Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0284, January 9, 2007 ....

Dear friends,

Welcome to 2007! I hope you all had a great holiday season and are moving gracefully into this new year. Over the holidays, I read a wonderful little book that should be of interest to all group leaders. It's called, "Death By Meeting," by Patrick Lencioni. It's framed in the form of a fable that is not only easy reading, but also helps you relate to the message. The message lays out the two main reasons meetings are usually so poor and what to do about them. I summarize the key points in this weeks article, "Bringing Meetings Back from the Dead."

Facilitating at a Distance. This 5-day teleclass teaches the Essentials of Teleclass & Virtual Meeting Facilitation. This class is for those of you wanting to offer a teleclass but don't feel you have all the skills and knowledge you need to do so, or for managers working with distributed teams that require you to facilitate virtual meetings. See details at the end of this issue.

Warmest regards,

Steve Davis
Publisher and Founder of


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The Point

Bringing Meetings Back from the Dead
Two key strategies for drastically improving your meetings.
Group Process Skill

Over the holidays, I read a wonderful little book that should be of interest to all group leaders. It's called, "Death By Meeting," by Patrick Lencioni. It's framed in the form of a fable that's not only easy reading, but also helps you relate to the message. The message lays out the two main reasons meetings are usually so poor and what to do about them. So what are these key points you ask?

Welcome Conflict.
I'm often amused when I receive emails from readers asking how they can solve an issue in their group without addressing it directly or without ruffling feathers. I'm amused because I can relate to their sincere desire to maintain harmony. But when outer harmony comes at the expense of inner suffering, we don't really have harmony. What we've really got is fake harmony outside and raging wars inside.

In "Death By Meeting," Will, one of the main characters, queries his group as to whether they'd rather attend a two-hour movie or a two-hour meeting. The answer was of course obvious. Why? What is it about movies that meetings tend to lack? In a word, "conflict." Every movie has a conflict to be resolved in one form or another, either externally or internally. Conflict is interesting, its spicy. It brings out our best and our worst and we enjoy watching it unfold.

But what is it that we avoid most in meetings? Yes, you've got it. It's conflict! But only through conflict, disagreement, argument, heated discussion, etc. can we really flesh out an issue to its core and discover resolution. Only when all views are adequately aired will participants be willing to agree and support a solution that might not be their initially chosen one.

Enter the Drama
Will further suggested that meetings should be more interesting than movies given that we can interact in them and affect their outcome, and that their results often have a stake in our livelihoods. It goes without saying however, that we have to be more than passive bystanders watching meetings unfold as if they were movies without engaging...without risking a conflict.

Structural Context
Finally, Will suggests that another key problem we have with meetings is that we try to do too much in each one. We stress our meeting structures so that they are doomed to fail us. He suggests four different types of meetings that separate near-term actions, long term strategy, and big-picture company issues into separate meeting venues each with their own purpose and format.


So how can we use this information in our meetings as leaders and participants? Here are some suggestions.

Welcome Conflict
Whether you're the meeting leader or a participant, welcome conflict when it begins to occur. Let everyone know that its a good thing. It means that there's passion and interest in the subject and that the engaging participants are digging below the surface into that unknown region of diversity where more truth and complexity is available, along with the possibility of a real solution.

For example, "Suzy and Michael, it's great to hear you discussing this issue with such passion. This discussion is long overdue and I'm happy you're working it through. If it feels uncomfortable at times, that's OK, it should feel uncomfortable. Resolving differences is sometimes painful. Seeking to stay comfortable around this or any difficult situation simply perpetuates it."

Keep Conflict Respectable
When we speak of conflict here, we speak of conflicting opinions versus conflicting people. Make it clear that there is a difference in ideas and opinions and that this is good. Support participants in maintaining respect for one another, refraining from name calling and personal attacks, and get them to focus on owning and expressing their own views versus making assumptions about others.

For example, Suzy might say, "Michael, you think money grows on trees. We can't afford to hire a new salesperson just because you can't do your job." You could coach her to refrain from making assumptions about Michael's values. Suggest a questions instead. Something like, "Michael, how do you think a new salesperson will help us and how do you suggest we pay for one?"

Separate Meetings Types
Patrick suggests four types of meeting structures in his book, the 5-minute Daily Check-in, the 45-90 minute Weekly Tactical, the 2-4 hour Monthly or Ad Hoc Strategy, and the 1-2 day Quarterly Off-site Review. The two most common are the Weekly Tactical Meeting (WTM) and the Monthly Strategic Meeting (MSM).

