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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#115: A bride is a LEADER in a pretty dress.

Last week I was impressed with how Jenna (she of this amazing celebration) rocked the role of "senior manager" or "CEO" of her wedding. She got things done. Her vision was realized. She made firm decisions. She knew her limits and delegated. And because of this, she was able to enjoy her wedding weekend.

So it got me thinking. Planning and executing a wedding can feel like running a business, and as such, it would benefit from some insanely awesome management and leadership skills from the bride and groom.

Here's the thing: we're not all great at managing and leading. I know I'm not.

You see, I'm an introverted, flexible, indecisive middle child who is better at thinking up ideas than  following through. Also, instead of taking charge when faced with a challenging situation, I let the situation take control of me. It's the kind of sensitive and introspective personality that allows me to excel as a counselor, a writer, and as a helper. But I pretty much suck at leading others, being firm, and delegating.This made wedding planning and enjoying the reception a bit of a challenge for me.

What kind of leader are you? 

Will you need help saying "no" to people who want you to play the role of manager at your wedding when all you really want to is party hardy? Are you someone who is easily overwhelmed by challenges, and would therefore require the help of a right-hand-man (or woman) to put out fires? Or perhaps your need to be in control will prevent you from feeling relaxed at your wedding, or worse, prevent you from appreciating the beauty of what's happening beyond the logistics that you're so busy overseeing.

Take your leadership style into consideration and plan accordingly.

Another important question to ask yourself is: what kind of host are you? Me? A bad one. My desire to make people feel comfortable is a good thing, but when I go overboard with this it's always at my own expense. To me, if your "customers" (guests) aren't happy, your business is failing. But if the "boss" (the host) is miserable, again, your business is failing.

I've only hosted 3 parties in my life:

(1) Housewarming party 2 years ago - I spent half the night in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes instead of hanging with my guests. (I blame it on poor planning and time management.)

(2) My wedding - You all know how that went. (I blame it on worrying too much about what other people were thinking.)

(3) Last week's belated joint 30th birthday party for Brian and me -  Fortunately, by this time I had learned from my past mistakes. I didn't act like a host, I acted like a guest at a party. And because of this I had a great time! We ordered a few pizzas, made it a BYOB thing (bring your own beer, brownies, or boobies - guests' choice), let people do their own thing without feeling like we needed to entertain them, and did very little "host work" during the event.

However, being an imperfect leader and host brings its own blessings. It highlights the areas in which I want to improve. It begs me to brave and go outside of my comfort zone. And it encourages me to look to my "business partner" (husband) for support. Brian and I are opposites, so through him my strengths are magnified, put to work, and appreciated, while my weaknesses are forgiven and compensated for. That's the beauty of partnership. And that's one of the reasons why I got married.

And finally, being a good leader and host is not just about your SKILLZ. *It's about INTEGRITY.* So even though you've got your flaws, you can still have a beautiful, conscientious, honest, and joyful day without compromising your core values. That's something to be proud of, whether you rocked the CEO hat or not.

Married people: What are you and your partner like as leaders/ managers/ hosts?

Engaged people: How have your management skills effected your wedding planning?

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  1. This is great, Kim, Isaiah and I have completely different leadership styles...Isaiah is more laid-back, he's very flexible, and because of that..I'm fighting the urge of just accepting that he'll probably have a better time at the wedding than I will, haha. I'm more of a Type A for sure...however, somehow for us it works. He keeps me calm and I kick him in gear sometimes and we balance each other out in the planning process for sure.

  2. holy crap. CHOCK FULL OF GEMS.

    i am a planner, but i'm a leader who knows when to step down and let someone else take the reigns. i also lead by example, i don't make anyone do something i wouldn't want to do. except josh, i hate cleaning the litter box.

    our style of leading together is focusing on our strengths and stepping in as leaders when we are needed. ie. he's good with keeping track of money. so he steps up and manages the bills and budget. i'm good at everything else. :) jk. i'm good at keeping us organized with important dates and deadlines. so i step up and keep us on task. there are definitely times (like booking a hotel blockrate) when i don't have patience for something or get intimated and josh will either help me with it or take care of it himself.

    i think something we can work better on is asking for help. we're good when seeing the other person struggle, but actually saying, "can you help me, please?" is something we need to work on. a recent example of this.. i'm looking at graduate programs at an art school. josh went to art school and is damn talented. so of course, 1.) i'm intimated b/c it's his arena of expertise, not mine. and 2.) i want to figure it out on my own. but he's coming to the open house with me to learn about the programs and helping me identify books/things to research. in a way he's like my personal mentor and a teacher. but i can sleep with him. :)

  3. I'm a public sector administrator (HR, to be precise, so in other words, a "people person"), and I've done event planning for other things (volunteer, mostly), so I was in my element with this.

