Archives for Revolutionary Assistant

We’ve Got A New Look for Administrative Professionals’ Day!

Happy Administrative Professionals Day, and welcome to the NEW Revolutionary Assistant.  We’ve got the same great content, but now we’re adding so much more!

Our blog entry is still front and center on our new home page, so you can check out what we’re talking about every week, right here in this spot.  But now we’ve added new Revolutionary Reference Pages to make it easy to find helpful administrative information that will help you be a better partner to your manager.  All our information is organized there for easy, at-your-fingertips research on topics you need to know more about.

We also have three more new areas at the bottom that we think you’ll really like:

Revolutionary Quotes are quotes that we really like here at Revolutionary Assistant.  An inspirational saying or thoughtful observation is sometimes just what we need to get through the day.  On top of that, we’ll pull a link to a related article from our wayback machine to go along with it!

Revolutionary Tips will hone in on a handy practice that you can put into action right away.  It might be a quick key stroke in MS Word or a clever calendar management trick, but it’ll be guaranteed to make your life easier!

Revolutionary Apps highlights a cool mobile application that is guaranteed to make a difference in how you do your job.  Mobile is here to stay and growing every day.  Keep up with the apps that can help you look like a movie star!

We hope you enjoy our new look!

Next post:  Wednesday, April 30

Help Your Manager Stop Flying Around The Office Like A Maniac

There are never enough hours in a day to accomplish all we want to, and that’s especially true when you look at your manager’s list of tasks and try to fit every part of it into the day.  Sometimes, it just can’t happen.  Sometimes you have to prioritize and let some people down easy.

Even when you prune your list to the bare minimum, it still seems there aren’t enough hours in the work day to conquer it all.  After all, sometimes things HAVE to be done.  Your manager is needed in two places at once.  A presentation needs to be completed, an RFP filed with an organization your company really wants to do business with.  Time stops for no one.

Sometimes time management tips aren’t enough.  If you need time management magic, here are some suggestions you and your manager might want to put into action:

Take 20 minutes every morning to plan your day – Sit down with your manager and your morning coffee and figure out what you need to do and when.  Block your manager’s calendar, and dedicate the time blocked for the task to which it’s dedicated.

Don’t answer the phone or check your emails compulsively – Plan time for phone and email just like you would any other task, for both you and your manager.  Phone and emails compete for attention with important projects, and they have to be prioritized as well.  Unless you see someone very important pop up on your caller ID, let it go to voice mail.

Try establishing office hours for your staff and co-workers – Office hours, just like your professors had in college, are for planned interruptions.  It’s an hour or two of your manager’s time when people can file in without an appointment and start that conversation that’s going to take 20 minutes of his time.  This is a very successful habit I learned while I was at Google. Not only does it save your productivity time, it cuts down on other meetings your manager might be dragged into.  Give it a try!

Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your doorknob – If your manager is seen sitting “idle” he’s likely to be interrupted.  Let everyone know he’s  working on a project and need to focus.  They’ll understand, and maybe they’ll adopt the habit, too!

Build in margin time – If you build slack time into your manager’s calendar, you’ll have something to go to when that important meeting comes up.  It’s the breathing room he needs when meetings run over and unexpected issues rear their ugly heads.

Be the bulldog for meeting start and end times – Your manager might take an extra five minutes here or there to meet with someone, and it’s your job as the Revolutionary Assistant to make sure that meetings start and end on time.  When the first meeting of the day runs 65 minutes, the next meeting has to start five minutes late (and probably end five minutes late, too!)  Pretty soon, your manager’s stressed out and missing important face time with people on his calendar.  Nip the “running over” in the bud to keep the stress at a minimum.

Keep your time estimates accurate – I’m forever being told to put 30 minutes on the calendar so that my manager can meet with our investors.  Those meetings never run less than 45 minutes.  I will purposely not book anything for 60 minutes just to make sure that he has enough time to have the conversation he needs to have.  He underestimates that time, but I give him a much needed cushion.

If your manager is flying low in the office, these helpful hints might be just what he needs to come in for a stress-free landing and get some work done!

Next Post:  Wednesday, April 23

Nailing Punctuality

Make promises you can keep.

Really, that’s what punctuality is all about, isn’t it?  Making a promise to be somewhere at a certain time, and actually being there.  So why is it so hard?

People who are chronically late share some common characteristics.  They will underestimate how long a task will take, or misjudge the passage of time.  They are sometimes just overly optimistic about how much they can get done in a certain amount of time, or maybe they like the power trip they get from knowing someone is waiting on them.  Whether your motivation is honorable or not so nice, if you’re not punctual, you’re being less than thoughtful.

