Glenn Williams

by Glenn Williams


'Death by meeting'

In 2004, I accepted a VP role for an organization that was expanding globally and, as a result, experiencing new challenges. However, nothing prepared me for the number of meetings I was expected to attend!

I became frustrated with endless meetings and the lack of decision-making and productivity. It was also clear we didn't always have the right people in the room, often undermining the ability of teams to implement the decisions being made.

After reading Patrick Lencioni’s, Death by Meeting, I conducted an audit of all the meetings I was asked to attend, or where someone (or multiple people) from my department was required to be.[i]

I included vertical meetings that were initiated from higher up the leadership chain and down the line when staff wanted me to be there so they could get a decision. Horizontal meetings were also included. These meetings required cross-functional representation or where buy-in was needed from other departmental leaders.

What was even more revealing to me than the actual cost of conducting all of these meetings, was the reality that many of them concluded with no clear result or measurable outcome. It didn't take me long to realize this was reflective of larger, systemic issues in the organization's culture.

Dr. Adizes argues the need for ‘CAPI’ to be present at meetings if effective outcomes are to be achieved and you don’t want to waste time and resources. Essentially, CAPI is the (C) coalescence of (A) authority, (P) power and (I) influence.[ii]

If the purpose of a meeting is to see a decision made, then it is critical to have a person in the room that has the authority, or legal right, to make that decision. That person must be able to say ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘wait’.

However, we’ve all attended meetings and been frustrated by seeing good decisions thwarted by people who have the ability to withhold their cooperation or that of their team. Adizes describes this ability as “the power to punish or reward.” Therefore, better to have them represented in the meetings.

Finally, there is the need to have someone at the meeting who has the ability to influence, or convince others to do something without having to use authority or power. Dr. Adizes refers to these people as ‘integrators’ or ‘influencers’.

We see two of LCP’s 5 Leadership Anchors™ reflected in the Adizes model—the importance of leveraging relational currency and transforming goals and outcomes.

What’s the bottom-line?

We know there are many factors that can make it difficult for leaders and organizations to always achieve win-win scenarios, but it is possible to increase the probability of achieving them by holding more productive meetings.

For the record, I implemented a new system of meetings for my department that improved communication, increased productivity, and gave us a lot more time to do the work rather than discuss the work.


[i] Patrick Lencioni, Death by Meeting (San Francisco: Jossy-Bass), 2004.

[ii] Dr. Ichak Adizes, Managing Corporate Lifecycles (Santa Barbara: Adizes Institute Publications, 2004), 267.


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