Do you dread meetings? If you’re a business leader you may abhor having to attend meetings or simply having to prepare for them. Pat Lencioni’s latest book, Death by Meeting provides an inside look on what happens when meetings go wrong and offers a good road map for how to prevent meetings from being the boring, self defeating, lethargic exercises that many of us have witnessed and participated in.
In many ways Lencioni’s book is an endorsement of the meeting rhythm patterns that Gazelles coaches [Mastering the Rockefeller Habits] suggest our growth clients follow. Lencioni takes you through a company that was started by a former golfer whose software company makes golf video games, among others. When the company is purchased by a competitor many of his management methods come into question including how he conducts meetings. I’m not a big fan of Pat Lencioni’s fable approach as it does seem to take a long time for the tale to unfold and for the meat of the ideas to be revealed. If you get this audio or book version you may want to advance to the last several chapters/tracks where the advice he offers is more substantial.
Still there are some good nuggets along the journey including the identification that conflict is often a very critical element to successful meetings. Will, the hero of this story who serves as the owners assistant points out that any good movie is filled with conflict. Lacking conflicts in your meetings means there’s usually not much getting accomplished. There’s a lack of interest and commitment that generally means your business is void of passion.
I can recall from my broadcasting days that one of the best sales managers I worked with, Mike O’Brien, frequently disagreed with me when I was general manager. In fact it became so blatant that often times he would argue with me simply to see how firm my commitment to my side was. In many instances we came to the truth of a challenge simply because the other person decided to take an opposing view. We observed how well our decisions had become through this method and often times discovered flaws in our thinking by having another contrast our views. It is interesting to observe how deep one’s convictions run when you oppose them.
Now I must admit that this tactic will not work for everyone. Some people simply run away and hide from conflict. I believe a good conflict allows the truth to emerge, however many people have had bad experiences around conflict and will refuse to participate.
Bottom line on meetings. Have an agenda, realize a meeting can be short simply to communicate and keep everyone on the same page. There’s a value in short quick meetings that is often overlooked and that is one of the critical principals we teach in Gazelles coaching. The importance of pattern recognition reveals itself as you engage in short crisp meetings. In our short daily huddles everyone goes around the group first offering what they are working on [top priority, victory]. When they’ve offered this, they are then asked to reveal how they are doing on their numbers/metrics. Each person in your employ should know what their critical numbers are. What their job should produce should be readily apparent and they should indicate whether or not they are hitting their targets daily and weekly. Then they are asked to provide where they are stuck. At this point the meeting could lose its succinctness; however this is not where problems are solved but rather to let others know if you are struggling. Solving issues should be taken off line, and not extend the meeting time. Finally new items or priorities are quickly observed and if time permits and if everyone agrees the meeting is closed with a short positive from a personal or professional view point. The meetings should take no longer than 15 minutes. When we did this recently in a Rockefeller Habits workshop with up to 6 members and very little practice two groups finished their daily huddles in 8 minutes or less.
An example of a Daily Huddle on larger scale [1-800-Got Junk] can be observed at YouTube. We suggest a smaller meeting where everyone can contribute, but it is easy to see in this video that even on this large scale short meetings can be energizing. Next blog I’m going to discuss how you can get up to 40% more performance from your staff. Interested? Tune in later this week.