Solving One of the Most Painful Problems in Business: Death by Meeting

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

I recently read the national best-selling book “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni. The book is a “leadership fable” about how a man named Casey, the CEO of a company called Yip, helped revamp and refocus the structure of the executive meetings in his company to help move his business forward.

The book opened my eyes to the many pitfalls of bad meetings. There are very simple, basic ways to make sure you are using your team’s time productively and accomplish what is in front of you.

Meetings can be painful, long, and sometimes, even pointless. Technical solutions like Skype, Google Hangouts and myriad screen sharing applications are keeping us from meeting face to face, which can be detrimental to a meeting dynamic. Even the traditional conference call is not as effective as sitting down and meeting face to face because people often try and multitask instead of focusing on the meeting. Bad meetings at an executive level can indicate a huge gap between performance and potential.

Key takeaways:

  • Be on time and be prepared. Try your best not to schedule back-to-back meetings where possible, and even give yourself a 15-minute buffer between calls if possible. Joining a meeting late means you have not prepared, and is also rude to the folks who have set aside the time to be available. The book also takes an interesting look at how people don’t mind being 5 minutes late to a meeting, but will start to roll their eyes and get frustrated if a meeting runs too long. Be prompt and prepared, it’s the least you can do for the others sharing the time with you.
  • Have a purpose. Make sure that decisions are being made and there is a clear understanding of the action item involved. The book actually suggests not providing agendas for weekly meetings, but asking everyone involved what is “important” to them for that call and then developing the agenda and starting the meeting. This is an interesting concept, but I’m not personally sold on the idea, as I tend to work well with lists and if it’s not in front of me, I will likely forget to bring it up!
  • Have daily, informal check-ins with your team. Discuss schedules, what you are working on, etc. Take no longer than a minute for each update and go about your day. This will avoid a lot of back and forth on email throughout the day and open the lines of communication at the start of the day.
  • Avoid emailing. There are so many things that are communicated through email throughout the day that could be taken care of with a quick call or walking over to someone’s desk. This establishes better relationships and more personal connections throughout the company as well.

Unlike many business books out there, this was a fable. You are taken through a story with a real lesson at the end that is helpful and makes you reconsider how you approach your next meeting. Definitely worth the read, especially if you find yourself cringing every time you hear your meeting reminder “ding”.

Post by Kathleen Fusco
Zer0 to 5ive Director