If you’re like me, you want to be thoughtful and considerate of other people’s time.  Not only that, but being punctual makes you look like you’re in control, shows integrity and shows respect for others.  And that’s not a bad professional image to convey.

So here are some hints on how you can be more punctual in your work and home life:

Wake up when the alarm goes off – Being on time is harder when you start your day behind the 8 ball.  If you’re rushing to get out the door, you’re already at a disadvantage, so pop out of bed when the alarm goes off and give yourself plenty of time to look and feel your best.

Stay on top of local weather and traffic reports – Being caught on the road longer than you want to be just adds stress to your day, and that’s no way to kick it off.

Check directions before you leave to go somewhere – Nothing saves you time and anguish like knowing where you’re going.  Even if you have a GPS that leads you by the nose to your destination, it’s helpful to look at a map and get your bearings.

Be realistic about how much time a meeting or activity will take – If you’re like my manager and ask for 30 minute meetings to discuss a subject that will take 45 minutes to cover, do yourself a favor and plan for 45 minutes (or even an hour).  If you find that you’re unable to determine what will put you behind schedule, just add some time in to be sure you’ve got it covered.

If you’re unsure of your estimates, spend a week timing your regular activities so you’re fully aware of how much time you really need.

Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for every appointment – You may think that’s a waste of time, especially if you’re one of those people that try to cram more into your day than actually fits.  Well, you can still cram if you plan ahead!  I get all of my business periodicals and whitepapers electronically, and I take that extra 10-15 minutes and get some of my reading done on my iPad.  It makes me feel like I’m still accomplishing something, even when I’m waiting.

Try making appointments off-hour – A meeting at 3:10 says “My time is precious!” and people will be more likely to show up on time for it.  True story!  It’s the same case for you – holding a meeting at 3:10 conveys a psychological urgency that will have you showing up on time as well.  Give it a try and see if it works!

Punctuality conveys respect and dependability, and that’s what being a Revolutionary Assistant is all about.  Make your on-time arrival a priority no matter what you’re doing, and your friends and co-workers will appreciate you all the more.

Next Post:  Wednesday, April 16

 

 

 

 

The Person I Work With Is Awful – What Do I Do?

I feel your pain.  It’s no fun when someone you work with – a colleague or even a manager – makes your entire day unpleasant.  I remember times when I’ve dreaded even going into the office and thought about quitting just because I didn’t want to face the evil and nastiness that was inevitably going to be hurled at me.

Everything you read about mean people in the office advise you to do the same thing.  Take the high road.  Very difficult when what you really want to do is take a two-by-four and swing it upside her head.  Still, it’s very good advice to heed if you want to stay in good standing with your organization.  Here are some steps you can take on your way to (hopefully) solving your issue:

Don’t retaliate – You may want to scream and swing that two-by-four, but that only adds fuel to the fire and makes your adversary feel powerful.  Besides, yelling and screaming just puts you down at her level, and it’s easier for her to make you look like the bad guy that way.

Confront her – Take the person aside and let her know that her behavior is bothering you, or even ask her why she’s so intent on making your life at work miserable.  Express interest in resolving the conflict, and dodge her cheap shots.  Remember, she just says those things to get under your skin.  Put the two-by-four down…

Think hard before you approach Human Resources – If you go this route, you’ve hit the point of no return, especially if the other person is ranked higher than you in the organization.  Choose this option only when real harassment is an issue.

Don’t let her chip away at your confidence – When you have someone telling you all day long that you’re worthless and mean, you may start to believe it.  After all, bullies like her are trying to make themselves look bigger and better than you, right?  Remind yourself that you are the better person because you don’t retaliate and fight back.

Don’t badmouth her behind her back – Lunch room conversations will get back to her, for sure, but beyond that, most of your co-workers will want to remain neutral in this issue.  If she hasn’t given them a reason to hate her, you’re not going to give them a reason to hate her by telling them your woes.  Best to stay quiet on the matter, or even find someone outside the office to confide in, just so you can vent and keep your sanity.

Move along and leave her in your past – If you’ve tried to resolve the conflict but just can’t put up with it any longer, it may be time for you to move on.  Look to another department or, if worse comes to worst, you may even choose to move on to another company.  Better that you remove yourself from the situation and leave yourself in good stead with the company than make a bad name for yourself by getting out that two-by-four.

Remember, too, that sometimes this behavior is a sign of insecurity or a sign that the person is dealing with difficult issues in her personal life.  Not an excuse for this kind of behavior, of course, but keep that in mind when you confront her.  Bad behavior can be a cry for help, and taking the approach above will keep you from adding insult to injury.

