Our company kicked off an employee book club last month, with the inaugural book being "Death by Meeting," written by Patrick Lencioni. The author weaves a fictional tale of a company struggling with staff meetings, and how those affect the long-term success of the organization. I certainly won’t give away the entire plot line, but there are some key points that stuck with me, that I hope to exemplify in my meetings going forward.
Here are my 5 paraphrased tips for effective meetings:
- Have a clear meeting objective. When you send out the meeting notice, let people know the expected outcome or deliverable of that meeting. This could be anything from a completed document of some kind, to a decision being made about a purchase.
- Invite relevant participants only. Sometimes we invite the whole world to a meeting because we don’t want to hurt feelings or exclude someone. In truth, a smaller, more focused meeting can drive an effective output that can then be communicated to those who are impacted by that output, but were not imperative in making the decisions. On the flip side of that, if you feel you get invited to way to many meetings where you don’t provide any value – speak up. Politely inquire as to why you are being included, and respectfully request you be included in post-meeting notes, but not required to attend.
- Make sure everyone voices their opinions. When there is a decision to be made, and you have a team of stakeholders, all opinions should be brought to the table. Allow a time for everyone to be heard. One hundred percent agreement on all issues is not not going to happen, but once all voices are heard, the leader makes the final call and everyone stands behind the decision.
- Avoid "Rabbit Holes." When the discussion veers from the proposed agenda, put the new topic in a parking lot. The change in discussion may be very important; however, schedule a separate discussion, or continue that conversation after the meeting. If we send ourselves down rabbit holes, we get lost and don’t accomplish what we've set out to.
- Close the meeting with purpose. When wrapping up a meeting state the accomplished objective, and state any action items and to whom they are assigned.
These tips are just a small snapshot of what this book was about. You should educate yourself on how to hold effective meetings, what type of meetings they should be, how often you should have them, and perhaps the venue for those meetings should be considered as well.
This fictional tale, in my opinion, hit a home run. Lencioni makes it very easy to relate to the characters in the book, while giving you real life principles to apply in business. I would recommend it to any professional who feel even the slightest twinge of displeasure in attending meetings.
We'll close with a little meeting humor from Dilbert:
The Table Group: "Death by Meeting" Patrick Lencioni 2004, Jossey-Bass