Magazine article Communication World

Put Productive Meetings on Your Agenda

Magazine article Communication World

Put Productive Meetings on Your Agenda

Article excerpt

Done right, meetings are one of the most powerful communication tools. Why, then, are they so painful? More important, why is it that nothing much happens once participants leave the meeting table? In Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni tackles these troubling questions.

Lencioni uses a leadership fable to illustrate how to make meetings more engaging and productive. The main characters are Casey, the CEO of Yip Software, and Will, the newly hired executive assistant, film school graduate and whiz kid. Casey's problem is that deadly, unproductive meetings threaten to undermine the success of the company, not to mention his career. Will uses his knowledge of movie structure to introduce a new meeting framework and techniques for engaging participants. The result: Company and career are saved.

Lencioni's solutions

Lencioni offers two antidotes for boring meetings: the hook and the conflict. Like a good movie, an effective meeting hooks participants from the beginning. In the fable, Will explains that you need to jolt participants in the first 10 minutes of the meeting so that they understand what is at stake and why the meeting matters. For example, you might highlight a competitive threat or illustrate the dangers of a bad decision.

A meeting with healthy conflict and debate is an engaging, interactive meeting. Yet too many meeting leaders avoid and even discourage conflict. The book offers useful techniques to help leaders "mine" for conflict and encourage active debate.

One of the reasons staff meetings are unproductive is that they tend to include every type of issue, "like a bad stew with too many random ingredients," Lencioni writes. Will advises different meeting structures for different purposes: Daily Check-In, Weekly Tactical, Monthly (or Ad Hoc) Strategic and Quarterly Off-Site.

The most useful concept in this part of the book is the weekly meeting model, used for a staff meeting that focuses on tactical issues. …

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