10 November 2018

Working with an Assistant

I was speaking with a senior Executive at my office today and she said one of the most valuable things that she has learnt over the years was how to work with an assistant.  I think when we are first in the workforce we are going to the office expecting our boss will tell us what to do and we will endeavour to do it according to our skill set.  However, there comes a time as we gain experience, that we will want to show our bosses what we can do and how we can help them.  Here is a good article on that subject.  Knowing how to work with your assistant is critical to your success and theirs: http://executivesecretary.com/training-an-executive-new-to-working-with-an-assistant/

I also wrote another article on this subject, which I thought would be useful for this discussion: https://secretaryhelpline.blogspot.com/2008/04/teaching-your-boss-to-be-boss.html

27 October 2018

On to the next task...

The way I work is to get things off my plate as soon as possible and move on to the next task.  The problem is it is now filed in the back burner of my mind.  It is still hovering in the background somewhere, but I've completed the work, done whatever I needed to do with it and diarized whatever needed to be diarized and moved on until I need to know it again.  My boss may come out a month or so later and ask me questions about it and sometimes my mind draws a blank.  I need a minute to go back and check and then I am completely up to speed again.

I find with the volume of work admins deal with throughout the day, week and month, we need some system to keep things straight.  I document everything and that is how I keep track.  I put items in my calendar as a reminder, but the problem with calendar reminders is unless you know which day you put it on or what you named it, you can't easily find it.  So I document that as well.

For each meeting or event, I create what I call a meeting sheet.  Most everything I do revolves around meetings. I'm either organizing a meeting or responding to someone else about my boss's availability.  When I receive an email relating to a meeting, I create a meeting sheet and cut and paste the email in there and make any relevant notes.  If I put a reminder in the calendar, I note the date on the meeting sheet.  If I am waiting to hear back from someone, that is documented as well.  It started out that the meeting sheet was just for my information, but I now use it as a filing of sorts about each meeting.

I used to keep the meeting sheets in paper format, but now they are all filed electronically by the date of the meeting so is easily referred back to and can be shared quite easily.  This is very important if you are not in and someone else has to take over.  I file them by YYYY-MM-DD.  This way, it always files chronologically.  If it is a meeting I am just beginning to organize, I write DRAFT where the date would be until it is finally organized and then I will change the name of the file to add the date.

For example, if the date has been chosen I would file it like this:

2018-10-25 OTC Board of Directors meeting

If I don't know the date yet I would file it like this:

DRAFT OTC Audit Committee meeting

And if I am not the organizer I would file it like this:

DRAFT OTC Audit Committee meeting LINDA BROWN ORG

This system keeps me straight.  I know others who keep folders in their Outlook and drag and drop emails there that have to do with a particular meeting.  Whichever way you do it, you need a way to keep track because ultimately your boss will come back and ask where you are at with a meeting or want to know the background of how they got where they are.

13 October 2018

Introducing Boomerang Virtual Assistants

I finally launched my new website and am open for business.  If you want to take a peek here is my URL address Boomerangvirtualassistants.com

It's very exciting!  Sometimes you just have to do it and quit trying to figure everything out.  My esthetician, who opened her own shop about a year ago, said she is learning the business side as she goes.  Of course you need to know the basics, but some things you really do learn on the go. 

I have the right resources to help me along: a bookkeeper to handle that part of the business.  My website is hosted on another platform so I have the security of being under someone else's umbrella and they have to do all the security work.  I bought a new computer and subscribed to a plan for IT support so I have an IT person at my beck and call.  I upgraded to the professional package offered by Dropbox so I can receive documents and recordings (I was already running out of space).  So I think I have all those bases covered. 

I am hoping my niche will set me apart from the rest.  We are a group of Baby Boomers who are not quite ready to retire (hence the name Boomerang) so we have a lot of experience to offer.  What I can't do or don't have time to do, the others can.

What we are offering is administrative services, but also minute taking.  Many people don't like taking minutes, but I do, so I am hoping that will help us stand out.  I also prepare electronic meeting packages using Adobe Acrobat Pro and have had many compliments over the years on the ease of using it so I hope to market that as well.  We also offer other services like travel arrangements, email management, meeting scheduling and all the regular admin services, but there are some things we don't do.  We don't want to get involved in any kind of budget work, social media help, graphic design and things like that.  It's just not our thing.  That is when I refer them to another virtual assistant service.  I think I'll need to get to know my virtual neighbours better. 

