The Revolutionary Assistant

The Revolutionary Assistant aims to be a partner to her manager. Fetching coffee and typing memos aren't her focus - she's fighting the good fight day by day with the boss, and she's getting things done.

Check us out!
  • .

    .

  • .

    .

Revolutionary Reference

Revolutionary Reference

We've amassed years of administrative assistant knowledge here on this site, and it's time we share it with you.
Read More
Revolutionary Quotes

Revolutionary Quotes

To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy. (Will Durant) Public speaking will get both you and your manager farther in your career.
Read More
Apps for Success

Apps for Success

Video conference and desktop sharing are a breeze with FuzeBox. Save your company money on meeting travel using this great tool!
Read More
Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks

Planning meetings across the globe? World Time Server is the best tool to ensure that you're not getting anyone out of bed to meet!
Read More

The Umpteen Habits of People

I follow every possible business magazine on Twitter. I love to read the articles and ponder how the ideas contained within affect the Revolutionary Assistant and the way she does her job.

UmpteenOne thing that I’ve noticed lately is that everyone has a list of habits. Just this week, I have been able to add “Seven Habits of Emotionally Intelligent People” and “Four Habits of Highly Resilient People” to the long list of habit lists started by the age-old “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” In fact, all you have to do is pick a number and type “habits” next to it in Google Search and you’ll get a wealth of information about how to be a happy couple, make better decisions, not get fat, and so on.

So, what’s the right list of habits? Who do you listen to? Well, I’ve been reviewing all of them for you, and I think that they’re all doing a lot of talking about the same elements. They may call them something different, but they’re pretty much all talking about these:

Umpteen-1: Be positive. No one likes a Debbie Downer, and Debbie Downers don’t usually take time from their belly-aching to envision themselves becoming successful, let alone achieving it. But, more than the power of being positive in your head is the power of being positive with everyone else. To paraphrase your mother, it’s never what you know, it’s who you know. You’ll meet a lot of people along your road to success, and the friends you make will sometimes open doors for you. No one wants to open a door for a Debbie Downer. Everyone wants to smack Debbie Downer.

Umpteen -2: Be a cheerleader. That is, see the good in everyone around you. Don’t speak badly about them to make yourself look better, don’t deny them an opportunity because you think you should have it. Champion people rather than criticize. Consider your actions and make sure that they benefit others as much as they benefit you. And be genuine. These people will be your team and, sometimes, your guiding light.

Umpteen-3: Start out with the end in mind. When you begin a project, or even a life-long goal, you should know what the end looks like, and how you’re going to get there. Granted, your plan and real life might not always look exactly the same, but it’s important to at least think you know where you’re going.

Umpteen-4: Be a good listener. As Steven Covey put it, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” This comes up over and over again. Not only do you get to absorb what others think and say, your willingness to listen makes them infinitely more open and responsive to you. And please do that listening without your cell phone and your iPad and your computer. Be 100% present for others.

Umpteen-5: Have confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities, no one else will. That means being assertive when you have to, setting boundaries when you have to, asking for help when you need to, being humble always. If you know what you’re talking about and where you’re going, these qualities will come naturally.

Umpteen-6: Understand that you won’t get there by yourself. Everyone needs a mentor, everyone needs someone to open a metaphorical door for them now and then. If you’re positive, if you’re a cheerleader and a good listener, there will be people everywhere to help you do that. If they’re not making things happen for you because they’re at the next level, they’re working for you, and doing a good job because they believe in what you’re doing.

Umpteen-7: All work and no play make Jack a very dull boy. Take care of yourself. Pursue your goals at work, but pursue a healthy, happy lifestyle outside of work as well. If you are in good spirits mentally and in good health physically, you’ll be ready to work harder for your success.

Throughout the next week or so, I’ll share some of the “habit” articles I’ve encountered recently, and you will see for yourself that this is the common theme. Of course, there are plenty of other little helpful hints that can be had along the way, too, so happy Revolutionary reading!