I hope these hints are helpful to you as you try to conquer this issue.  Work should be a nice place to go.  Don’t let your awful co-workers take that away from you!

Next Post:  Wednesday, April 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following Your Boss to a New Job

We Revolutionary Assistants and our managers work like well-oiled cogs in a machine, and so when the boss decides to take a position with a different organization, we can find it very jarring and disruptive to our lives.  After all, breaking in a manager takes time, and once you learn her personality and habits you’re really clicking.  Building a new partnership with another manager sets you back and square one…and then it might not even be successful.

What makes you feel better?  Those words, “I’d like you to come with me.”

Yay!  You think your manager is great and want the partnership to continue.  It seems like a no-brainer.  But is a move to a new company really the right one for you and your career?  Here’s some good advice to follow:

Check out your manager’s new company thoroughly – Find out everything you can about the new company.  Is it a start-up with great potential or a solid company that’s been in business for fifty years?  Start-ups are great if you’re a risk-taker, but if you appreciate financial security, this might not be the right move.  Ask yourself if you’d consider a position with this company if your manager weren’t moving there.

Talk with people who work at your manager’s new company – Discover what you can about the culture and atmosphere.  Does it match your work style?  Perhaps they’re all in the office at dawn-thirty and don’t leave until midnight each day.  Or maybe they don’t advocate the same kind of flexible schedules you currently have. Whatever their culture, make sure that it fits well with your habits and the other expectations you need to meet in your life.

Make sure your manager is leaving for the right reasons – Usually we Revolutionary Assistants have a handle on who’s worth their salt in the office, but make sure your manager isn’t on the verge of being laid off or fired, or is just leaving for the wrong reasons.  Following your manager to a new company means being tied to his reputation.  You don’t want to put yourself in a position to be dragged down.

If you do move with your manager, make lots of new friends – People who are hired as a team can easily be fired as a team, so make sure you establish a new network quickly.  Being well-liked, helpful and otherwise indispensible can help you keep your position even if your manager is let go.

Are you deviating from your career goals? – If your manager is moving into a different position, you need to consider if the work you’ll be doing is beneficial to your long term goals.  Will you learn new skills in this position, or will you be stepping back to a level you haven’t seen in a few years?

How long does your manager intend to stay with this new company? – Is this just a two-year stop on his career trajectory?  If his potential won’t be filled in this new position and he just moves on again in a couple years, you’ll be uprooted again or left to navigate this new place of employment on your own.

It’s such a nice feeling when your manager asks you to follow her to a new company.  And if your relationship is good – and the stars are all aligned for you – you should definitely make the move.  After all, good partnerships are hard to find!

Next post:  Wednesday, April 2

Do You Need a Digital Portfolio?

Once upon a time, you could look for a job online.  If you were really in the market for a job, you could post your resume online, and prospective employers could scan it.  Of course, your current employer could also scan it, and then ask you why you were posting your resume on a job site.  Awwwwwkkkwwwardddd….

The latest fad, though, is a digital portfolio.  What’s a digital portfolio, you ask?  Well, it’s a web page that features samples of your work, what kind of experience and skills you have, letters of recommendation, and anything else that speaks well of you.  And whether you’re in the market for a job or happy as a clam where you are, a digital portfolio can enhance your career.

How do I start one? – Most of us have experience doing some sort of web work, so you probably have your favorite provider.  The easiest way is to go out to Google Blogger, Weebly, WordPress, or some other free blogging provider, where you can make your own webpage.  You can also purchase a domain name of your own through GoDaddy.com, Fatcow.com or another similar service, and create your webpage from scratch.  It depends on your level of expertise!

How do I make it look good? – WordPress, Blogger, and other blogging interfaces like them provide some great looking templates from which to start.  Or work with a graphic artist to create something special and unique to you.

What do I include? – Well, it’s probably a good idea to include a paragraph about you and what you do.  Beyond that, choose the things that are the best reflection of you – a resume, samples of your work, a link to your LinkedIn account.  And, of course, use visuals – pictures are worth a thousand words.  Be careful not to share any proprietary information when you share samples of your work, and doubly careful not to share any personal information, like your address or phone number.

How do I invite people to contact me if I can’t share personal information? – Use the contact or comments system that the blogging platform provides to you, or set up an email account specifically for the digital portfolio.  If you think you won’t remember to check two emails, you can always POP the email into your regular account.

While The Revolutionary Assistant blog isn’t by any means a digital portfolio, it’s a great example of my philosophy on being an executive assistant and I’ve referred people to it frequently when I found myself in professional situations.  It’s served me well, and a digital portfolio will provide you with a professional advantage, too!

