While preparing for a Skype meeting I thought about why and how meetings fail. I’m sure I’m not the only who’s been to a ton of meetings. I mean a ton of failed meetings. As much as they easily become productivity obstacles, they are necessary for enabling the success of enterprises.

It is not a mystery how some meetings fail. I highly recommend Patrick Lencioni‘s Death by Meeting. It’s been several years since I read it but the lessons are still as relevant as they are invaluable.

How meetings fail:

Fit In

Meetings fail when attendees don’t understand how they impact and or contribute to their functions. Leaders must make sure their teams understand the meetings’ importance to their performance. Attendees must also see how meetings help the organizations reach their goals.


This should be a no brainer but is often overlooked. Meetings fail either due to people not preparing adequately or not at all. Taking time to think about agenda items helps you formulate your thoughts and stance on them before the meeting.

The meeting should never be a place of exploring your stance on some things. It should be a place you table your views and engage as teams. There is obviously the space for understanding some things before deciding where you stand, but some of that can be done before you meet.


Some meetings fail because there is no chairperson, both by appointment and function. Some chairpersons don’t chair meetings well, thus usurping the potential of the meeting.

There’s also that guy. The one who thinks no one can do anything better than them. The one who usurps the chairperson’s power while the meeting is in progress.

The “take over while uninvited to do so guy” often derails the meeting. There are times it is necessary to change chairs but that can be done in a none-disruptive and agreed upon fashion.

You fail those you’re on the team with when you can’t recognise what’s appropriate for you in meetings.

No Show

This is one of the worst things that can happen to meetings. No show. When no one shows up. Meetings fail when they don’t happen.


Meetings are as good as engagement during them. One of the biggest reasons for failure on meetings is when attendees either don’t engage each other or interrogate the agenda items as thoroughly as possible.

Some teams avoid different perspectives. Some use the “unity” excuse. True unity allows for different perspectives on the same issues. True unity is measured by shared values and vision.

Allowing for different perspectives enriches meetings, teams and organizations. Issues can be unresolved well when attendees shy from engaging. This enable bad decisions and actions.

The Followthrough

Meetings fail when there is no follow through. All the time taken and other resources are wasted when nothing that should be done after the meeting is done. This often feeds into a cycle of apathy and unwillingness of teams members to be fully committed to future meetings.

What has made meetings fail for you?

Published by Blessing Mpofu

just a guy changing the world

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