Thought I'd share. 

Have a great weekend all!

8 October 2018

Having an assistant

Recently, my sister (a long-time assistant) retired.  We were doing some work together and because she knew how busy I was at my day job, she immediately took over and started to do the small tasks she knew I didn't have time to do.  I appreciated all over again how nice it can be to have an assistant, and not only an assistant, but a very experienced one.  I didn't have to worry about a thing because I knew she was taking care of it.  It took a real burden off my shoulders.  Unfortunately, this arrangement will be short lived, but it did remind me again how important our role can be.

I have also seen what it is like when it doesn't work.  If a boss and their admin are not communicating expectations, that can create more work for both of them.  It is important that you both know what the other does and where the assistant can take over and the boss can leave it.  This way it can work beautifully.

For instance, I have a flagging system with my boss for her emails.  If I have handled it, I put a checkmark so she knows I have done whatever I need to do and she can just read it for information knowing it is being taken care of.  If it is an item she needs to read, I flag it for her and wait to see what her instructions will be.  She usually cc's me on the email when she replies and then I get to work on whatever it is she wants me to do.

This system has been working well, but it took awhile for her to catch on.  At first she was replying to a lot of the emails I had already handled.  Thankfully, we were saying the same thing, but I needed to reiterate a few times that I was handling it.  I think she finally got it because the last time I was in her office, she mentioned she saw the checkmark beside it so knew I was handling it.  It sometimes takes awhile for your boss to really have trust that the work is being taken care of and will be done, but if you are consistent, over time they will see you are on it.

It also depends on your boss.  My previous boss had no problem handing over things to me and expected I would have the work done.  I don't think it ever crossed his mind I wouldn't do it.  His expectation actually helped me to be focused when going through his emails to ensure I handled whatever I needed to.  Having a one-on-one meeting afterwards, was always a good way I could catch him up on the things I had done and where we were at.  Communication and consistency are key.  As your boss gets used to the new working arrangement, things will go smoother.

I also find we have a role to play to help our bosses have more confidence that the job will be handled appropriately.  If my boss asks me to do something, I write it down as she is telling me.  She can see that I am writing it down and that helps her to have confidence that it won't be forgotten.  Sometimes I will repeat it back to her to satisfy myself that I have it right, but also to help her to know I have it right.  If there is a misunderstanding, that will be a good time to clear it up and get on the same page.

I also ask questions if I don't fully understand what she wants me to do.  Don't say you understand, if you don't.  Sometimes you may think you understand, but when you get back to your desk and start the task, you have more questions.  Never be afraid to ask questions.  This will also give them confidence that you understand the task.  Of course, it is always good to go into a meeting with all your questions in one meeting rather than asking here and there, but at times you need to ask to make sure you are doing what is required.

When the assistant/boss relationship is working, it can be great!

9 September 2018

Trouble in the office

I always enjoy Anita's insights.  This is a good read on ways to handle passive/aggressive colleagues.

2 September 2018

Virtual Assistance: What a way to work!

I have recently been doing some online work and it has opened up a whole new world for me.  Of course others have been on the bandwagon for some time and are doing quite well.  What do they know that I don't and why have I not moved on this before now?

Striking out on your own can be frightening.  Especially when you are used to the traditional workplace of going to an office, getting a steady paycheck, being on the company pension and benefit plan, etc.  There are definitely things to consider, but the opportunities can be limitless.

I always thought the ideal situation would be if you had two incomes, as in a spousal relationship.  Then if the other partner had a 9 to 5 job with all the trimmings, striking out on your own would not be as risky.  But what if you are on your own like I am? 

I think I just answered my own question about being an entrepreneur.  The definition of an entrepreneur is exactly the opposite of security.  Some people have a dream and go for it.  Right now, I'm sitting on the fence so it would seem that I am not currently an entrepreneur, but I could be.  I have always been a late bloomer, but when I put my mind to something, watch out!

I have spoken to a few individuals who have done well on their own.  They have taken the things they are really good at and have effectively marketed it.  But where do I start? 

