Graci Leadership Solutions Blog

The Simplest Things Can Make the Biggest Difference


Last week, I presented to a professional association in North Dakota. I had previously presented to this group, so the president of the association was familiar with me and my realistic speaking style. During my introduction, he told the group to prepare themselves for a bunch of uncommon common-sense ideas. He then handed me the microphone and said, “Folks, you wait till John talks about the ‘the Yellow Pad’ It’s worth the price of admission alone.”

Over the years, many people have told me how “the Yellow Pad” has helped them lead a meeting. Today, I will share with you how one of the simplest things to do can make the most significant difference.

Meetings! No one, in any workplace, talks about how they should have more meetings. They are easily one of the biggest time wasters in business these days. Why? Because people are not technique oriented. They lack the skills to lead a meeting efficiently. Today, my tips will help you get people to meetings on time and eliminate the need to take meeting minutes or notes ever again. You will be amazed at how timely your team will attend meetings.

For years, whenever I led a meeting, I had a simple rule that all attendees knew. The last person to arrive at the meeting was the person in charge of taking minutes or notes. I came up with this rule thanks to an old boss who always asked me to take notes. Until one day, it dawned on me to ask myself, “why is it always me?” The boss never picked on anyone else. I began to believe that my reward for being a cooperative and willing employee was to get dumped on by always having to take minutes.

Many people claim that they can't be the one to take minutes because they don't know how. To combat this, I came up with the concept of "the Yellow Pad." You see, taking minutes is not about being a reporter and getting things down verbatim. "The Yellow Pad" is divided into three columns:

1. What has to be done?

2. Who is going to do it?

3. When should it be completed?

If you think about it, you realize that all you ever need to list is the outcomes of decisions and what is required to fulfill them.

Thus, I begin a meeting by saying, “Peter, since you were the last person to arrive, you get to take the minutes. Please don’t write anything down unless I tell you to do so. I will tell you what a meeting minute/note happens to be.”

When we arrive at an outcome, I will simply turn to my note-taker and say, “Peter, jot this down - Bill will gather data on the most recent customer complaints on hold times over the last 24 hours and turn it over to Sharon by 3 pm today."

Nearly all meetings have a straggler or two. So, once these latecomers finally arrive at the meeting, I'll tell them, "Glad you could get here, you now you get to take notes! To help you understand what we discussed, please read the notes from ‘The Yellow Pad’ out loud.” The result is that the latecomer is up to speed, and the rest of the group has heard the valuable minutes for the second time, which will help them remember.

At the end of the meeting, have the note taker with The Yellow Pad summarize aloud all the decisions, actions required, and responsible parties. By implementing "The Yellow Pad" for your meetings, you will be in a stronger position to hold people accountable for what they are supposed to do.

I passionately believe the most effective ways to lead people are simple. If you want more tips on conducting productive meetings, I look forward to speaking live or virtually to your organization. Leaders Are MADE, Not Born.


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