30 December 2011

Some bosses just don't know how to work with an admin

Have you ever worked for someone and they under-utilized you or just didn't seem to know how to work with an assistant?  I once worked for a young boss and you could tell he wasn't quite sure what he could give me or what I was capable of doing.  I had enough experience that I just started doing some of the things and when he saw I was ready, willing and able to do it, he gladly passed it on to me.  For other things I spoke to him about it and asked if it was something I could do.  He was very appreciative of the effort. 

Another young woman I worked for seemed to be intimidated by me at first because I was the age of her mother, but over time we started to have a great working relationship.  I would often tell her to quit apologizing every time she gave me work to do as she was my boss and I was there to assist her.

IAAP has an article on their website about how to work more effectively with an administrative assistant that I suggest would be a good start for a conversation with your boss.

26 December 2011

Workplace Harassment and Bullying

I am not a lawyer and this is not considered legal advice in any way, but we recently had a lawyer come to speak to us about workplace harassment and bullying and it really cleared up a few things for me. As a supervisor I was especially interested because I don't want to cross the line, but because I am a supervisor I do have times where I need to speak to staff about various matters. But even if you aren't a supervisor there are things we can say that might be offensive and hurtful to others. 

I was happy to learn that workplace harassment and bullying is based on how a reasonable person would have reacted given the entirety of the circumstances. Therefore if you are an overly sensitive person and found something to be harassing or bullying, it might not be considered so. For instance if I walk down the hall and fail to greet my co-workers, that might be rude, but not fall under workplace harassment and bullying. Also, having to speak to an employee to correct their behaviour or to try to encourage them in their performance (such as performance management, discipline, directives and enforcement of rules and policies), even though the employee may not like them is considered a normal function of a supervisor and not harassment or bullying. 

I was suprised to learn that any person can commit harassment whether they are an employee, co-worker, contractor, supervisor or part of management and that the workplace includes meetings off site, social events and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I am always surprised when I see co-workers writing on Facebook pages about a boss they don't particularly like or that they are so bored at work.  Don't they think their employer or other employees who they might be friends with can see this? 

Here are some examples he gave us of what may constitute harassment: physical acts or gestures, taunting or bullying, verbal abuse or racial comments/references, derogatory comments or jokes, sexual material (even material sent by email) or inappropriate behaviour used to control or influence.  Less obvious examples were things like belittling or intimidating behaviour, creating a hostile work enviroment, disrespectful or discourteous behaviour or overly aggressive or assertive behaviour.

I would suggest if your office hasn't addressed this subject yet, having someone come in to explain this very important aspect of working together would be a good thing so everyone is aware of what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviour in the office.

Here some links with more information:
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: Bullying in the Workplace
Ontario Government website on preventing workplace harassment and bullying
Canadian Human Rights Commission information on anti-harassment policies for the workplace
Legal aspects for United States

10 December 2011

The water cooler is leaking...

Office talk, or water cooler conversations, can be just that: what did you do on the weekend, what activities are your children participating in, what great new restaurant have you tried, etc. etc., but what about when the conversation turns to gossip?  Gossip can be vicious and in some cases even lead to disciplinary action or getting fired if you are the one doing it.  Depending on the severity of it, it can be seen as a form of workplace bullying and harassment and  is a very serious matter.  To be the victim of gossip can affect how your co-workers interact with you and if you know the gossip is going on about you, it can affect how you interact with others.  It is embarrassing, humiliating and just darn wrong!

Have you ever been the brunt of office gossip?  Have you ever participated in it?   

The problem with gossip from the perspective of the person who is being talked about is you probably have a good sense that it is going on, but you don't know the specifics so you react and try to counter what you think people are saying.  Because you don't have all the details, your reactions might further fuel the gossip and on and on it goes.  For instance, if I think that someone is bad mouthing me, I know they are only telling one side of the story so I might want to give my side of the story and in essence have now continued the gossip.  It has the effect of each party trying to win the other person over to their side.

I have had personal experience where I have been the brunt of the gossip.  It is hurtful because you don't have a chance to defend yourself and what the person says is left to stand as is and only has their spin on it.  Unless the people who hear the gossip take the time to get to know you and find out for themselves what you are like, their thoughts about you will be tarnished by what they have heard. 

I find that most times it is a lack of communication on every side.  The person gossiping should really be speaking to the person they are targetting and work out any issues directly with them. The person being gossiped about has a harder time because they don't really know what is being said and/or who is saying it, but they usually have a good idea.  I recommend to that person to be better than the gossip and don't perpetuate it.

