Let’s see if I can throw together a thumbnail review of my circumstances:
Bride #1’s voice began to crack when informed her Event Manager had changed. When she found out I was a male, she hung up the phone.
Bride #2’s father was a Major League Baseball coach with whom I enjoyed engaging at the official menu tasting but distracted me from capturing details necessary to move forward with the planning process.
Bride #3’s parents didn’t speak English but smiled and nodded politely throughout the menu tasting. The next day the entire menu had to be changed.
Bride #4 broke into tears when informed she would not spend her wedding night in the Presidential Suite. Her father was not amused by my explanation: “Because a President is staying in it.”
I was going to need some help . . . fast.
Opportunities In All Forms
Our Social Event Manager had been offered a position with another resort, who obviously and predictably needed her there as soon as possible.
Since her departure would supersede her replacement’s arrival, responsibility for weddings scheduled in the month of February fell on my shoulders. This made sense . . . I was the least experienced Event Manager but had the most experience in catering social events.
The rest of the team was booked solid managing corporate events, those with mega-detailed itineraries and a much greater scope of influence.
Besides, how hard could it be? These were joyous occasions, filled with laughter and love, celebrating the union of two souls destined to spend eternity together.
It took that first phone call to burst the bubble, shattering any preconceived notions of happiness and joy. I was face-to-face with a grim reality that someone had pried open Pandora’s Box and released an entirely new universe filled with wedding anxiety and emotion.
An Execution Gap
Bride #1 was understandably upset with how the change in event manager had been communicated. My strong relator skills managed to smooth things over, but it was her line of questioning that had me concerned.
She kept asking questions about her wedding . . . not the reception, but details about the actual ceremony.
A quick call to the former social event manager confirmed my fears, “Oh yes, I totally do wedding planning.” Nice.
Two days later was the menu tasting for Bride #2. We had a great time, laughing and sharing stories, sampling the recommended wines along with a few others. The evening ended in hugs and smiles, just like you hope it will.
When I handed the details sheet to my Assistant the next morning, she handed it back to me and asked, “What am I supposed to do with this?”
While I had the menu and beverage selections down, I hadn’t captured even half of the other details we needed to generate a Banquet Event Order.
I had become a living example of someone out of balance: fully dependent on strengths without the corresponding experience or knowledge necessary to complete a task.
This created a rapidly expanding crevasse between client expectations and my team’s ability to execute. There had to be some way of closing the gap.
I knocked on the door of our Catering Sales Manager.
The Wedding Assault Team
“I would love to participate in the planning process,” was her response to my solicitation for assistance.
It was her desire to follow through on events she had booked, but the previous social event manager refused to let her play.
There would be no such barrier to these four weddings.
Next, I approached our new social event manager, who by then had arrived on property. She had plenty of experience, and gladly embraced the opportunity to shadow the planning process to bridge relationships and become more familiar with her new home.
Lastly, I had to find a solution to Menu Tastings. Capturing all the details was a distraction to my gregarious style. Plus, it was always two couples and me . . . I felt like the odd man out.
So, I approached my assistant and asked if she would attend the tastings with me. This would make the experience feel more comfortable, like three couples having dinner. She was ecstatic and all for it, then offered a solemn:
“But Tim, administrative assistants never attend Menu Tastings.”
“They do now,” was my response.
She became the Designated Adult, responsible for taking notes . . . someone had to capture the information. Plus, her goal was to become an Event Manager, so this would be excellent practical experience.
We gathered in my office to celebrate the launch of our collaborative effort. I’m not sure who first suggested it, but we became known as the WAT . . . as in “Wedding Assault Team.”
It was perfection.
The Value of “We”
However, there were still hurdles to overcome.
Bride #3’s family was from Japan . . . her fiancé’s family lived in Paris. We somehow bridged a spirit of gastro-détente between those two cultures and created a lovely experience.
Then there were the ruffled nerves of Bride #4’s father, who wanted all the special amenities afforded his first daughter’s wedding, recreated nearly two years later. That wedding was in August, when the hotel was almost empty, and we were just happy for the business.
This wedding would be in February, when the hotel was full and there were no extra rooms, no extra parking spaces, and lots of extra guests attending events throughout the banquet area.
All in a day’s work.
But you couldn’t put a price tag on the value of support and comradery experienced during our run as the WAT team. It was four unique perspectives focused on a single goal: exceeding the expected.
When the dust settled and wedding season was over, we carried forward these key insights about what makes a team “work”:
Focus on the Ultimate Purpose
You could reference a more pedestrian “Check your ego at the door”, but it’s more about a collective focus on the ultimate purpose or accomplishment.
This begins well before a task is assigned . . . an essence that flows through your culture like oxygen, breathing life into ambition, innovation, ingenuity, etc.
Sometimes it takes urgent circumstances to tap into that source. Once you do, it makes the spirit of collaboration that much more impactful.
For our team, the ultimate focus was our guest. It just so happened that these were bridal parties and called for a collection of very specific and unique talents.
Recognize Your Strengths
I wouldn’t recommend hard and fast lanes; more like clarity, or an understanding of how everyone best contributes to the team.
Then, recognize and respect the value of those individual strengths, using them to achieve a harmonic balance among contributors and a more positive approach to a task.
This doesn’t release you from joint accountability . . . it merely highlights the potential for everyone to take the point at any given time and circumstance.
Celebrate With “We”
If approached with the proper intent, there is incredible personal value in what is accomplished through a team effort.
Celebrating the “we” shouldn’t detract from that . . . again, success refers to an alignment among your ultimate purpose and your individual contributions, many of which were made possible through the presence of others.
Certainly, I was the point person in each of these wedding events, but none of it would have been possible without the input and assistance of a great team.
So, we celebrated together, like a family.
Closing The Guest Book
In a strange twist of fate, I transferred to Human Resources later that spring.
Formation of the Wedding Assault Team and subsequent lessons in teamwork lived on through the stories I would share during New Hire Orientation and Service training.
The stories began with an examination of our culture, enlivened through our everyday actions, and were called upon to assist in some of our most challenging situations.
Having that framework in place allowed us to recognize and appreciate each other’s strengths, celebrating accomplishments in the spirit of “we”, and ultimately exceeding our guest’s expectations.
Did I happen to mention it rained on Bride #4’s wedding day? All in a day’s teamwork.
This is Tall Tim and I am At Your Service