“Pastries, demons and what I learned at Matter”

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Johan Widerholm has played an instrumental role in forming Matter. As COO he has handled big accounts, created major strategies and, not least importantly, led the team towards greater professionalization.

Due to an offer he couldn’t refuse, the time has now come for Johan to leave us for the exciting position as Digital Strategist at SVT, the Swedish public service television company. But first, here’s the story of his years with us.

“During my three years at Matter we both have grown. Matter has become three times as large in number of employees, turnover and offices, and I have gone from being a communication strategist without experience of the advertising industry to become a COO, in swedish “vice vd”, leading major strategic projects.

LEARNING BY GOOGLING

After having recently left the music venue Mejeriet as Program & Marketing Director in 2011, my first assignment for Matter was E.ONs Sweden’s Largest Energy Experiment. The feeling of coming from the DIY culture of the music business to one of Sweden’s largest utility companies and their prominent agencies was both exciting and scary.

At meetings I drew a vertical line in the margin of my notebook and filled the column with titles and names of people and concepts that I googled, if not during, then after the meeting. I learned what CTO and native advertising means and who Joe Pulizzi and Filip Nilsson are.

GROWING BY LEADERSHIP

As Matter grew I became a part of the management team and later COO. For me, leadership is largely about creating the right conditions for the team, whether it is about time, competence or just coffee and vegan pastries. The right conditions allow one to have fun at work, making it a lot easier to do a good job.

I have had the chance to try my leadership together with my colleagues and I learned a lot. I am very grateful for that. Of course there has been bumps along the road, especially the physical distance between me in Malmö and the teams in Göteborg and Stockholm has sometimes been hard to bridge.

PROFESSIONALIZATION BY ORGANIZING

As Matter developed, the need of professionalization of both the company and me increased. Inside me there is a demon that demands structure and efficiency. Despite our daily battles it has contributed in the process of creating routines and control which has helped me handle tight project plans and has given some structure to today’s organization of Matter.

An important part of our progress are the Matter Days that I have led, together with our CEO, Mathias. It is our constantly ongoing internal conference where much of the Matter we see today has been built. It’s partly knowledge sharing to grow the collective brain and partly working together on issues such as roles, culture, clients and organization. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished together during those days.

I am now leaving a company that has a grown a lot, but is also well equipped and structured to take on the challenges ahead. The only thing that remains for me is to take a bow and say thank you to all colleagues, clients and partners for the time we’ve spent together. It is you all, that made ​​me grow.

And one last thing, below are three tips on how to restrain the demon of efficiency. If you use any of it, do it with caution, or the risk is that you may be perceived as excessively structured. Remember the fun.

 

Johan Widerholm


3 TOOLS TO RESTRAIN THE DEMON

Much of what I do to restrain my demon is based on stuff I’ve taken from theories as Getting Things Done to focus on the right things, Zero Inboxing to handle my emails, Scrum and LEAN to organize etc.

1. Notification off

I have turned most of my notifications off: sounds, flashes, red icons etc. Instead I check the channels I use (mail, Skype, Twitter etc.) when I am between tasks. By turning them off I get more focused in my process and I don’t get disturbed by others that need my attention. Disruptions often delay processes since you need to find your way back to the focus you just had. And it is almost never as urgent as it seems.

2. Zero inbox

I strive to keep my inbox empty. I check my mail as few times as possible during the day (remember, no notifications!), sometimes as little as three times. Mails that can be answered very quickly is answered and mails that neither needs an answer nor action is archived. Mails that calls for an answer and/or an action is made into a tasks and put in a list in the Wunderlist-app.

3. Lists and calendars

I got three lists in Wunderlist to keep track on what to do and my priorities it is. One of them is just for the present day to keep it clear from tasks that is not on a tight schedule but could easier be dealt with. It minimizes the risk that I handle them instead of the hard task that really needs my attention. To make sure I got the time to take care of todays tasks I estimate the time they will take and I schedule them in my Google Calendar. Most tasks take more time than considered and coffee breaks are well needed.

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