Jun 1, 2017
Do you really need to write things down on paper?
In this episode, learn the importance of writing things down on paper.
So we’ll be talking about why you should write things down on paper.
Ah! I know, I know… you are already rolling your eyes there. This is such a boring topic…
Wait! It’s not!
Do you realize how powerful writing can be?
Think about it for a minute.
You are in a meeting. There is lots going on…ideas, suggestions, proposals…and someone is at the whiteboard holding the black marker.
That person has a lot of power.
If that person doesn’t write the idea down your idea on the whiteboard…
it’s as if it had never been discussed.
Not only that… The way that person writes down what you’ve said can impact how the meeting progresses.
Who holds the marker “holds the power”.
That person can silence anyone in the room depending on how he or she runs the meeting.
I worked with a manager who was very good with this concept.
On each of our meetings, he would joke that the person holding the marker was more powerful than him.
Then, he would pick a marker and give to each one around the table saying everyone should have a voice.
It was a very interesting gesture, but it worked really well.
In all his meetings, especially when we were designing new things, we had lots of contributions from everyone in the room.
So, who holds the black marker has the power.
The person with the black marker is the one with the ability to bring thoughts down to earth… and put them into writing.
Here is another situation that shows how writing things down can impact the outcomes of a discussion:
Let’s say you are negotiating a contract.
Both sides discuss and agree on the terms of a deal.
They finally arrive at an agreement and everyone is happy.
Then, one of them decides to put things into writing.
That person goes to great lengths to get the essence of what was discussed. Writes down what’s been agreed upon by both sides – “both sides” in quotes here.
When that person brings the written version back to discussion the conversation,
I can tell you for sure, 99.9% of the time, you can expect the following reaction:
“That’s not exactly what we agreed to!” the other party will say.
And, it happens…
To beat the dead horse about the importance of writing, here is another example.
You can use writing to your advantage when writing proposals.
I’ve noticed that when I worked with very experienced manager in a telecom company I worked for.
He would always start a conversation/discussion/meeting with a written proposal…always.
It was simple: he would always bring something written with him to the meeting.
An outline of the agenda, a draft of the proposal, a summary of the scope document, you name it.
I figured out he did this so he could anchor the conversation and direct it towards the objectives he wanted to achieve.
Here’s how it worked:
He entered the room before everyone arrived. He would wait until everyone was ready for the meeting and when no one had a clear agenda he would pull out a sheet of paper or open a doc and project a doc from his computer:
“Ok, folks: just to make things easier, I put some thoughts on paper.
Here’s a proposal for the [meeting, negotiation, discussion, you name it…] we are working on today.
Shall we have a look at it before we start, so we can be more effective?”
People loved working with him.
He seemed to be prepared and would save tons of time on getting to the points we needed discussed.
But most importantly, that strategy helped everyone be more focused.
Instead of starting from a broader perspective,
“Discuss what needs to be discussed”
The conversation would always be anchored on a starting point:
His written proposal.
From there, from that starting point, the conversation naturally flows to what needed to be added or removed from that initial draft.
Do you understand how powerful this is?
The discussion orbits around what the manager was proposing, not something unknown, completely different and not yet discussed with the group.
Writing is powerful.
Ok. Writing things down takes more effort. I recognize that.
But it forces you to think through what you want to say and helps you bring focus to what you want to accomplish… especially when you want to lead some initiative.
From a practical perspective, you can harness the power of writing.
You can do that by Identifing who holds the marker and make sure key ideas are captured.
The person who holds the whiteboard marker, the meeting scriber, the person who sits at the computer taking the meeting notes - they are the one who controls what will be remembered about that meeting.
Have a look at the meeting dynamics and look at how the information is being captured.
If something is important, make sure that information is captured appropriately in the notes.
How many times have you attended meetings where no one wrote down the action items and important ideas? No work ended up being done, I presume. I guess you get the idea…
Regain focus by writing things down.
If you feel that things are getting too vague in your discussions, start taking notes and summarising points.
This will help you keep yourself on track.
Writing things down in a journal so you can review what’s been discussed and elaborate post discussion notes to confirm your understanding.
Once written, these notes and pointers will be there for you.
Always have an ace up your sleeve: bring something written with you. An agenda, a proposal, a summary of issues.
Be the one prepared for the important discussions you are engaging in.
Prepare yourself for a few minutes before a meeting.
Write down a proposal with a few bullet points.
This can save you an enormous amount of time and effort.
I’m sure everyone else in the organisation will appreciate it.
Everyone be willing to participate in the meetings you are involved in.
Putting your ideas on paper and being ready for the discussion will save everybody time and help you achieve your objectives faster.
Summarise complex information to build faster consensus.
Summarising information is harder than being verbose.
Keep in mind that your goal as a manager is not to defend a PhD thesis, but to provide enough information so decisions can be made.
Get used to capturing things and summarising them.
No one needs a 30-minute presentation, if what you really need is to ask a simple question.
Summarise the required information and put it into writing. Doing this is an investment that yields big-time dividends.
When in doubt, write down the unwritten.
There is always too much miscommunication going on in the corporate world.
Unwritten rules, non-verbal agreements, you name it.
If you find things are getting murky, then it’s time to write them down.
The key idea here is to use writing as a tool to make things less abstract and to be more precise about what needs to be done.
Do you get it?
Now some food for thought:
As the Chinese adage says, “The palest ink is stronger than the sharpest memory”.
That’s why you should get things down on paper.
I wish you a great day at work wherever you are in the world.