I found a good article on the importance of the virtual assistant website that is worth a read if you are curious about it and a must read if you are planning on it.  8 Must-Have Elements For Your Virtual Assistant Website

Also, I plan to continue to talk to people about it.  I want to get all the information I can before I move forward.  Here are some virtual assistant sites that inspired me to think that I could do this:

Canadian Virtual Gurus
Virtual Office Guy
Hire My Mom
Jennie Lyon VA

Baby boomers, of which I am one, are on the move.  We are all at the age where we can leave if we can afford it.  At the organization where I currently work it seemed for a time there was an announcement of someone's retirement every week.  A few were done in clusters because there were two or three leaving at the same time.  And as I walk the halls, I see a lot of gray heads that are either contemplating retirement soon or have already given their notice.

I am anticipating retirement, but can't see that I will be happy with the traditional idea of retirement such as travelling, cottage life, cruises, etc.  It's not that I don't want to do those things, I do, but I want a little more than that too.

People are healthier than they used to be at this age and I don't think we are ready to throw in the towel quite yet.  I remember when some of the people I knew growing up retired.  Of course I was younger at the time, and I thought they were so old, but now that I've reached that age, I don't feel old at all - well, except for the natural creaks and groans that come with age, I feel pretty darn good and I still have a lot to offer professionally.

I do want to take time to smell the roses in my retirement though.  I have two lovely grandsons that I enjoy spending time with, but they are getting older and at some point they won't want to spend as much time with their Granny as they do right now.  If I call them to go for ice cream and play in the park, they are excited to go.  In a few years time one of them will be a pre-teen and I just can't see that happening anymore.  I'll miss it like I do now when I think back to my daughter when she was younger, but I'm happy she is grown and independent with her own family and I feel the same about my grandsons. 

So what will I do with my time?  Working virtually seems to be a nice answer to that question.  I won't have to go to work and can work as much as I want from the comfort of my home.  I also have friends who have retired and are skilled as an administrative professional, who also want to work now and again and earn some money to take a vacation.  Sounds like a recipe for a good business.

Stay tuned...

2 May 2018

Meeting with your Boss

It is always good to be prepared when meeting with your boss.  The purpose of the meeting should be to ask questions, get direction, provide and/or receive information.

I would suggest the following:
  • If you have access to your boss's email Inbox, go through it as that will be a good place to start.  As you go through the items, you will have questions about meetings he or she is attending, questions about events they may or not be attending, etc.  Also check their Sent items in case the answer lies in there.  Sometimes I have checked the Sent items to see my boss has already emailed the organizer to send her regrets to a meeting.
  • Review the items you want to discuss before the meeting with your boss.  Sometimes you may have a list of items, but don't get to see your boss face-to-face for a few days.  It is better if you go in prepared.  It will be a better use of both your time.  You do not have to spend a lot of time reviewing, but quickly go through the list so you are familiar with each item.
  • Bring a notepad and pen, or if you prefer electronic, then bring your laptop. 
  • Some people like to use their cell phones and write on the Notes app any actions they have, but unless you are provided with a cell phone from your organization, I would not recommend using your personal cell phone for work related items.  As convenient as it may seem, it is always best to separate your work and personal life.  If your position requires a cell phone, then your organization should provide one.  There are also work privacy issues that could be compromised if you combine the two.
  • I bring a folder with printed emails/letters etc. that I have questions about or want to provide her with information.  This can also be done on your laptop by making a list of what you need, but whichever method you use, it should be available at a moment's notice.  Sometimes my boss has called me from out of town and asked if I had anything to discuss while she has me on the phone.  I grab my folder and go through the items with her that I need an answer to sooner rather than later.  The rest I leave for our regular meetings.
  • Meet at the beginning of the work day.  If you meet too late in the day, you will undoubtedly leave the meeting with a whole slew of action items that may not be able to wait until the next day.  If you want to leave work on time, have your regular meetings with your boss in the morning.
Be prepared to come out of the meeting with work to be done, with answers to questions so you can move forward on a project and marching orders for other things your boss might want you to do.  It is better to get this information in a regular meeting with your boss, than on the fly.  If you are in a meeting for this purpose then you can ask all the questions you need while you have your boss in front of you.  Sometimes it is hard to get them in one place. 

My current boss is not good at answering emails and quite frankly, I don't really want to clutter up her Inbox with my items when I can ask her by phone or in person.  Previously, in another position, my boss worked great by email and always knew to check anything from me right away.  If that is the case for you, then you should make sure every email you send counts and you do not send reply to all emails or any other clutter that they don't really need to see.