Solving the Pathetic Meeting Problem


Orderly leadership meetings are pathetic and useless. Head-nodding sessions are exercises in futility that waste resources, talent, and time. Cancel them and do something productive.

The spirit of agreement permeates pointless leadership meetings.

When was the last time you saw anything beyond polite disagreement followed by quick head-nodding in a leadership meeting?

Mediocre meetings reflect and produce mediocre organizations.


Polite management meetings filled with reports, planning, and assignments necessarily fit into organizational landscapes. But…

Effective leadership meetings:

  1. Confusion. There are moments when contributions from others make you wonder what planet the speaker is from. Confusion indicates new perspectives.
  2. Ignite emotion. Aren’t you sick of safe meetings where no one feels anything except fear? Rest assured if you don’t feel it, your organization won’t either.
  3. Challenge and confrontation. Leaders who can’t be challenged are organizational bottlenecks. Teams that won’t confront issues are driven by self-interest.
  4. Hammer out agreement. Effective leadership meetings develop points of highest agreement that teams enthusiastically support. Tough problems have several solutions. Make a decision and make it work.

 Dissent, even conflict, is necessary, indeed desirable. Without dissent and conflict there is no understanding. And without understanding, there are only wrong decisions. 

Peter Drucker

Four ways to ignite meetings:

  1. Build relations with team members that enable candor. Distance produces fear; connection courage.
  2. Systematize dissent. Require the entire team to speak for and against the issue on the table.
  3. Ask those who originate ideas to explain why they won’t work.
  4. Develop three solutions and have everyone defend all three.

The path to oblivion is smooth. Great decisions are born in conflict. The path to exceptional is paved with the bones of the mediocre. Successful leaders create structures for constructive dissent.

How can organizations create constructive dissent?

How can leaders avoid being mired in dissent?