Okay, I am a slacker. I have been meaning to write this article for a long time now. But I had a birthday come and go, friends come and go, and a life to live (now that the summer is here). So, apologies, but I’ve had other things to think about… anyway, here we go.
When I first moved here, I was given a 3 hour introductory course on Swedish business culture. One of the handouts we received was very helpful – it was a list of different countries and a comparison of how people behave in business meetings.
I found out during that meeting that a common stereotype (but also often true) is that Swedish business meetings often result in more meetings because no clear decision is reached, and that most of the time is spent discussing the issues to ensure that everyone’s opinion is heard.
The meetings I am in are often the opposite of this, but I think that’s just due to the nature of my industry and the type of colleagues I work with. However, I was recently in a meeting when I saw this in action and was blown away by how uncertain I felt after I left the meeting. I was more confused leaving the meeting than before the meeting!
It had to do with a large and lengthy presentation that we were preparing for a client. The slide deck was made of about 10 different sections, and each person was responsible for at least one of those sections. One of those sections was tricky, so during the meeting the person responsible for writing the section asked our boss for some guidance. The conversation went something like this (I’ve kept it very very generic):
Person 1: This section is very difficult because if the client thinks this way, then we have to present it in this manner. However, if the client decides to switch their assumptions model and go the other direction, we have to do it this way. Our teams around the world need guidance now, but we won’t know what the client wants to do until another few months. How should we present this in the presentation?
Boss: Hmm, yes. That is a tricky situation.
Boss: Okay, so let’s move on to the schedule of speakers.
Wait, what? The first person was obviously looking for some pointers, but the person expected to have the answer didn’t really give any guidance but instead just moved onto the next question. If it were me, I would have tried to explore some ideas with the team and come up with a mutually-agreeable solution, or at least a suitable compromise that everyone could live with. But this was so indecisive that I was sure it would result in another meeting.
Have you been in a Swedish business meeting where you left the meeting feeling more confused than when you started?