Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni
If you are part of any kind of organization or team, there is a good chance that you don’t look forward to the meetings that come with being a part of this team. This may especially be true if you are part of some kind of board or leadership team. Meetings seem to be the necessary evil that comes with any type of leadership. Most of us hate them and we usually want to get them out of the way so that we can get onto the real parts of leadership.

This has been often true for us at The Well. I lead alongside an amazing group of people. This group is highly gifted and I’m honored to be able to lead with them. But, for the last few months our meetings have been dragging. We’ve been fairly unproductive (well intentioned, but still a tad unproductive) and I know that we’ve all left recent meetings a little bit frustrated about this.

For a while, I was having a hard time putting my finger on the problem. That was until I read a book by one of my new favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni. The book is called, Death by Meeting and it was so good that I actually started and finished it book in one day. Lencioni did such a great job of accurately naming some of the challenges that have been working against us.

Here are some highlights:

Most teams try and do too much in one meeting.
At The Well, we’ve tried to pack discussion about four main topics (logistics /details, people / shepherding, evaluation, long range planning) into one two hour meeting. We have diverse gifts and passions on our team and each person, since we have only so much time to cover the topics, ends up vying for time on their gift which they (rightfully) deem most important. The fact is, we need to talk about all these things and we need to find a way forward that allows us to address all these important ministry topics in a way that allows us to deal with them well as a team. For us, this might mean we need to stop trying to save the whole world and fix all the worlds problems in a short two hour meeting. Right now we’re looking at organizing our meetings so that each of these topics can be covered well throughout the year.

A confusion of context and expectation
Lencioni uses the concept of television shows as an example for this problem. When you sit down to watch a 1/2 hour sitcom you expect it to be about 20 minutes and have a starting and ending. It will generally be an emotionally light show and you know what to except. When you sit down for a movie, you expect to sit there for two hours and you are ready to engage a much more intense and deep storyline (unless you are watching a Will Farrell movie of course!). The point is, when you sit down to watch a movie, or sitcom or whatever, you have expectations on what is going to happen. When we sit down for meetings, we have to learn to keep context in mind. If the group is coming together and each person is expecting to talk about one thing and the group ends up talking about something completely different, almost everyone will leave frustrated. For example, if one person on the team loves talking about the nuts and bolts of ministry and expects to get into the details of what it takes to lead the church day to day and instead the whole entire meeting is spent around big vision ideas he/she will leave very frustrated, wondering why we never talk about the stuff that “matters.” The issue here is expectations. Teams need to find an effective way to manage the expectations. They need to give each of the four topics ample and scheduled time so that each team member can trust that the conversation will come back around to the thing that they hold most dear.

These are just two examples of things from this book that I found incredibly insightful. This is one of those books that you read and its like, “oh, duh. Why didn’t I think of that.” It’s not really rocket science. It’s just understanding team dynamics and people.

I hope this post was helpful, I’m still processing all this stuff and I’m not sure my thoughts are totally clear…