14 December 2012

Happiness is an Empty Inbox

I have mentioned it a few times that when my desk is cluttered then I feel cluttered.  I like to put everything in its place so I will find it easily.  Is it any wonder if my Outlook is messy and cluttered that I feel the same way?

I was at a recent IAAP Chapter meeting and we were discussing best practices for organizing our Inboxes and there were a lot of good ideas.  The bottom line is to keep it simple.  I've been meaning to tackle my Inbox so decided I would try that theory and is it ever nice.  My Inbox is empty and it feels wonderful!  Similar to when I have a nice and tidy desk.

The first step is take control of your emails and don't let them take control of you

One of the things I have found helpful is to turn my email notification off.  I don't miss anything as I check my Inbox regularly and the good thing is if I am in the middle of something, I don't get distracted by that little message in the corner that tells me I have new mail.  My only exception is for emails from my boss.  I opened a new folder for him under my Inbox and set a Rule for all his emails to go there and set a special ring so I know it's him and can then check the folder.  It works well.

The next step is to do something with the email right away
The key is to get it out of your Inbox as soon as possible even if it means just dragging it to a To-Do folder to deal with later.  I know, I know, that seems scarey but I've tried it and it works.  I named the folder _TO DO so it files right under my Inbox and therefore is very noticeable.  Sometimes the email is such that you can just answer it with a simple yes or no and that takes care of that email.  You need to determine what is best to do with it but you need to do something.

Finally, have four or five key folders that work for you
Other than my TO DO folder and the special folder for my boss, I opened folders specific to my job such as BOARD OF DIRECTORS and another one for SENIOR LEADERSHIP TEAM.  Anything that is for action goes in my _TO DO folder and once I have handled it I can either delete it or put it in one of the other folders that it relates to for easy reference. 

I also have a folder for READING, where I put anything that is for information that I can read later and one for PERSONAL, where I drag all emails that are not work related.  Now my Outlook is very organized and easy to use. 

Making use of Rules can also be a time saver.  Under my Sent folder I have sub folders for emails that I send my boss, the Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team.  When I send anything to these groups it automatically moves it into the appropriate folder.  I find that this helps me to find the emails quickly and narrows my search down.  Instead of searching through all my Sent items, I can quickly do a search in a specific folder and that eliminates finding other things with similar subjects.  By setting the Rule I now don't even have to drag it to a folder as it just goes there automatically.

When we were talking at the table what interested me was that people were using their email folders for filing and that was never its intent.  I save any important emails on my Server just like any other correspondence, because that is what it is.  We use email more and more as our first choice of business correspondence so it should be filed the same way.  I am not saying you shouldn't store some emails as it is helpful to have them there when you need to go back and check what someone said but they shouldn't be kept indefinitely.  I usually clean out my folders every six months to free up space.  If I haven't used it in six months and I've saved anything that is important, then I can be fairly certain I can delete it. 

4 August 2012

Caution: Enter at your own risk!

I once worked with someone who had body language that you could read like a book. Stern looks, sad demeanor, very angry looking at times, interrupting while you were talking, especially when they were not in agreement, by harrumphing, sighing and rolling the eyes. It was disconcerting, but this person didn't appear to be aware they were doing it.

I think the first step is to acknowledge you are doing it and recognize that it as a problem. Once you realize that it is happening, you can watch for it and correct your behaviour. You have to look at yourself as a total package with hard skills (such as what you need to do to get the job done) and soft skills (such as how you are perceived by others, how you treat people, how you behave around people). You can be the best there is as an organizer, event planner or trainer, but if you don't come across as friendly or approachable, you will not be successful.

I was at a course recently for new supervisors and they recommended smiling on the phone. It is hard to smile without it changing your outlook and reaching others, even over the phone. Just the whole thought of smiling for the sake of smiling, would put a smile on my face.  I am smiling just picturing it.

Another thing that has helped me is by seeing myself in a video, or in a photo. Especially when I am not aware of it.  Sometimes I have had the sternest look on my face that would even scare me. No wonder people are intimidated. I think when we are very focussed on our work any interruption can be seen as intrusive.