Next Post:  Wednesday, March 18

Successful Collaborations – Part II

In our last installment on collaboration, we reviewed the three ingredients for a successful collaboration. According to author Michael Sampson in his article, “Three Pre-Conditions for Productive Collaboration,” you must have Practice, Process and Potential. We reviewed Practice, which included all the rules and methods by which individuals would participate in the group. Now, let’s talk a little bit about Process and Potential.

 

Process

Process is about the methods and the patterns by which people will work together. We talked about the rules that individuals should have when we talked about Practice, but Process includes things like:

Gnomes_plan

Underwear gnomes are not good collaborators!

Deciding the best way to get to the final goal – There will be a list of steps to get to the end result. Perhaps, as the group enters the room, there isn’t any clear view beyond step one. But at least decide on how you’re going to come up with a path that will make step two clearer.

Deciding who will do what – Within the group, everyone should have a job, and that job should be based on the expertise that you bring to the table.

Deciding how much time you’ll allot to achieving your goal – How long should step one take? How long do you dwell on it before deciding on a method to get to step two? You don’t want the team taking forever to do the work needed, so set some deadlines and stick to them.

Deciding on how work will be shared – Ideas, documents, historic work…all of that kind of thing needs to be made available to your group if their best work is going to be done. How is that going to happen? Is someone in charge of making it happen? This is a very important job, so establish accountability here!

 

Potential

Then, there is Potential. This is where the magic happens. One assumes that a group is brought together to work on a problem because they have a bigger chance of success than one lonely guy will.

The example that author Michael Sampson uses is a car company. There are multiple divisions that make family cars, sports cars, recreational vehicles, and so on. But great potential comes when representatives from each of those areas come together to share their knowledge and improve about the processes of their common practices.

Of course, watch the group dynamic. Are they following the rules of Practice and Process? Then Potential will hopefully show up!

 

So, if you or your manager has been asked to join in a collaboration, you can refer to these rules and suggestions to make sure that your experience is the best it can be. Remember, you’re all in it together and it’s in everyone’s best interest that things go well!

Next Post:  Wednesday, March 4

Successful Collaborations – Part I

At some point in time, you or your manager will be asked to collaborate with others. It might be someone in another department, it might be someone with another organization entirely. Whatever collaboration opportunity is presented to you, it’s probably in your best interest to make sure it goes successfully.

I recently read an article that talked about how the three important ingredients of a successful collaboration are practice, process and potential. Practice, in that there are common human practices of collaboration in play, like letting friction bring you to new heights and ideas. Process, in that the group commits to a process and sticks with it. Potential, in that you have a group of people that can actually achieve the goal set in front of them.

This is true, but that’s a 30,000-foot view of what collaboration is all about. Let’s take a look at each of these three elements and all of the components that make them up.

 

Practice

Collaboration is work, work, work, and the group will be successful if everyone is playing by the same rules. Some of them are individual, like:

CollaborationAgreeing to respect individual opinions and assume positive intentions – Trust that everyone is working for the common good of the group until proven otherwise.

Agreeing to keep communication open and frequent – Everyone should know what everyone else is doing, and with today’s communication tools, there’s no excuse for communication surprises. Use your company’s intranet to communicate on exclusive, confidential pages, or employ a tool like Yammer to share thoughts, ideas, and atta-boys within the organization or with others from other companies.

Channel any conflicts toward new discoveries and better work – So much easier said than done! All I can say is, look at the source of conflict, and don’t accept compromise. Resolution is more powerful and sticks better. Getting to resolution will likely pay off well.

Agree that you’ll give 110% toward overcoming roadblocks – And hold your fellow collaborators to it! Everyone needs to pull their weight when the going gets tough, and too often ill will starts where the road block is encountered and only some of the people in the group care to get past it.

Dial down the competition – The achievement of the group outweighs the achievement of the individual in most cases, so group members should be warned that this collaboration is not about outdoing each other but about arriving at a goal for the common good.

Beyond the individual aspects of the collaboration, as a group you’ll need to decide what kind of collaboration is in order. Depending on your final goal, the group should determine what’s the best collaboration approach to get the job done. There’s a variety of different opinions on what types of collaborations are out there. These are a few that I pondered and found to be valuable:

Open collaboration – This is where you have a team of people that are out to achieve a common goal. You have a specific question that needs to be answered, and a reasonable amount of control over the final results. The team doesn’t necessarily all have to work for your company, and the goal isn’t something like curing world hunger or coming up with a cure for the Ebola virus. It’s often an idea-generating group, and includes people from all different disciplines.

