Partnership

Managing Travel Costs

It’s never been cheap to travel, but it seems like nowadays we’re getting socked with resort fees and other little incidentals that we’ve never had to worry about before.  If you book a hotel room for $200 a night, is it really fair to have to budget for $300, just because you don’t know what kind of fees they’re going to hit you with?

Travel providers are champions of the practice of “drip pricing” – that is, disclosing only a portion of a price up front, and then revealing add-ons during the purchasing process.  Airlines have long been the champions of drip pricing, but hotels and even car rental companies are getting in on the act.

As the travel manager for my company, I’ve done a little research about how to save money on business travel.  I can tell you, most of the ideas I see in articles are unrealistic at best.  In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best you can do is be aware of these charges so you can plan accordingly, because there’s really nothing more that can be done.  Here are some common charges to plan for:

Baggage check fees – Unless you want to ship your luggage to your destination, you’re going to pay a fee to check your luggage with most airlines, probably to the tune of $25 each way.  Some airlines are still threatening to charge for carry-on bags as well, so watch out for that possibly coming down the pike!

Airline Taxes – I just flew overseas recently, and I was surprised to see that my $1200 airline ticket included $600 in federal taxes.  I thought, “It’s no wonder that airlines don’t make any money, they’re handing over most of my fare to the government!”  Booking sites like Travelocity and Expedia, as well as the business travel providers that you work with, are now required to disclose these fees, so they should no longer come as a surprise when booking.  Soon, they may have to disclose their baggage check fees and other incidental costs as well.  There’s a bill in Congress to that affect just waiting to be voted on.

Hotel Resort Fees and Other Charges – These fees are cropping up all over the place, even when the hotel you’re using doesn’t really qualify as a resort!  A recent article in Forbes even spoke about mandatory bellman tipping fees.  Watch when you book a hotel to make sure that you’re aware of all the fees you’ll be charged.  And don’t be afraid to challenge a fee you don’t think is right.  (Bellman fees?  Seriously!)

Car rental fees – Car rental companies are getting into the act, too.  They’ll charge fees for extra drivers (I make sure that we have a designated driver when we rent a car for a group), and they’ll charge additional fees if you’re picking up the car at the airport.  Of course, you can pick up the car at a city location to avoid airport fees, but then you’re likely to be subject to…

Taxi surcharges – Oh, yes, taxis are in on the act, too!  They’ll slap on charges for extra passengers, and sometimes even add on a little bit if you have luggage to deal with.  And if it’s not enough that your meter is ticking along while you’re sitting in rush hour traffic, some ground transportation services will add insult to injury by tacking on a little extra charge if you’re using them during rush hour.

So what’s a poor traveler to do?  Well, not much can be done when you’re sitting in the office and your manager is doing the traveling.  Sure, you can call the hotel after the fact and ask them to credit your boss’ bill for that stupid bellman tipping fee, but it’s more effective if your manager notices it on his bill and does the arguing at the hotel when he’s checking out.

Airline tickets are always cheaper during non-peak travel hours, so if you can talk your manager into flying at 6AM or midnight, that’s also a plus.  But who wants to do that?  It’s best just to be aware of the fees, to plan accordingly so that you’re aware of how much your manager’s trip will REALLY cost!

Next Post:  Wednesday, June 18

Dealing With Change in the Workplace

A fear of change certainly isn’t a new thing.  People will stay in jobs, stay with companies, stay in marriages…all because it’s familiar and they’ve invested time they don’t want to “throw to the curb.”  Sometimes that’s a good reason to resist change, but most of the time, it’s not.

Change has to happen in order to keep up with the times and keep things fresh.  Your business has to navigate change to stay competitive in today’s market.  So how do you help your employees understand that change is good – not something to be scared of?  We already talked about helping your manager understand the benefit of leveraging change agents, but there is more that can be done!

Your manager has a big job on his hands when he’s initiating change in his area, but here are a few things he can do to make sure that he’s successful (and that his people don’t freak out!).

Make sure everyone understands the need for change – If your team doesn’t understand that change is necessary, they won’t be behind it.  Ensure that your group understands that if you don’t make some changes, you won’t stay competitive or you won’t stay in business.

