you giving people when you show up?  Stop to think about how you and your habits are landing on your team, your colleagues, your leaders.   

Take a moment and design one of your interactions today. Simply stop and think about how you could best approach a situation. Look at it from the point of view of the other person.

Is there something you can change to better communicate? Think it through and try something new.

How’s Your Attitude Indicator?

The attitude indicator on an airplane is very important. It informs the pilot of the orientation of the aircraft relative to the horizon, so it must be correct at all times regardless of the plane's movements. Not to freak anybody out, but if a plane continually turns on autopilot, it may end up doing what pilots call the “graveyard spiral.” This means flight instruments wouldn't be able to distinguish between a “normal” gradual turn and steeper movements, thus requiring an attitude check.

And so it is with us:

·       Are we aware of what our attitude indicators are?

·       Have we checked our attitude indicator recently?

·       Are we checking our attitude indicator periodically?

·       How are our attitude indicators kept from drifting?

·       Are we continuously on Auto-Pilot?

The answers to the questions above go a long way to determining our personal and profession flight path. We have heard it said that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. This means turning off our personal auto-pilot about what we thought we knew and getting leveled in an accurate way.

At Voltage Leadership, we sometimes hear of an issue with a leader or a staff member. It often sounds like this, “What’s the issue? They are difficult. What does that mean? They have a bad attitude. How do I fix their attitude?”

Here are some tips and tools to help level out attitudes: (our own and others)   

·       Install or update personal Attitude Indicator 2.0

·       Take responsibility for Piloting our own craft

·       Focus on arriving in one piece vs being “right”

·       Devise and communicate an excellent Flight Plan

·       Treat Flight Path Corrections as valuable learning experiences

·       Manage personal Energy in addition to Time to keep Level

·       Remove any Schadenfreude from the Auto-Pilot

·       Take time to compliment the Flight Crew

·       Enjoy the ride with an Attitude of Gratitude

For a deeper dive into how to help establish and foster contagious positive attitudes at your organization, check out this episode of the VoltCast radio show, Illuminating Leadership.

IMPACT VS. INTENTION: HOW TO MEASURE YOUR SUCCESS FACTOR

 “We judge ourselves by our intention and others by their impact.” The moment I heard those words I knew they were true. The simple implication is this: we are judged by how we land on other people, not how we meant to come across. Our reputation has everything to do with how we leave people feeling and what we leave people thinking, not what we actually said and did, let alone what we meant to say and do.

Successful leaders learn this early on and plan accordingly.

Here are two habits you can adopt to become a more successful leader:

1.       Cultivate your “Other Awareness”

Stop and think about the other people in the room. Imagine the world through their eyes.

  •  What are their top concerns every day?
  • What are their fears?
  • What do they value and appreciate?
  • How do they like to be treated?

2.       Assess your “Impact Zone”

Take the time to follow up and ask creative questions. The sort of questions that will prompt people to give you candid information. Avoid asking, “How did I do?” or “Can I ask you for some feedback?”

The goal is to be more specific and ask for more nuanced reflections:

“What part of my talk is sticking with you still?” and “Did I have a habit of speech or gesture that got in the way of your listening?” will likely offer a speaker better information than, “How did I do?”

Here are some questions that can get you started on your own Creative Question list:

  • If you could erase one of my habits, what would it be?
  • What have I said or done in the last few [days/weeks/months] that helped you most?
  • What have I said or done in the last few [days/weeks/months] that got in your way?
  • This week, what opportunity did I miss to connect with someone? What do you think it cost me?
  • If I were to choose one thing to work on improving when I am with people, what would it be?
  • Who would you cast to play me in the movie about our lives?

You get the picture! Have some fun with this. Ask creative questions with curiosity and see what you learn. In the process of asking these questions, and then listening to how people respond, you will learn about both yourself and others.

Our success and our satisfaction grow when we close the gap between our intentions and our impact.

Why? Because when our intentions and our impact are aligned, we are, quite simply, getting the response we intend. It is a lot easier to leave a room when you are aware of the actual impact you had while you were there.  

IT WAS THE BEST OF DAYS

“It was the best of days, it was the worst of days, it was the day of wisdom, it was the day of foolishness.” (with apologies to Charles Dickens)

We recently had the opportunity to present Voltage content at an offsite for a Financial Services group in a large city in the Southeast USA. It really could have been anywhere and our program centered around two main points;

A. Tell us about their best day at work in the last 100 days and why?

B. Tell us about their most challenging day at work in the last 100 days and why?

Here’s What the Best Days and the Worst Days Had in Common

  1. Time
  2. Energy
  3. People
  4. Communication                                                                                            

Many said the Best days were days in which the team hit their marks, delivered time sensitive work product, or where everybody had it “going on” and everybody knew it. These days were full of meaningful interaction between people and energy. The team pulled together to hit the finish line strong. There was satisfaction for a job well done and recognition for those doing it. They had earned a certain swagger.

Likewise, on the Worst days, many said these days were full of chaos and confusion about who was doing what and why. Nobody had it “going on” and everybody knew it. After a certain point this led to tacit apathy. It was an exhausting, draining experience where the buck was passed for accountability and energy was expended deflecting attention. Not only was there was no swagger, there was anxiety about what the next day would bring.

1.      Time – In both cases Time is static / fixed, therefore priorities and rationales about them mattered.

2.      Energy – In both cases Energy is variable, the Best days were when Energy levels and Time were managed.

3.      People - In both cases, Work was being done through and with People. The Best days acknowledged that fact.

4.      Communication - In both cases, it was often the Cause of or Solution to a Best day or a Challenging day.

Our goal should be to make every day at work the best it can possible be, aka “the day of wisdom”. This means leaders must live in a less transactional space, where they are paying attention to how these 4 variables are being managed and applied. If they are out of balance, do not be surprised to hear about the “day of foolishness”.

For a deeper dive into how to help establish and foster contagious positive attitudes at your organization, check out this episode of the Voltcast radio show.