What if it is affecting your job and your supervisor is reacting to the gossip and their perception about your performance is suffering because of it?

Supervisors have a greater responsibility and should not participate in gossip at any level.  They should speak to their employees if they have issues and work it out with them.  If someone gossips to them, they should challenge the person to do something about the issue they are complaining about and offer to facilitate between the parties if that would be helpful.  Nine times out of ten the gossiper will not want that because they are only... well...gossiping.  By challenging them you let them know you will not be part of the gossip.  If the gossip is more than just gossip and there is some truth behind it, then by challenging them you may get to the bottom of it and find there is something that needs to be addressed and then you can be seen to be part of the solution.  It is always better if people talk things out and work together.  The longer the gossip is left to go unchallenged the worse the situation will be for everyone and the harder to get down to the truth.

We spend so much time at work that it is worth the effort to cultivate our work relationships in a positive way.  There is no room at the office for negative talk about anyone.  If there is a performance issue with someone, then that needs to be addressed with the person and not with others.

How gossip is handled in your office starts and can end with you.  What are you going to do the next time someone comes to you with some juicy bit of information about someone?  I know I am going to try harder to be professional about it, even if and when I feel I am the victim.  My reaction will usually clear up any doubts about me as a person and employee.

3 December 2011

Working with your boss

I work with a boss who is very self sufficient (in other words he could live without me, but chooses not to) and a friend of mine works with someone who wouldn't know what to do without her help.  Which would you prefer?

My job is unique in that I do my own work apart from my boss.  He does his thing and I do mine.  My work is generated by what he does, but I pretty well carry on with my duties on my own.  I do provide other support to him, but he doesn't really need it, but likes it.  The problem is when we are both working on the same thing and I think I am the one doing it, but in the meantime he has done it, i.e. we both contact the same person and he says he is available and I say he is not.  Of course when I check his calendar he really isn't.  Too many cooks in the kitchen is not a good thing.

My friend's boss needs assistance in every little thing.  I prefer having a job that gives me a little more independence and being able to work on my own on projects, but it all depends what you signed up for. That is why when I go on an interview, I interview them as well.  I want to make sure this is a good fit for me.  It is all personal preference and strengths.  It is just not my thing to provide that level of support, but there is nothing wrong with a boss needing it or with you providing it.

I also like that my boss is not a micro manager.  I feel confident I know what my job is and I just go about doing it and respecting the deadlines to get it done.  He would not like it if I missed a deadline as then it would affect him, but he trusts that I know what I'm doing.  Although I do like this kind of working relationship, it makes it harder when you first start a job with a boss like mine because they just expect you to step in and start doing it.  I was not used to that at first so was waiting for him to tell me what needed to be done, but quickly discovered that it was going to be up to me so took on the challenge and found I enjoyed it even more than being told what to do.

I worked with another admin who didn't seem to know how to proceed without having her boss tell her step by step what needed to be done next.  It all depends on your maturity, your confidence in your skills and what your previous work experience was.  I expect that an inexperienced admin will need more guidance and I enjoy working with them as they learn, but my goal is always that they will work towards knowing their job and taking it on as their own.  We will always need some sort of guidance in our job since we are the support staff, but some jobs we can take on ourselves.  For instance, if you are in charge of ordering supplies, I would think that over time you should be able to take that job on and set up a schedule of when to order, have an orderly supply cabinet so people can find things and work with the vendor to get familiar with how to order (whether online, by phone or on paper) and finding deals and best prices, etc.

If you work with a micro manager then you have another challenge, but for your own personal growth I would suggest that you try to take on as many jobs as you can.  Show your boss that you can do it by being one step ahead of them.  When you know the order is due, approach them and ask if you can go ahead and make the order.  They will start to relax and rely on you that you know what you are doing.  Be smart about it though and make sure you really know what you need to do before taking it on. I have worked with people who tried to show initiative, but they weren't quite ready to take it on by themselves and that didn't work out very well.