Assemble a team of people to lead the change – Like having “change agents” in your corner, you should have a team of people – including team leaders or even senior leadership – that helps put that change into motion.  Your team should represent all areas the change will touch.  If the change is company-wide that means you should have someone from every discipline from finance to distribution in the room.  If you know of someone who’s an agent of change, help your manager by suggesting that this person is added, even if he’s not a leader.

Communicate the change as a vision – A sentence or a even a slogan that sums up the goals of your change and the future vision of your area will do wonders for keeping people on track.  Communicate it often.  As a Revolutionary Assistant, you can help your manager by taking charge of these messages, the cadence with which they’re broadcast, etc.

Be compassionate – Your manager should understand that people have legitimate concerns and fears, and he or she should do everything possible to quell those concerns.  Not only is it the right thing to do from a human standpoint, but worry is unproductive and can get in the way of the project.

Remove obstacles – A manager clears the way for his team to get work done, and executing change is no exception to the rule.

Measure results – Your manager should have plans to collect and interpolate hard data in order to support the change initiative.  That data will go a long way toward continued buy-in from upper management and his team.  If hard data isn’t a part of the plan, encourage your manager to think a little harder about it!

Celebrate wins along the way – It’s better if you don’t just have the big goal in your sites.  Break the whole change project down into bite sized pieces, and celebrate when each one of them is complete.  That will increase your team’s buy in.

Bringing about change in your business can be easier than you thought, even if your culture is one that’s naturally resistant to change.  Give these hints a try and see if you and your manager can’t create something fabulous that helps your business grow and get to the next level.

Next Post:  Wednesday, May 14

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

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

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

Dan: Allowing Employees to Play to Their Strengths

Celebrate your manager this week!  This is our third installment in our own Boss’ Day celebration, as this Revolutionary Assistant celebrates the managers that taught her valuable lessons!

I know I’m not the only Revolutionary Assistant that manages employees.  Many of us have junior assistants, receptionists and facilities staff to juggle along with our other duties, and that’s not always easy, especially if you want to keep those employees happy, engaged and productive.

When it comes to knowing how to engage employees, no one I’ve ever worked for has done it better than my former manager Dan, because he was particularly keen on understanding what people did best and putting those talents into action.  While for him this was a God-given talent, I try to take those principles he showed me and apply them as much as my natural abilities will allow me to.

When I started working with Dan as his executive assistant, he realized immediately that communication was my thing and put me to work at it.  Dan was our company’s human resources executive, and one of my first projects was to create a bio sheet or a “leadership profile” as referred to it, for each of the company’s other executives.  He gave me a little diagram of what he thought it could look like, and I ran with it from there.  Before long, I overheard him in his office, showing other execs in our department my creation and saying, “Look at how great these look!”  I was so pleased!

From there, all my projects were like a dream come true.  I edited company newsletters, I wrote memos from him to the general masses.  If there was a project that required information collection and reporting, I was assigned to the case, sometimes even when it wasn’t coming out of my department.  And because of that, I ran to the office every day to start work, knowing that my contributions were appreciated and needed.

Dan could really dive into the details when he was setting someone up to succeed, matching people together into teams as well as handing out projects and tasks that were in his employees’ wheelhouses.  He had his whole team take the Strengthfinder test and share their results with each other, so we could understand what made each other tick.  It was enlightening, productive, and great fun, and it also helped me see his method and what he was trying to do.

I don’t have that same natural inclination that Dan does, but I quickly understood the power of this ability and tried to cultivate it when it was my turn to manage people.  As an example, one relatively new employee recently told me, “Don’t make me do anything in Excel.  I hate Excel!”

Microsoft Excel wasn’t a requirement of the position, so I wasn’t terribly worried.  But I started to notice that she did have a way with words, a style about her communication.  And she was terrifically in tuned with fashion, enjoying making things presentable and pretty.

“I know you hate Excel,” I said to her one day, “but how do you feel about Powerpoint?”  Turns out, Powerpoint is two thumbs up in her book, and they’re going to be showing up in her list of projects a lot more!

Another of my direct reports was gifted when it came to dealing with people.  She had a lovely sing-song voice on the phone, and customers would go out of their way to tell me how much they loved her.  But the angry customers would wear her down.  Together, we decided on a customer service course for her that helped her deal with the angry customers – and letting it go after the phone call terminated.  I knew that dealing with people was a great talent of hers, and I didn’t want her to abandon it because people could sometimes be rude.  Sometimes it’s not enough that we appreciate someone’s talents internally.

