21 November 2009

The Little Engine That Could...

Have you ever heard of negative and positive self talk? I just recently read an article on it and was surprised when I really paid attention to the messages I was sending myself that some of them were negative.

I know so many people who are great at what they do, but when I hear them talk about themselves they are very negative and keep telling me how they can't do it. When I look at them however, I see someone who really knows their job and I know they could do it if only they would forget about what they can’t do and concentrate on what they can do. I know that is easier said than done because low self esteem may be the roadblock. I found this link to the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale which has some questions we can ask ourselves to see where we are on the self esteem scale.

I wrote an article awhile back called Just Say Yes and in it I wrote that when I was in my 40s I decided to say Yes to things that I really wanted to do, but was letting fear stop me from trying. When someone asked me to speak or do something at work, I would say "Oh, I could never do that!" But when I turned 40 I told myself that I would regret not doing it if I didn't try and what was the worst thing that could happen anyway? So I started to say Yes and it was a real confidence booster. I started telling myself more positive messages and it empowered me to try. It also helps that I have had three really great bosses in the last decade who have encouraged me and helped me to see that I really could do it. They could see something in me, that I couldn't.

The next time a new challenge or opportunity comes up at work, pay attention to what you tell yourself -- are you being positive or negative? The little messages we send ourselves each day can have an impact on what we think about ourselves and how we perform in our jobs. If you keep telling yourself you can't do it, then of course you won't be able to, but if you say I don't know if I can, but I am going to try anyway, or I know I can do that because it was what I was trained for and then go ahead and do it, it will open all kinds of doors for you. (Or it also may be that you have negative people around you who do not help you to see the best that you can be, perhaps you need to have a heart to heart with your friends or find new ones).

Don’t let self doubt take over. Once you start doubting yourself, it is hard to bring yourself back up. Think about your strengths, not your weaknesses. I think everyone feels insecure at one time or another, but I find you can't let insecurity get the best of you. This is the time you need a lot of positive self talk. Ask your network of assistants for their opinion and feedback and then believe them!

I recently was at a friend’s place and her husband has an elaborate train set. He has the village all set up with the tracks running in and around it.  As I was looking at them, I was reminded of the story about the little engine that could. What a great story of encouragement to keep trying and not give up. Let’s take a lesson from that little engine...”I think I can, I think I can.” Now that’s positive self talk...

8 November 2009

Preparing your boss for meetings away from the office or at home

I had a good tip from my boss that I have used to help me prepare him for meetings whether they are away  or at home. He advised that I ask myself the following question for any meeting he is asked to attend:

What would I need if I was going to the meeting?

From that initial question, I have developed questions I ask myself before I schedule meetings for my boss that I thought I would pass on in case it would be useful to some of my readers:

1. What is the purpose of the meeting?

2. Does your boss need to be at the meeting? Can someone go in his or her place if they are not available?

3. What dates and times does he or she have available (keeping in mind time zones for away meetings)?

4. If the meeting is accepted -- What does your boss need for the meeting and who will be in attendance?

  • Secure the date and time in his or her calendar, taking into consideration travel time if outside the office.
  • State the purpose of the meeting in the calendar appointment as well as who will be at the meeting (i.e. Meeting with Mr. Brown and Ms. Smith to discuss strategies for upcoming marketing conference).
  • Follow up with the meeting organizer to request agenda and/or meeting materials, pre-reading, etc.
  • Where is the meeting being held?
  • If it is an internal meeting, has a meeting space been booked? Do you need to book it or were you provided with location. Enter it in calendar.
  • If it is an external meeting, but local, enter location of meeting in calendar, provide your boss with address and directions, contact phone number, taxi chit.
  • If outside the city, make travel arrangements: are flights required, train or will he or she be driving.  If flying, which is the best airport to fly into, is a hotel room required, is a map required for directions once they get there.  Provide a contact number.
  • Ensure that prior to the meeting you have received everything your boss will need, which may require follow up with meeting organizer.
  • Prepare a meeting package for your boss and bring forward prior to the meeting to give them adequate time to review (hardcopy or electronic depending on your boss’s preference).
If your boss calls the meeting...
If your boss has called the meeting then you need to find out when the meeting needs to be held by, who needs to be there, purpose of the meeting and what materials they will need. Once you have those details you can start the scheduling process to find a convenient time for everyone.

When the meeting date is secured, provide participants with location and time, purpose of meeting and ensure space is booked.

Depending on how formal the meeting is, you may need to draft an agenda for your boss’s review and forward to meeting participants in advance of the meeting.

7 November 2009

Too much information...

Some people like to talk. When they write an e-mail they do the same thing and instead of getting to the point they explain and explain and explain. Ugh! I feel I have to dig to find what is required of me. Too many times I have received one of these long e-mails only to miss the real purpose of the e-mail. One time my action item was hidden in a P.S. AFTER THE SIGNATURE LINE!

We can't control the e-mails we receive and sometimes they do require some digging on our part, but below are some things I try to do when communicating by e-mail to make it easier for the recipient:
  1. Consider your audienceE-mail is not meant for long conversation. It is a quick way to communicate and has changed the way we do business because of it's speed in getting a message across, but we are busy so don't abuse your co-workers' or business associates' time with lengthy e-mails. Also consider whether you really need to send the e-mail to the CEO or the President. Sending it to their assistant might be more appropriate. Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should.
  2. SalutationIt is easy to misunderstand the tone and intent of an e-mail message, so best to open with a friendly hello or hi. Without a salutation it can come across as a directive. I have received e-mails from people in Europe and they tend to be more formal and address me as "DearPatricia." I like it, but in North America I think that would be considered overly formal, so consider who you are sending to and where they are from.
  3. What is this about?A quick explanation will get you off to a good start. Something as simple as "Further to our conversation this morning," will let the reader know you are continuing the conversation and will allow them to recall your conversation and continue without much explanation.
  4. What do you want?Next, state the purpose of your e-mail. What are you e-mailing them about? Do you have a question or do you want to pass information along to the person. For example, "Further to our conversation this morning, attached is a template letter that should meet your needs."
  5. Does it require any further information or explanation?I love to write, as you have probably noticed in some of my blog articles, so I try to keep that in mind and keep my e-mails short, but sometimes you need a little more information. I may want to give a brief explanation after I have stated the purpose of my e-mail.
  6. Point being...If you have a few ideas or requests in your e-mail, it is best to set it out in point form so the person does not have to dig for it. For example, "Please send me the following information:
    - A photocopy of Ms. Robb's driver's license;
    - A completed application form; and
    - a cheque or money order in the amount of $10 made out to the Ministry of Heath."
  7. The End
    Depending on the purpose of the e-mail, I might end with, "I look forward to your reply" or a simple "Thank you." If I know the person, I usually type my name before the signature line, just to make it more personal.
That's all folks!