Vertical collaboration – This is a collaboration where the end result is to influence others to act. A business might employ a vertical collaboration that includes suppliers and customers. It’s vertical, from top to bottom of the product life. You can also use this type of collaboration within the organization at the lower levels, with a group of contributors reporting to a higher-level individual or team.

Horizontal/Lateral collaboration – This is a collaboration between groups of people who share a common challenge and need to make a system shift. Similarly, it can be a collaboration between people at the higher levels of an organization, who can pull levers to shift behavior and process.

“Practice” allows you to get your people together and decide on the rules by which you will interact. In our next installment, we’ll talk a little bit about “Process” and “Potential.” Collaboration is an important tool in business, and knowing how you and your manager can do it well will make you both even more successful!

Next Post:  Wednesday, February 18

To Infinity and Beyond! (or, How to Show Your Value in the Office)

I recently received a new assignment at work. It’s a promotion of sorts, and something I’ve wanted for a long time. Now that I’ve talked my way into getting the assignment, I’m ready to kick some butt to show that I’m worthy of it and that this work will have a huge effect on the bottom line of our business.

So how do you go above and beyond in your job? Whether it’s a new assignment, the validation of a current one, or a promotion that you’re after, going that extra mile never hurts. Here are some suggestions on how you can make an impression that lasts.

InfinityPresent your ideas with confidence – If you have to deliver your spiel in the mirror a thousand times, do it. But when you’re ready to talk to the powers that be about the thing you feel very passionately about, you should act like you know what you’re doing and want to do it. Stammering, stuttering, and nervous laughter are not your friends.

Act, don’t talk – You can have a gazillion different ideas and throw them all out there, but unless you come up with a plan and put it into action, it’s nothing more than hot air. Of course, I’m not suggesting you go rogue and start making things happen without checking in with your manager. But don’t be the one that sits there in your manager’s office saying, “Someone should.” If it’s important to you, go out there and do it.

Anticipate needs – For every action there’s at least one equal and opposite reaction. Are you considering how your new plan is affecting others in other departments? When you consider that, try to look ahead at what kind of needs you’re going to create. When you fulfill those needs, you’ll really become the hero, because you’ve thought of everything and done something about it!

Accept all feedback and very visibly put new actions into place based on it – If your manager takes the time to give you feedback, you should make sure that the feedback is taken well, and new steps are put into action. If you disagree with what she’s telling you, present a thoughtful and well-founded case to her as to why you think she might be wrong. And keep emotion out of it!

Go out of your way to ensure success – In my new assignment, I really need to get out in the field and observe. Unfortunately, I don’t have a travel budget. So I did some math, made an agreement with myself that I was going to buy a few tanks of gas, and I’m going to do what I need to do. Any time you go out of your way, whether it’s in a customer service capacity, or just some additional hard work to ensure your project’s success, it’s just another way you’ll show yourself off as a dedicated employee.

Be the model employee – That means, no complaining, work hard, and be positive.

And most importantly, know your stuff – You are now the king/queen of data related to your project. You are the resident expert. If your manager has a question, you should have an answer or a list of options ready for her to review. Don’t hesitate for a moment, and make sure all the information is ALWAYS at your fingertips.

That’s how you go above and beyond. Put forth the extra effort to increase your company’s bottom line or make things a little better for your fellow team members, and you’re going to earn the right to make things happen.

Next Post:  Wednesday, February 4

“Boss, I Totally Disagree With You.”

I am not a quiet person.

When I see someone going down an incorrect path, I will say something. That holds true if you’re my friend, a member of my family, and even my manager.

DisagreeI’ve recently not had such good luck trying to help my manager out by sharing my wealth of accumulated knowledge. In my twenty-five years of doing this assistant thing, I’ve picked up a few things along the way. Why wouldn’t I share with my current manager a trick that one of my former managers employed successfully?

