Meetings No 01
This is no ordinary meeting magazine.
Cover Story
Johan Johansson
encourages us to challenge our thought patterns.
Psychological Meetings
Meeting People
Gordon slowly opens the door just a little bit.
Ecological Breakfast
A great success.
Richard Gatarski
Gatarski Questions the Myth of Total Presence
Please turn on your mobile phones!
Shari Swan
Swan on New Ways of Working
and an ever present focus on the street.
Take a Break with Cottam
Excerpts from Mothers Pearls: 27 short autobiographical chapters of aha moments of realization.
Business Meetings Management
A five part masters programme.
Jonas Bodin
Meeting With Meaning
CSR in practice
Jan Rollof
On Creativity
and its impact on meetings.
Mind Check
The Significance of Colours
Tomas Dalström picks the brain of Karl Rydberg.
Business Intelligence
Four Years Before the London Olympics
What's on, Barbara Jamison, at visit London?
Per Hörberg
Hidden Agendas
Affecting meetings everywhere.
Meeting Architecture
Dr Elling Hamso an the most significant book ever.
Spread the Message
Nature's Ten Best Tips
To suddenly become green in your meeting concept is not as easy as it sounds.
Meetings Industry Research
Lund University conducts research into the meetings industry.
A way of communicating.
Roger Kellerman
A Buyers' and Meetings Planners' Magazine
Why Meetings International goes international.
Hotel News
World’s tallest hotel opens in Dubai 2024
The Ciel Tower hotel will soar 365 metres into the sky with 82 floors of luxury suites and serviced residences.
Hotels & Resorts
Accor Announces Global Launch of Its All-Inclusive Collection
Accelerating its expansion in the fast-growing market with a unique platform of multi-branded luxury and premium offers.
Hotel news
Ambitious Plans for Spectacular Scandic Holmenkollen Park
Modernised hotel reopens with 376 rooms and room for 1,200 conference visitors.
Changing of the guard
Peter King
to depart after 11 successful years.
hotel news
Hotel Sustainability Basics Launched at Leading Industry Summit in Manila
Set to drive responsible travel and tourism and to help every hotel address and improve their environmental impact.
hotell news
Scandic to Open Third Hotel in Tromsø
New hotel planned for 2025, with 305 rooms on 12 floors in the new Vervet area.

Global Business Travel’s Landmark Sustainability Study Reveals
What It Will Take to Get to a Greener Future.
Double gold for Austria Center Vienna
at German Stevie Awards
The man, the myth, the legend
Patrick Delaney Honoured With Hall of Fame Award
Travel trade veteran receives 2022 Hall of Fame award at annual AIPCO conference.
Scandic Kiruna
first commercial enterprise to open in new city center.
Sponsor Logo
Sponsor Logo
Sponsor Logo
Sponsor Logo
Sponsor Logo
Sponsor Logo
Sponsor Logo
Sponsor Logo
Hidden Agendas

Many companies have a management team that is rewarded at the individual level. Salary and bonuses are governed primarily by how profitably they are managing their own responsibilities. The president often consults the management team to address key issues that affect the entire company. This includes information from the various departments, but the purpose of a management team would nevertheless be to manage the whole operation. This is also how information is shared, for everyone to be aware of the most important things going on in various parts of the company.

Against this background it is distressing to repeatedly experience the leader’s agenda for the meeting in competition with the personal agendas of all the other participants. If the meeting has ten participants there will be eleven parallel agendas itemized. Eleven? Yes, even the meeting leader often has a personal agenda beyond the official one. Do bonuses depend on all this?

No, the phenomenon of hidden agendas is just as strong in knowledge-intensive organizations that are partner-owned. In most law firms, headhunting firms and consultancies, the bulk of the bonus is based on the whole company’s performance and not on individual efforts. The more internationally successful the business, the more likely there is such a procedure defined. But the meeting is still burdened with as many agendas as there are participants, plus the official agenda.

A hidden agenda can by definition be said to apply during a meeting where people are not fully present.”

Some technology companies have meetings that more resemble a wartime command centre than a management or project team meeting. Two or three people talk loudly on cell phones with a supplier, customer or wife. Two or three others manage their email. Some are texting. Some talk at one end of the table, some at the other. Of course the meeting leader behaves in the same way and acts in the manner most appropriate for the moment. Sometimes a voice is raised to draw attention to a single question. The result is that the people talking on their cell phones leave the room and the others raise their eyes for a moment before returning to their emails, text messages or conversations with others in the room. Perhaps the leader tries again and manages to bring the meeting to order, until one of the cell phone talkers comes back into the room and proudly announces a secured order. This triggers applause and congratulations for a prey conquered.

