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Niki McKay of Blue Danube

Don't Do Rude: Niki McKay on the Power of Staying Polite

Niki McKayThe #EventProf life is a life of doing all the things all at once. Sometimes it can be described as organized chaos.

We’re constantly dealing with our boss, our boss’s boss, our clients, our clients’ boss, the attendees and the attendees’ half-sister’s son twice-removed. People are constantly looking to us for solutions, for answers. We have to be always ready, or always on-deck. Our ducks are expected to be in a row, even when we’re on two hours of sleep, a granola bar and want nothing more than an IV-drip of coffee ... or maybe a shot of vodka.

Even though there is a lot within our control, sometimes that changes (re: my crisis management post). Stress levels can be high. The one thing that is always in our control is our attitude. While sh*t hits the fan, you have the ability to remain calm, kind and personable. This is where your leadership shines its truest colors.

Do you enjoy being spoken down to? Do you love a passive-aggressive email? Do you thrive off of rude side-comments?

Probably not. This isn’t the way to get things done.

People don’t tend to react positively to negativity, which just puts us all into a downward spiral. I challenge you: Put your leadership to the test. Even in the most stressful of situations, can your leadership withstand the urge to take it out on others? In the moment, the most critical aspect is to solve the problem, not place blame.

And rudeness accomplishes nothing. We’re all in this together--vendors, CEOs, event planners, attendees. Everyone wants the same thing: The event to go on without a hitch and attendees/stakeholders/C-suites/their half-sister’s son twice-removed to leave happy.

At the end of the day, we all have to work with imperfect humans (this includes yourself). Let’s make it right and work together for the end-goal.

Part of it certainly has to do with approach. The CEO is pressuring you because the lights aren’t the perfect shade of Xanadu green (it’s a real color, trust me). A partner-vendor is angry because your trusses are in the way of their setup. The planner is upset because the CEO is pissed and the trusses are still in the way. These three types of people are all your customers (more on this to come … ). They need to be happy. Instead of “rude,” take a breath, and recognize your own instinctive tendencies. Start here:

  1. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Be aware of your tone and how you could be perceived.
  3. If you can, wait to respond. Don’t hit send, don’t speak yet--so that you have time to digest. You will probably act more rationally and objectively if a few minutes can pass. Even try getting a second opinion.
  4. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Recognize that rude is not productive.
  5. Don’t blame in the moment. Resolve: “We will talk about feelings in circle time later.”
  6. Remember the greater goal and that it’s not personal.

At the end of the day, don’t we all get major satisfaction out of a job well done? We all should strive to love what we do and be the best we can be. It’s not always easy, but the challenging stuff is rewarding. The more we work together on it all, the more mountains we can move.

Niki McKay is owner of Blue Danube Productions, based in Seattle. Photo by Mike Nakamura Photography.

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