So what can you do?
  • Be willing to learn and work hard at knowing your job, especially at the beginning.  There is a lot to learn when you first start a job.  Put in the extra time to learn it.  It will be noticed and will pay off in the end.
  • Write down instructions so you will know how to do it the next time and won't have to ask the same questions over and over.
  • Show your boss that you know what needs to be done next without them telling you.  If you have been on the job for awhile and your boss is still not giving you things to do on your own, take a chance and do something you are confident you know how to do and see what happens.  You may be surprised that they were just waiting for you to do it on your own.  Or they may be suprised to see you can do it without them and will be happy they can give you the job instead of them doing it.
I recall working for a lawyer who would dictate letters for me to transcribe. Over time I knew exactly what needed to be in those letters, but day in and day out he would dictate them to me. One day when I received a certain correspondence, I took the chance of drafting the letter and preparing it for his signature. He was pleasantly surprised and from then on let me do it. It gave me greater job satisfaction and relieved him of this task.

Working with someone is the same as every other relationship.  We are getting to know each other and as you get to know the other person you start to learn their preferences, what makes them cranky and what makes them happy.  They are also learning the same things about you.  It is easy to have misunderstandings and assume things if you don't take the time to get to know your boss.

21 November 2011

Should I stay or should I go?

You know it's time to move on from your present job when you see these things happening:

Lack of interest
The challenge has gone out of the job and things are becoming routine and mundane.

Lack of trust
You notice that you are not getting the same respect as before and things you do are being questioned more often.

Lack of fun
When the fun is gone then it becomes work and that is no fun at all.

Over the years you start to see what things about your job spark the most interest.  For instance I really like organizing things and have a little jump to my step whenever I start the planning process for an event.  I also enjoy training and passing on information.  I am in the process of developing testing for admin interviews and I really enjoyed doing that.  I also like creating job manuals.  To me it is fun to put the pieces together and come up with a manual that will be helpful to any new person starting the job (I think that goes along with my enjoyment of training).  I enjoy taking minutes and all that goes with it (I guess that is why I love giving the minute-taking webinars).  But there are also aspects of my job that I don't like as much and that will be normal for any job.  If you have a 60/40 split you are doing well.  I would say in my current job it is probably an 80/20 so that is pretty good.

It is always good to do an evaluation of your job and you may come away from the exercise deciding to put your resume out and look for something else or you may come away encouraged in your present job.

I have worked with a few people who applied for jobs and then when they were offered it, passed on the opportunity.  I think they didn't do their homework about whether they really wanted to move on or not.  If you honestly evaluate your current position and find it wanting, then you can go ahead and start looking with a clear objective of securing another job, but if you start applying before you do that you may just end up going through the exercise and not accomplishing anything (although there is something to be said about going on interviews just for the practice and keeping up to date on current interview techniques etc.).

Other things you need to evaluate as well is the salary, career advancement, company benefits, etc., but an evaluation on the enjoyment part of your job is a good basis for either staying or going.

12 November 2011

What to expect when you start a new job

Reading, Reading and more Reading
Expect to do a lot of reading the first week you are on the job. You will be given information about the organization, what benefits they have and forms that you need to fill out.  Read and learn as much as possible.  This may require you to do the reading on your own time or during break or your lunch hour. 

Meeting new people
You will also be introduced to a lot of new people and told what they do.  You will most likely be given the staff phone list and an organization chart.  If not, ask for it.  You should keep these readily available to remind yourself who does what as you will need to refer to that often.

New hire information
When you first start a job, you will be given lots of information that you need to know about your new job.  You should have a time of training with someone who can give you an overview of what you need to do and be available for any questions.  Depending on the responsibilities required there may be an overlap with the person who was previously in the job.  This is nice, but not always practical as they most likely gave their two weeks' notice ending on the Friday and you start on the Monday.  If you do have the opportunity to meet with the person already in the job, take advantage of it and make sure you take notes and ask as many questions as you can.  Sometimes the person is still in the organization and has just moved on to another position.  Keep in mind this person will need to get up to speed on their own responsibilities, but should also be available to give you some guidance.  Again, take notes and make the best use of the time you have with them.

Job Manual
When I start a new job I always start a job manual and write down as I go along what my new responsibilities are and any pertinent information I need.  You want to avoid asking the same questions over and over.  Best to write the answers down for future reference.

If you take a job and they already have a job manual for the position that is a bonus.  This manual should be read cover to cover and marked up with any questions you have.  Consider this your job bible.

I always appreciate questions from new hires as it gives me a good idea of their understanding of what they need to do and where they might need more direction.  I like to see them writing things down and when a similar situation comes up they look to their notes for the answers.  The goal is to get as self sufficient as soon as possible because this is now your job, but it is always expected there will be questions.  If you don't have a copy of the job description, ask for it and go through it with any questions you might have about the position.

