So, I got some really good feedback on my Turkey Debacle article and it seems that many like to hear about my mistakes and mishaps. Who knew! So, with some trepidation (I do have a reputation to maintain!) I’ve decided that I will share with you, from time to time, some mistakes or mishaps or just misadventures that happened to me, or rather that I did to myself, throughout my career.
While I think mistakes are a necessary purpose to any growth in any profession, I don’t like to admit that I am not perfect. I am a details gal, I always double and triple check everything, I re-read emails (probably too many times) and I spend time diligently making sure information is correct. When I started in my career, this was especially true because I was super concerned about doing a good job and never, EVER wanted anyone to think less of me or my work.
As an event manager, I regularly worked with high level executives in my organization (we’re talking VP’s, The Board, my CEO) and also from countless outside organizations. It didn’t really faze me who you were and I was always professional and informed in any interaction with executives. You see, they looked to me to make sure things happened, and always looked AT me when things didn’t go right. So, while I wasn’t intimidated by anyone’s stature, I for sure, double and triple checked everything I did if senior executives were involved.
Except one day. It was a day just like any other. I had been at the organization for about a year, I had grown into my ever-changing role and I had a certain stride. I had transitioned into a more visible role working now with one woman, my mentor actually, and taking on even more responsibility. I felt really lucky to be working with, let’s call her “Jane”, because she taught me so much and gave me the leverage to make a lot of the work my own. I never wanted to let her down, especially since she gave me soooo much responsibility and we were like a team really.
She had an appointment that morning so I wasn’t expecting her in until later. I was going through emails, having a tea, and was in one of those moods that is pretty good. You know, the kind of mood where you’re not anxious about anything, or stressed with any major deadlines. You’re just plugging away doing your thing.
That was me. Oblivious. Happy. Just sipping my tea.
When the phone rang, I noticed it was one of my Executive Vice Presidents who I was generally on good terms with . Maybe he wanted to discuss the foreign delegation that was coming next week. Turns out, he wanted to discuss, well shout about, the foreign delegation that was to be there like RIGHT NOW! You see, I was supposed to set up for a Chinese delegation that was to arrive in 15 minutes. Typically, we had tea service set up in our smaller boardroom for visiting delegations and I, oops, had forgotten to set up. Normally, this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but with foreign delegations, protocol and respect are a top priority. We were courting this particular group and it was my job to ensure that the right atmosphere was set.
The realization hit me right away. Right after my “hi, Mr. EVP. how are you?” was met with, “How do you think I am?”, I knew. I screwed up. And I better fix it, like, right away. After apologizing profusely, I ran upstairs only to see my EVP walking towards me down the hall. But it was totally like wild west draw; him staring me down as he confidently marched through the corridor. Me, walking briskly, trying desperately to remain in control and not let it get to me. Everything happening in slow motion yet going too fast for me.
He yelled…in the hallway…to my face!
I was devastated. And it didn’t end there. He followed me into the kitchen, watching me as I got all the tea cups and saucers prepared, boiled water for the tea, and poured into the teapot with shaking hands. I know you know the feeling of someone breathing down your neck when you’re just trying to get it done. Hello, pressure!
Thankfully, I had done this set up a thousand times so I was quick and precise and everything was totally set up before they arrived (yes, I boiled water, made tea and setup in, like, 10 minutes…I was good). And I was rattled, but I didn’t let it show.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, I got through that crises because I didn’t panic. I had a senior executive yelling at, and challenging me, right at the very moment that I had to get things done. But, I didn’t panic, I just pushed through. And that’s what you have to remember to do. Things may, and probably will, go wrong. It’s not what that thing is, but how you react to it and deal with it. Always try to keep your cool. Anything is fixable but you have to be clear and level headed and not freak out to get that accomplished. Have a back up, be confident in yourself and to some degree, act on instinct.
After the delegation left I received another call from this VP. I hesitated about answering, but I did. He apologized for getting upset and speaking to me in that way. But, he didn’t owe me anything really. It was my job to ensure I helped him represent, not only himself, but the organization well. We mutually agreed to work together if that ever happened again (which of course, it didn’t).
Oh, and he did tell “Jane” what happened but was awesomely cool in relaying it in a positive way for me (thank you!)
I realized then and there that if you can perform under pressure, anything is possible. And you can too. If you are well prepared, even the totally unexpected can’t bring you down. If you are prepared, you can go into any situation and be able to deal with it.
So, go forth and conquer in your party or event. You can do it. And most of all; enjoy!
photo credit: scrapbook