The result of these efforts is a group of happy, engaged employees that produce great results for the business.  I thank Dan for showing me that an employee using her talents is an employee that has the motivation to do better and more.  It’s not only made my employees more successful, it’s made me a more successful manager.  Thank you, Dan!

Next post:  Wednesday, October 23

Dave: Optimism in the Face of Adversity

A Revolutionary Assistant’s success depends on an assistant/manager relationship built on trust and a mutual drive to succeed, and our managers rely on our input to make sure they stay as productive as possible.  Rarely do we think about the leadership lessons they bestow on us, the things that we take away from them that help us grow.  I’d like to spend this Boss’ Week saluting my bosses and what they might not know I’ve learned from them!

Dave is my current manager, the CEO of a specialty retail company and a man who doesn’t let much grass grow under his feet.  He’s a retail veteran but new to the CEO’s office.  We started working here within a couple of weeks of each other and have grown into the positions together.

We’ve accomplished a lot together, including moving the entire corporate office about three miles down the street from where it was when we began.  Things were going amazingly smooth until a big hiccup – and I mean a SERIOUSLY BIG HICCUP – occurred mid-last year.  And things started to spiral downward quickly.

No one could have predicted that this hiccup would happen, and suddenly people who were working 40 hours a week were working 100 hours a week, trying to get it fixed.   Dave was under fire just about every day, and I wasn’t sure what to expect as I watched all of the activities unfold.

What I really didn’t expect was the laughter I kept hearing coming out of his office.

Dave handled the situation with seriousness and dedication, and he never “lost his cool.”  But, strangely, I never saw him get angry at all, and every interaction with him included a smile.  Things were going badly, but Dave had every confidence that we had the team in place to get it going in the right direction again.  He handled issues as they were dealt to him, and his optimism kept everyone going.

Optimism is an imperative in the workplace.  In a 2006 University of Pennsylvania study, it was determined that positive leadership was directly linked to employee engagement and performance.  People with optimistic managers just perform better.  And when we needed to perform at our level best, Dave was the optimistic manager we looked to.

I manage an employee who sometimes gets a little upset when things don’t go right.  Because of Dave, I have learned to ask her, “Did anyone die?”  When she says no, my response is, “Well, there you go!  It’s not so bad.  Let’s look at what we can do to make this better.”  I try to handle every challenging situation that comes my way with levity and optimism, because I know how important it is to my team that we keep our mood cheery.  I’ve seen optimism in action, and it works.

I can thank Dave for that lesson!

Next post:  Boss’ Week Continues Tomorrow, October 16!

Why Being the CEO’s Assistant Isn’t Necessarily the Job You Want

People dream of getting to the top of their professional game, and Revolutionary Assistants aren’t any exception.  An assistant might start out supporting a department of people, and then a director or a vice president.  The big dream?  Being the assistant to the CEO of the company.  After all, if there’s a top job to be had in the assistant world, that’s it!

Is it?

I’ve  been an assistant to a CEO three times in my life, at three different companies.    Having gone through more than an interview or two, I can tell you that I get asked the same questions every time I’m up for a CEO assistant position: “Are you a hands-on, dynamic individual?  Do you like to roll up your sleeves and get involved?”

These are perhaps the most misguided questions a recruiter can ask when filling this position.  Aside from a good personality match (which is imperative in all assistant/manager relationships), these are really the kinds of questions a CEO Assistant candidate should be asked:

Do you like getting involved in projects? – If you have, in your past assistant experiences, really enjoyed your project work (running events, for instance), you should know you’re going to be doing a lot less of those as a CEO’s assistant.  For example, you’re never going to coordinate an employee engagement survey from the CEO’s assistant desk.  What you’re going to do is ask the Senior Vice President of Human Resources how the survey is progressing every time you see her, so that you can report it back to your manager.

Do you enjoy the details? – As the assistant to the CEO, your world will be details.  This is not to say that you don’t have this when you get down to what I refer to as the “discipline level” (operations, information technology, etc.), but when you’re at the discipline level, you’re frequently involved in the project up to your eyeballs, which makes the details easier to hang on to.  At the CEO’s level, not so much.  You’ll be required to remember that operations is undergoing a significant reorganizational structure after the dismissal of one of their VPs, but you’re not involved in making that happen, so it’s just the fact that you need to manage.  Not as easy as it sounds!