I also recommend that some questions should not be asked of your boss, but perhaps another admin assistant would be a better person to ask.  You don't want to give your boss the impression you don't know what you are doing.  There is a certain expectation that if you take an admin job you have the basics such as typing, meeting organization and a knowledge about certain software programs.

The probation period is a good time for both parties to get to know each other, to learn about the job responsibilities and to determine if they are a good fit for the organization.  Sometimes this is a stressful period for a new employee as they want to do well, but keep in mind the employer is expecting a time of learning so use this time to learn as much as you can about the job.  You should be prepared to work extra hard to get up to speed in the first month.

I always recommend to people who take temporary assignments to consider themselves on probation as well as you never know if it might turn into a full-time job.

Prepare for it
When I first started my new job I didn't have a lot of the background I knew I was going to need, but I felt I was up for the challenge.  I had two weeks to get myself as much up to speed as possible before starting the job.  I took a course I knew I would need and met with a few of my friends who had experience in some areas I felt I was lacking.  When I started my first day on the job I was as much prepared as I could be before actually arriving at the office.  There was going to be a lot of new things that I would need to learn, but at least I had done my homework.

15 October 2011

Surviving busyness...

I have been super busy at work.  On top of managing the work lives of two very busy executives, I've also been planning a large dinner, board meeting and another event along with my other regular jobs.  Here is how I've been surviving:

Keep Organized
If it wasn't for the fact that I am organized, I don't know what I would have done.  At least I have my systems and know where everything is and that is half the battle.  You need to be able to grab what you need quickly.  You wouldn't believe how much time is wasted just looking for things.

Ask for help
Thankfully we have a great admin team who are always willing to help out in a crunch and I have been taking advantage of that.  There is always a small job here or there that if given away will relieve your workload and will definitely relieve your mind.  You know how it is when you know you have to do something, but just don't have the time to do it -- it weighs on your mind.  So for that reason alone it is worth giving those little jobs away, just to get them off your plate.  Return the favour though, a good team helps each other out.

Forget about being a perfectionist!
Definitely do a good job, don't skimp on proofreading and double checking, but determine what is a need to have and what is a nice to have.  If you are a perfectionist, your not so perfect is probably well above standard. 

Keep your sense of humour in tact
Nothing relieves stress better than a good laugh and having a sense of humour - even when you are crazy busy.  My boss is very funny and keeps me laughing most of the time.

Take time off
I am looking forward to a week off at the end of the  month with my daughter and small grandsons.  Just the thought of some light at the end of the tunnel is a good motivator.  Everyone needs to make the time to go away and rejuvenate and take care of ourselves.  The work will always be there when we get back.  Make sure you pass along anything that needs to be handled in your absence, put your out-of-office assistant on, change your voicemail message and go and enjoy life.  It's necessary!

I feel better already.

9 October 2011

How to handle mistakes?

I'm not even going to ask if you have ever made a mistake, because I already know the answer.  Everyone makes mistakes, but how you handle it makes all the difference.

Acknowledge it
Whether it is a big mistake or a small one, you probably should admit it to your boss.  I say "probably" because sometimes, depending on the mistake, you can "fix" it and nobody really needs to know about it and it wouldn't be good to tell your boss about every little thing you did wrong.  For instance if you are organizing a meeting and send the meeting request to the wrong person, you can easily fix it by apologizing to whoever you invited by mistake, cancel that invitation and then invite the correct person.  Other times you really do need to tell your boss because it might have repercussions and it is best to admit it up front.  You can determine whether you need to tell your boss or not, but you absolutely should admit it to yourself.

Learn from it
Once you have admitted the error you need to learn from it and do whatever you can not to do it again.  I think sending emails to the wrong person is an easy mistake to make because it is so easy and quick to press Send, but not so easy to take it back (and the Recall function really does not work on emails to external people and is only hit and miss on internal emails).  Depending on how often you make the mistake and how serious the consequences could be, will determine what kind of measures you need to take. 

One way you can avoid sending an email to the wrong person is to turn off the automatic email memory function, then you will have to enter each person's email address each time and that will make it more difficult to make that mistake. You can also ask a colleague for suggestions on how they avoid particular errors, for instance removing the word "pubic" from your dictionary will ensure if you type it instead of "public", SpellCheck will pick it up.

An apology will usually solve the problem as most people understand that mistakes are made and recognize that an apology takes a lot of courage and professionalism and they usually respect that, but if you are an HR assistant and sent the job offer to the wrong candidate, then more damage control will need to be taken, your boss will need to be told and the consequences could be more serious.