In the WTM, there is no agenda coming into the meeting. A few minutes are relegated for checkin by each team member around their key tasks for the week. Then a few minutes are used to develop an agenda that contains the top few items that need the most attention based on the check-in. Then for the rest of the meeting, only these near-term tactical issues are discussed. If something strategic comes up that needs to be addressed, it is parked and deferred to an upcoming Strategy Meeting.

Strategy Meetings are scheduled to address strategic decision-making or can be convened Ad Hoc as needed to address an immediate concern. Strategy meetings focus on only one or two issues which are afforded the time they require. Therefore, it's suggested that participants block out four hours for the strategic meetings so that the items can be brought to completion.

Conflict is good. It creates drama and interest and is often required to work through complex problems. Having walked through a conflict to its resolution, participants build trust and respect, qualities that enhance and improve their working relationships and ability to resolve future issues.

Providing a meeting structure separating tactics from strategy
prevents much of the jumping around that occurs in most meetings between immediate issues and long term strategy. Both of which need to be dealt with but within different contexts.


What challenges do you have in the meetings you lead or attend? Based on the ideas in this article, how can you bring more spice into your meetings? Please click reply and tell me. I'd love to hear from you.

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business, by Patrick M. Lencioni

While the creativity and storytelling in most business novels is generally an insult to the word `novel,' Patrick Lencioni's work in Death by Meeting provides a very pleasant surprise. It is easy to read and you sense the emotions and issues that real people deal with every day. The heart of this book focuses on turning the dragging, lifeless and even painful experience of "the business meeting" into a dynamic essential element of the nervous system of any company.

The first premise of Death by Meeting is the conflict is not to be avoided in meetings but encouraged. Different than personal conflict, idea and position conflict is what is needed to make tough decisions and take the company forward. The second major premise is that we can not have multipurpose meetings. We should have some meetings for information and others for decision making, each with a different style and cadence. Lencioni specifically suggests four types of meetings. The 5-minute Daily Check-in, the 45-90 minute Weekly Tactical, the 2-4 hour Monthly or Ad Hoc Strategy and the 1-2 day Quarterly Off-site Review.

Few if any proposed meeting structures come closer to what you would expect to see in a truly lean company. A lean company has (a) tremendous focus on the task at hand, (b) a disdain for waste such as that demonstrated when meetings lack purpose and structure and (c) a respect for the benefit of structure and standardization, such as proposed by the rhythm these meetings have. I highly suggest taking a look at this book, and then a more serious look at your own meeting structure.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (Michigan USA)

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In the Spotlight

Facilitating at a Distance: The Essentials of Teleclass & Virtual Meeting Facilitation

Have you considered offering a teleclass as a more efficient way to deliver training, enhance group learning and generate more income for your business? 

Or, are you working with a distributed team that requires you to design and facilitate virtual meetings?

When done right, Teleclasses and Virtual Meetings (T/VM) are very effective and inexpensive ways to train, collaborate, and problem-solve. But if they aren't effectively facilitated, T/VM's can be a boring waste of time!

Remove the fear and uncertainty of teleclass/virtual meeting design and facilitation with this 5-day teleclass series: Leading at a Distance: The Essentials of Teleclass & Virtual Meeting Facilitation, led by Steve Davis, Founder of, January 29th-February 2nd, 2007, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern (NY Time),
60 minutes each day.

This class covers all the elements of T/VM facilitation using a simple, well-organized, and proven approach. This course, that you can take from the comfort of your own home or office, is for facilitators, trainers, coaches, who want to design relevant, engaging, experiential workshops for groups using a simple, proven formula that's easy to apply to any workshop topic.

Learn how to design and run a T/VM that will maximize the use of your group's time and energy. By the end of the 5 days, you will:

  • Have learned the key skills needed to effectively facilitate a Teleclass/Virtual Meeting.
  • Know how to balance interactivity with meeting purpose.  
  • Have a an experience of the 10 modes of delivering learning and information in a virtual environment.
  • Know mistakes to avoid when facilitating your T/VM.
  • Know the 8 Critical Strategies to make your T/VM come alive.
  • Learn the 7 Keys to the Inner Game of T/VM Facilitation.
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