We called it “Glory Week” because “Hell Week” sounds self-defeating. With all the events going on concurrently, any officer would be forgiven for throwing up their hands and beg for mercy. Mercy, since money wasn’t available for more resources.
All the CGs were coming into Beijing, so the Embassy was going to hold a conference for them. The PCOs also came in for their quarterly meeting. Normally, we would have a separate itinerary each for our DAS and our HR team from D.C., but nearly half our staff was already in Tianjin either teaching or receiving what was being taught. With so much of the trade and economic leadership in town, it was decided that giving a briefing to the business community and holding a reception for 200 people would be productive, too. Throw in the Indiana Governor holding a reception at the Ambassador’s house for good measure.
The one thing I enjoyed the most, and what truly made it glorious in the end, was working with the local staff. These are people who do not report to me. They know I have no authority over them. Yet, we were united by a common cause: to do a good job.
The experience reinforced the lesson I learned from the past: effective delegation. Define major groups of duties: i.e., venue setup, vendor liaison, RSVPs, entertainment, escort, etc. Have control officers for each group of tasks. The primary control officer is the primary communicator, the one who knows all the pieces, and can immediately empower the secondary control officer to solve specific problems.
The alternative is doing everything yourself. I remember hating team work in high school, college and graduate school because I could always do a better job than my teammates. For large, complicated endeavors that involve multiple outside stakeholders, going solo is not an option. At least, it’s not a sane one.
I ought to acknowledge their contribution by praising them to senior management. Be as detailed as I can about their contributions. This would be a precursor to an award nomination.
I was only responsible for the briefing and reception for the business community. While I was still nominally responsible for the Indiana Governor’s reception, I worked with a colleague from the ECON section to actually work on the visit. The Indiana reception required me to cooperate with Protocol and the CMR staff. I also worked with Protocol to issue invitations to the business community. Since there were breakout sessions, I also interacted with Consular, RSO, FAS and the Front Office for parts involving the Ambassador. My team worked with GSO, Facilities, PAS, the local guard force, the Hilton Hotel, and the three U.S. trade associations. These were all stakeholders that expected me to convey all information that might affect them.
The image of a spoke and wheel is helpful to describe the experience. My core control team was like the hub of the wheel with spokes representing their relationship with those various stakeholders. This wheel could only turn and support movement because of our unity of purpose.
I was fortunate to request and obtain a team. Delegating earlier would have helped identify the need for additional LES to stay behind in Beijing. Some other officers couldn’t get enough help.
Other lessons learned:
- Name tags are always a nice touch.
- Table tents with names of briefers is better.
- Have introductory remarks ready, either to use personally or pass on to another speaker.
- Have closing remarks ready
- Bracelets are better than stickers. Stickers fall off.
- Have a clear program for all principals, including your own section chief.