Recently I sent about 80 invitations to a dinner by email and then had to send 25 more to another group of people requesting a meeting.  After putting the message for the invite in 80 times, by the time I got to the next set of emails, well, I put the same message in the email regarding the dinner so it did not match the letter I attached.  My damage control was to re-send the message with REVISED in the subject line and then follow up by calling the 25 offices and speaking to the EA to explain the situation.  It was easily rectified as they all had access to their bosses email acount and they all most definitely understood.  You can be sure if they make a similar mistake and call me, I will do the same for them and have in the past.  In this case, after I had done my damage control I mentioned my error to my boss, but along with the remedy so he saw that I recognized what I had done and took the appropriate action to fix it.

I remember once an assistant from a law firm sent a fax to my boss by mistake and it had the legal advice they were giving their client, which my boss wasn't supposed to see, so she immediately called and asked me to trash it and that she would send the correct fax.  I waited to get the correct fax and when I saw it was a simple error of putting the wrong fax number in, I had no problem ripping up the other fax she had sent.  Many times I dealt with this same person and we were always helpful to each other and she would bend over backwards if my boss needed to meet with hers to accommodate the request.  How we handled it turned it into a positive working relationship.

Move on
If you have handled it to the best of your ability, righted the wrong and told the people you needed to tell, then you need to move on.  I have seen people who kept kicking themselves over a mistake, but failed to learn from it and all that did was affect their self esteem and confidence in doing the job.  If you dwell on every mistake too much, keep telling your boss how dumb you were for doing it (and therefore reminding them about the mistake), that will not help the situation and will likely make your boss have less confidence that you won't make the mistake again.  I believe if we tell ourselves something for too long, we inevitably start to believe it about ourselves. The quicker we deal with it and move on, the better for everyone.

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!

26 July 2011

Minute taking webinar

Join me for an effective minute-taking webinar on Thursday, July 28 at 1 p.m. EST  If you are interested, you can register here.

16 July 2011

Silence is golden

Hi everyone,

I have been offline for a bit and wanted to touch base so you know I haven't left the planet :)  I am planning on adopting a teenager and am going through the stages for that.  As you can imagine, it is not without its hiccups, but hopefully I will be welcoming someone into my home by early August.  As a mother to a 31-year old daughter, and having gone through the teen years with her, I know there will be bumps along the way, but I am looking forward to the challenge.  Teenagers are probably the last age group people look to adopt, but everyone needs a forever family and I wanted to provide some stability to a young lady before she goes out into the world.  As a single mom I thought that was something I could handle.

Have a great summer everyone and I will keep you posted on the final outcome of this adventure and how it is all working out in the office with finding a replacement for me while I go on adoption leave and training my new assistant when she arrives in September.  The fun just never stops...


13 June 2011

Keeping it all together

As admins we have different projects going on all the time, meetings scheduled with our bosses and other things that need reminders set or items brought forward.  I have found to be efficient and professional you really do need to keep all these things together.

For instance when I meet with my boss I have things I need to ask him so I put it in a folder and bring it with me, then we go through it item by item.   I write on each item whatever direction he gives me and then when I am back at my desk I complete the tasks, whether it is forwarding correspondence to someone to draft a reply, filing or replying on his behalf to an email.  I call it the CEO folder.   

Another way you can accomplish this is to have a meeting book just for meetings with your boss where you can write questions you need to ask or insert items you need direction on.  This can be as simple as a lined note book, but restricted only for meetings with your boss.  I find it useful to date the page each time you meet.  This is helpful when you need to refer back to remind yourself of the direction or to remind your boss of an action he or she asked you to do.

For each of the meetings I provide support to I have an agenda folder and any items that people forward me to add to the next agenda or questions they might have, I put in that folder.  When I meet with my boss or one of the Directors about that particular meeting, I always have my folder to refer to.  This is also useful when you meet with the Chair to create the agenda so you can be reminded of anything that needs to be put on it. 

Then there are all those reminders that you put either in your Outlook calendar, your tasks or in your Inbox and this is where I find you really do need to keep it all together.  I don't want to be looking in every which way or I might miss something and will appear disorganized when trying to track it down.  I use Outlook only for items for me to remember.

I don't have my computer with me when I meet with  my boss, but another assistant I know does bring her laptop with her and types in anything she needs to follow up or take action on.  I am still more comfortable with writing it down, but you have to do what works best for you.