Next Post:  Wednesday, March 26

Ways that Men and Women Differ When Conducting Business

It’s no secret that men and women have different styles in the workplace.

I was recently reading an article in September’s Harvard Business Review (my favorite magazine!) called “How Women Decide” by Cathy Benko and Bill Pelster, and the information was enlightening.

What I learned here was that men and women have different brains.  Okay, we all have different brains.  But that aside, men have more gray matter, which allows them to excel in processing information.  Women have more white matter, which allows them to assimilate and integrate disparate pieces of information.  This makes the man more mission oriented, and the woman more discovery oriented.

In this study, when faced with a business-to-business sales presentation, it was more likely that a woman would approach the presentation as an opportunity to explore potential options.  She will go on talking and asking questions even after an initial resolution has been suggested.  The man, on the other hand, is far more likely to end the presentation when the initial resolution has been determined.

The differences continue: “Men will often engage in playful one-upmanship,” Benko and Pelster reported.  “They gravitate to discussion of ‘things and theorems’ rather than social dynamics and personalities that make the organization run smoothly (or not).”  Women are much less inclined to this kind of banter, and usually this line of conversation doesn’t engage them.

Also, when women purchase, they look for a solution that can be maximized for a more holistic result.  Men will often isolate areas and optimize point-by-point, not necessarily looking for a solution where the result is greater than the sum of its parts.

As a Revolutionary Assistant, what does this tell you about conversation, decision making, negotiating and selling?  In any position, you’re supporting a manager who has to interact with other departments, other areas and other businesses.  You’re creating materials and presentations every day, and you should know that discussions, arguments and sales can be won or lost on how your manager chooses to interact with the other party.

Keep these subtle differences in mind when preparing materials for these interactions.  If your manager is entering a discussion with a woman, he should be prepared to discuss items beyond the simple solution to the business issue.  She might be looking for an outcome more desirable and far reaching.    If your manager is a woman and presenting to a man, she might be thinking that she needs to talk about those far reaching solution, and will lose the man’s attention after he’s made the decision on that specific business point.

When you’re working on those presentations and materials, you should always be preparing your manager to discuss whatever subject comes up.  But if you can refine your work to the style of the presentee…well, that gives your manager the upper hand!

Next post:  Wednesday, March 19

The Revolutionary Assistant Manual

No one is immune to germs, and everyone likes to take a vacation.  But when you’re a Revolutionary Assistant, you’re indispensible.  So you must stay chained to your desk.  We have no choice in the matter, we’re just too important.

Unless we have a manual, that is.

I like to have a binder of “how to be me” stored in my desk, for just such instances where I catch the flu or decide to make a trip to see my in-laws.  After all, I can’t be at the office every day.  The binder helps anyone – including my manager – find what they need and keep business running smoothly.

If you don’t have a manual and would like to create one, here are some ideas of the kinds of things you might include:

A small section on company information – If I should be out for a while, I would like my replacement to be armed with mission statements, organizational charts, and company policies on things like email, travel, expenses, etc.  I revisit this section frequently to add updates.

Login information for databases and programs you control – I am, for instance, the manager of our travel program in our office.  I manage all of our company-wide air miles programs, the settings for the controls that keep our employees from renting the presidential suite at the Four Seasons in San Francisco.  When I’m away, someone else may need to get into those programs, so I keep the login information stored in my binder.  Remember that if your login information gives you access to employees’ personal information or the company’s financial information, your binder should be kept under lock and key, and its whereabouts only known by a few trusted people.

Insight into my filing system – It’s likely that my manager may want a document or a file while I’m away.  If your filing system isn’t logical and well known, it might be wise to outline your method.  Make sure to include your electronic filing method in your outline, too!

Important forms and checklists – I fill out a dozen different forms for my manager, ones that he doesn’t even know we need to submit.  I have checklists for different things I do, like collecting signatures from the board of directors for resolutions, or assembling the pieces of a project that needs to be complete before I can turn it over to the next owner.  These forms and checklists, along with an explanation of why and when they’re used, should be included.

A collection of important contacts for you and your manager – If you frequently talk to the board of directors, include a contact list with their names and phone numbers in the binder for your temporary replacement.  A list of who your company orders lunch from for meetings, or where to get flowers if you need to send some to a client, can also be very helpful!

Anything else you do routinely for your manager – If you make sure his coffee is on his desk every day or call his direct report every Wednesday to remind him of their status meeting, include that in your notes as well.