How much do you really know about the ins and outs of travel? – I’ve never met a CEO that isn’t out on the road more than he’s in the office, and the travel situations that he will encounter will be difficult, challenging and even baffling.  Your CEO will call you when he’s on the tarmac in Bangladesh, letting you know that he won’t make his change of planes in Frankfurt.  Can you see what his options are?  And if he has more than a two-hour layover there, can you get the manager of your Frankfurt distribution center to meet him in the sky lounge in the terminal?  Not only are you checking for those new Frankfurt flights, but chances are likely you’re purchasing a refundable ticket for your other manager so he can get past security to see the CEO (if that’s what it requires in Germany…their security laws are different than ours are in the States).

Your life will be all about managing time zones, acquiring visas, keeping passports up to date and managing (insuring) first class upgrades.  Sometimes the CEO will have preferences for seating based on what kind of craft he’s flying, and you’ll need to get used to those preferences so you can do your best to deliver.  And then, there’s ground transportation!  Sedans in Shanghai can be secured even if you don’t speak Mandarin, but you’ll need to know the ins and outs of how to make that happen.

How do you handle confidential information? – Every manager requires discretion, but never more so than when you’re working in the CEO’s office.  For example, acquisitions require the utmost confidentiality.  And if you’re working with vendors who are providing you services (meeting space, etc.), you will need to manage them and their ability to keep things confidential.  Nothing damages a transaction like a picture of your CEO and the other company’s CEO appearing on the cover of an industry magazine!

Do you mind getting personal? – No matter what the position, there are occasions where you run out and buy flowers for a wife’s birthday or make a dinner reservation.  When you’re the CEO’s assistant, multiply this by ten.  You usually don’t just manage her business, but also her life.  Personal travel is not out of the question, and medical appointments are almost always run through you, because you manage her calendar.  At the CEO level, work and life blend, so you sometimes know more about your manager than you might like, which is something you can think about as you’re driving her car to the shop for an oil change.

How much do you value your personal time? – Going back to that example where your CEO is on the tarmac in Bangladesh, and he calls you to make those new arrangements for his connection…  If you’re in the States, I don’t probably need to point out that this call is not happening during your work hours.  You’ll need to step away from your dinner to handle this.  Beyond that, most of your vendors are also done working for the day, so you’ll need to work a little harder to accomplish what your manager’s asking you to do, because nothing is open and none of your usual buddies are around until the next morning.  Challenges, challenges!

How candid are you? – Go walk the halls with your CEO one day, and you’ll quickly realize that everyone thinks he walks on water.  Occasionally, for his own good and the good of the company, you’ll need to sit down and tell him what’s what.  It might be personal feedback, it might be professional feedback related to things that are being kept from him, but you’re his eyes and ears for a lot of issues, and you’ll need to establish the trusting relationship that allows these conversations to happen.

I like to sum it up like this:  If you’re a real people person and you love being on top of a million details, you’re going to like managing the life of a Chief Executive Officer.  There’s a huge relationship factor involved in this position, and if you thrive on taking care of people you’ll really enjoy this kind of work.  If you’re more of a roll-up-the-sleeves-and-get-the-project-done type of assistant, the acme of your career might be working for a discipline leader, who usually has less demand on his personal life and can get you more involved in the type of work being done in his area.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  But a Revolutionary Assistant works to her strengths, and knowing what she can contribute to the assistant/manager relationship will help her be all she can be!

Next post:  Wednesday, October 2

Book Review: Sitting On a File Cabinet, Naked, With a Gun

Yup, that’s the name of the book.  Written in 2009 by Linda McFarland, Joanne Linden, and Sharon Turnoy, all CEO Assistants in the Silicon Valley, Sitting on a File Cabinet… shares anecdotal situations these ladies have faced in their careers, and the Points of Wisdom (POW!) that were gleaned from their experiences.

At 144 pages, it was a short but enjoyable read.  Excerpts were between two and five pages long, and included stories about how assistants handled highly confidential meetings, 2003 east coast power grid failures and lost passports.  You can easily use this book to fill short spurts of time. Waiting in line to renew your license plates or meeting a perpetually tardy friend:  all good reasons to spend a couple of minutes with the ladies that make these CEOs go.