    Unlike most personnel people, though, though I am a "people person" I am not a "process person" (I'm more of an "idea guy", so I love org management, hence why I am in HR). However, I've had to learn how to do this to be successful in my job, so I made tracking spreadsheets. I made lists. (Oh, I LOVE lists!) I forged relationships.

    And, I let hubs take the reins and deal with the day-of nonsense while I got ready. Our venue was great in that they didn't let people bug us with nonsense once the party actually got underway. Hubs liked having the ownership of the wedding and took a lot of pride in it.

    i also lead by example, i don't make anyone do something i wouldn't want to do - this is key, however I will state one exception - I ask/hire people to do things I'm no good at. For example, I wouldn't ask someone to set up chairs for me without helping them do it (unless I COULDN'T, but that's different), but I would - and did - ask/hire people to do things that I'm not good at and would botch terribly.

  4. I agree with a previous commentor that it's a lot to think about :)
    The part that confuses me is that it seems I have two different selves (don't we all lol) But seriously, at work I avoid management and supervisiory tasks/roles like the plague. I"m also horrible at managing myself (in terms of self-care, organizing my space, making time for me etc.) But then when it comes to parties, I LOVE organizing the people parts of it. What we're doing, how many will be attending, who needs a ride etc. Ben loves that I coordinate not only my own birthday celebrations, but his as well. However, I HATE organizing the "stuff" -- how much food we need, what decorations to buy etc. For the wedding I was happy to "outsource" that job to a professional.
    Ben's style is managerial all the way. He manages people for a living (and then gets his customers to spend $$ in his store). He's a big picture type of guy and is AMAZING at organizing both people and stuff. We are both packrats but his stuff is cooly displayed where as mine is such a mish-mash.
    True to his manager form, he was good at making lists of "this is what we've already done, this is what we still have to do." I was very good at executing/taking care of the stuff on the "to be done" list (similar to at work actually, if I have a clear set of directions I can take it and run with it.)
    I know our styles work well together. I think the other thing that made planning the wedding a little easier for me is that while I generally hate giving up control of things I know I can do well, I"m more than happy to give up control/responsibility over things I'm not good at. I'm not a professional at 90% of the things invovled in our wedding, so those things I was comfortable delegating to someone who IS a professional at it.

  5. I did mention a lot about leadership and management skills in my own featured wedding, so maybe a note about how I acquired them is in order. I work in corporate training in Taipei and in thus job I have had to learn a lot very fast about management, of both the business and classroom kind, as well as being assertive in a society where assertiveness ( in men and women) is not always prized. Then of course a lot on presentation skillls, not just as subject matter for a seminar but also for me to use as I teach that seminar!

    All of this was indispensible for wedding related stuff, from cultivating a professional persona with vendors to treating toasts and vows as mini presentations to using my voice and tone to get people moving as I would my students, all while maintaining a tone of respect (as many of said students are CEOs and executives).

    I cant say i did a perfect job - more on that later when I am not typing on an iPod touch!

  6. Some ways in which I felt I fell short, though I am taking them as learning experiences:

    - despite cultivating a stronger professional demeanor in the past few years (but an idiosyncratic, unpredictable one: I'm still occasionally known to put on an office-y outfit for work and then walk there wearing flip-flops only to change to office shoes in the lobby) my mom still occasionally causes me to lose my cool, though I love her dearly and we usually get along. A few times, with vendors, she made some not-entirely-welcome comments (a condescending quip about our decorating plans, insisting that people recess out HER way instead of our plan of "if you end up at the end of the row nearest the aisle, just go first, don't worry about recessing in any specific order, people will be watching us anyway") and I have a personality that won't let those attempts to place me back in the role of Child go (subconscious though they surely were).

    I would have been smarter to quickly and firmly end the discussion ("My decorating style is not up for debate") and then telling her later, privately, to stuff it, but I didn't out of some misguided need to protect my professional image in front of vendors, when really it just made me look worse.

    - I did enjoy our engagement party / New Years bash (hosted by friends but we helped self-cater) but we tried to prepare way too much. We should have cut at least 3 things from the final cocktail spread lineup and had a more organized game plan involving volunteer helping hands. Basically as things got going I abandoned the kitchen and whatever wasn't done never got done, the kitchen was a wreck but we let it stay that way so we could enjoy the party...but I never had time to pretty up like I wanted and spent the party with fuzzy hair and smelling of bacon.

  7. @ Lizzie - That's awesome. Being opposites (or balanced, rather) is such a blessing, even when it feels terribly frustrating. Also, I hope you keep me posted about what it's like for a self-proclaimed Type-A to try to enjoy the event that she'd been planning for so long. What will your approach be and who/ what will help you be less hands-on and more carefree?