I hope these few thoughts are helpful to you or will at least get you thinking about how best to keep it all together.  I would be interested in hearing how others organize themselves and would welcome comments or suggestions as we all can learn from each other and I find that is our greatest strength when we can share ideas.

5 June 2011

Summer days are here again -- Finally!!

I haven't been blogging in awhile because there have been lots of things going on in my personal life and at work.  My second grandson was born in early May and what a cutie he is.  There is a board meeting coming up next week and I've been organizing that.  I was going to need a tractor to cut my grass if I didn't do it soon, so I had to mow the lawn.  And on top of all that I was sick with a nasty flu for a week.  Life sure can get busy...but wait! Summer vacation time is right around the corner.  I am anticipating the time off as I'm sure many of you are. 

How does your office organize summer vacation time or do they?  Our office starts a vacation calendar around mid-May and all staff enter their vacation requests for the summer.  It is a simple tool, but a good one to ensure there is someone on site at all times.  There was an article in Office Arrow called Oh no the entire office is on summer vacation.  It sounds funny, but it could happen if you don't plan ahead.

The assistants in our office operate on a buddy system and we try to coordinate our holidays to make sure there is the necessary admin support in each of our areas.  I find if you start talking about vacation ahead of time, it gives people time to make adjustments if necessary.  I recall a few years ago, someone in my office submitted their vacation request and attached their flight itinerary to the form.  It was too late then to make changes, the flights had already been booked, but that was not fair to the others in the office.  If you plan in advance then it is easier to accommodate each other's schedules. 

Have a great summer everyone.

11 May 2011


I finally figured out my assistant meant follow up ...

19 April 2011

What do you think about Admin Professional Week?

As many of you know, this weekend is the Easter weekend, but it also starts Admin Professionals Week, with the actual day being on April 27th. You will see from the article on the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) website, they are suggesting the theme should be celebrate all office professionals and I agree with that. I never did like being singled out as we have gone so far away from being just a secretary to being an important part of the team, whether it is directly supporting management or whatever area you are in. The admin profession has changed so much over the years that we not only support the manager, sometimes we are the manager.

The organization I work for recognizes our small team of admins for the work that we do and rely on us to contribute by providing excellent support services, but it didn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of hard work to shake off the old stereotype into a new professional one. Here are some things you can do to bring that about:
  • Bring your level of service up a level (or two if necessary);
  • Act the way you want to be treated. If you want to be recognized as a professional, act like one;
  • Acquaint yourself with the goals of the organization and determine how your position aligns with those and work towards accomplishing them from your job. It takes a lot of little things to accomplish the big goals, so nothing should be discounted, including answering the phones and greeting clients or new customers at the reception desk;
  • Show management that you are paying attention by contributing intelligently at staff meetings with answers and suggestions that show you have the best interests of the organization in mind;
  • Take your performance appraisal time seriously and complete it with thought and not just something you have to do every year;
  • Present yourself as a professional working towards completing your tasks in a timely fashion;
  • If you don't have an Admin Team, think about starting one and organize yourselves in a professional manner by setting an agenda, recording the minutes and meeting with a goal to increasing the efficiency of the organization. It will be noticed!

17 April 2011

8 Ways Cell Phones Can Harm Your Health

Here is a link to an article that you might be interested in regarding the use of cell phones as it relates to your health.  Since we all use this technology I thought it would be a timely reminder that moderation is probably the best rule of thumb:


14 April 2011

Minute taking webinar April 26

Hello everyone,

Once again I am giving an effective minute-taking webinar.  If you are able to join me, please do on April 26.  For more details, please click on the link.

See you on the Web...


2 April 2011

Reply to Comment

Someone by the name of Cass posted a comment to my last post (please read it for context) and I thought I would reply as a new post so everyone would have the benefit of joining the dialogue as I think it is a common problem among assistants.  The more organized you are, the less work it seems to others so the less recognition you get.  Or sometimes assumptions are made that all the group helped, when it really was only one or two.  Anyway, here is what my practice used to be at my previous job where I organized a lot of events.  It was a large law firm and had a lot of Departments that I realize most organizations would not have, but I think you will get what I am saying.

One of the first things I did when I had a date for an upcoming event was notify those who would be affected: The Mailroom Staff (to give them a heads up that there would be printing and binding required and extra supplies would need to be ordered such as name tags, binders, paper, etc.), the Finance Department (to give them the codes to charge things to and dates I would need cheques), the Marketing Department (so they could start designing the invitations and preparing for the RSVPs), the IT Department (so they would be on call when I needed them when something just wasn't working right) and my neighbouring co-workers so they would know what was on my plate and could help as needed. I found that letting them know ahead of time really helped as I went through the stages of organizing so they were aware of it from the beginning and last-minute requests could be anticipated.

