Posted on July 6, 2016 by Melva L. Jones, Director
Years ago when I was working for another employer, I was attending an event where I saw and heard a planner screaming at a wait staff person about a mistake in the meal service; the planner was saying the wait staff person didn’t matter and that the result of the mistake was that the world was coming to an end. Personally, I was appalled; even as someone who has been grossly disappointed by vendors, I couldn’t get beyond the screaming and name-calling I witnessed. When I asked what had happened—a beverage order was messed up—I understood the frustration of the planner who probably was getting chewed out by her boss, but the experience inspired me to think through the following ideas on how to encourage constructive criticism:
Deal with where you can make immediate change – in the above example, from what I could tell, everyone was enjoying the reception and no one other than the planner knew the beverages were wrong. Therefore, I would have encouraged this planner to leave the wait staff alone, document the issue, note it to management after the fact, and request a discount.
Practice graceful leadership – Name-calling and yelling never works. Most of you know that I have a unique voice and I learned quickly that yelling and swearing wouldn’t work for me; beyond that, I just don’t agree with those tactics as a business principle. I once had a boss who would refer to all of us as her “puppies,” and not in a good way. I had another boss who thought calling employees “failures” or “her D+ students” was a great management tool—and she could never understand why she had so much turnover in her staff. These managers led with fear and intimidation rather than with understanding, empathy, and grace. If the planner in my first example really needed to say something to the wait personnel, she could have come from a place of understanding and said, ‘Hey I know this probably isn’t your fault, but I really need the rest of the event to go off without issue. Can we reconfirm details?”
Spread encouragement when appropriate – If your event is not going as planned, be sure to still acknowledge people who are doing a great job—while at the same time documenting any issues and leading with graceful leadership. When you acknowledge the light in a dark event situation (and trust me I have been in quite a few), it means that you can see the bigger picture and you are on your way to being a 360 leader who can recognize challenges, rise above them, and praise the good. Far too often planners get so burdened by the bad that they can’t see the forest for the trees.
Am I encouraging you to be pushover? Absolutely not! I want to help you to push through an event issue in a manner that is graceful and dignified. Think about a time that someone saw you as invisible—how did that feel?—and ask yourself if your intention is to make someone else feel like that?
My guess is that the planner I witnessed yelling at the wait staff regretted her word choice that night. Just as words matter, everyone matters. USA, I know events are stressful. I know you can think that fear works, but the next time you are really angry try to operate with grace and appreciate the positive affects of your actions. I continue to work on this every time I am hit with an event issue, so I will be doing this with you. Happy planning!
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