Turns out, not everyone wants my opinion or thinks my idea is best. I’d like to say I’m okay with that, but I tend to argue my point until it’s completely understood. So, I went through my checklist on how to appropriately and respectfully disagree with my manager, just to make sure I was doing everything right:

Always show respect first – I definitely do this! My manager worked hard to get to his position, and I respect the road he has traveled to get there. It’s not hard for me to show that respect – I always feel it, and it comes out in all I do.

I work hard to earn my right to an opinion – I try to make good decisions in my position and apply the knowledge I’ve learned from my fabulous managers when working on behalf of my boss. So, hopefully, I’ve earned the respect of my manager, and that helps me share an opinion with him and be taken seriously. If necessary, I prepare a couple of examples of my former actions to support my delivery of this particular opinion. I show my manager that I’ve earned the right to disagree.

My ethics are sound – I don’t share shady opinions. I share good ones that don’t hurt people and are not against the law.

I share my opinion in private – The last thing I’d want to do is call out my manager (or anyone, for that matter) in a room full of people. That would be breaking my first rule of always showing respect first. I wait until we have time alone and then bring up my thoughts.

Always start on a positive note – I’m not talking about saying, “Hey, I love that tie you’re wearing.” That would make me look disingenuous. But if I’m sharing an opinion about a process or about a person on our team, I will always start out with what’s working about that arrangement before I launch into my thoughts for improvement.

I keep my eye on the benefits (and those should be for the company) – Anything that I’m suggesting should change should come with my thoughts as to how the company will benefit. Is it time saved for my manager or for the team? Is it going to eliminate anguish or change the morale of the group? Just like making a sale, I present my opinion (features!) and tell my manager why it will work (benefits!).

If you can, start out your manager/assistant relationship with the expectation that you have an opinion you’re willing to share – Once, when my favorite manager and mentor ever was about to part ways with me, I told him I didn’t think I could ever work with anyone as well as I worked with him. In his wise way, he told me, “You will do fine, so long as you have a manager that takes feedback.” And he’s absolutely right. I have since moved on from that company as well and I made that a part of my interview discussion with my new manager.

I followed all my rules on disagreeing with my manager and trying to get my point across. But, you know what? That doesn’t mean he’s going to agree with me or take my advice. And that’s okay. I will sit back and watch him make a decision that doesn’t seem right to me. And I will learn great things from that decision when it works. Or I will gain more respect from my manager when his idea doesn’t work as well as mine would have. Either way, it’s a win for me!

Next Post:  Wednesday, January 21

Happy Holidays!

This Revolutionary Assistant hopes that you and yours have a safe and happy holiday.  Many thanks to all of those folks out there that contributed to The Revolutionary Assistant this year and helped to make it a success.

Mostly, I’d like to thank you, our readers, for giving us a reason to plow on and make our site better and better all the time.  Have a great holiday, and we’ll see you after the first of the year!

Enhancing the Manager/Assistant Relationship

In my last blog post, I talked about stepping aside for that new assistant who’s followed her manager to a new job.  This is not good for you, especially if her manager’s new job is your manager’s old one.  But it’s great that an assistant has such a good working relationship with her manager that they decide to stick together.  It’s likely that the two of them have a mutually satisfying relationship that fosters professional and personal growth for both parties, because they have common interests and a common approach to life that bonds them.

You could have that too.

Friendships and common bonds won’t always grow between two people, but here are a couple of ways that you can try for “something more” with your manager without crossing professional boundaries.

Set aside a daily snippet of time for conversation and catch-up – Dialogue won’t open up if there’s no time for it.  Sit down with your manager and agree to meet for five or ten minutes at the beginning or end of every day, so you can cover topics that need to be addressed.

Share your enthusiasm with your manager – The best way to find out what someone else is all about is to share what makes you tick.  If you spent all weekend at a flea market and came home with an antique radio that makes your heart soar, by all means, tell your manager all about it.  It doesn’t have to be a long conversation; it just has to be a little glimpse of who you are.  It’ll encourage reciprocation.

