Would you rather attend a movie or a meeting? It’s a question asked by a character in Patrick Lencioni’s book “Death by Meetings.”
Meetings are essential to leading and managing a successful business. It’s how we spend a majority of our time at work. Yet, many hate them. If we hate meetings, can we make good business decisions?
In the book, Lencioni tells the tale of an executive who struggles with his executive team meetings. Each week, they hold a two-hour meeting; only half the team attends, it starts late, and it’s filled with “mind-numbing” conversations. In fact, the group spends the majority of their time providing updates and little time working on the real challenges the company faces.
At different times in my career, I have participated in similar meetings and admit I have left feeling like I’ve wasted my time. After all, each week, I have approximately 40 hours to spend working and little time to waste.
Lencioni contends that the real problem with most meetings is that they are boring and ineffective:
Boring: “Meetings are tedious, unengaging and dry.” Lencioni compares meetings to movies. Many people would rather attend a movie than a company meeting. Why? Movies offer drama, conflict, and an opening scene that grabs your attention. Leaders are often more concerned with avoiding tension or covering all topics within the set the timeframe than addressing conflict. To make meetings more interesting, leaders must uncover relevant conflict to keep people engaged, which Lencioni suggests will lead to more passionate discussions and better decisions.
Ineffective: “Meetings lack contextual structure.” People spend hours in a random meeting discussing everything from strategy to tactics just to find themselves at the end without a conclusion or clear direction. To conduct more effective meetings, Lencioni recommends scheduling four types of meetings:
- Daily Check-In – This is a quick, five-minute meeting. Offered daily, the meeting is conducted standing up and allows everyone to present their daily activities in 60 seconds or less.
- Weekly Tactical – This weekly meeting should last between 45-90 minutes and focuses on a review of top priorities; critical metrics, such as revenue or customer satisfaction; and resolutions to any issues mentioned. The agenda for this meeting should be set after the top priorities are introduced.
- Monthly Strategic: This meeting should last between two to four hours. During this time, executives should tackle a couple of critical issues.
- Quarterly off-site: This one- to two-day meeting allows executives to review their long-term business strategy, teams, personnel and competitive and industry trends.
Since our management meeting was tasked with reading “Death by Meetings,” we have changed the way we think about meetings. Many of our meetings are structured as noted above, and based on Lencioni’s recommendations we are now consistently trying to mine for conflict. If you hold regular meetings, Lencioni’s book is a must-read for you. It offers great recommendations and is an entertaining read.