5 ways to use recap notes to drastically improve training accountability

Recap Notes - THiNK Training

If you’re reading this blog, then you’re probably no stranger to training sessions.  You probably even facilitate your fair share of them too.

That means you know how frustrating it can be to check in with your participants only to find they can’t remember what they learned, aren’t able to apply the lessons they did remember, and haven’t actually made any changes in their behavior.

Results like this can make you doubt your skills, your materials, your methods and even yourself.

We get it.

We’ve spent countless hours facilitating team conversations towards creating cohesive and productive environments.

And after all this time, we’ve learned that, whether we’re focused on strategic planning, utilizing the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, improving team performance, or some other area of team and leadership development, there are fundamentals that apply to any type of training you might facilitate.

One key to rule them all

Key - Recap Notes - THiNK Training
Uncover the key to building accountability into your training sessions

We’ve also been challenged to help our participants achieve the best results.  And we’ve found that there is one key area that helps us bring out the best growth and progress after the training session is finished. It is one of our key tools to make sure our training sessions materials stick with each person.

At TH!NK we’ve engineered our meetings specifically for team members to have meaningful conversations and make commitments of action.  We don’t just focus on the training, but we pay equal attention to how that training is used and practiced.

We really see our job as three-fold:

  1. Facilitate the conversation
  2. Document the process and commitments
  3. Assist the team to remain accountable to their commitments

But how do we do this?  And specifically, how do we make sure everyone is able to follow through once the session is a thing of the past?

Recap notes for the win

Notebook and Pen - Recap Notes - THiNK Training
Notes worth taking notes over

One key tool is to develop recap notes that are meaningful and easy to take action on.

It has taken us a few years to find the best way to provide meaningful recap notes to our teams.  And today we’re sharing our secret recipe for actionable recap notes.

We’re going to give you five specific keys to create recap notes that will drastically improve your team’s ability to not only remember the information from your training session, but to apply it and integrate it into their behaviors and actions.

Plus, we’re going to share with you one super helpful technique you can use when you might be off your game and need to dig a bit deeper for information.

Ready to raise your recap note skills to the next level?

Let’s go!

Key #1: Use your agenda as your structure

Agenda Calendar - Recap Notes - THiNK Training
It’s time to plan for the plan beyond the plan

Unless you’re totally winging it, your team was probably following an agenda during your session.  (And if you are winging it, then we really need to talk.  Contact us to discuss how to improve your training skills right now!)

The agenda from your session is actually the best structure to use when creating your notes.  It helps in a couple key ways:

First, knowing that your agenda is the foundation of your notes is a great way to ensure that you’re creating an agenda with meaning and not just trying to fill time with activities.

Second, since the agenda is in the same order of your training, when it is used for making notes they will also follow the same sequence and make them easier to follow and remember.  Especially for the participants since it will reinforce the order of training when they review the notes.

Pro Tip: Always include attendee names on your meeting notes. It is important to be able to look back and know who was at the meeting.

Key #2: Capture the key points, not every word said in the meeting

Mile post on highway - Recap Notes - THiNK Training
What are the key milestones along the journey of your training?

Meeting notes are not like class notes that you took in school.

They key here is to capture the main points from the day that should be remembered and reflected on by the participants.  Rather than cover every step of the way it is more like you’re providing mile markers along the route so they can remember important parts of the training journey.

For an item to be included in our notes, it needs to fall into one of four categories:

  1. New idea: A new idea is simply a topic that someone put out to the group for discussion.
  2. Important conversation topic: This could be an agenda item or something that came up in the meeting that seemed to inspire passion for the group.
  3. Action item: Something that the group needs to move forward after the meeting.
  4. Commitment: Anything that a person or the group has committed to doing, saying or being as a result of the meeting.

Key #3: Use photos from the meeting

Photographs - Recap Notes - THiNK Training
Photos bring emotional context to the written word

It’s a given that your will transcribe your notes and make them nice, neat and presentable for the participants.  But it is also important to take pictures from the training.  Snap snots of all your flip-chart documents, people working, whiteboard notes, etc.  Then include these images next to the transcribed notes

Why do we do this?

Because it creates an emotional connection to the words on the page.  Words types on a page have a tendency to distance the reader from the material; they forget that this was their information.

But when you show them an image of the flip-chart they created, they better remember the information, because it connects them to the moment of creation and understanding.

Key #4: Be specific

Make sure you are specific in your notes. The rule of thumb is to document the 4 W’s:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Why

When might you need to be specific? A great time to do this is when taking a vote.

Taking a vote - Recap Notes - THiNK Training
Raise your hand if you want to improve your training skills!

