There will be times that you cannot take notes in real-time – taking your team member to a local coffee shop or walking around the block, for example – but catch up when you return.
“Doing it later” will mean you won’t take notes. You know it.
HOW TO TAKE THE NOTES
This is the tricky part, and where the compromises kick in. There are three methods that I’ve tried:
- Hand-writing notes
- Typing notes on laptop
- Typing on tablet/phone
I haven’t tried recording the audio and getting it transcribed since that seems doomed to fail – I don’t need 30 minutes of conversation verbatim.
One-on-ones are the most important part of an Engineering Directors job, so you want to maximize the time with each team member. You don’t want to be spending more time taking notes than interacting – you’ll come off like a court stenographer.
Hand-writing is the slowest method by far, then tablet typing, with laptop typing being the fastest. So you could argue typing on a keyboard would be most effective.
However, you’ll want to make it personal, and that means face time, eye contact and empathetic engagement with the team member.
Laptops (or even worse, sitting behind a desk with dual screens) is the worst here – you’re literally putting a barrier between the two of you.
Get out from behind the desk and sit with your team member. Remove any power dynamic; be just two team members chatting. Even an open laptop is a barrier of sorts, and constrains your body language.
With this in mind, writing in a moleskine notebook or using your phone wins, although since both are slower you’ll want to keep the notes short, targeted and occasional.
To me it came down to these two choices – a small moleskine or Evernote app on my phone.
Both can work, with some caveats..
USING A MOLESKINE
In the moleskine, keep an area of the notebook for each person, and use tabs or colored edges to organize them.
Start each entry straight after the old one by writing the date, and glance over the last week’s notes to make sure you took action where required or you wanted to follow up on an earlier conversation.
FWIW, I’ve used a Pocket Moleskine (3.5x5.5″) for years, with a saddleback leather cover (because it’s beautiful).