[Warning: If you are interested in a calm, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.]

Monday, November 24, 2014

Death By Meeting (Great Leadership Books)

Among the many leadership books I’ve read, a handful have stood out to me as the most practical and long lasting. I posted about one of those recently (LINK). Another of those books is Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

Like most of Lencioni’s books, it’s a fable—a story that teaches a lesson. It’s easy to read and kept my attention. And it changed forever how I plan and lead meetings.

Most of us spend a lot of our lives in meetings—boring, painfully slow meetings we survive using desert-trekking techniques (grit your teeth and put one foot after the the other). But meetings can be exciting and highly productive experiences. They can be engines of innovation and the key to cutting through bureaucracy. No, this isn’t hyperbole. I’ve crossed over the River Boredom into the Promise Land where the meetings really do flow with fun and progress.

One of the best maps on the journey to great meetings I know is this book. Two big ideas from Death By Meeting:

Different types of meetings shouldn’t be mixed. Each  meeting should be focused on one and only one purpose. Some of the most common meeting purposes:
Information sharing (structure and pre-work are the keys to this—do as little as possible in live meetings)
Practical problem solving (frequent, shorter meetings are needed for this)
Big issues/strategy decisions (1-3 times a year is normal for these longer meetings—save your big questions for these longer sessions)
Learning (1-3 times a year learning as a group can do wonders for your work group’s productivity)
Celebrating (commonly overlooked, this meeting type doesn’t have to be long, but shouldn’t be smashed into another meeting where it will lose it’s impact)
The catch-all meeting most of us have lived with muddies the purpose, wasting tons of time by diffusing team energy, not focusing it. You bounce from topic to topic with no clarity on what you’re there to do or how best to approach it.

An exception to this one-purpose-only rule: you can add moments of relationship building in any other meeting type without creating problems. Simple things like beginning with each person sharing 1-2 minutes answering questions like: What did you do over the weekend? and What’s the worst Christmas present you ever got?

At the heart of great meetings is productive conflict. No conflict, no need to meet. We already agree so why waste time talking about it. Meetings are intended to help people who disagree discuss and decide what to do. Great meetings require all three elements: 1) topic you disagree on, 2) healthy, rich discussions, 3) real decisions made.

There are  couple of practical aspects, but I think you get the idea. The Promise Land of great meetings does exist. Don’t settle for lame meetings anymore. 

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