Set up the “every six months whether we need it or not” time out of the office – I’ve invoked this rule with several of my managers over the years.  I want to get out with them in a social setting at least once every six months, so we can be ourselves and just talk about something other than work.  Perhaps it’s dinner with the spouses along, or maybe it’s a relaxing lunch with a no-cell-phones rule.  Whatever the plan, aim to get out of the work cage and run around in the wild for a little bit, so you can each see a different side of the other.

Ask her what she thinks – Whenever there’s a change at work or a new initiative, there’s something new to talk about.  Ask your manager her opinion on different things that are going on in the office – perhaps you see things the same way and can find some common ground.  If not, you can at least get a glimpse of her perspective.

It could be that you and your manager never find that sweet spot, and if not, that’s okay.  You can still do your job or, if this is really important to you, head off and find someone new to support.  But even if you have a little bit of appreciation for what motivates your manager to get up and go in the morning, you’ll find it easier to do your job for her.  No one likes helping a jerk, but it’s easy to work hard for a manager you understand something about her on a deeper level.

Next Post:  Wednesday, January 7

When the New Manager Brings His Assistant Along

It happens to more assistants than I even care to think about, because executives get moved around, hired and let go so frequently that it makes your head spin.  Any of us in that top position are in danger of hearing those words, “They’re hiring a replacement for your manager, and he has an assistant he’s bringing with him.”

But I’m here to tell you that this is a good thing.  Maybe not immediately for you, because you’re the one that’s being asked to step aside for this new assistant.  But for the person who’s being brought along, it’s a real feather in her cap, something she can be proud of.  She’s cultivated a relationship with her manager that he or she considers to be irreplaceable.  Kudos to her.

This is what we all should want.

I’ve spent a lot of time supporting managers that weren’t really my kind of folk.  I didn’t click with them, they didn’t click with me, and supporting them was an exercise in black-and-white secretarial exercises that weren’t any too fulfilling.  Sure, I still anticipated their needs, delivered the goods, but I was phoning it in.  Putting a smile on my manager’s face was my job, but it didn’t reach my heart.

My best days as an assistant were when I invested myself in someone I could believe in.  If I was 100% attentive to the manager I didn’t click with, then I was 150% in tune with the manager whose success was my primary goal.  If the manager for whom I felt so-so needed his tire fixed, I’d for sure call for an appointment, but the manager to whom I was devoted?  Well, I’d stand out in the rain with an umbrella while they adjusted that rim.  Nothing was too much to ask if it kept my manager working at what he or she did best.

I am here to tell you there is nothing better than that when you’re an assistant.  Just like a good marriage, you and your manager bring out the best in each other, and when it’s right, it’s golden.  Suddenly, where you were only phoning in the job, you’re now giving it your all because someone you admire is aiming to succeed, and you can help make it happen.

And you yourself are reaching heights you never thought possible, learning things you never thought you could comprehend.  It may seem like your work is selfless, but you yourself are growing by leaps and bounds because you’re jumping impossible hurdles for your manager.  When you’re presented with a problem, you figure out a way around it.

That’s what happens when you really click with your manager.

So you’re packing up your desk and stepping aside for the new assistant.  Maybe you’re being shifted to another department, maybe you’re headed to the unemployment line, but I’m telling you right now, don’t fret.  Revolutionary Assistants are still in high demand.  You’ll land on your feet, and you’ll be just fine.

Go out and find that manager.

Next Post:  Wednesday, December 17

What to Do When You’re Feeling Left Out at the Office

We just talked about how, as a Revolutionary Assistant, you can assist your manager in making sure everyone feels included.  A manager who goes out of her way to make sure everyone is heard is bound to mine special things from her team.

But if you’re not feeling included in the important meetings – or even in the office get-togethers – there are things you can do to help yourself.  Consider some of these suggestions.

Make sure you set aside time for your co-workers, socially as well as professionally – This can be hard, especially as you get older and have more personal responsibilities on your plate.  Children going off to school and spouses who are waiting for dinner are hard to ignore.  But even during the regular 8:00 to 5:00 work hours, there are opportunities to bond with your co-workers.  Ask a team member to join you in the cafeteria downstairs for coffee or out for lunch.  Staying in the thick of co-worker social time can take some effort, so be prepared.

