You should read this if you want to fix your meetings

Patrick Lencioni

Death by Meeting

If you work in a school that has an outstanding culture of collegiality, sharing and team planning; where everyone enjoys and adds value to their meetings, then you can probably skip reading this book. For most of us though, the reality is that a couple of nights a week we will be stuck in a staff or faculty meeting which feels like it has no purpose, no direction and no value. You should read ‘Death By Meeting’ if you want to fix those meetings.

Patrick Lencioni is the type of business author that more educators should read. His books are always common sense, easy to read and ready to apply to educational settings. I first encountered Lencioni in his book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’; an outstanding read which dissects the nature of teamwork. Needless to say I became an instant fan and soon tried to get everyone that I worked with to read it. Pretty soon I had hunted down as many other Lencioni books as I could, and ‘Death by Meeting’ is one of my favourites.

Lencioni tackles this problem head on, arguing that meetings are vital for organizational success, and that leaders have a responsibility to make them vibrant and focused. Lencioni’s main arguments are that meetings should have a clear purpose, both in form and content. Everyone in the meeting should know what is at stake in the meeting, and leaders should use this to hook the participants in right from the start. He also explains how getting the timing of the meeting right is all important. But one of the most important ideas to come through in this book is the notion of mining for conflict in meetings. Lencioni clearly outlines that organisations (and therefore meetings), need appropriately structured conflict to grow and succeed.

And this leads to the central metaphor of the book. A good meeting should be like a good drama. We get hooked into TV shows, movies and miniseries because they contain drama and central to all drama is the conflict which spurs every good story into action. No one watches a movie where there is nothing at stake and no conflict. And it is the same for meetings. If there is nothing at stake and there is no conflict to resolve, what is the point of the meeting?

Lencioni argues that there really are only 4 different types of meetings, which all serve different purposes. Just like we watch a half hour sitcom for different reasons to a movie or a miniseries, our meetings should have different timings, focuses, processes and the like. Lencioni provides strategies and guides for how leaders can run improve their meetings, engage their staff and build strong meeting cultures.

Lencioni is a great thinker, who provides common sense ideas and solutions for leaders in all walks of life, not just business. This book should be read by everyone in schools that leads a team, who runs meetings, or decides how their staff should spend their time – one of the biggest responsibilities a school leader can have.

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