How to Avoid Death by Meeting

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a meeting that’s dragging on, sucking the life out of us, draining the very essence of our being until we emerge as a Night of the Living Dead zombie. We leave the meeting groggy, drained, wondering where the last two hours of our lives went, realizing we’ll never get that time back. It doesn’t have to be that way.

How is it that we can sit through 2 hours of Guardians of the Galaxy, and when the movie ends we can’t wait for the sequel? Yet a meeting of that length is about as appealing as a root canal.

For starters, our meetings lack drama and conflict. Say what? This is business not summer stock. Ah, but we’re missing the point. Conflict introduced in the right way brings out drama that makes meetings more engaging – and much less boring. The right type of conflict is ideologically emotional, not personal. Effective meeting leaders coax opposing viewpoints out in a healthy, positive way to stimulate conversation among the group.

That’s one of the premises of Patrick Lencioni’s book Death by Meeting. The book focuses on a cure for the most painful problems in business today: bad meetings.

The fact is, we need more meetings to improve our organization’s communication, productivity, and morale. How can that be? It starts with having the right kind of meetings.

Daily Check-In

The Daily Check-In is a 5-10 minute standing meeting where the team shares daily schedules and activities. It’s a “what’s up with me today” report. Stick to the check-in even when some people can’t be there. It’s the fuel that powers your company’s engine. Make it a ritual like that morning cup of coffee (or Diet Coke, if you prefer).

Weekly Tactical

Every week, pull the team together for 45-90 minutes to review weekly activities and metrics and resolve tactical obstacles and issues. Don’t set an agenda until after the initial reporting. Postpone strategic discussions. This is a nuts-and-bolts, “how are we doing” meeting.

Monthly Strategic

Once a month, we need to sit down and discuss, analyze, brainstorm, and decide upon critical issues affecting our businesses long-term success. This is the Monthly Strategic. The key to making these meetings tick is to limit the discussion to one or two topics. Do your research ahead of time and engage in good, healthy conflict.

Quarterly Off-Site Review

To chart out the course for our organization, we need to get out of the office to review strategy, competitive landscape, industry trends, key personnel, and team development. That’s the objective of the Quarterly Off-Site Review. The best off-sites keep the structure loose. This isn’t one of those bring-your-spouse-along junkets. It’s a work meeting. Roll up your sleeves, limit social activities, and get work done. You’ll come back reinvigorated and ready to lead your troops into battle with a clear, concise game plan.

So how can having more meetings save time? That’s the beauty of this four-pronged approach to meeting bliss. Add up all the time you spend emailing, sending texts, walking up to co-workers desks, interrupting them to clarify issues that should have been made clear during a meeting in the first place. That’s a ton of wasted time that should have been spent getting things done.

In business, time is money. In life, time is time. It’s our most precious resource. Once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. No one wants to sit in another boring meeting. Spend that time having meetings that actually inspire, reinvigorate, and matter to us so we can be ready to take on the world. Carpe diem, my friends.

By Jason Piasecki, Partner + Meeting Guy


Jason is a Partner and the CEO at Revel, a B2B marketing agency. He is a diehard baseball fan who loves his Detroit Tigers. Family vacations often revolve around seeing games in different MLB ballparks around the country – they’ve been to 21 so far and counting. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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