What you can STOP doing today to impact your results! Stop Taking Notes.
By Gabriela Müller Mendoza - Executive Coach & Diversity Specialist
My coachee, Anne*, shares with us this story. Anne is a senior advisor in a large IT leading firm. She told me how frustrated she was because her senior management overlooked her again for the promotion she's long been working for.
Besides meeting her business goals and working extra hours, she spent months performing extra activities outside of her job role, such as meeting with junior colleagues who were looking for career advice. She coached several new trainees. She even regularly helped colleagues improve their skills. She volunteered to organize the team's Christmas party, as well as helped out and catered for meetings. She also proudly told me how she was the first to volunteer to take notes and minutes during important meetings. In her own words "She had tried it all". Yet, she didn't get the result she was expecting; to be seen as a WOW-team player with outstanding performance. To her surprise, her promotion was put aside to be reviewed "in the future".
Why is this? As an executive coach I very often hear similar stories. Let's take a look at some facts and statistics. A study by New York University (psychologist M. Heilman) reveals that displaying altruistic behavior in a work environment benefits men, while the same behavior hurts women. The study scenario: men and women were asked to rate employees who offer, or not, to stay overtime to help a colleague. What do you think the outcome was? When both the man and woman declined to stay late, the woman was rated 12% less favorably than the man. Even more interesting is the finding that if a man decides to stay late and help, he gets rated more favorably by a good 14% over his female colleagues. Conclusion: after providing identical work-related altruism, a man's chances to be promoted and offered important projects, raises, and bonuses are higher. Likewise, experience and research show that women get the opposite effect: by volunteering or accepting undervalued assignments such as planning parties, ordering food, and recording notes, women tend to miss out on significant career opportunities.
In light of this, let's talk about a concrete tip that may impact your outcomes today. Stop taking notes in meetings... for two main reasons:
Presence vs. Details. When you are sitting in a meeting with your colleagues and bosses and you are the one taking notes most of the time, you simply won't look like a contributor with presence and ideas. If taking notes is not part of your job description, this simple act visually makes you look like you're the secretary, or a helper. Don't get me wrong, helping others out is important, though not when you become the regular helper and doer for these sorts of tasks. It prevents you from being seen as a powerful person with real value to add. I know the intention behind taking accurate notes is centered for many women around the wish to be conscientious, thorough, wanting to keep track, follow up etc. At the same time, always taking detailed notes doesn't really help you in the long run.
Writing is not listening. If anyone is busy taking notes, that person is paying attention mainly to information and details, not to people. Her attention is trapped in getting the notes right. That person isn't really listening for a chance to contribute. Taking notes is one of the main reasons statistically why women don't speak up in meetings. Persistent behavior accumulates and builds up perception and reputation.
Research shows that we women tend to do lots of work that is invisible, whether it's taking minutes, organizing side-projects, mentoring people behind the scenes, or catering offices events. Although this work may be important it doesn't impact the bottom line. These are things a woman gets neither credit for, nor visibility. So ask yourself if you are focusing your work on activities that a helper would do, or actions taken by a high value contributor or contender.
Now think about your next meeting. Remember, writing few important keywords can help you; though taking actual meeting notes, not really. If you wish to foster a solid presence and perception of the expert you are in the field, let your value shine, be present, and during meetings stop taking notes today.
Gabriela Müller Mendoza
Executive & Organizational Communications Coach -Trainer- Speaker
Global Leadership Specialist & FEMALE Talent Coach in Organizations.
* Names are changed to protect identity