My laptop is very unstable right now, so this post consisted of me writing in Word, restarting, getting on the network and pasting before my connection to the internet could drop yet again…. With that… sans further ado…read what you want from this. It’s not all of what I’d like to say, but take what you will.
My general rule is not to blog about work, but I do blog about life and things that will probably allow for sharing on my part and to some extent, interest on your part.
If you are not aware of my purpose in visiting France, part of my responsibility is for a large meeting of our global leaders. This isn’t the easiest part of my job, but one of the most rewarding. At a meeting like this, it’s important for leadership to show a united front not for purposes of covering anyone’s shirttails – but to have a united front on the direction of the company and where the leaders’ attention and efforts must be directed. It provides a consistent experience globally for the client, employee, and shareholder. That’s oversimplifying it by a longshot, but let’s start with that.
Understanding what the person(s) at the top want the meeting to look and feel like is not easy. It involves an enormous amount of planning, lining up the right experiences, consistent look and feel of all presentations and to reel in anything that doesn’t fit the overall message and sentiment. It also involves watching and reacting to these persons at all moments whether they are on or offstage. This requires dedication, interest, energy, and overall – caring about what happens as though the meeting were my own. And, for a lot of it, the meeting is my own. If I don’t take that stance – eat, sleep, drink, etc., it’s not possible to pull it all off.
Last year was a breeze. This year was not.
But nobody had any idea how difficult it was behind the scenes or what we (I’ll get to “we” in a moment) needed to do in order to make it a perfect experience. And what is a perfect experience? Well all of the above – in ensuring that what the top wants comes thorough at the meeting – but it’s also creating an environment or experience where the attendees are focuses solely on what the top management needs them to do while on the trip.
Why was it hard?
Everyone does business a little differently. It could be easily boiled down to culture and culture does play a part in it, but service is another matter. Some companies or even individual people think they are able to offer a certain service but the extent to which they can offer it – with a sense of quality, urgency, thoroughness and attentiveness – is an entirely different matter. In short, some folks think they can cut it but they have no idea what cutting it means on a level higher than they can comprehend.
I had a team of five people helping me, an AV team, and members of our management. Everyone hauled ass to make things work, but the amount of follow up necessary with the venue we chose just sucked the life out of us. Life that could have been put into other aspects of the meeting. It was, in a word uttered by one of the staff from our France office: Fatiguant.
Fatigue is like tired. Fatiguant is like tiring. Only more poetic and energy-removing. And accurate if you ask me.
There were so many more challenges this year. I would like to list them but it’s not appropriate from a separation of work/blog life standpoint. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I would like to share some moments with you that stick with me in particular.
- I did my first presentation to our executive team, and I didn’t realize it until 15 minutes afterward.
- 80% of the meeting management on my part with this team was in French, with the dedicated assistance of my colleague from our France office who is English but has been living in France since she was 18. Most of my work and few moments of relaxation with this team were all in French
- Even when you know the language – it doesn’t always mean you can get the finer points of what you want to accomplish, accomplished.
- Especially… when you only have moments to get things done. When it would have been difficult in English to begin with.
- Nothing in this world can compare to the following items in France: coffee, chocolate, croissants, butter, duck breast, champagne, canapés, crème brulee, cigarettes…. I could go on.
Saturday I took one day to myself to visit Paris, which was about 45 minutes away from the city where I was staying. I knew I wouldn’t last long because I was exhausted. As I walked down the sidewalk on the Rive Gauche (left bank), I walked past a newsstand. A young man sat on a stack of newspapers having a cigarette and watched me approach. He caught my eye and winked, and he said: “Charmante”.
I said, “c’est gentil…”
Because he could have said something crass, but he said something beautiful. Not all things that might appear to be Charmante at the outset are easy. But I stuck with what needed to be done to make this a success. I would really like to list the things that made it difficult because there were many, and they were odd things. I even almost threw up once on the first day of the meeting. It’s been a long time since what I was working on was truly difficult and in a word: developmental. Not just the long hours, that’s the easy part. The hard part is doing the things, making the decisions, and swallowing your pride when things go wrong and making them right within 6 seconds. It was the first time in a long time that I really feel as though I have worked hard for an accomplishment.