The Dynamics of Team Meetings

IMG_0103A vitally important activity of a team is the team meeting. Author Patrick Lencioni has suggested that no action, activity, or process is more central to a healthy organization than the meeting. In fact, if someone were to offer him one single piece of evidence to evaluate the health of an organization, he would want to observe the leadership team during a meeting. This is where values are established, discussed, and  lived and where decisions around strategy and tactics are vetted, made and reviewed.

Why then have many of us had bad experiences in meetings?  Why have we come to accept that meetings are one of the necessary evils of organizational life? Why are they often boring, unfocused, wasteful, and frustrating?

One of the reasons is that team meetings lack context and purpose. Team meetings are often a confusing mix of tactics, strategy and review. Together these create unfocused, meandering and seemingly endless conferences with little resolution or clarity.

In his book Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni suggests that one way to create context is for leaders to differentiate between different types of meetings. Even though this may require more meetings, it does not necessarily require more time. Lencioni suggests four distinct types of meetings on a regular basis.

  • Daily administrative check-in – 5-10 minutes. Share daily schedules and activities.
  • Weekly Tactical – Review weekly activities and metrics, and resolve tactical obstacles and issues.
  • Monthly Strategic – Discuss, analyze, brainstorm and decide upon critical issues affecting long term success.
  • Quarterly Off-site Review – Review strategy, competitive landscape, industry trends, key personnel, and team development.

A key to making meetings more engaging – and less boring – lies in identifying and nurturing the natural level of conflict that should exist. This means not being afraid of dealing with controversial issues and demanding that team members wrestle with those issues until resolution has been achieved. This requires a certain amount of vulnerability and trust between team members. They can’t be reluctant to engage in the conversation because they don’t care or are afraid of reprisal.

Another key to productive team meetings is to understand and value the strengths of each other. Team members cannot tune others out because they are different. The Leading From Your Strengths Profile can be very helpful to understand and value the strengths of others.

Finally, it is important to remember that at the end of every meeting, with the exception of the daily check-ins, team members must stop and clarify what they’ve agreed to and what they will go back and communicate to their teams.

Bad meetings are not inevitable. There is nothing inherently boring or unproductive about meetings. They are the activity at the center of every organization, and should therefore be both interesting and relevant in the lives of the team members. If we can replace agendas and decorum with passion and conflict, we can transform drudgery into meaningful advantage.

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