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The meeting idols in my life

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Published Apr 14, 2021

There are plenty of meaningless meetings. The ones where you wonder why you are invited, meetings that you do not understand the purpose of, or where everyone suddenly has technical problems and disappears. Or worse, meetings that you attend but are not noticed. But some people know how to make meetings effective; Ulrika Georgsson remembers her favorites.

Some time ago, a friend told me about an awkward Zoom meeting. All researchers in the digital room were welcomed by the organizer with a happy "Hello Olle," "Hello Sara," but when my friend and her communicator colleagues came into the meeting, it was quiet. The first time she ignored it, but after the second and third time, the pattern became clear. Also, they skipped the communicators when it was time to do a round update. Strange, because in digital meetings, you don't even have to know the person to greet by name.

This is just one example of a bad meeting. Personally, I think of some "workshops" that I have been to - this inclusive word that signals cooperation and some kind of active work – but which often end in eternity monologues with questions in the end.

But this chronicle should not stick to bad examples, but good ones, and when I search in my memory, I easily find my top list of skilled meeting people in my working life. Here they are.

1. Stefan – king of stand-up meetings

15 minutes stand-up meeting every morning was Stefan's thing. A quick look at the figures, then we went around the team, and everyone got to mention a task for the day. Sometimes the marketing department needed to quickly redirect a campaign since a celebrity wore a flannel shirt on TV the day before. Other times, someone was busy and asked for help to meet the deadline. If you were lucky (or unlucky), Stefan gave one of his impassioned speeches about going our way and resembling Goliath, who challenges the giant, and the standing meeting exceeded with an hour.

Portrait of Ulrika Georgsson, Communications Officer at ITM.
Ulrika Georgsson, Communications Officer at ITM.

2. Sara - a friend of order

Already in the introduction to my new job, Sara announced that meetings are being called here according to the SMARRT principle.

Syfte (Intention)
Mål (Desired Outcomes)
Agenda (Agenda)
Roller (Roles)
Regler (Rules)
Tidsramar (Time)

At Sara's unit, there were meetings for most things, but they were clear and effective. Quick reconciliation meetings every week that could be used when needed. Hello-how-are-you-meetings every morning just for fun, pre-meetings, after-meetings, brainstorming-meetings, and board meetings. It was always clear what the meeting would contain, and of course, we ended on time.

3. Jan – the fair meeting leader

In Jan's meetings, I have always felt seen and considered an important person (even though I am only a communicator…). When I told something, he confirmed by repeating and asking questions. Of course, Jan democratically lets everyone in the team have a say and remembers what people have said. Just such a thing!

4. Björn – the generous meeting participant

Björn is an exemplary meeting participant. Yes, I think it matters not only how the chairperson behaves, but also other people in the room. Björn is not afraid to ask stupid questions, nor is he uncomfortable checking facts and then shares them with the group. Generous and brave, without putting his foot in one's mouth.

5. Cécile – the ambitious get-to-know-you boss

Cécile was the ambitious new boss who eagerly wanted to play get-to-know-you games with us even though we were somewhere else in terms of maturity. As a metacommunication and team-building friend, she wanted to agree on how we should communicate, how often we wanted meetings and did exercises to soften us up. But we, a bunch of 20-year-olds in one of our first workplaces, were far from ready for it. It was a disaster and mainly embarrassing giggle when we were to paint two by two with our eyes closed. She is on the list, thanks to her outstanding commitment.

When I look at the list, I am a little ashamed of my meetings over the years. I have a lot to learn, but I also realize that one is rarely good at everything. Maybe I can allow myself to be the bureaucratic meeting leader while someone else can be the inspirer. Who are you, or perhaps instead, who do you want to be at future meetings?

Text: Ulrika Georgsson