Dealing with prima donnas
I love my job, it truly is amazing and constantly engaging. Well, I love most of my job. There’s one part of my job in particular that I just hate – dealing with prima donnas.
While difficult egos exist in every field, people whose livelihood is either based on their own personal ‘brand’ or the brand of another individual seem to find their way into the land of ridiculousness far quicker.
Working with athletes, speakers, agents, and event planners can often mean a life of ego management. What’s most amazing? No one thinks they fall into this category. Every difficult request, rude response, and unrealistic expectation makes perfect sense at that moment to that person.
Case in point:
I’ve been working with a company (names will not be used) to get a well known celebrity to their event. The company has paid the money. The speaker has agreed to do the event. Everyone should be happy, right? Wrong.
Every single step in the process has been a nightmare. How long should the speaker stay on stage? Will the speaker do a Q&A? How many books will the speaker sign? What font should the speaker’s bio be written in? What type of car will be picking the speaker up from the airport? Not one of these questions has been answered without push back.
I have no control over the ridiculousness that is this particular situation, but I can use it to help make sure none of you become the person who is currently making my life a living hell. I know you don’t think it will happen to you, but no one ever does. Below are a few truths that we all should remember, particularly those who speak or entertain for a living.
1- You aren’t that important.
I mean no offense by it. I am sure your kids love you and the world you’ve created would come crashing down if for some reason you disappeared. Unfortunately, the rest of us don’t live in your world. We live in a world that houses over six billion others just like you. Nothing you are doing is that big of a deal.
While I know this news might cause a cataclysmic shift in the fabric of your universe, it’s actually very good news. How much energy do you spend worrying and fretting and yelling and losing sleep over things that are just not a big deal? You can stop. Everything is going to be okay… or not. Either way, you are not that important. Never forget this.
2- Be nice.
So this isn’t my actually my advice. It’s something I’ll never forget former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me (prior to being Secretary of Defense). It was given in the context of him talking about what made President Bush (Sr.) so unique.
Dr. Gates talked about how in the 40 plus years of working in government, he saw all sorts of personalities, but that those who had the respect and admiration of everyone were always kind. In that kindness, they moved up. Not only that, they experienced the benefits of their kindness by having people go above and beyond for them.
If the President of the United States can be nice to everyone, from the security team to the janitor, so can you. Be nice.
3- Adopt the phrase “I’m easy” (except on dates).
I can’t name the number of times I told someone not to book a speaker because of their reputation for being difficult. You want to get more business? Be easy.
Stop asking for water from Maui, a specific type of projector, a different hotel than the rest of us use. Enough complaining that the event didn’t start on time, or that the person messed up the way you wanted to be introduced. Remember, you have a reputation.
4- Keep the situation situational.
Most of the frustrations I deal with relate to people having no perspective. I don’t mean to drum up the ‘there are starving kids in Africa’ cliché, but there are. Chances are, none of the things anyone who is reading this are struggling with related to any of the lower three levels of Maslow’s Heirarchy.
If the difference in a situation is five more minutes in a conversation with someone you don’t like, or even a missed flight, is it really worth ruining another person’s day?
Key takeaway: just be cool.
A close friend and weekly poker buddy named Holly is an executive at a Fortune 100 company. This is her life motto. In some ways, it’s the summary of everything else I’ve said, but I think it’s worth having it’s own point. How much better would life be if we all constantly had the phrase ‘Just be Cool’ running through our head?
The way we treat others and the words we use have amazing power over both the lives of those we touch but also our own. I know we can all look at others and think “why do you have to be so difficult?” At the end of the day, however, the only people I can ensure stop being so difficult is me. In doing that, perhaps I can help others along the path of a life that models the phrase of my dear friend Holly… just be cool, everyone.