Since I was the lead for the event, immediately after it was over I would send a thank-you email to everyone who had helped and would cc my boss, the HR Director and the bosses of the people who helped. This usually sparked a few emails back and forth congratulating each other on a job well done and left a great team feeling among the group.  You can be sure the next time an event was organized everyone would be more likely to be back on board again to help where needed. 

I find if we leave the thank yous to our bosses, they don't always know what and who were involved to get the job done.  They just know it got done and everything worked out.  Sometimes we need to take the initiative ourselves and then we can be sure the right people are recognized and nobody is missed. 

I personally prefer my boss not do the congratulations because he undoubtedly will do just as Cass mentioned in her post, forget some people and thank others who had nothing to do with it, but if the boss is going to do it (and there is something to be said when the head of an organization recognizes the efforts of a particular group),  make sure they get input from you so all the appropriate people are thanked.

If anyone has any other suggestions or ways they have handled this common problem, I'd love to hear your comments and I think the Admin community would benefit from hearing your experiences and ideas and just to know they are not the only ones this happens to.

29 March 2011

Becoming better organized

I just finished a busy few months leading up to our Board of Directors meeting and it went very smoothly.  I love it when things fall into place, but that doesn't happen without a lot of planning. 

To get ready the first thing I do is populate my to-do list with the tasks I need to do leading up to the event.  I go through my checklist of what I will need to bring to the venue, anything I need to remember to include in the meeting package and just about anything that doesn't fit goes on my catchall list.  I prepare meeting templates for all the meetings I will need to take minutes at and fill it in as much as possible beforehand from the agenda.  Having meeting templates is such a timesaver, even though it does take a few minutes to create each time, but well worth the effort.  For those who have never tried it, the meeting template is just your agenda, turned into a minute template.  You know what items you will be dealing with, so you can pre-populate the minute template and then it is just a matter of filling in any discussion, action items and/or motions.

Once I have done all that, I can then feel confident and prepared -- because I am!  It's not magic, although I find the better you organize the more people think it was easy and seem to think it just all happened, which is the furthest thing from the truth.  It should get easier though -- or should I say, when it is better organized, you will be more prepared and therefore more confident that you have not missed anything.  My definition of a successful event is when it goes smoothly without a hitch. Or if there is a glitch, it is fixed quickly and professionally.

My boss is very appreciative no matter how easy things seem to go, which is very nice, but not always the case.  I have been told by various friends of mine that they are not always acknowledged or get noticed for the efforts they take to make things they organize a success.  It is not that they want the recognition, but a pat on the back certainly goes a long way to making you want to make the next event even better.

If you are a boss and something your assistant organized goes very smoothly, please recognize that it didn't just "happen", but that your assistant just made it look that way by being prepared. 

Also, if you are not the only one working on a project or event, don't forget to acknowledge the team effort, as it takes many pieces to make the whole thing work.  You may have done the bulk of it, but without the little things getting done, your job would have been harder so don't forget to say thanks.

Now onto the next meeting...

5 March 2011

Where has the time gone?

My daughter and her Dad used to play a game and when either of them would say, "Where has the time gone?" they would make a joke of it and come up with some crazy ideas about where it might have gone.  It was pretty funny at the time and everytime I hear someone say that, I think about it.

Time is a strange thing.  Last week I was on the treadmill at the gym and had two minutes left to run, but it felt like forever and each time I looked down it seemed like time had stood still.  As well when I was waiting for some anticipated vacation time, the time went so slow, but when I actually went on the vacation it just flew by.  What's with that? Or when my little grandson was crying in the middle of the night it seemed like a long time, although it might only have been less than 10 minutes. On Friday, I was madly trying to get out the door to meet up with my carpool and it just didn't seem like I had enough time left in the day to get everything done and out the door on time.  So how do you manage time when it can seem to go either too fast or too slow? 

I find that many times when time is crawling it is because I am in a hurry for something to happen and when it flies is when I am doing too many things and need to get it done in a short period of time or have left it for the last minute.

