Sunday, February 17, 2008

With only half an ass, you'd just topple over

In the animal kingdom, even dogs play fight to prepare for real life situations where fighting may be necessary.

I learned an interesting lesson about a week ago. A friend was back in town from Taiwan, and it happened to be close to her birthday. The night before, we had decided we were going to eat at Old Town San Diego. And I thought we had decided on a place, which wasn't true. No time was set, and we just left it at that.

It was around 4:30PM or so, and we still hadn't even come up with a time. I thought it would work in everyone's favor, especially with such a large group, if we had some general guidance on when to meet. I had a restaurant in mind, but unfortunately I didn't know the name of the place. I wasn't looking to lead the group, just guide them a bit. I figure I help set the time and the general place, we'd eat at the restaurant that everyone kinda had in mind or at least seen at one time. My backup plan was Casa de Bandini or we could let the group figure out the rest when we got there. But thinking back, that was just not right on so many levels. Its bad planning for one, and bad leadership.

That's where I could have done better. Even without finding out the name of the place, I learned that a lot of the places had shut down. After learning that piece of information, I thought I'd chance it and hope that the restaurant hadn't closed. And my backup was Casa de Bandini, which was a very successful restaurant. I had assumed that there was no way that one could have been closed. Knowing where both the restaruants were, I didn't bother calling them to see if they were still open. The restaruant without a name usually accomodated large parties without reservations on the weekdays no problem, so I thought we were ok with the plan. But surely, its not a failproof plan by any means.

When I got in the car, I had learned that Casa de Bandini had closed, so there went my backup plan. And I got a call saying that the restaurant could not be found. So I asked the group that was already there to find a restaurant, but it wasn't really a task that I should be assigning when I should have at the very least another restaurant in mind.

Another critical error was that I had gotten there late when I should have been the first one there. When I finally got there, sure enough the restaurant with no name was closed, and we had no decision restaurant or reservations.

And I'm making it sound like the night was a total disaster, which isn't true. We had found a suitable place to eat at by 7:45 (the plan was to meet at Old Town at 7:30), and it was an enjoyable night for everyone. It was hardly a failure because it was amongst friends, and the depth of the task (finding a place to eat) wasn't really much of a task. But definitely I felt I did a pretty poor job on many levels.

First was my level of involvement that I thought I was putting myself into. I thought I guide/lead the group by planning just enough to get the ball rolling, and we'd figure out the rest. What happened was people had put more responsibilities on me, than I thought I was putting on myself. And really, that is a default assumption to make by other people. When I know that someone else is planning something, my mind switches off from planning anything because its already been planned, and all I need to do is show up. So the lesson to take here is, if you're going to plan/take charge/lead, you can't half ass it. Either plan the whole thing out, or don't step up at all.

#2, Have a failproof plan. I was wrong to assume that the restaurant would be open, and that no reservations would be fine, especially having learned that there were a lot of closures. If you don't know the name of the place, find it, or decide on somewhere else. I could have killed 2 birds with 1 stone here by making reservations.

#3, Be the first one there. I should have been there before anyone, even if it meant I had to drive alone. This would also be good for providing people directions, where to park etc.

If the restaurant with no name was open, then the night would have seemed like it went off without a hitch, or if I just said yes to Fandango's because I had eaten there before and it was fine. But then I would have missed out on the learning experience. Of course these are all things that make obvious sense, but until you've learned from mistakes, you may not be pushed to implement them. You may get away with arriving in time with everyone else, until that one day, you realize you can have saved youself from disaster if you had gotten there before everyone else. I've learned to not only plan better birthday dinners, but I can take lessons here to be better in critical business event planning.

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