Use that social time to stay “top of mind” for future projects – When you’re socializing with co-workers, you’re talking about that one thing you all have in common: the office.  Staying visible and engaged with the group will keep you in the forefront when it comes time to choose team members to work on a special project or a committee.

Show off what you got! – Make sure that the folks in your office understand all the unique and fabulous things you bring to the table.  For me, I do that with my writing.  I send out a couple of memos to the office about the copy room or the coffee machine, and pretty soon everyone wants me to write stuff for them.  I not only make myself a good choice for other writing projects, but I attract the kind of project that’s most interesting to me.

When all else fails, ask for it – I don’t know about you, but in my office there are all kinds of things going on, and we’re always short-handed.  People generally appreciate any help they can get, so when I see an interesting human resources or marketing project and think that I can contribute, I let people know.  Sometimes I’m slightly off in my prediction of what they might need, but sometimes I’m spot on and am invited into the fold.

Be realistic about what you can contribute – Let’s face it, you can’t be a part of every project and initiative that’s going on in your office, and you should be careful not to ask to be a part of every little thing!  If your own work is slipping a little here and there, be wise about what you ask to get involved with, because that’ll only take up more of your time.

So, don’t just rely on your manager to make you feel included.  Sure, she plays a part in ensuring that everyone has their time in the sun, but you can be stoking those fires as well!

Next post:  Wednesday, December 3

Helping Your Manager Make Sure Everyone Feels (and is) Included

In this era of remote workers, it’s easy to accidentally leave someone out of a conversation or a meeting.  Even more, you can accidentally pass over an introverted person in a meeting or exclude someone who’s culturally different from the rest of the group.

You don’t want to be missing those good ideas these folks aren’t sharing!

If your manager is interested in making sure everyone is included (and she should be!), you can help her by being the bug in her ear, reminding her of these important ways she can make sure no one feels left out.

Seek input in discussions – If your organization is lucky enough to have a diverse staff, then it’s likely you might encounter folks who culturally don’t care for the idea of speaking up in a crowd.  Or you could just have an introvert in the group who hesitates to speak.  These people could have amazing ideas, so encourage your manager to solicit their opinions and thoughts before moving on to the next subject.  Or speak up yourself and suggest that the team hear what’s on their minds!

Encourage video conferences for distributed team members – People work from home nowadays, and it’s easy for them to feel left out of home office goings on.  Tools like Skype, FaceTime and Fuze provide ways for you to see your remote team members when you’re talking to them.  The video services are mostly free, and so worth it!

Keep meeting minutes and notes in a place where everyone can access them – This is particularly nice to do if you’re a group with remote team members, too.  Whether your notes are securely placed on the cloud or on a network drive for easy access, this will help keep the whole team in the loop.

Allow all your team members to have their moment in the spotlight – If it makes sense, encourage your manager to allow each of his direct reports the opportunity to run the team meeting, or something similar.  Your manager should be allowing others to be seen, both within her own team and to other internal and external customers.  Employees feel very included when they have an opportunity to develop their skills and show them off.

Be careful you’re not inadvertently excluding co-workers – Maybe you’re always forgetting to invite a team member to a meeting on a subject that has impact on that person’s work.  Or maybe it’s a more subtle behavior:  I have a co-worker who addresses each of our male team members as “mister” but addresses every female employee by her first name.  While it’s nice to show our male counterparts respect in the office, if you don’t extend that same respect to your female co-workers, they can feel excluded.  I’m sure this hasn’t even occurred to her, but as a female, I’ve definitely noticed!

Celebrate differences – That same person who’s culturally programmed to say very little in meetings might feel a bit left out when the rest of the group partakes of behavior that’s common to their own culture.  Give everyone equal time to show off their differences.  This is where all the good ideas come from.

Making everyone feel a part of the team, and making everyone feel important, is a full-time job.  Every day should be a new effort for your manager, and every day you can be looking for more opportunities to make inclusion happen.  The ‘next great thing’ might be the germ of an idea that’s currently sitting quietly in your most introverted employee’s head.  Don’t miss out!  Include.

Next Post:  Wednesday, November 19