    @ Angie - Ahh, but YOU are chock full of awesome. ;)

    Like you, asking for help is like pulling teeth for me. Actually, it's worse - I've had 7 teeth pulled and it wasn't bad. (Note: I don't have rotten teeth, just toooo many big ones that were making my mouth look like the a muzzle of a dog.)

    PS. Good luck with the grad school hunt! How exciting!!!

    @ irisira - After having survived my wedding I now have a new respect for event planners. Seriously. Go you.

    @ Steph - Yeah, there's a definite difference between being a natural leader in the traditional sense vs. being a great hostess. You're more into the relationships and people (which makes sense given your profession).

    And speaking of Ben's managerial skills...yep, you were right - he does lead Brian! It's subtle, but based on my latest observations you were DEFINITELY right about that. ;)

    @ Jenna - Sounds like you've acquired skills that will help you throughout your life and in many situations. I'm your natural leadership skills ever rub people the wrong way? I ask because I find that my greatest strengths are often my biggest weaknesses, depending on the situation.

    And I can totally relate to you when it comes to losing your cool when old issues bubble up during an exchange. It's usually when I'm reminded of some painful part of my past. Umm...and I'm guilty of throwing things and trying to run people over with my car when this happens. (Sadly, I'm not exaggerating.) All of this is CRAZY, especially because I'm usually the gentle and easy-going person in the room. But hit on any of my old issues and I become a kicking and screaming child. Like, IN PUBLIC. Very embarrassing! But I'm learning.

  8. Kim - yes, occasionally it does, especially living in Asia where women aren't traditionally expected to be leaders anywhere but in the home. My boss is a pretty good man at heart but still has a lot of holdover sexism that needs to be drummed out of him (hilarious because his wife is a drills sargeant). For example, before we left to get married, he told my husband - we work at the same company btw - that "a man's mind is like an ocean, and a woman's is a river that runs into that ocean. The man's mind can absorb what the woman is thinking and asking and decide what to do with it." Um, WHAT!?

    I have at times left said boss utterly stymied by my assertiveness because he still hasn't figured out that I am both a woman and assertive...I stand up for myself, usually get what I want or a reasonable compromise, and then he goes again assuming that I'll cave the next time because women always do.

    I also have a kind of a reputation among the admin workers at the office for being...well I won't say "a b*tch" because they genuinely seem to like and respect me, but for being a bit scary. Not because I actually am, but because they've got a boss who tells them "call up Jenna and tell her we need X" and they know that if X is totally crazypants that I'll say no and stand firm.

    Elsewhere...yes, occasionally I can get a little *too* passionate about what I think, and can come off as opinionated or as going off on someone who may not entirely deserve to get firebombed (even if they are *wrong*, haha). I try at those times to sit back and remember this gem:

    I've only had one friend come out and say that maybe I'm a little over-opinionated...and she's somewhat right though she can be a bit of a know-it-all herself. ;)

    And yeah...also it's good to remember, as they say, that going home can make you feel like you're 12 again. At times during the process my mom would act as though I were still 12 and needed help managing - which I did at times, but when I did I delegated. I can deal with this when it happens privately ("Mom, I'm fine!") but I can't stand it being done publicly. We really had to have it out over the comment in front of the venue vendor regarding my decorating ideas, because she crossed a boundary that I feel I really need to defend.

    My recommendation for those who want to learn self-leadership and boundary-drawing and how to deal with difficult people who test boundaries is to just regularly read Carolyn Hax's column in the Washington Post. She's a true gem, and almost always right on the money. She focuses on interpersonal relationships and is great at helping people with language and backbone-growing regarding dealing with others.

    Finally, I'm Type A too (couldya tell?) and my husband is very laid-back Type B. Type As can totally enjoy their parties if they direct that Alpha energy in, don't direct it at "OMG I have to manage the canapes RIGHT NOW!" but as "I have decided that I will stop working at THIS time, and I will assertively tell people who try to claw me away from my party to do something to back off, and THIS is how it is going to be". It does work, but you've gotta believe it and back it up.

  9. It's not my career, in fairness. I would hate it as a career. Doing it as a volunteer on a limited basis keeps it fun and challenging.

    I have, however, volunteered to chair committees, etc., that involve these duties. There's a youth leadership group that I am very involved with and, over the years, have held a number of key planning roles. It's a lot of fun, but it's stressful and a lot of work. However, because of my involvement with that over the years, it helped me to keep perspective with my wedding, for which I am grateful.

    Like those events, I was able to watch it unfold and be proud of the job I did, regardless if some things did not go perfectly. Being a perfectionist, I'm not sure I would have had that outlook without that experience.

  10. Oh, and @Jenna, your last paragraph sums it up perfectly. I second Carolyn Hax as well - I'm kind of addicted to her column.

    What is it with us Type As marrying these laid-back Type Bs, huh? :)


Babbling about weddings is so much more fun when people babble back. :)

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