Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: Death by Meeting

Meetings are maligned almost as frequently as doctors and lawyers. Just about all of us, whether volunteer or employee, have suffered through horrible meetings that can range from a pure waste of time all the way to destructive and relationship-ending.

And yet, we are social beings. We need to exchange information, problem solve, and build ideas together. What are we to do? Meetings: can't live with 'em; can't live without 'em!

Into this dilemma comes Pat Lencioni's Death By Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business, the subject of this week's book review. Death by Meeting joins the Five Dysfunctions of a Team in Lencioni's management and leadership library and follows a similar format. A brief fable is told about a manager struggling with meetings and discovering the principles of making them effective. As with all of Lencioni's work, the content is very accessible, easy to grasp, and can be implemented quickly. Death by Meeting can easily be read in one or two sittings.

First, let's dispense with meeting-hatred. In reality, we don't hate all meetings - we hate bad meetings, those poorly run, soul-sucking, endless, vampiric drags on motivation and productivity.

The good news is that meetings don't have to be that way. By following a few key principles, meetings can be energizing, mission-focused, and intensely valuable for everyone in attendance. Two of the most valuable concepts in Death by Meeting are the ideas of content and drama. Throughout the book, Lencioni uses the metaphor of tv to describe meetings. When it comes to content, most of us make the mistake of trying to combine dissimilar types of content in the same meeting. For example: imagine watching an epic movie saga simultaneously with a 60 second sound-bite cable news show. The dissonance this produces also occurs in poorly planned meetings. Lencioni advocates clearly separating different meeting types by content and purpose. I have personally found this to be a vital principle in holding effective meetings.

A second important idea in Death by Meeting is the need for drama. Drama doesn't mean needless hand-wringing or conflict. What it does refer to is the need for vigorous discussion of ideas. Outside of quick briefings, if there isn't some healthy conflict around ideas, the meeting probably wasn't necessary! I've only scratched the surface of the content to give you an idea what you'll find, but I promise that just the two principles of content focus and drama will radically improve the quality of your meetings.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might begin to see how Death by Meeting intersects with Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team in the call for healthy conflict based on trust. These concepts, combined with the dialog tools in Crucial Conversations are the foundation for incredibly effective teams.

I encourage any new leader or manager, as well as veterans struggling through meeting misery, to read Death by Meeting and immediately implement one or two of its concepts. You'll be glad you did!

Happy Reading!

David M. Dye

If you know someone who would benefit from this post, please retweet, like, +1, or email it on. Thanks!

Subscribe today or join the discussion at:
Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home