How to avoid Death by Meeting

Do you ever have days like mine where you seem to bounce from meeting to meeting to meeting, etc.? My youngest daughter asked one day "Daddy, how do you get your work done if you are in meetings all day?"   

In the book, that I would highly recommend, Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick M. Lencioni, the author uses a "business fable" style story to provide some powerful principles towards shifting how we think and approach meetings.    How do we move from boring and ineffective meetings to meetings that promote constructive debate and productive outcomes?  

Death by meetingHere are 10 practical ideas to help you avoid experiencing Death by Meeting.

1. Make meetings shorter. - If it can be accomplished in 15 minutes, why make the meeting 30? If it can be accomplished in two hours, why make it a full day? People just don't have time and they are stressing out thinking about how they don't have time. You are not getting the best from them.

2. Manage meetings better - If you want to have shorter meetings, you need to have a timed agenda, and a clear plan for getting from start to finish. No excuses. None. Zero. Leaders must know how to do this or people will revolt.

3. Make the room inviting - Natural light if possible; at least good lighting, comfortable chairs, (this alone would make so many people happier) and a room temperature that doesn't require parkas or sweatbands.

 4. Take breaks - Let people go outside and get fresh air. Encourage them to do more than just check their email and text messages. But at least let them do that.

 5.  Aim high with content - If it's training, give people some new information. If it's a corporate meeting, ditto. Be strategic. Don't get stuck in the weeds.

 6.  Make the food part of the positive experience - If you have any control over this, you must exert your influence to get hot, healthy breakfasts, (fruit, eggs, lean protein; not just muffins and bagels) and thoughtfully prepared lunches (with salads, vegetables, and more lean protein). Companies and associations that are supposed to be caring for their people ask them to sit in boring meetings, work long hours and eat junk. This is just wrong.

 7. Get people engaged -  As a leader, practice listening.  You simply can't talk "at" adults all day and expect them to stay engaged. Respect their wisdom, bring them into the conversation, and don't hog all the air time.

 8.  Read your audience - There is no excuse for not being in touch with how people are thinking and feeling. When you are at the front of the room, I don't care if you're the newest hire or the CEO of the company. Tune in and connect; if it isn't working, have a plan B.

 9. Have some fun - Most good speakers know how to have fun with the audience and make people laugh.  If appropriate, consider appropriate icebreaker exercises.  We all have to remember to lighten up just a little … build it into the schedule.

 10. End on time - Please, please please! If you absolutely have to extend a meeting, at least treat people with respect (they may have other obligations) and give them the option to leave.