12 April 2016

Sharing your Skills

Do you want to get better at what you do?  Share it!! 

You wouldn't believe how much I learn each time I give a minute-taking or travel webinar.  Because I am giving the webinar I have to review the material and make sure I know my stuff.  The audience will certainly know if I don't. 

The same can apply in your workplace.  If there is sharing of information among the admins, then we can learn from each other and we all grow.  You can do it formally in a teaching setting or informally talking to each other at a team meeting.  Some things that the more experienced admins could teach would be minute-taking, travel arrangements, meeting scheduling, event planning and organizing your boss.  And some of the younger workers could teach us new tricks with technology to do all of the above. 

The next time you figure out how to do something, send an email to your team and share it.  They might already know, but then again it might just be the thing they were trying to figure out themselves.  Especially when it comes to technology.  If you throw it out there, it gets others thinking about what they can share and then you have an environment of sharing information and growing.

Here are a few tips I will throw out:
  • If your menu bar disappears in Internet Explorer, press F11 to bring it back again. 
  • If you find yourself all of a sudden churning out weird characters when you're typing along, try pressing the left CTRL + SHIFT keys at the same time to switch it back over (You might need to press them a couple times).
  • If you are at a meeting and have a PowerPoint presentation on screen (in Slideshow mode), but are not ready to show it yet, press B and the screen will go black, or W to make it white.  When you are ready to start the presentation, press any key to bring the presentation back on screen. 
  • In Excel, if you want to go to the next line, but stay in the same cell, press Alt Enter.
Do you have anything to share?

15 March 2016

The Executive Assistant

Being an Executive Assistant is more than just a title.  When you get to this level it is expected you will take on leadership responsibilities. 

I am in an Administrative Assistant role again and am really enjoying it, but having just finished my career as an Executive Assistant, I am appreciating the work that they do, but am glad to leave it for someone else. 

Now that I am looking at it from an Administrative Assistant's perspective, I see the EA role as being someone to look up to and seek guidance from.  It should be someone who has experience and knows their way around an office.  The person should also have initiative and be an ideas person.  When I was an EA I loved coming up with new ideas, but I also listened to what others on the team thought as I learnt that together we came up with the best ideas.

Some things that an EA can do to show leadership:
  • chairing (or starting) an admin team
  • planning for and organizing replacements when other administrative staff are away
  • organizing educational events for the other administrative staff and/or teaching them
  • succession planning to ensure someone will be able to take over when people leave
It can include any number of these things or all of them depending on your organization, but don't be afraid to make suggestions if your organization isn't there yet.  Sometimes it takes time to build the reputation of the Administrative Team.  Most bosses know the value of their Assistants, they just need to see how it can work as a team and the added value to the organization.

The last place I worked was very progressive in that way and looked to the Admin Team as professionals in our field.  It was probably the best model I have ever seen in all my career, but it came about by having the support of senior management.  Most Executive Assistants work for the CEOs, Presidents and Vice Presidents of the company and what better place to be to initiate change.  Having your boss on your side goes a long way to paving the way for implementing some new ideas.  Some of the best ideas I received were actually from my boss.  He saw the value of the administrative staff and helped me to see it in a new way too.  It helped that he was the CEO, but he expected me to be a leader too.

However you are showing leadership in your role as EA, lead by example.  If you are a professional in your position, the others will look up to you and want to learn from you.  Be willing to do the work you want them to do.

Yes, being an Executive Assistant is much more than just a title.

Minute-taking Q&A

In preparation for the AdminPro Forum on June 15-17, 2016 in Orlando, Florida, here is an article with some Question and Answers about Minute taking

For more information on AdminPro Forum 2016, please click on the website and if you are able to join us, please register at this linkI hope to see you there! 

30 January 2016

The little things

When learning something new it is usually the little things that can seem overwhelming.  I just learnt a new program to search patient names for information and medical records.  I recall the person telling me how to use the program and it seemed very complicated: Log in, enter your password, press F1 if you want to do this, F2 if you want to do that.  When you get to this screen, look on the right hand side and press F11 ...  You can see what I mean.  I was thinking I was never going to get it as there seemed to be so many things I had to remember.  But after a few times using the it, the little things started to become common place.  I didn't need to think about them anymore as they were now part of how I used the program.  What seemed hard at first is now very easy.  And isn't that how it is when starting a new job or taking on a new task? 

I only knew one person when I started my new job, but now I am putting names to faces and don't even have to think about it anymore.  I was nervous the first day I had to take minutes at an advisory committee meeting.  It was a big group and I wasn't sure how I was going to get the attendance straight when I hadn't met most of the participants before.  Now after my second meeting, I only had to ask my colleague who one person was.  Everyone else has become familiar.

That also goes for new processes and tasks.  I support two meetings and there is lots to do for each meeting.  Some of the things are becoming routine.  Now all I have to concentrate on is taking the minutes, everything else is falling into place.

So if you are starting a new job or have something new to learn, keep in mind that in a relatively short time everything will start to make sense and become part of the routine.  Give yourself time to learn and you will eventually get it. 

13 January 2016

Florida here I come!

This summer I will be presenting at the AdminPro Forum 2016 in Florida and am really looking forward to it.  Keynote speakers include Joan Burge, Lucy Brazier, Julie Perrine and Laura Stack.  I have enjoyed the teachings of most of these ladies over the years and am thrilled to be participating with them and look forward to learning from them too.  
Recently on Facebook on the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) page they had a question on what would be the ideal gift from your boss or coworker on Admin Professionals Day.  Not surprisingly, many of the comments, including mine, were in favour of a chance to go on paid professional development.  There isn't always a budget for professional development for administrative professionals, but given the nature of our jobs, we really do need a time to get our batteries re-charged, network with our peers and get some tips and tools to do our job better.  I find every time I go to an admin conference I come back motivated and always learn something that I can bring back to the office to make my job easier or to share with a co-worker. 

For more information on AdminPro Forum 2016, please click on the website and if you are able to join us, please register at this linkI hope to see you there! 

30 December 2015

Different Strokes for Different Folks

It's funny how as I have moved through my career from office to office the way I organize myself has changed. 

When I was at the law firm, I used tasks extensively and had a wait bin where I put things I was waiting on.  I had a lot of trigger dates I needed to remember such as when to file a statement of defence after receiving a statement of claim, or putting in a reminder when the mandatory mediation kicked in.  It was important that I pay close attention to my task reminders as these dates were critical to the lawyers I worked for.  I had a few mediation and arbitrations to set up and telephone calls to schedule with clients, but the bulk of my work was preparing documents on time and reminding the lawyers I worked for what needed to be done and by when.  I can count on one hand the amount of travel I arranged for them in the 15 years I worked there as their meetings were usually local meetings with clients or short flights to nearby cities such as Toronto, which is  only an hour's flight and rarely required an overnight stay.

When I started work as an EA to the CEO and Corporate Secretary of the Board of Directors of a non-profit organization , that didn't work as well for me so I had to adapt and use other methods such as meeting sheets.  I had so many meetings to keep track of that I needed a method of finding the details quickly from the various emails I had about the meeting.  The CEO also was a frequent traveller to cities near and far.  I became very familiar with time zones and making travel arrangements.  I started a travel sheet so I could remember all of the things that needed to be done, especially for international travel.   I very rarely needed to use task reminders, but did use them on occasion.  Colour coded file folders also became very important.  I managed a Senior Leadership Team meeting as well as the Board of Directors' and all of its Committee meetings.  Having different coloured file folders, certainly made it easier knowing which folder went with which meeting.

Now that I am working in a hospital, I am back to using tasks again and as soon as I get around to putting in a supply order, I will order a tray to put things in that I am waiting on.  I also use a stackable file tray and put folders in for the two meetings I organize.  Nothing as extensive as I used at the last organization, but it is still handy to have these meeting folders on hand.  I don't need colour coding though as I only have two meetings to manage.

I have found there isn’t a cookie cutter way of doing things.  What works for one office, may not work as well for another.  Or maybe you will use a combination of things that you have used in various offices.  But don't limit yourself to only the things you have used before.  I find listening and learning from my co-workers is a great way to learn new techniques.  If they have been in the job for a long time, I listen even closer. 

28 December 2015

Skeleton Staff

During the holidays it is important to have people in the office to keep things going.  I like working during this time because you can get so much done that you normally don't have time to do.  Here are some of the things I will be doing:
  • Cleaning out my desk drawers - I just started this job a little over a month ago.  The girl who was here before me was there for 9 years and before they hired me there were two temporary people sitting at my desk so you can imagine the desk drawers were very disorganized.  I like to have everything in its place to save time when I need something.  Some things that are nice to have on hand are a box of staples, various size clamps, extra pens and some highlighters.  Everything else should be in the supply cabinet, but having things on hand that you use regularly, makes it very convenient when you need them.  Even if you are not new, the drawers get messy over time so a good clean up really helps.
  • Organizing the desktop - I also like to have a clear desk with things I need in easy reach such as a stapler, staple remover, tape and some paper clips.  It is always good to have a notebook and pen handy to write a quick phone message or instructions from your boss.  Many times as my boss is walking out of his office to his next appointment he will remember something he wants me to do so tells me as he passes by my desk. 
  • Making yourself at home - I like to put some photos of my grandchildren on my desk so I can peek at those when I need a boost.  It is nice to remind myself there is more to life than work.  You probably have some nice photos from the holidays that you can display as well or cards from friends.  Anything to put a smile on your face is good. 
  • On-line housecleaning - It is also very important to make yourself at home in your online files, but also to do some clean up.  I was in my previous job for almost eight years so had things filed in a way that I could find them quickly.  Since I am doing similar work, I wanted to set it up the same in my new job.  Now when I go to get something, I can easily find it as it looks the same as what I was used to.  Some things that I have found in the existing on-line folders are either gems or throw aways.  I don't actually trash anything unless I am absolutely sure, but I put it in a folder which I call OLD and will put things I don't think I need in that folder and will either ask someone in the office whether I need it or just leave it there so I can go looking another time to search for things.  Sometimes you don't know you need it until later when you become more familiar with your job. 
  • Getting into a routine.  It is always nice to have a routine.  The first thing I do after I log into my computer is to quickly scan my emails for anything that needs my immediate attention, but then I immediately go to my boss's email account and go through his Inbox, Sent and Deleted items.  I want to see what he's been up to since I checked previously.  I usually check about three times throughout the day.  I set up his Inbox with various folders and move items for READING, TIME SENSITIVE and things he will want to be reminded to FOLLOW UP on.  This cleans out his Inbox so all that is left are information items that he can quickly look at or respond to.  My boss is off for two weeks so I want it to be nice and clean when he gets back.  I then look on my to-do list for what I need to do.  I either have things to do that pop up in my task reminders or they are on my desk stacked in order of what needs to be done first.  A routine helps you to know where to start and keeps you focussed on what needs to be done next.  This is especially important when there are only a few people in the office.  I find it hard to keep myself motivated otherwise.
  • Preparing for when everyone gets back - I have a meeting on the Friday after the holidays so will prepare the draft agenda and any materials so my boss can look them over when he gets in and then I will be able to quickly prepare the meeting package and send it out and then prepare the minute template.
As you can probably tell, I like being part of the skeleton staff.  It is also a nice time to get to know the other co-workers who are in the office.  At one office I was in they ordered pizza for us to show their appreciation for those who stayed behind.

My family all live close by so I never feel the need to take vacation days as the stat holidays are enough for me.  Some people do have to travel though or just like having the consecutive time off between Christmas and New Years so it is nice for them that we are in the office so we can provide some backup for them.  They will need to be sure to put an out-of-office message on in case someone calls during this time so they will know who to contact in their absence.

If you are on the skeleton staff, use this more relaxed time to get things done.  It will pay off when everyone gets back and are going through their emails and trying to get organized after the break.  You will be just one step ahead of the game.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year.  I know I am.  I will be two months into my new job and settling in to how most things are done and looking forward to whatever other challenges come along.