Depending on where you work, it may matter even more how you present yourself. For example, if you are the first person people meet, then you have to train yourself to stop, smile and focus on the person you are greeting. Never have half an eye on them and the other reading a document, typing an email or tidying your desk. Turn around to greet them if your back is to them. Yes, it is an interruption, but showing bad body language will not help. If it is a constant interruption problem, then you need to deal with that issue and approach the person separately. Communication is better said out loud. People read different signals so don't leave it to chance.

Sometimes the position of your desk and computer can solve the problem. If it is an easy thing to do, have your desk moved, or move your computer, so your back is not to people when they come into your office space. It may be hard at first, especially if you are busy, but take the time to face the person and show them respect as a human being by acknowledging them and if you are busy just say, "I'm sorry, but I am extremely busy right now, can I get back to you later?"  Or suggest they send you an email and when you have a moment you will get back to them.

My boss is a very focussed person and he doesn't like it if I interrupt him, although many times I am waiting for an answer and can't move forward on a project unless I hear from him, but I have learnt when I see him focussed to back out of his office and either write it down to ask when he comes up for air or schedule a time with him when we can talk face to face. You should ask yourself before interrupting, "Is it really that important that I get an answer right this minute or is it just me wanting the answer right now?" You will be surprised how many things can really wait. Since you are the scheduler for your boss's calendar then setting yourself weekly meetings will be a real help to cut down on the interruptions.  Of course, my boss interrupts me constantly throughout the day, but then again he is my boss and I am there to assist him. I have also been an assistant for many years and have learnt that interruptions are just a matter of course in this profession. They are going to happen so you need to learn to expect them and plan for them in your day. 

If you have an office door, close it when you are in extreme focus mode. Or try a bit of humour if you are in an office cubicle and put a sign up such as, "Deadline to meet, enter at your own risk" and have a funny cartoon picture of some frazzled person with stacks of paper. You are getting the message across, but doing it in a humorous way.  Don't overuse it though or it will lose its effectiveness and if you greet the public, this would not be a good first impression to give.

I will not say I have mastered being the calm, professional and poised work colleague all the time, but I've certainly come a long way by recognizing that there is always room to improve.  After all, we are all a work in progress.

14 July 2012

The job of looking for a job

I have been involved in conducting a few interviews for admin jobs and here are two of the main things I have noticed about those who are unsuccessful: resumes are out of date and not relevant to the job applied for and the person was not prepared for the interview. When you go for an interview you have to keep in mind that they really do want to hire someone, but you have to make it worth their while to hire you. Look at being unemployed as a full-time job and what you are trying to do is sell yourself.

Here is what I recommend.

1) Do try the temp agencies. It is better to be working. When on a temp job, work as if you are on probation all the time. You never know who is observing you.

2) When you go on an interview and are not successful, ask for feedback. What could you have done better? What was it that they didn't think qualified you for the job? Many times I have interviewed people and wished they would ask because I wanted to tell them what they could do differently so they would be successful.

3) Find someone to mentor you. A friend, former colleague, former boss - someone who can look over your resume for you, practice the interview with you and give you pointers.

4) It matters what you wear, your hairstyle, how you present yourself, body odour, bad breath, too much perfume etc. etc. They will make their impression of you in the first few seconds. Make it count. This is another area your mentor can help you.

5) Do research about each company you are applying for. It is easier nowadays with the Internet, so take the time to find out about them.

6) If you can search them, be sure they will search for your name on the Internet as well. What does your online presence say about you? What are you saying in chat rooms, on FaceBook, Twitter etc.

7) Be prepared with a few questions when you go to the interview but also look for things to ask in the interview. Consider it a two-way conversation. Don't go in just to answer questions. You want to find out whether you want to work there as well. It's all in the attitude. Their questions can oftentimes be turned around into a question that you can ask.  Especially if you don't know the answer i.e. What are your career objectives?  Your question could be "What opportunities does your company have for growth?"  You may find they will start to try and win you over. 

8) Be aware of your body language. Are you relaxed, too relaxed, tight lipped, arms folded and legs crossed, say 'um' too much, hem and haw etc.  A mentor can help with this as well.

9) Be positive, pleasant, friendly, smile and shake hands and make eye contact when you first come into the room.

10) Be pleasant to the receptionist as well. They will likely ask his or her impression of you. Don't text or be on a cell phone while in the waiting room. You might inadvertently say something that will be overheard and work against you.

11) Choose some good references and make sure you contact them ahead of time to ask permission to use their name and to let them know they may be contacted.

12) Send a thank you card very soon after the interview. It may not help you be successful for this job, although I do find it makes you stand out, but there may be another job that they will immediately think of you for.

All the best to everyone who is looking.  Someone is looking for you as well, you just need to help them find you.

Patricia

8 July 2012

At Your Service

The admin role is a service-oriented position.  Basically we are there to serve management - whether that be one executive or multiple managers and staff members.  Managing our time can become more challenging when serving more than one person.  Not that the volume is greater, because as someone who serves the CEO of our organization, I know that is not the case, but because it is coming from multiple sources it can seem overwhelming.  This is where we have to be creative in managing our time and workloads and an admin team can be invaluable in helping you accomplish that.

In this time of government cutbacks each of us is responsible to show that our job adds value to the organization.  I find when we are part of a functioning admin team, then we can show that even more.  We are each responsible for managing our workloads and sometimes the work just becomes too much for one person and we throw our hands up and say we just can't do it!  And that is probably accurate, we can't on our own, but if you are part of a team of admins it is highly unlikely that each of you are at the same point at the same time.  While you are overly busy, another person may be trying to find work to do.  But you need a way of communicating that to each other so you are able to share the workload and help each other out.  This is where the admin team can help, with regular meetings to strategize about upcoming projects and how the work can be divvied up, to share concerns with your team mates and get support, whether it be encouragement, physical help or tips on how to do a job more efficiently.

The beauty of the admin position is that each of us probably do very similar things that can easily be passed from one to the other.  If we are part of an admin team then as work comes in we can accept it, whether we think we just can't take on one more thing or not, and then we farm the work out to our team members.  It still requires good management of our time, but the goal is to make the process look seamless and all the manager should know is that the job was done and on time.  They don't really need to know how it was accomplished.  This adds value to not only your position, but the admins as a whole. 

I find that typically when management are thinking of cutting back, the admin pool and middle management generally are where they look to make the cuts.  If we are seen as not performing by always saying no we can't do it (whether it is justified or not), then it becomes an easier choice for them to decide who needs to go.  My motto is to say yes when they hand you the work and then manage the workload by passing it on if you can't do it yourself.  Isn't that the point of a team - to help each other out and to make it look like a single effort?

If you do not have an admin team in your office, why not be the first to suggest it and make the case that it will be beneficial to all?  In our office we have even created an email distribution list for the admin team to make it easier to communicate with each other - and communication is the key, as well as a good team spirit amongst all the team members.  Even those who might not be a team player at first, when they see the benefits to themselves, come on board pretty quickly.

If you are a single admin in an office then managing your workload is still something you need to do well.  When multiple people ask you to do a job, you need to prioritize what needs to be done first and sometimes that requires you to ask the person who is giving you the job, especially when two competing managers have asked you to do something and need it at the same time.  It is OK to hold up your hands and explain both jobs that need to be done and ask which needs to be done first.

I think with the attitude that you are there to serve, you can never go wrong and you will be seen as a valuable asset to your organization.

12 June 2012

Retirement

I haven't been posting in awhile as I have been considering retiring the blog.  I will continue to write a few articles now and then, but have been spending more time on finalizing another book, giving webinars on minute taking and I would like to expand into other speaking opportunities where I feel my expertise can be used. 
I will leave my blog up and running as there are over 400 articles that I want available to anyone who needs them, so please search the blog and I am sure you will find something or email me at patriciaannrobb@gmail.com with any questions you might have and I will try and answer them.

22 April 2012

Staples.com National Admin Day Survey Finds Businesses Can Manage Without the Boss, but Not the Admin

I received an email referencing a survey conducted by Staples.  Please find below a copy/paste from a portion of that email.  The link to the full article with the survey results can be found here.

April 25 marks the 60th anniversary of National Administrative Professionals' Day, a holiday that recognizes the more than 13 million people working in administrative assistant and admin support roles in the U.S., according to the Department of Labor. For the holiday, Staples.com conducted a survey to discover people's perceptions of the office admin. The fun survey, conducted via Staples media channels, found admins to be more crucial to businesses than the boss, with nearly two-thirds reporting the office would more likely fall apart without the admin (65.2 percent) than without the boss (30.3 percent). Other findings:

• Respondents confess admins know their day better than a spouse (41.6 percent vs. 33.5 percent).

• More people are #TeamPam than #TeamJoan – Pam Halpert of The Office ranks as the most beloved office assistant (31.4%), followed by Mimi Bobeck of The Drew Carey Show (28.9%). Joan Holloway of Mad Men was a distant third (19.6%). Six times as many people prefer Pam over The Office's Erin Hannon.

• Admins report their roles encompass everything from the business-oriented (accountant, HR director) to therapist, even the miracle worker.

• Jury is out on whether National Admin Day is a day of gifting – most admins (62 percent) report they won't receive a present, while the majority of non-admins (67.8 percent) said they do plan to give a gift. Gift card ranks as the most popular gift option.

NEW:
Please also check out the side bar under Typing Tests as I've added a link to a site that has typing tests, typing games for children and typing tutorials in case you have an interest in using those tools.

15 April 2012

Establishing a partnership with your boss

As in every aspect of life, relationships are two-way. Both parties have a responsibility and work to do to make it work. In the admin/boss working relationship however you do have an edge since it is you who schedules your executive’s calendar. Schedule yourself in for one-on-one meetings with your boss on a regular basis. Each situation will be different, but either short daily meetings or longer meetings once a week will work.

Make your meetings count and come prepared with relevant questions you need answers to or with information your boss needs to know. Also use it as a time to get to know them a little bit better. It makes for a better working relationship when you have respect for each other and respect comes from knowing the other person and appreciating who they are as a person as well as for their position.

Give your boss a reason to have confidence in you. Write down any direction or information they give you when you are meeting with them and follow up on items they have requested previously. Let them know you are going to follow through and get the needed information to get the job done. Once they have that confidence you are off to a great start.

My boss knows that I will act on his requests and my goal will be that nothing is going to get missed. Of course we are human so mistakes will be made, but even in that we can own up to our mistakes and learn from them and move on. You will get a lot of respect from your boss when you do that. I used to joke with my former boss that when he did something good, it was a team effort, and I always referred to those times as we did this or that, but when he did something wrong it was his alone. Of course when you work with someone you take the good and the bad because you are a partnership.

11 March 2012

Decisions, Decisions...

As an admin it is sometimes hard to know when you should go ahead and make a decision and when you need to wait for your boss.  Recently, on an admin site, someone suggested setting out every scenario she could think of and ranking whether it needs the boss's approval or not.  Although I understand why she would want to do that, I thought an easier way would be to break it down as follows:

Will it impact your company?
If it is something that could embarrass your company or bind it financially in any way, this is definitely something your boss should be deciding, not the admin. 

Will it inconvenience your boss?
If it is something that will impact your boss directly then it should be done in collaboration with them such as making travel arrangements, booking meetings outside of business hours or during their lunch hour or booking them with someone they have never met or may not want to meet.  Things that will directly affect them should be done with their input.

Is it administrative and pertains to your duties?
This is something you can go ahead and make the decision.  We make decisions every day about booking rooms for meetings, scheduling our boss's calendar, taking messages, ordering supplies.  These are all things we do every day and we shouldn't be asking our boss each time something comes up. 

Is it really that simple?  Well, yes and no, but basically that does sum it up and is a good gauge to keep in the back of your mind.  As you develop a working relationship with your boss, you will get to know what things you can go ahead and do.  Some bosses want their assistants to do more than others and each circumstance will be different.  That is why regular meetings with your boss are a must have.  You will start to know what your boss's likes and dislikes are and when they expect you to go ahead and make the decision. 

Once you do find out what their preferences are, you should write them down so you don't have to ask again and again.  I have started a contact sheet in Outlook for my boss and it includes things like what seat he prefers when travelling, his Aeroplan number, whether he prefers a Queen or King-size bed, his passport number and any number of passwords he has that I need access to.  This means I won't be bugging him each time when I need the information.  Your boss will appreciate it.

I hope this brings a bit of clarity to this issue and helps with your day-to-day decision making.

26 February 2012

What Is Sexual Harassment?

As women working in an office with men, who are more than likely in authority, this is something we undoubtedly will come across at some time in our careers.  I think men probably experience it as well, but it is not reported as often.
I recall as a young woman working for a large mostly male organization in the late 70s, it was just an expected thing that you would get your bum pinched while walking by someone's desk or have sexual remarks made about you. At the time I just went with the flow and thought it was normal, although I found it uncomfortable. Nowadays this would not be acceptable behaviour. We have come a long way in the law, but also in our thinking on what good office behaviour is.
Further to my blog post on Workplace Harassment and Bullying, I was contacted by a lawyer from California who asked if they could post an article on sexual harassment.  I thought it would be interesting to hear from an expert so they could actually give us real examples and options, but I also wanted to hear from an American lawyer.  Canadian and American law can be very different as well as from state to state and province to province. 
Please read the article below sent by an employment law lawyer from California.

****** 
Sexual harassment is a serious charge with serious consequences. A victim of sexual harassment may suffer emotional and mental (and even physical) injuries, feelings of humiliation and helplessness, and have their reputation for honesty or good character unfairly maligned.
Administrative assistants, secretaries, paralegals and others with similar job descriptions are often at greatest risk for the type of demeaning conduct or behavior directed at them which could lead to a claim of sexual harassment. Everyone has dealt with obnoxious supervisors, bosses, colleagues and co-workers, but when a certain line is crossed tolerable offensive behavior becomes unacceptable harassment. And since administrative assistants tend to be women who work (for the most part) with men, the traditional power disparities between the sexes that exist in society tend to be magnified in the workplace.
But sexual harassment, which is generally defined as unwanted and unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature, is a touchy subject (no pun intended). Although some conduct may be so egregious that no reasonable person would think it was anything other than sexual harassment, the law does not clearly define what type of conduct or behavior is prohibited; what is merely offensive or distasteful to one person may be unacceptable and intolerable to another. In the end, it comes down to a question of how a reasonable person in the shoes of the person claiming sexual harassment would react in the same circumstances.
An article published in the online edition of the USA Today by an employment law expert looked at several sexual harassment cases and provides a helpful examination of this complicated area of the law.
“Covergirl”
In one case cited by the author, a female employee at a manufacturing plant filed a sexual harassment lawsuit after co-workers made lewd comments about her, called her vulgar names, and engaged in other offensive behavior after it became known that she had posed nude in a nationally-circulated motorcycle magazine. A court held in her favor, finding that although she may have invited such attention outside of work, she did not want or ask for that attention at work, she did not speak or act in a sexually provocative way at work, and she complained repeatedly to management about the behavior of her co-workers, and eventually quit when it did not stop.
“Postcards from the Edge”
In another case, a female employee at a machine shop used sexually explicit language at work, laughed at dirty jokes that were told by others at work, and displayed at her desk a sexually-themed postcard that was given to her by a co-worker. However, she sued for sexual harassment after co-workers continually passed around copies of adult men’s magazines at work, used sexually abusive language toward her and other female employees, posted sexually-themed cartoons in the workplace, and sent her sexually-themed postcards. After management failed to respond to her complaints, she quit. The jury in this case did not hold the employee’s own behavior against her since she, like many other women in male-dominated work environments, felt it necessary to tolerate a certain degree of coarse behavior, and even “play along” in some instances.
While these examples tend towards the extreme and have unique facts, they do show you how subjective sexual harassment is. It is not like speeding or drunk driving, where the relevant facts can be ascertained fairly easily through the use of technology and applied to the case at hand. Not so with sexual harassment – it is all in the “eye of the beholder”. Reasonable people could look at a set of facts and reach entirely different conclusions. No doubt everyone has felt uncomfortable at one time or another because of a comment, joke, conversation or interaction with someone at the office. But do those whispers, looks or remarks rise to the level of sexual harassment?
Only a judge or jury can answer that question for sure, but before it gets to that point, it would be a good idea to consult with a sexual harassment lawyer who can tell you what the law is and whether your facts can support a claim of harassment. An experienced sexual harassment lawyer can give you a fairly good idea of whether a jury will perceive your experience to be so outrageous that someone ought to pay for it.
Marcelo Dieguez is a practicing lawyer at Diefer Law Group and specializes in employment law and as a sexual harassment lawyer in Orange County and throughout California.
Please See: “What constitutes sexual harassment?” Jane Howard-Martin, USATODAY.com, December 18, 2002

16 February 2012

Minute Taking Q&A

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was giving a webinar on minute-taking yesterday.  There were a few questions that as I pondered last night, I wanted to give a more fulsome answer to today.  Since some of you are on my blog, I thought this would be a good way to answer those questions.

Do you need to record in the minutes when someone abstains from a vote?
This is a good question, but doesn't have a simple answer.  It all depends on what type of meeting you are recording at and what rules they follow.  The meeting recorder should have a good grasp of the rules of order that their meeting follows as that will help to answer questions like this.  But rest assured it is always OK to go back and find the answer.  I keep the rule book with me in the meeting and have tabbed it to some things that I want to be able to find quickly.  Here are some frequently asked questions about voting at a meeting.

For the most part, it is the result of the vote that counts, not who voted yes, no or abstained.  If your meeting rules say that they need 50% +1 to pass a vote and there are 10 people in the meeting with voting rights, then you would need 6 people to pass the motion.  If six vote yes, three abstain and there is one no vote, it is still passed and that is all that would need to be recorded.  Read further in the Roberts Rules answers above for more information as there are exceptions. 

At one of our meetings, a board member voted no to a motion and asked to have his nay vote recorded in the minutes.  He wanted it to be known that he was against it.  I recorded that the motion was carried (or passed), but noted that this member had voted no.

The same rules do not apply to every meeting.  For example, in Roberts Rules the Chair and ex-officio members have a vote, but in our meeting governance manual it states the Chair can only vote to break a tie and ex-officio members do not have a vote.  Again, it all depends on what rules your meeting follows and that is what you need to go by.

Legal requirements have to be kept in mind as well.  Your governance manual should be reviewed by a lawyer to make sure your rules and by-laws are within the law for your particular province or state.

Do you record a question and answer in the minutes and assign it to the people involved?
Minutes should not be a he said/she said recording.  If a question is asked and answered in the meeting you need to determine if it is even necessary to put it in the minutes.  It may not need to be recorded if it is not relevant to the outcome of the discussion.  If it is relevant to the discussion, then the parties should not be singled out in the minutes by recording their names, but rather I would suggest the following as an example:

In this scenario, when they were at the first agenda item to approve it, someone asked if Business Arising could be added to the agenda and went on to say why they thought it was important.  Another person in the meeting said they were part of another meeting and found it very helpful to have a Business Arising item.  The group agreed to add it.  I would therefore record it as follows:

1.  Approval of Agenda
The agenda was accepted as presented.
There was discussion on the format of the agenda. Business Arising is to be added to the agenda as a standing item and will be dealt with after the Aproval of the Minutes.

Action:
To add Business Arising as a standing item on the agenda.
(Patricia)

All you really want to record in the minutes is the outcome.  Sometimes when there is a presentation at the meeting or a report is given and there are questions and answers afterwards, I will simply state in the minutes: Discussion and questions ensued following the presentation or There was discussion and questions following the presentation.  If there is an outcome, I will write: Discusion and questions ensued following the report from the Director of Finance.  Directors are to follow up with their teams and report back on any budget implications.

He said/She said Etiquette
As I mentioned above, minutes are not a he said/she said recording, but at times what the Chair says should be recorded.  For example, in a senior leadership team the Chair wanted the meeting participants to make sure when they submit briefing notes for their individual agenda items that they include recommendations and advise whether it is for information or approval.  I would record this as follows:

1.  ABC Company Matter
The Director of Human Resources reported on the proposed merger with ABC Company and the implications to the current staff.  Discussion ensued.  An email is to be drafted to provide staff with information on the merger.

ACTION:
To draft an email to staff regarding the merger with ABC Company.
(Director of Finance)

The Chair reminded the team that when a briefing note is presented at the meeting, it should have clear recommendations and identify whether it is for information or approval.

I hope this is helpful and answers your questions.

4 February 2012

Minute Taking

The first time my boss asked me to take minutes I gulped and the fear took over.  I'm sure many of you can relate and know exactly what I mean.  As I was walking to the boardroom I chattered nervously to him that I hadn't taken minutes since high school.  It ended up being a ploy to get me to the boardroom for a baby shower - Surprise!!! Whew, I had dodged a bullet, but I knew this, I never wanted to take a job that required minute taking.  But fast forward a bit and now I really enjoy taking minutes. So what changed?

Well... I wanted to progress in my career and knew if I was going to do that I would have to learn to take minutes.  There are not many Executive Assistant jobs that don't require minute taking.  In our office all the administrative assistants also have to take minutes. 

I'm the type of person that when I want to do something I learn everything there is about it.  I bugged everyone I knew that had ever taken minutes and gained confidence by talking to them.  I wanted to know what was required of the minute taker, what were the best practices and I needed someone to break it down for me.  I was blogging at the time so interviewed a friend and skilled minute taker for an article I was writing.  Once she explained the basics to me, my reaction was, "Is that all? I could do that."  I have since learned it is a little bit more than I initially thought, but knowing the basics definitely helped and was the start of getting over the fear so I could then start to learn.

I have two upcoming webinars if you would like to join me.  I want to help others get over the fear as well and the way to do that is through education. Having confidence and knowledge is half the battle.

I have changed the format somewhat to concentrate more on the actual minute-taking process, but there is more to minute taking than just taking the minutes.  The more prepared you are the more confident you will be and the minute taking process will be secondary, but you do need to know how to take them as well so I hope to give you some good tips on that.

I look forward to passing on what people have shared with me, what I have learned through my own experiences and from the benefit of having a boss who mentors me through the bumps of learning how to take minutes well. 

I have two upcoming webinars.  One on February 7 and the other on February 15.   I hope you will join me.

31 January 2012

More Ctrl key shortcuts

I use the Ctrl keys so frequently that I almost forgot a few good ones.  To open a new blank document in Word, press Ctrl n.  To open a document, press Ctrl o.  Ctrl F4 will close the document, Alt F4 will close the document and the program.  If you haven't saved the document, it will prompt you to Save, Don't Save or Cancel.  Or you can press Ctrl s before you close it.

Many of these Ctrl key functions will work in other Microsoft programs, but not always.  The regular formatting ones such as Ctrl b, Ctrl i, Ctrl s and Ctrl u etc. do work, but some of the others do not work in Outlook, Excel or PowerPoint.

The one we are probably most familiar with is of course Ctrl Alt Delete.  I think we all know what that one is for.

29 January 2012

Ctrl keys are a real timesaver

Someone at work was trying to paste something by right clicking and using the paste option.  There were three options to choose from with a symbol for a paint brush, an arrow and the letter 'A'.  She tried one and it wasn't the paste she wanted so she said in frustration, "I never know which one to choose."  Each of the paste options do have a purpose, but for what we were trying to do I told her to just press Ctrl v and that would do it.  I have been using Ctrl keys for years and they are so simple and easy to use.

For those not familiar with the Ctrl key, it is located in the lower left-hand corner of the keyboard. To use it you need to press the Ctrl key and while holding it down press the letter for whatever you wish to do.  For example, these are very user friendly because the letter relates to what you want to do:

Ctrl s for Save
Ctrl p for Print
Ctrl for Find
Ctrl c for Copy
Ctrl i for Italicize
Ctrl b for Bold
Ctrl u for Underline
Ctrl a to highlight all of the document

For the others that are not so intuitive, as you use them they become familiar such as Ctrl v for paste and Ctrl x for cut.

Ctrl Shift End will highlight to the end of the document and Ctrl Shift Home will highlight to the beginning of the document.  Shift End will highlight from where you have your cursor to the end of the sentence and Shift Home will highlight to the beginning of the sentence. 

If you highlight a word or title and press Shift F3 you can toggle between upper case, lower case and initial caps by continuing to hold down Shift and press F3.

If you want to change the spacing for a para or the whole document, highlight what you want (or press Ctrl a to highlight the whole document) and press Ctrl 1 for single space, Ctrl 2 for double space and Ctrl 5 for space and a half.

When you get to the end of a sentence and two words are breaking that you would prefer stay together such as Mrs. Smith.  Instead of putting a space after Mrs., press Ctrl Shift Space and you will keep Mrs. Smith together on the same line.

Ctrl End will bring you to the bottom of the document and Ctrl Home will bring you to the top.

There are many, many more, but these are the ones I use the most and are very user friendly and timesavers.  Take the time to get used to them and I guarantee you will not look back.

22 January 2012

Injuries at the desk

As many of you know, I have been in administrative work for over thirty years.  As much as I've enjoyed it, a lot of injuries come with our line of work.  Recently, I was being assessed by a personal trainer at my gym and was complaining about my weak arms and she immediately asked what profession I was in.  As soon as I told her what I did for a living she gave a knowing nod.  She then listed a number of things that office workers suffered from because of our long hours sitting at the computer.  I had experienced most of them.  I am hoping she will be able to help me get some strength back, but in the meantime someone sent me this article that I thought was important to share to avoid some of these problems.

18 Important Ergonomics Tips for Online Students &Workers. http://www.onlinecollegecourses.com/2012/01/18/18-important-ergonomics-tips-for-online-students-workers/

If you are a younger worker, please take note of the tips as it will certainly help you further down the road.  If you've been at it for awhile, there is still hope so it doesn't get worse.  I definitely agree with all of the tips, but particularly #9.  I always try to have everything at my fingertips and avoid too much reaching.  This makes sense not only ergonomically, but if you have everything at hand you will be able to find things more easily, which causes less stress.  And yes I know sometimes we just don't have the time to look after ourselves, but it's worth it to take 30 or 40 minutes to set yourself up to succeed.  It will pay off in the long run.

5 January 2012

Does it really matter if I get along with my boss?

We spend most of our time at work so it stands to reason that the relationships we have at work are very important and worth spending time making them better.  As an admin we work very closely with our bosses, but also with other admins.  I'm sure everyone has experienced a day when they feel that their boss just doesn't understand them or another assistant is being nasty, but can our reaction make a difference? 

The only person we really have any say over is ourselves.  We can choose to be bitter and angry towards our co-workers or we can choose to get along.  But they deserve it you might say and you could very well be right, but getting back at them doesn't make our work life any better and in fact makes it worse because then we are angry too. 

For my New Years resolution I have decided to look at the positive and concentrate on that, rather than the negative.  As parents we are told to encourage our children and try to find something they are doing right and praise them for it.  The same thing can apply at work.  I think our behaviour can influence those around us.  Have you ever noticed when someone is in a bad mood they seem to pass that bad feeling around to everyone they meet?  I think good feelings can be passed along too.

There is an advertisement on TV and a doctor reports on the benefits of being happy.  Being happy he tells us can prolong our life.  Whether it actually prolongs our life, I am not sure, but it sure makes it a heck of a lot more pleasant to be in.

So try it at work today!  Pass on a little positive energy to your co-workers.  I think in the long run everyone will benefit, including you.