Event Planner's Guide: 4 Rules for Being a Good Manager
Could you be missing opportunities to get more out of your team? Try these four tipsby Bret Freedman | Published in June 2009 event manager | management | managers' corner | Departments
Event managers, in my experience, are extraordinary people. They shine in a crisis and are experts at managing projects and solving problems. But one aspect of event management that is often overlooked is people management — and the two are not the same.
We all have a few stories of managers who were ineffective, unsupportive or even abusive because they managed us like they managed an event, or ignored us because nothing was more important than the event. But the truth is, people cannot be managed as events are — and part of being a successful event manager is managing people.
A number of skills employed in event management transfer to managing people, however. Be organized, pay attention to details, follow through, manage expectations, be honest and be available, for example. But some crucial ones are new skills worth acquiring to develop a dynamic team and operate a successful organization.
Here are some practices you can implement to help become a successful people manager.
1. Make mistakes an opportunity to give specific feedback.
While I would never advocate aggression as a tactic when working on an event, things go awry and your job is to ensure that mistakes are fixed quickly and completely. We are expected to sweat the small stuff, and sometimes we have to be aggressive to get what we need.
When the person making the mistake is someone on your staff, however, approach errors as growth opportunities. Feed information to your staff that lets them know how they are doing and how they can improve. Effective feedback gives employees something concrete they can work with. Frame everything with context and consequences: “When you did that, this is how the program was affected, and I’d like to discuss some alternatives to approaching it next time.”
Employees should walk away from receiving feedback feeling empowered, with ideas on what to do better next time. If your team member doesn’t know what the next steps are, the conversation was ineffective.
2. Don’t give generic positive feedback.
When we provide positive feedback, we often offer general motivation: “You are such a rock star!” is one of my favorites. This kind of feedback has its place, but it doesn’t reinforce behavior because it doesn’t tell employees precisely what makes them so fabulous. It’s good for morale, but makes future performance unpredictable.
Instead, constantly provide feedback that says to your employees, “Do more of this, specifically,” so they know what works. Help employees analyze what they did well so they can apply that same thinking to other areas of their job. This also makes them feel noticed and valued.
3. Schedule time to listen.
In this business, time is always short. Clients are calling and deadlines are finite. That’s why it’s so important to sit down with staffers regularly on an individual basis and listen in a consequence-free environment. Find out what is going on in their jobs and lives and how they are feeling. What are they interested in learning about? What are their frustrations and concerns? Use this information to be helpful to them, offer coaching where they need it and growth opportunities where they want to be engaged.
Staying plugged in sends the message to employees that you care, that they are important members of your team, and that you want them to be content and fulfilled.
4. Designate ownership with a lifeline.
All employees want to feel like they’re contributing, that they’re a crucial part of the team. Consistently offer them appropriate opportunities to take ownership, and let them know how that feeds into the organization’s larger goals and that you are there if they get stuck. This fosters development and commitment, but never leaves employees without a net if things get sticky. If you can’t be available to support them, pair team members up based on their strengths and experience to help each other solve problems as they arise.
Event managers can be great people managers if they remember that events are things and people are not. Customize your skill sets to both — it will serve your business, your events and your people.