The title comes from the book opener, which talks about an assistant who couldn’t cope with the stress of putting a report together and was found on her boss’ file cabinet, naked, with a gun in her hand when she finally went over the edge.  Another assistant told the story of how her CEO went missing after a ski trip, and, because no one knew to look for him, was freezing on a mountaintop for 48 hours.  Of course, the assistant facilitated his rescue, because that’s what we Revolutionary-types do!

Their “Points of Wisdom” were great, but what I loved most about it was that I could spend time with some ladies and know that I wasn’t alone trying to make the impossible happen in a matter of minutes. In fact, Linda and Joanne were joined by Pam Shore (Eric Schmidt’s assistant at Google) and Debbie Gross (assistant to John Chambers at Cisco), among others, talking about snatching victory from some of an assistant’s most challenging situations.

My one disagreement with the book is that it treats the CEO Assistant’s job as the acme of an executive assistant’s career, which (in my humble opinion) it’s not.  I’ll spend a little time sharing my thoughts tomorrow in my next post, but, suffice it to say, it takes a special kind of person to be a CEO’s assistant, and I really think the position is not fulfilling for all types of assistants!

But I digress…    What I mean to say, is if you have a couple of hours, pick up Sitting on a File Cabinet, Naked, With a Gun.  You won’t be disappointed in it:  you’ll come away with a few Revolutionary hints and get a few laughs, too!

Next Post:  Thursday, September 26

Meeting Consolidation and Time Management

Every few months (weeks? days?) you look on your manager’s calendar in hopes of finding a free fifteen-minute slot for a phone call.  And what do you see?  Not even a sliver of open time.  You think, “Where did all these meetings come from?”

Meetings are an important part of your manager’s job, but when she’s in a meeting, she’s not getting any work done.  So what can you do to help make time on the calendar?

STEP 1 – Analyze your manager’s calendar

Does she have one-to-one meetings with direct reports speckled throughout the week?

If yes – can they all be condensed into a single day or two to free up blocks of work time?  Before proposing this to your manager, make sure you ask each direct report if he needs his one-on-one with the manager to occur on a particular day or at a particular time based on his work schedule and the timing of activities during the week.

Are there meetings on your manager’s calendar that have come from higher up the ladder and include both your manager and one or more of her direct reports?

If yes – any meetings that ask for both is probably only in need of one!  This meeting could be a developmental opportunity for the direct report that’s being included.  See if the direct report can attend that meeting alone.

Check out recurring meetings.  Do any of them have similar lists of attendees?

If yes, perhaps there is a way you can combine those two meetings into one.  For instance, you have a staff meeting for an hour on Wednesday and a revenue meeting for an hour on Friday, and they’re both attended by almost the same list of people.  Can both be accomplished in 90 minutes on Friday?

Is there an opportunity for any weekly staff meetings to occur bi-weekly instead?

A carefully managed agenda for a staff or team meeting can make better use of time allotted.   Examine the content of the meeting in question to see if there are any opportunities for improvement.  Click here for more help managing agendas and making better use of meeting time.

STEP 2 – Troubleshoot other meeting pitfalls

See if you can make a 30 minute meeting a 20 minute meeting instead.

Nothing says  “This woman is busy”  like putting a twenty minute meeting on her direct report’s calendar.  Think about it: not only does it convey a psychological message that time is important, but every three 30-minute meetings that are changed to 20-minute meetings saves your manager a half an hour.   That adds up in a hurry!

Keep long-winded colleagues and direct reports on a tight timeframe with your manager.

You know who they are!  These are the folks that will talk to hear their own voices, and the end result is that they eat up your manager’s precious time.  When these colleagues request your manager’s time, be a savvy scheduler and add the meeting to the calendar just prior to a must-attend event, or do your best to barter down the time – forcing the colleague to fit the content into a 45-minute session when he requests an hour may force him to manage his agenda better.

Ensure you’ve allotted enough time for the subject matter.

This may be counterintuitive – adding time to the calendar rather than subtracting it! – but if you see that a recurring meeting frequently finishes before all business is addressed, then perhaps  adding another 15 minutes to that meeting may prevent ad hoc gatherings that become calendar eaters later in the week.

Do you have your own suggestions on how to manage meetings on your manager’s calendar?  Add them in the comments section below and we’ll discuss!

Next Post:  Wednesday, September 4