A 7-Step Guide to Better Team Decision Making

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Death By Meeting" by Patrick M. Lencioni. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the best Patrick Lencioni quotes from Death by Meting? How can Lencioni’s fable help you improve the structure and productivity of your work meetings?

Death by Meeting is a business fable about a CEO named Casey. Casey’s company was just acquired and he was told that if he didn’t improve his meetings, he could be replaced. With the help of his assistant Will, Casey learns how to run meetings that are engaging, provocative, and well-structured.

Continue reading for Patrick Lencioni quotes from Death by Meeting.

Patrick Lencioni Quotes

Meetings are the lifeblood of an organization—they are central to its success, but they often seem useless and too long. This presents a paradox—how can you make meetings productive when your staff views them as pointless? The answer is to make meetings better. 

Death By Meeting uses the parable of a struggling executive to provide a roadmap for consistently productive meetings. Learn why attempting to defuse tension among employees is a mistake, and how injecting more drama into four unique types of meetings is the key to a more passionate, engaged, and successful team.

Below are the top four quotes from Patrick Lencioni’s fable:

“When a group of intelligent people come together to talk about issues that matter, it is both natural and productive for disagreement to occur. Resolving those issues is what makes a meeting productive, engaging, even fun.”

The first quote discusses the importance of drama in meetings. After you’ve explained the stakes, look for disagreement. If there’s a group of reasonably smart people discussing an issue that they all care about (because of the hook), they’ll disagree on at least a small part of it. If you hear disagreement or even see on someone’s face that they’re unhappy with what’s going on, explore that. While people are often conflict-avoidant, when they do address an issue, they’ll almost always feel better, even if the ultimate decision doesn’t go their way. 

Tell the team that you want conflict in meetings. However, people may still feel uncomfortable attacking their colleagues whom they respect. As a meeting leader, remind the team that what they’re doing is positive. Just a little bit of positive reinforcement goes a long way toward resolving tensions that could otherwise become personal and encouraging participants to have different opinions. 

“To make our meetings more effective, we need to have multiple types of meetings, and clearly distinguish between the various purposes, formats, and timing of those meetings.”

The second quote from Death by Meeting is about the importance of holding different types of meetings. Leaders need to develop multiple types of meetings, with different purposes, formats, and uses. There are four different types of meetings. The four types of meetings are: the check-in, the tactical, the strategic, and the review.

“The hard truth is, bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity.”

J.T. sat down and tried to explain why he was so difficult and demanding to Casey. Casey, feeling a bit emboldened, asked if J.T. actually thought the meetings were such a big problem. J.T. said yes, because bad meetings could lead to bad decisions and end with a large amount of unfulfilled potential. 

“You have a passionate, unfiltered, messy, provocative discussion that ends when the leader of the team decides all the information has been aired. At that point, if no one has made a compelling enough argument for making a decision, the leader breaks the tie.”

Just like in the movies, meetings have to have a hook—a good beginning that leaves participants willing to digest necessary plot exposition that might be a little slower. Consider discussing a budget: It sounds boring. But if the leader of the discussion sets it up correctly—by explaining the stakes in the line items and the competitors breathing down the company’s neck—people will be more willing to engage. 

After the setup of the conflict, keep looking for differences of opinion. It’s unlikely that, after the team airs their conflict, they will reach a complete consensus. However, everyone will feel better after airing their grievances and making compelling points on the behalf of their idea, and when a decision is made by a majority or by a leader, people will be more willing to support it, even if it wasn’t their original idea.

Patrick Lencioni Quotes From Death by Meeting

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Here's what you'll find in our full Death By Meeting summary :

  • Why are meetings so important and detrimental at the same time
  • The top 3 issues that commonly plague meetings
  • Why a meeting where participants disagree can be a good thing

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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