Last fall, I asked my husband Ted what he wanted to do for his 60th birthday, hoping he’d suggest that we go on a trip. Instead he asked for a party. It’s a lot of work to make a really good party, but since he doesn’t really make a lot of requests like this, it seemed like a fair one to make. 60 is a big deal but it’s also provides a legitimate reason to get a terrific group together and celebrate. I had asked the question and gotten my answer.
The only real parameter I was given was that the location needed to have a view of the Baltimore Harbor. Ted would create the guest list. The rest was up to me. The desired outcome was to create a fun evening and some wonderful memories.
Once the site and date was selected, the vision became clearer. I delegated tasks to those with the expertise:
- The person with a background in fine dining and banquets helped with the menu, bar, and room set up.
- The person with the music background who managed a recording studio handled the playlist for the cocktail hour, the dinner, the dancing and the speeches.
- Those who always look sharp helped pull together the hostess outfit.
- The people who had access to some specific photos I needed submitted them for use.
I made sure there was plenty of time to create invitations (and allow for potential mistakes), keep people informed, work with a cake baker, find props that fit the vision, and extend the invitation to include someone that I knew would be a welcome surprise.
And plan for the potential problems that became real:
- The vendors who never returned my calls, emails, or voice mails;
- The difficulty locating exactly what I had hoped I’d be able to find, meaning I needed to alter my choice or forget it entirely;
- The sometimes overwhelming amount of options to sift through;
- The choices that were too expensive;
- The selections that seemed too inexpensive;
- The unsolicited ideas, advice, and suggestions that were well intentioned but not in line with the vision and would have meant even more work.
The result of all the work, the follow up, the follow through, the back up plans, the frequent checking, the many calls and emails, the on-site visits to make sure technology worked, the photo scanning and cropping, the errands, and the last minute adjustments?
A great result:
Family, longtime and new friends and neighbors mixed, laughed, danced, ate, and toasted;
Some speeches that caused laughter and tears;
A location that was classy, a bit different, and on the harbor that looked wonderful when the sun was setting on boaters and kayakers and magical when the moon came up on the twinkling lights reflecting on the water;
A customized cake that was clever AND yummy;
The surprise guest (the childhood friend who now lives on the other side of the country and hadn’t been in touch is 30 or so years) was truly a surprise, and a pretty amazing and impressive one
Perhaps most importantly, the Guest of Honor was heard to say ‘It’s perfect and exactly what I had hoped for.”
Are you wondering what this has to do with work?
People have parties all the time. Did you ever wonder why some of them turn out to be wonderful experiences that create precious memories while others end up being sort of lame?
For the same reason that some organizational visions capture the imagination and energy of others and some visions end up being just lame statements and even a bit lame in the execution.
It starts with a guideline or two, and a clear idea of what the outcome will be or will feel like. Someone who has the energy and enthusiasm to make it happen and keep the vision in focus needs to lead the charge. It involves imagination, input, help, effort, and a lot of work. And time to get things done. It requires planning and thought and room for reflection, as well as a cushion – time for things to possibly go wrong or off track but with time to still get it right. Some flexibility is needed so there is room for adapting to reality.
And luck helps. I wasn’t in charge of the weather. The day before the party it rained all day long, with frequent deluges. It was overcast and gloomy early in the day. But we got lucky and the weather cleared just before, during and after the party. It wasn’t essential, but it sure made everything nicer.
If you want to move your employees or colleagues toward your vision I might be able to help. I understand the attention to detail that translates into energy and action. I can support you and provide feedback about ways to increase your ability to obtain the outcome you are seeking. It requires so much more than just sharing your vision.
And if you want to throw a party – I’ve got some experience with making your vision of that a reality too.