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Should you take notes when in conversation with a client?

Should I take notes when in conversation with a client?

This is a question that comes up regularly in my coaching sessions and group programmes and I think it is a good one.

So, here are some thoughts on this.

Clearly, an important part of the adviser and client relationship is the gathering and recording of all the relevant information required to give sound advice.

And all advisers are familiar with a fact find.

But what about when you are in a deeper conversation with a client, such as in an initial meeting, a ‘discovery’ meeting or periodic review meeting?

Should you take notes whilst your client is thinking deeply about their life goals, critical life decisions or their fears and concerns about the future?

Let me share a recent experience with you.

I recently had an initial discovery meeting with a new coach (who was coaching me).

I appreciate that coaching and financial planning are different but a deeper conversation with a financial planning client requires precisely the same kind of environment as a coaching conversation:

*Your client needs to feel comfortable to open up and share personal thoughts and information
*Your client needs to feel that you are listening without any kind of hidden agenda
*Your client needs space to think
*Your client needs to feel you are completely focused on them

So, I was in this conversation with the coach and as I was talking he was also taking copious notes.

My experience of this was that I found his note-taking distracting. So much so that it interrupted my chain of thought and the conversation became disjointed at times.

Here is the thing…

The quality of our attention will impact the other person’s ability to think clearly. Nancy Kline in her book, ‘Time to think’ said:

“When you are listening to someone, much of the quality of what you are hearing is your effect on them.”

There is something about being very present with someone that improves the quality of their thinking.

Conversely, if someone is taking a lot of notes then is can easily compromise their attention because they are switching back and forth from listening to note-taking.

Where does this leave you?

The concern is that if you listen without taking notes you won’t have the information you need.

It is a legitimate concern but there are workarounds that many advisers use successfully.

Some advisers record meetings and listen back afterward (or the para-planner listens back). This leaves you free to fully engage in the conversation.

Alternatively, I think it is fine to take a very small amount of notes (it is important to ask your client if they are ok with this and explain why you are doing it). These can act as prompts for anything you want to clarify with your client later.

You can test different approaches until you find what works for you.

Ultimately, if you are asking your client to think and reflect then your full and complete attention is an essential component in the process.

P.S. I am a big fan of Nancy Kline’s work and if you are interested in creating an environment where the quality of thinking is improved then you can look at her ten components of a thinking environment here.

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