Here is an example of what this might look like:

  • 3 people voted yes (Jon, Sarah, Cindy)
  • 2 people voted maybe (Malcolm, Trey)
  • 7 people said no (Ted, Hudson, Cindy, Eileen, Cybil, Kekoa, Quincy)

As a result of this vote, the group decided not to move forward on this project because it did not align with the 2018 goals for the team. It was a good idea and one that should be revisited in 2019. This will be added to the strategic planning list of ideas for 2019.

As you can see, it captures the details of the vote and provides more context than just saying “The group decided to not to more forward”.  It brings people back to the moment of decision and the reason those decisions were made.

Key #5: Get a commitment from everyone at the end of the meeting

It is critical that you end each meeting by asking people to make personal commitments based on the topic of the meeting.

Remember to document this information with as much specificity as possible, just like we said in key #4.

Here is an example of a well-documented set of commitments made by one team:

MemberWhat I will do to build trust…
AlexMy personal action item to be more genuine with the team. I will acknowledge and appreciate the contributions that other team members may have done to help me/my department.  Currently, I may do this on-on-one but I think acknowledgement publicly is also often time warranted.
AshleyI will be more honest and direct in my interactions with team members. Currently, I am more guarded and often reserve my opinions out of concern with rocking the boat.
ConnorMy commitment is to get to know each member of the team on a deeper level, both personally and professionally.  For me, knowing someone is the key to trusting someone.  This is especially important for me as I am new to the team. I will do this by schedule scheduling a lunch meeting with each person before our next meeting.
CindyMy commitment is to get better at continuing the discussion even when I have a negative reaction to someone’s word choice or body language. Instead of retreating, I will be curious and ask more questions.
EmmitI commit to talking to team members in person rather than sending them emails. I tend to rely on emails because I think it is quicker, but now I see how important to build by having face-to-face meetings, too.

Pop quiz, hot shot.

Okay, so we’ve covered a lot.  So let’s make sure that this information is sticking with you too.

Based on what you learned so far, what do you see is wrong with the following list of post-training commitments that I facilitated for a training session?

Individual Commitments to Engage in Conflict

  • Be less quiet
  • Pick up the subtleties
  • Practice active listening
  • Continue to speak up
  • Have more confidence in team
  • Enjoy healthy conflicts more
  • Speak up more
  • Not to feel attacked when receiving comments but to question why
  • Practice opening up more instead of taking it in
  • Availability
  • Try to get the team to the best it can be
  • Give CS/SC more space
  • Work hard but keep balance

Clearly I wasn’t following my own advice here.  With a set of commitments like this we see two big problems:

  1. They are not specific
  2. I forgot to write down who said what

I was so engrossed in the conversation that I forgot to notate who said what, or ask for more details.  And looking back at the flip-charts I saw that it wasn’t written there either.  #embarassing

You might think “Oh well!  Guess you’re out of luck.”  But believe it or not, there is a way to recover and turn bad notes into good ones.

How to recover from incomplete notes

So, what can be done?

Option 1: I could have called each person to ask them for more information.  But that is a lot of trouble and often hard to re-focus someone on the phone to recall the specifics from the training.

Option 2: I could have sent out the notes as-is.  Of course, notes like this don’t help the participants stay engaged, remember the training, or follow through on their commitments.

Option 3: I could make these notes the centerpiece of an activity in the next meeting.  Which is exactly what I did!  This is a simple activity that created energy in the room and provided participants an opportunity to reflect on their commitments.

This was not just a way to solve my poor note taking problem, but to also remind everyone what was discussed and create an environment of accountability.  Win-win!

The Power of Positive Notes

As you’ve just seen, when each part of your training is coordinated through effective session notes, it provides a vehicle through which your participants can not only remember what they’ve learned, but they can apply it and be held accountable for that integration in their own development.

It just takes a few tweaks to your process to turn your notes from a “necessary burden” to something that truly brings the results of your facilitation to new heights.

But why stop there?  We have so much more to teach you!

Happy Group Training - Recap Notes - THiNK Training
It’s time to facilitate training that get results and create happy, productive teams

Still struggling as a facilitator?

Our tool kit for facilitators is literally bursting at the seams.  If you’d love to pick our brains, get in one some coaching, or attend one of our upcoming training sessions then we’d love to hear from you.

If you’re ready to be a more effective facilitator, then we’re ready to help you get there.  Click here and we’ll make sure you get the help you need.

Image Attributions

Photos by David Travis, Daryn Stumbaugh, Aaron Burden, Estée Janssens, Tommaso Urli, Avel Chuklanov, rawpixel.com and Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash