11 September 2011

Remembering 9/11

It's hard to believe it was 10 years ago today that this tragedy happened.  It was certainly an event that changed a lot of things in our world and I'm sure each of us can remember exactly where we were on that fateful day.

I heard one of the wives speak whose husband was a pilot on the second plane that crashed into the World Trade Centre.  What an inspiration she was as she and her family dealt with the loss.  Sometimes our little complaints or problems are miniscule compared to what others are going through.  It is good to do a check now and again to see if what we are concerned about is really that bad.

Since the World Trade Centres were office towers there were many office workers such as managers, lawyers, bankers, administrative and executive assistants and many, many others. 

To all those who were affected directly and lost loved ones I send you my deepest sympathy. 


I've mentioned this before, but it is true -- proofreading is a lost art.  I think people are over confident with spell check and forget that it can only do so much. 

I was working with someone and we were comparing a list to make sure we had all the right people with their names spelled right, correct title and address.  The first thing I did was count the number of people on the list I was working from and then I counted them on the list I was getting the information from, it was out by three so that was a quick way to know that there was an error.  I then had someone read it over with me so we could easily identify the missing people and add them to our list.

Another time we were doing a large RSVP list.  The first thing I did was a spell check.  That identified about 10 errors.  Next I eyeballed it and compared the names to the email addresses.  If it was spelled one way in the name section and spelled another way in the email address, that was another flag that there was a possible error and we needed to investigate it further.

I had received all the RSVPs by email so the next step was to make sure I had not forgotten anyone who had emailed me their attendance.

The last step is always to do a read through the document looking for spelling errors and to make sure addresses and names are correct.  This might mean going back and checking a name and address by Googling the person's name or title.  You don't want to send an invitation to the premier of a province and then realize they've had an election in that province and the person was replaced with someone else.

Reading through the document is a necessary step after you have done a spell check.  Sometimes you need to read through it looking for one thing and then read through it again looking for another.  For example, I was reading through letters that we were sending to a variety of people.  It referred to a province in two places and in each case the province had to match the location of the person we were writing.  The first time I read it over to make sure it was accurate for spelling and grammar.  The next time I read it through I was looking to make sure the province was correctly identified in each letter.  I then read through it again to make sure the numbers referred to in each letter were accurate for their particular province.  It takes a bit of time, but is well worth it and avoids embarassment to your company. 

Depending on what type of document you are proofing, you may also need to read it over and make sure it is formatted consistently throughout.  Using Styles in Word is a great way to ensure that you always use the same style throughout and if there is an error it is easily changed from Heading 2 to Heading 1 or whichever is the case. 

Emails are sent so quickly that they are often the source of much embarassment if we press Send and send an email to the whole organization about a personal matter or to the person you are referring to in the text of the email.  This would be particularly embarassing if you work in Human Resources for obvious reasons, but also in other areas of your company.  Try not putting an address in the To section until you are finished composing the email and then when you are sure it is ready to be sent, you can put the address in and send it.

Using spell check and then reading it over for accuracy should be done in email as well.  Email is used so much today that it is becoming the official correspondence and should be treated as such by ensuring accuracy and filing it appropriately as you would a letter.

Take the time to proofread.  It will show you pay attention to detail and will be worth the extra effort when people see that you don't make many mistakes or that mistakes are caught by you. 

In my job I read correspondence and other documents before they even go into my boss and he likes it that way.  When he knows I've gone through it, he can then relax and read it for content and know the rest is looked after.  Two eyes are definitely better than one and if you work with your boss as a team then the products coming out of your office will look good and that will reflect well on both of you.

4 September 2011

Your secret is safe with me...

Whether you are an Executive Assistant or an Administrative Assistant, email management of your boss's account has become a big part of our jobs.  But with that job comes responsibility and accountability.   Depending on what your boss's title is, we are often privy to some very confidential information.  Our boss either has allowed us access because he or she is just overwhelmed with email and has no choice, but also because they trust that we will keep it to ourselves and not spread the information in the office.  My boss has asked that I not read anything that has CONFIDENTIAL in the Subject Line and believe me I am grateful.  I have my own emails to read and process so when I go into his account, I am thankful for the emails I can skip over.

These are the questions I ask myself as I am going through my boss's account:

Is this email for my information only?
Sometimes my boss cc's me on an email or I read it in his account and as I read it over, I determine if it is for my action or information.  Many of the emails are just for information to keep me better informed on how to assist him and what he is up to.  Even though there is no action, these emails are worth reading.  It may help me when I am taking minutes to know some of the background or it might help if someone calls and I recall an email about that between them.  I am then better able to assist the caller.

Is this email about a meeting that I need to organize?
If any of the emails have to do with meetings that he either wants scheduled or is planning, then I send that email to myself and bring it up when I meet with him to ask him how I can assist in the planning of the meeting.  Many times it is evident that I need to do something such as book the boardroom, start planning travel, or bring forward the email for when the meeting takes place, etc. If I go ahead and take action, I send a quick email to him to let him know I did that or I let him know the next time I am speaking with him.  I find speaking with your boss is better than sending email as sometimes the last thing they need is another email to deal with, but if I do send an email I keep it short and sweet and usually only write it in the Subject Line that I booked the boardroom for him, etc. 

If I see he is emailing back and forth with someone and now they are in the stage of choosing the date, I ask him if he wants me to take over scheduling the meeting.  Depending on who it is, he is usually very grateful as many people email him and then instead of getting their assistants to schedule the meeting, start trying to arrange it themselves, which he really does not have time to handle.  The other person is usually happy as well as they also give over the planning of the meeting to their assistant and then we can take over the arrangements. 

Does this email contain information that your boss may need at a later date?
Many times the initial email to my boss requesting the meeting has lots of information that he will need  brought forward on the day of the meeting.  This email usually contains the purpose of the meeting, information about what they want to speak about and what they are hoping to get accomplished.  I print this email and when I prepare my boss's daily meeting package I put it in the folder as part of his preparation for that meeting as a reminder to him.

Is this email for my action?
Many times as I am reading through the emails I see an action for myself, or a possible action, so I  bring that to my meeting with my boss to offer my assistance or get further clarification on next steps.  Sometimes he will be emailing with someone and they decide they are going to meet at a restaurant so I ask him if he wants me to make the reservation or I go ahead and make the reservation and just let him know I did it. Other times he will be emailing with someone and they mention something that needs to be done such as making copies of a document to send to the team, so I ask him if he wants me to do that for him or, if it is evident, I just go ahead and prepare it and have it on his desk ready for him.  Knowing when you should go ahead and take action will come as your working relationship with your boss develops and you start to know their style and preferences.

We are in their account for a reason, so ask yourself these questions to help you know what to look for.  If you are unsure or uncomfortable taking this initiative, you should discuss it with your boss to ask their expectations on why you have access to their accounts and what they want you to look for.  You can also make suggestions on what you can do for them.  Some bosses are not sure what they want or need from their assistants.  A boss and their assistant should have a close working relationship and a big part of that is communication.  Never be afraid to ask when you need clarification or need more information.  It is in the best interests of both of you.

And now for some humour...

Your secret is safe with me...
A woman I work with came by my desk the other day and was relating a telephone conversation she had with someone that my boss deals with.  She mentioned the person had given her some confidential information that she wanted to pass along so I could let my boss know.  When she started to relay it to me she stopped, hesitated, looked completely embarassed and then had to admit she couldn't remember what it was.  We laughed!  I said giving information of a sensitive nature to anyone over 50 was a sure fire way of ensuring that it wouldn't get passed along inappropriately, because we probably wouldn't remember it.

Which is another reason I always say WRITE IT DOWN!