Book Review: Death by Meeting

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

“Bad meetings exact a toll on the human beings who must endure them, and this goes far beyond mere momentary dissatisfaction. Bad meetings, and what they indicate and provoke in an organization, generate real human suffering in the form of anger, lethargy, and cynicism. And while this certainly has a profound impact on organizational life, it also impacts people’s self-esteem, their families, and their outlook on life.”

~ Patrick Lencioni, Death By Meeting

As a future coach I found this a phenomenal read that could save the staffs that I am a part of incredible amounts of time and effort. I highly suggest this book to any coach or leader who might have a say in the format of staff meetings and planning strategies. It challenges the conventional ways that meetings and/or organizational structures operate and will challenge why you and your organization operates the way that it does.

Below are some quick hitters that will instantly improve your team if correctly implemented. It also includes the formats that Lencioni suggests for the four different types of meetings utilized by successful organizations! You can find the book on Amazon for less than a dollar (minus shipping costs). We hope you enjoy and implement these ideas into your program!

Quick Hitters from Death by Meeting:

  • Meetings are the center of every organization. As a coach, practice is arguably the biggest and most important meeting in your organization.
  • Don’t substitute technology for meetings! Face to face discussions have great value and need to be honored and prioritized.
  • Top problems with meetings: 1. Boring 2. INEFFECTIVE!
  • As a leader focus on disciplining your organization to stay within the limitations of the meeting (time limitations as well as the topics discussed). If someone brings up something that isn’t relevant to the meeting, let him or her know that they are valued and ask to be reminded about this subject at the appropriate time.
  • Try to HOOK people into paying attention and contributing in the first 10 minutes of a meeting. This is when they will decide if they are going to pay attention or not.
  • Avoid Meeting Stew: Throwing every possible topic into a meeting. Need to be focused on certain issues to improve efficiency! Discipline!
  • Many people think that we have too many meetings but really our meetings are just inefficient and are used as time WASTERS instead of time SAVERS.

4 Types of Meetings and Uses:

1. The Daily Check In: 5-10 minutes every day where everyone meets in person, standing up. Essential not to go over 10 minutes.       

Purpose: Communicate schedules and main events of each individual’s day (can’t take longer than 1 minute) to understand each others’ schedules and make decisions about communication and effectiveness based off of that. Prioritizes Things, directs the group’s focus together! Enhances team morale and accountability.

2. The Weekly Tactical: 45-90 minutes once a week focusing on tactical issues of IMMEDIATE CONCERN.

Two Purposes: 1. Resolve issues together 2. Reinforce clarity. Start with a lightning round where every person in the room has one minute to share his or her top two or three priorities for the week. Next, review the progress of how your organization is doing. Have clear measurements of your standards and review these measurements together.

Come into the meeting without an agenda! From the lightning round work together to decide what you should focus on that day— what’s our biggest problems to solve and how can we solve them together now, within the allotted time? Don’t focus on long term strategy, this isn’t the meeting for that.

3. The Monthly Strategic: Strategizing for the long term – Intended to be the most fun because it should involve the most conflict!

Conflict is PIVOTAL to the success of your organization and as a leader you must encourage your staff to challenge ideas. Take a maximum of two hours per topic (prior to the meeting, as a group pick a few ESSENTIALLY CRITICAL topics to discuss and debate.) This is a chance to look up from the daily/weekly grind and take a look at the bigger picture… revolutionize, make changes, be creative.

“I have found that most executives have far too many tactical and administrative items on their schedules, which is often the result of an adrenaline addiction, the need to stay occupied with moment-to-moment activities. And so they initially resist taking an entire day for meetings to discuss strategy, because they fear falling behind in their daily adrenal activities. However, once they force themselves to carve out time for strategic conversations, they almost always are glad they did, and they are surprised that they didn’t really miss anything critical by being away from their desks for the afternoon.”

4. The Quarterly Off-Site Review: The OFF-SITE opportunity to regularly step away from the daily, weekly, even monthly issues that occupy their attention so you can review the business in a holistic, long-term manner.

Topics to cover: Comprehensive Strategy Review, Team Review, Personnel Reviews, Competitive and Industry Review. As a Coach this could be taking a look at recruiting, offensive or defensive strategies, or just new ways to run and improve your program in general.

Think of every way your plan could fail and trouble shoot before it happens. Challenge your people to think of all the ways that you could fail and to trouble shoot them before they occur.

Challenges of Quarterly Off-Site Reviews: (1.) Over structuring the meetings — this should be a discussion more than a presentation with slides and a lot of information. (2.) Making them “too boondoggle” by having them at exotic locations that require extensive travel and have TOO MANY social activities. (3.) Inviting outsiders that will change the dynamic — if you want team bonding then just have the team there.


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