Each of us has attended tedious, boring or ineffective meetings that we dreaded and couldn’t wait to finish. Each leader knows the importance of meetings and wants them to make an impact. But how do you do that? The powerful and thought-provoking book, Death by Meeting, by Patrick Lencioni centers itself around solving one of the most painful problems in business. It offers a blueprint for how to eliminate waste and frustration among your teams and create environments of dynamic, passionate, and focused engagement.
The hard truth is that bad meetings lead to bad decisions. On the contrary, good meetings extract the collective wisdom of a team which lead to making good decisions and successful organizations. Leaders can turn painful, tedious meetings into productive, compelling, and even energizing meetings that put you ahead of your competitors in productivity. How can we make that happen?
This leadership fable reveals ways that you may be like the fictional founder and CEO who is trying to solve a problem that he created. He doesn’t know where or whom to turn to for advice. Then an unlikely advisor proposes an unconventional, even radical, approach to solving the meeting problem which changes the fate of his career and his financial future.
To breathe life into your meetings, add drama (dynamic interaction) and contextual structure. Meetings are more effective if you have multiple types of meetings. Clearly identify the purpose of each meeting, use different formats and specify the time frame.
Here are some suggestions different types of meetings, purpose and time frames :
Meeting #1: Daily Check-In Time Required: 5 minutes
Purpose: Share daily schedules and activities (to avoid confusion about how priorities are translated into action)
How: If possible, everyone shares (preferably standing in one consistent location at a consistent time) for a maximum of 5 minutes. Initially commit to attending daily for 2 months to establish the routine.
Keys to Success:
1. Don’t sit down
2. Keep it administrative
3. Don’t cancel even when some people can’t be there
Meeting #2: Weekly Tactical meeting (or bi-weekly) Time Required: 45 – 90 minutes
Purpose: Review weekly activities and metrics, and resolve tactical obstacles and issues
a) Lightning Round: Each person has 60 seconds to share two or three priorities for the week. This critical component sets the tone for the meeting
b) Progress Review: 5 minute report of critical information on revenue, expenses, customer satisfaction, etc and review of progress related to 4-6 key metrics for success
c) Real-time Agenda: No more than 15 minutes into meeting, set the agenda for the day based on what tactical issues emerged during the Lightning Round and Progress Review and how your company is performing in terms of its goals. This requires disciplined spontaneity. Tactical issues and obstacles must be addressed weekly to ensure that short-term objectives are met. Avoid discussions about long-term strategic issues because complex topics deserve enough time to brainstorm, analyze, and prepare. Do not reconsider strategic decisions at this time. Goals: Resolution of issues…reinforcement of clarity.
Keys to Success:
1. Don’t set agenda until after initial reporting
2. Postpone strategic discussions
Meeting #3: Monthly Strategic meeting (most interesting…most important) Time Required: 2-4 hours
Purpose: Discuss, analyze, brainstorm, and decide upon critical issues affecting long-term success
How: Leaders research and prepare ahead of time in order to strategically wrestle with, analyze, debate, and make good decisions. Strategic discussions should be based upon a few of the critical issues that affect the business in fundamental ways. Allow at least two hours per topic to engage in open-ended conversation and debate. If a strategic or critical issue raised in the Weekly Tactical meeting cannot wait for the next scheduled Monthly Strategic meeting, leaders create an Ad Hoc Strategic meeting to allow for an urgent reset.
Keys to Success:
1. Limit to one or two topics
2. Prepare and do research
3. Engage in good conflict
Meeting #4: Quarterly Off-Site Review Time Required: one to two days; 3 or 4x /yr)
Purpose: Review strategy, industry trends, competitive landscape, key personnel, team development
a) Comprehensive Strategy Review – Reassess strategic direction
b) Team Review: Assess themselves as a team
c) Personnel Review: talk across department about key employers
d) Competitive Industry Review…information about competitors and industry trends
Help leaders see the forest, not just the day-to-day trees of daily responsibilities.
Invite outside facilitators when they are trusted by the team, understand the organization’s business, and are passionate about helping the team accomplish its objectives, not his or her own objectives. The greatest benefit of using such a facilitator is that it allows the leader of the team to participate fully in the discussions without having to worry about playing a more objective, supportive role.
Keys to Success:
1. Get out of the office
2. Focus on work; limit social activities
3. Don’t over structure or overburden the schedule
Consider coaching services if you struggle with bad meetings that are taking a toll on your organization and are causing anger, lethargy and cynicism among the ranks. Improving meetings does more than enhance your organizations performance, it also positively impacts your life and the lives of those who work with you.