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Beth Graybill

  /  Articles   /  How to Combat Meeting Fatigue

Do you dread your weekly or monthly meetings? If so, you’re not alone. Many of us have sat through meetings we would describe as “a big waste of time.” We leave feeling confused, frustrated, or worse—fatigued.

One of my favorite business leaders + author of the best-selling book Death by MeetingPatrick Lencioni—offers insights on how to make meetings more productive + less painful. These insights made a huge impact on the way I lead meetings, and I want to share them with you today.


But what if I have no control over leading the meetings on my calendar? If this is you, don’t be discouraged. Try suggesting these tips to your leader. Or, even better, keep these tips in mind next time you’re covering for your boss who has to miss a meeting or next time you have the chance to connect with your volunteers. These insights will also work with your roommates or your family. Believe me . . . I’ve tried!


Here is a brief version of Patrick Lencioni’s tips for managing meetings from his best-selling book Death By Meeting:


1. Know the Purpose of Your Meeting:

  • Is it about solving a tactical, short-term problem, or a critical strategic issue?
  • Are participants meant to brainstorm, debate, offer alternatives, or just sit and listen?

If your meeting is a combination of all of these, it will leave your people confused about what is going on and what is expected of them. Confusion is never the way to move forward as a team.


2. Clarify What is at Stake:

  • Do participants understand the price of having a bad meeting?
  • Do they know what could go wrong if bad decisions are made?
  • If not, why should they care?


3. Hook Your Participants from the Outset:

  • How are you going to get people engaged within the first 10 minutes of the meeting?

Meeting participants will most likely check-out (or check their email) if you don’t tee up your topic and explain why it matters. Telling a story or asking a question is a great way to engage your team at the start of a meeting.


4. Set Aside Enough Time:

  • Are you going to be tempted to end the meeting before a resolution has been achieved?
  • The key to a great meeting is when it ends with clarity and commitment from participants . . . and bonus if it ends on time!


5. Face the Tension (Patrick refers to this as “Provoke Conflict”):

  • Do you seek out opposing views to ensure all views have been completely aired?
  • Are you willing to dive into the tension even when it makes people uncomfortable during meetings and tired at the end?

Lencioni says, “Conflict shouldn’t be personal, but it should be ideologically emotional.”  Meaning, your conversations should evoke a strong sense of meaning regarding the topic. Topics that may be “ideologically emotional” may include: When do we start talking about our succession plan? Do we rebrand or not? How do we restructure and create new positions due to growth? Do our perceived values reflect the stated values of our organization? You may need to mix it up at times to get to the bottom of important issues. But if you’re going to step into the tension, make sure you see the conversation through to a decision or a consensus.


How do you combat Meeting Fatigue with your team? We’d love to hear your thoughts + suggestions!