Why Sheryl Sandberg personalizes notes and how it can help you

Meeting one-on-one with your manager is a special time for employees to feel personally and professionally supported. It’s where relationships can be won or lost. Employees with supportive bosses who take the time to make employees feel heard are the ones that feel more valued by their employer and are less likely to leave.

It’s why making time to meet about employees’ progress is so important. You want to address issues before they become bigger problems, and you want to do it in a space that gives employees your full attention. But when you manage a large team, it gets harder to keep track of your employees’ shifting moods and needs on a regular basis. If you need advice on how to do it right, take it from Sheryl Sandberg.

How to use note-taking to your advantage in a one-on-one

In a Wall Street Journal profile on how the embattled Facebook COO is moving forward in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica’s privacy scandal, Sandberg’s forthright management style was highlighted as a plus from those who have worked with her.

David Fischer, Facebook’s vice president for business and marketing partnerships, told the Journal that in their two decades of working together, “she has gone through I don’t know how many thousands of these little notebooks that fit nicely in the palm of your hand,” he said. “She has lists for each person as well as herself so when I go in and have my one-on-one with her later today, she will flip to my name and there will be a set of issues. It’s effective.”

By regularly documenting her interactions with each of her employees, Sandberg signals that she is taking their concerns seriously. And by doing it regularly, she has more data to analyze. Notes of what happened at the moment when you discussed X and Y are going to be more effective than you remembering that same interaction a month later.

This detailed recall is why note-taking is a habit that is extolled by business experts and former FBI officials. It forces you to pay attention beyond what was said and can let you document body language and tone while the memory is fresh. And the act of writing it down may help you more than you typing it up because longhand notes allow us to recall more complex information than typed-up notes.

The biggest benefit of these notes is that it holds both parties accountable. Meetings do not matter if nothing gets done. Notes are written proof of what is working and what is not. By documenting a set of issues for each of her employees, Sandberg is showing her commitment to keeping up with their progress. That’s the goal of the one-on-one. Doc Norton, software consultant expert, emails action items after one-on-ones so everyone is on the same page as to what was discussed and agreed upon.

“Ultimately nothing is more important than ensuring your employee’s growth,” he wrote. “As you start the next session, you should have at least an update, if not a resolve on each of your action items. This consistent show of commitment builds trust and ensures growth for the employee.”