Minutes: How to Own Your Role as a Recorder

No, you’re not the centre of attention during meetings. You do, however, need to recognise the significance of your contributions and responsibilities and act accordingly.

What’s expected of you when it comes to meetings? Are you there solely to record minutes, or is there a shared understanding that you may have a more active role and that you’ll speak up as circumstances dictate?

Some may be reluctant to put themselves forward during meetings with questions or recommendations, on the basis that your role is one of support.

If that’s the approach you’ve taken to date, it may be worth also considering the positive impacts you can have in terms of not only minutes, but also compliance and productive, effective meetings.

Think of it this way: you prepare complete and accurate agenda packages in alignment with your organisation’s practices and in the interest of ensuring the success of a meeting. You do your advance reading to ensure you understand the context of deliberations, which positions you to record relevant, accurate minutes. All such steps reflect your responsibility to your team and employer.

Likewise, your degree of participation once a meeting is underway should also reflect support of meeting success, and your executive’s/employer’s preferences.

  Start with a conversation with your executive or Chair

Does your executive/Chair want you to have voice during meetings? If so, ensure that the other participants understand this. Otherwise, there’s potential for them to view it as inappropriate when you offer insights or guidance. You can do your best by your organisation if all participants are aware that it is appropriate for you to speak up when appropriate.

I learned this through experience. Supporting a board of directors, it was known and accepted that I would speak up as appropriate during meetings. If planning strayed in a direction that could be contrary to policy or compliance, or was otherwise missing consideration of context, I would provide insight. That helped the board, and supported good decision making.

With board succession planning the norm, it was inevitable that there’d be a newcomer at least every year or so. After one meeting, a new board member expressed surprise to me that I’d offered insights. He acknowledged those insights were helpful, yet hadn’t seen an assistant do so before – and that’s when I realised we needed to tweak our onboarding practices. I was glad he felt comfortable enough to have such a conversation, and I then had a conversation with the board Chair.

From that point forward, we ensured future newcomers were made aware that I wasn’t overstepping or crossing boundaries in respectfully and appropriately speaking up at the table. I was not one of the decision makers, yet my expertise, judgement and institutional knowledge were valued.

If your executive affords you voice at the table, ensure this is known so people don’t think you’re overstepping your role 

 Then, if you find meeting participants heading down a path based on an incorrect assumption, people will be unsurprised to find you executing your responsibility by respectfully speaking up and graciously providing accurate information – either to the Chair, or the group at large.

If you’re having difficulty hearing a low talker, others may be experiencing the same challenge

There are no doubt occasions when you find an individual’s voice quiet or unclear. If it’s not just a matter of your hearing capacity,  chances are that others are experiencing the same challenge. What to do? If you’re meeting in person, and you’re responsible for seating plans, you can consistently seat a quiet speaker in a location that maximises capacity to hear and record a quiet speaker. You may do all involved a professional courtesy, though, by constructively and tactfully approaching the quiet person offline to encourage him/her to speak with more volume.

Despite best intentions, plans may be muddied rather than lucid

Discussions and debate can sometimes unfold at a rapid pace. If that’s the case, and direction is unclear, you perform best if you are prepared to seek clarity. Commitment-based management (CbM) acts on the acknowledgement that meetings sometimes conclude with mixed perceptions of what’s been decided. To counter that challenge, CbM practitioners will summarise individual and collective commitments at the conclusion of a meeting.

If this isn’t in place in your organisation, and an outcome is unclear, respectfully seek an opportunity to seek your own clarity. Then, paraphrase or ask questions to ensure you resolve uncertainties that adversely impact your capacity to produce solid minutes.

Uncomfortable with Speaking Up?

If you have your executive’s support for this, but tend to feel intimidated by all the experts around the table, it may help to again treat this in the context of what’s best for the organisation. In other articles on this site, I write about facing such fears and learning from some of the best. Think about speaking up from the perspective of your professional responsibilities, and you’ll find yourself owning your role when recording.

2 Comments on “Minutes: How to Own Your Role as a Recorder

  1. I liked the suggestions regarding how to find out the expectations linked to your role as a recorder. I went through this precess. I am still creating a good standard and best learnings. It is a challenging task even having the support of my boss. It’s really important to have her feedback and mentorship on that. I think I will finish by loving beeing a recorder.
    Thank you for the article!

    • Julia,

      Greetings from Vancouver to Norway, and thanks for your feedback. I agree; establishing and adhering to best practices is an ongoing endeavour.

      One factor is the need to align best practices with organisational preferences.

      Am glad you found the article relevant!

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