Having a manual is an excellent idea, even if you’re not planning any time off.  Putting it together is a great exercise in revisiting all the things you do daily, so you can demonstrate your added value.  It’s a good reference tool even for you, to have all of your information in one place.  Think about creating the “how to be me” book for your manager and temporary replacement – you won’t regret the time you invest!

Next post:  Wednesday, March 12

Are You An Agent of Change?

An agent of change – doesn’t that sound like an exciting thing to be?  I want to be an agent of change.  I could wear a suit with a cape, have cool gadgets that help me see through walls and make the copier run faster.  Then, in real life, just a mild-mannered assistant…

No, wait.  Maybe I’m thinking I want to be one of the Agents of SHIELD.  An agent of change doesn’t fight crime, he exerts an influence over the others in his organization that aids in the transformation and change from point A to point B.  People naturally resist change, even when it’s the best thing for the company, and that’s when an agent of change is particularly important.  He or she smoothes that path to change, and makes it palatable for the masses to accept.

So what makes a successful agent of change?  In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents,” authors Julie Battilana and Tiziana Casciaro discovered that truly successful change agents

Were central to the organization’s informal network – Someone who might be lower on the totem pole in the formal hierarchy of the company might still be at an advantage to be an agent of change.  If people look to an individual for advice and think highly of him, that person could be an agent of change even if he’s just a front line worker.

Bridged disconnected groups – Perhaps the people in your finance area don’t hang out too often with the people in your operations area.  But successful agents of change bridge those groups.  He might be having lunch with the comptroller one day, and a field leader the next.  This person is in a good position to move change forward, because multiple departments look to him and he can influence these areas where other people may not be able to.

Had social networks that matched the change being pushed through – An agent of change whose network spans finance and operations is the perfect person to tap if the change taking place most affects those two groups.

Are close to “fence-sitters” that are ambivalent about change – The authors’ research indicated that this was beneficial but at times a “double-edged” sword, as often minor changes could be executed with the help of these fence-sitters, but not major ones.

Change can’t be done right unless it’s done through the social as well as the hierarchal network.  Perhaps you are the agent of change that pushes an initiative through the social network.  But perhaps you’re not that person, and when that’s the case, can you help your manager identify who is that social caped crusader?  Absolutely!  As a Revolutionary Assistant, you’re sometimes more “socially accessible” than your manager, and you see your coworkers differently than your manager does.  Use that to your manager’s advantage and increase your value as a partner by stepping in to help!

Next Post:  Wednesday, March 5

Mobile Apps and the Revolutionary Assistant

In my time as a Revolutionary Assistant, I’ve had to master a lot of new technology.  I started out with an electric IBM typewriter, and progressed from a DOS-based computer to Apple and Microsoft Office.  Now I’m conquering tablets and mobile phones.

While my mobile phone is a little too tiny for me to consider a great asset to my document pushing ways, the tablet has definitely changed my life.  So I went out in search of applications that made work easier, and this is what I found:

Dropbox – This application gives you a secure space in the cloud to store your documents, allowing your teammates access to them.  Even more important to me is that I can throw something from my home computer into Dropbox and access it from my tablet or my work computer later.  You can pay for extra space, but I’ve never even taxed the 2GB Dropbox gives you for free.  Definitely check this one out, if for no other reason than to be able to leave your work computer at work.

Evernote – I haven’t used this application myself, but I intend to download it soon!  This is an electronic file cabinet available for your phone, tablet and desktop computer, and it allows you to tag documents with searchable key words.  File away PDFs, photos and even webpages for reference later!  Sounds like a dream come true!

Whenisgood – This is a fun app that makes scheduling meetings with external participants a whole lot easier.  Most of us operate with some sort of internal calendar that allows us insight to the availability of meeting participants, but Whenisgood is a calendar that people from other companies can access to let you know when they’re open for a meeting.  A great tool if you schedule board meetings or deal with vendors.

FlightTrack – Keeping tabs on flights in progress has never been easy.  Check out this app if you, like millions of us, have managers in the air all the time.  It’ll let you know if your their flights are canceled, late, and what gate they’ll depart from.

Skype – One of a couple of different apps out there that allow you to video conference for free.  This is a money saver if you can use it in lieu of having a face-to-face meeting.  Think sales meetings, even candidate interviews.  Other programs out there include Apple’s FaceTime (which I love – I even FaceTime with my dog when I’m away on business!) and FuzeBox, which allows video conference and webinar capability.

There are many, many applications out there that will help a Revolutionary Assistant improve her workday.  I’ve just touched on a few that have piqued my interest, but please share your favorites in our comments section if you have one.  I want to learn more about what’s out there!

Next Post:  Wednesday, February 26