In a way the command centre meeting culture is more comfortable than many other meetings, because it is open to different agendas existing simultaneously at the meeting. It is unfortunate when people pretend to be on board during the meeting itself and then do the contrary when they are back in their own sphere of activity. If that culture spreads, hidden agendas become standard operating procedure at all meetings. Do we want it like this? Yes, it would seem so, because it is unusual for a leader to take control of it. They continue to hold “pretend” meetings, to play the game by speaking tactically about the important issues such as technology, sales, budgets, costs, and various financial ratios. But few management teams discuss the essentials; that which brings sustainable profitability through happy employees and customers.

Hidden agendas flourish as long as the meeting takes place at a superficial level and one does not really need to “log in” at the meeting. A meeting can take place on four different levels of conversation.


  1. Conventional Level
    Social interaction around harmless questions.
  2. Factual Level
    Exchange of information concerning technology, figures and PowerPoint presentations.
  3. Emotional Level
    Discussion addressing the essentials.
  4. Integrated Level
    Open and integrated communication of facts and feelings.

When the meeting is held at the factual or conventional level participants sometimes address different matters. But it is expressed in another manner, such as a clenched fist in a pocket, or irritated thoughts about someone who is talking too much. When we pretend that a meeting between people (technicians are also people) can be held only on the factual and conventional level, then we immediately invite the hidden agenda, because level 2 makes itself felt in the worst way as emotionalism, now and then breaking up the meeting in the form of intense debates, taking time and effort away from the meeting. The word debate comes from Greek and means a short and good “smack down”. The French word “debatre” means war. The irony is that many (subconsciously) want to avoid this by “sticking to the facts”. But as long as we are human we have feelings, and suppressed emotions often lead to emotionality and wars of words. It is this suppressed energy that participants at a bad meeting use constructively by having another meeting, by calling, texting or emailing a customer, or speaking with a colleague about something else. Frustration becomes energy for a good cause. But they do not participate with their full attention at a meeting considered important enough to gather busy people.

What does one do about this?

Good meetings hold the participants’ attention at the integrated level. They are all fully involved simply because the meeting is perceived to be meaningful and significant. When facts and emotions work together we become strong and energetic as people. Facts give substance and security in the form of a feeling that it will work. The sense of involvement and meaning motivates us. The road to the integrated level is reached most quickly by appealing directly to the emotions. The meeting leader who is able to set the tone for the meeting on the emotional level quickly reaches the integrated level. Facts are simple in context and can be handled easily and comfortably. The trick is to show emotion without being emotional. Yes, that may not sound difficult. But why then does it not happen so often?

To understand the difference between “an emotion” and “emotional”, it is often a good idea to look at how the language is structured. In the present tense, something that is going on now, one can say, “to know” but not “to emotional”. In English one says “to feel”, but not “to emotion”. A feeling is therefore linked to the present and is shown right now. Emotional behaviour is old, displaced emotions linked to past events in one’s life, which sometimes come to light. Against this background it is only a conscious and present person who can lead a meeting without a hidden agenda. The leader’s authenticity raises the participants’ authenticity. Managers and project leaders usually have many thoughts in their head during a meeting: How does it work? I wonder how Peter is doing at home sick? Why aren’t they fully listening to me now? How can I now direct this issue so that they say yes? The participants are aware of this and it legitimizes their own sub-activities at the meeting.

A hidden agenda can by definition be said to apply during a meeting where people are not fully present. It can apply both in private life as well as in the workplace. People’s thoughts are elsewhere, distracted, a little scattered and a bit stressed. Concern for their own projects, discomfort when confronted with an authoritarian colleague, problems at home, dreams of summer or daydreams about sex. It is up to us to use our intellect to lead the room by behaving properly, saying important and relevant things. When intellect is reversed — emotionalism — one must respond to an inner force field and not show what one really thinks.

An interesting meeting in private life or at work is about the same thing; that those who meet, meet in real life. We do this only when we are fully present and can show our feelings while talking about something. Eye contact is relaxed and natural. Those who are speaking can look each other in the eye without it feeling odd, and their body language is open. And we listen to each other without anxiously needing to be heard. A management team that works at the qualified level is abundantly rewarded in the form of good results. Each individual also receives a gift in the form of meaningfulness and energy replenishment. When the company has a single agenda for their meetings, energies are directed to a singular focus. A management team that suddenly begins working together as a whole will find that the entire organization soon does the same. And don’t forget that both sub-optimization and optimization begin and end with you. If you are completely unaware of your own behaviour, it is likely that you also send contradictory signals and even have a hidden agenda yourself. When you see more of your own patterns of behaviour, you will see more of your signals system. This can help “keep you on the path”, by keeping a clear line in your leadership. Show the way for others and stick to it. Expect the others to do the same.