The argument for writing it down

Have you noticed a trend of waiters and waitresses not writing down your food order? I had, so I read with interest a New York Post article this week about why servers opt not to take notes—and customers’ uneasiness with the practice.

Servers say that when they don’t write orders, they are able to make eye contact with their customers, offer recommendations and forge positive relationships. Based on the reaction of the diners noted in the article, the servers are missing the mark. Their customers don’t want a new friend; they want assurance that their orders will be right.

I agree that making eye contact during a conversation is important, but I’ve also seen experienced servers who can do that and quickly jot a few notes. Organized executives handle the challenge by assigning someone to take notes during meetings. That way, they can focus on what participants are saying and watch for body language cues.

While the ability to accurately recall a table full of orders is impressive, I’d rather my server use that brain power to be attentive and enhance my dining experience. Just because you can remember things without writing them down doesn’t mean that you should.

Long before David Allen, the guru of Getting Things Done, advised people to capture everything with a note-taking system, a savvy administrative assistant told me that one secret to her success was to put everything in writing. “I tell people that if they didn’t see me write it down, they didn’t tell me,” she explained.

For an executive, the act of writing notes serves an additional purpose. It signals to others that the executive considers the matter important. When you make assignments and employees see you recording the deadlines in your calendar, they know that you will follow up.

I was pleased to see that one server not only writes down the orders but also repeats them back to check the accuracy with customers. Verifying your understanding of what the other person wants is a key technique in effective communication. If a server can mix up the fixings on a simple sandwich, imagine how many things can go wrong with a more complex assignment. Even reviewing what you have agreed to during a simple phone conversation can be important.

That well-organized waiter might have a future as an executive.

With so many options available for note taking, from pen and paper to digital voice recording, what system do you rely on?

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