Sometimes we look at others and wonder how they do it as they seem to have it all together and never seem to be frazzled. It is good to remember that time plods along the same for everyone each day, no matter how it feels at the moment.  It is usually how much we try to cram into that time that makes the difference, as well as whether we have a plan on how and when we are going to accomplish what we need to do.  For instance, on my Friday rush out the door, I hadn't prioritized my day as well as I should have and then was left with some last-minute items that had to be done before I left for the day.  This is when time management helps and can be the difference between pulling your hair out, making all sorts of small unnecessary errors or competently managing your day.

A to-do list is helpful to parcel out what you need to get done in small time slots.  You can also use the Tasks feature in Outlook in the same way to help you manage.  When you have interruptions, which undoubtedly will happen, once you have handled whatever it is, you need to revert right back to your to-do list and continue working on the task.  Try not to get distracted or you will end up scrambling to catch up.  For larger projects such as transcribing minutes or planning an event  or other such things, it is a good idea to block time in your calendar so you can set aside a time to concentrate.  Close your door if you have one or put a note on your cubicle space with "Please do not disturb" on it. 

During this time of planning you can set up checklists of things you will need to remember to do on the day of the event, or to include in the meeting package, or whatever it is you have to do.  This way when you are in the time crunch, you will have done this pre-planning during a calm time and won't miss anything.

What about those times when you  have boring jobs that you just wish you could leave, but know they have to be done and then time drags, or you drag your feet and avoid doing them.  When you finally get around to doing the task at the last possible minute you hardly have time to do it. Again, I would suggest you put these tasks on your to-do list and schedule time to do them.  With something like filing or expense claims, it normally doesn't have to be done right away, so block a time and  break it up so you are not doing filing and the claims back to back.  Try to do something more interesting in between.  Usually these types of jobs have to get done, but are not normally rush jobs and can be done over time.  If you plan properly by the time it is due you will have everything well in hand.

There are also times when time clashes and you have one thing that is going very slowly (your computer) and you only have a few minutes to get the job done.  When you are planning your to-do list give yourself enough time to get the job done and add some buffer time. For instance, if the meeting materials need to be packaged by Friday afternoon and get out the door, don't wait until that morning to do it or you run the risk that the computer will freeze up, the photocopier will jam or there will be a major snow storm and the courier won't be able to deliver your package on time.  Plan to have it done a few days ahead of schedule, then if something happens you know you have a day or so of wiggle room and won't panic.  The same goes if you are waiting for something from someone.  Don't tell them you need it on the day you actually need it.  Ask for it a few days in advance and then if they are late it won't impact on your planning too much and gives you a bit of time to bug them for it.

Time requires good management or it can get away on you.  So stay calm and plan your day.  It will go much better.  Sigh!

21 February 2011

Who's the Leader?

When dealing with meetings a good question to ask yourself is what is your role in it?  Are you the leader or are you just providing your boss's availability?

If you are organizing the meeting, then you are responsible to send the initial email out requesting the participants to attend.  You will need to give them as much information as possible so they can make an informed decision about attending.  If you know their assistant's email address, I always copy them on this initial request.  If you don't have their email address, many bosses will copy their assistants when they reply to the initial request and you should keep a note of that and include them in any follow up emails.

The people invited need to know the purpose of the meeting, you should provide three or four dates and times for the meeting, they need to know who is calling the meeting and why their attendance is needed. Once a date is agreed upon, you will need to book the meeting room, confirm the details with the participants, make sure they have the materials they will need and if the meeting is cancelled, you need to make sure you undo all of the above and cancel the room, notify the participants, re-schedule if necessary, etc.  You are the leader in this type of meeting. 

If your boss is to be a participant in a meeting then your role is less involved, but you need to follow up nonetheless.  If you receive an email for a meeting request, but it doesn't have any information about the purpose of the meeting or information about whether it will be a teleconference or provide the location and time, then those would be good questions to go back with.  Once you have all the information, you need to bring it to your boss and ask him or her if they need to attend.  If they do then you need to provide the meeting organizer with the times your boss is available and if it is out of town and your boss will not be in that city, you can ask if your boss is able to participate by teleconference and what are the call-in numbers?  Once the meeting is organized you should make a note and diarize it a few days before the meeting to follow up to make sure the meeting is still on and that you have received all the materials needed (agenda, background materials, etc.).

Sometimes your boss will send you an email request for a meeting that they received in their Inbox and ask you to get back to the meeting organizer with his or her available times.  In this case, you know right away they want to attend, all you need to do is provide their availability and get any information you are missing such as the location, time and whether it is in person or by teleconference.  If the purpose is vague, I usually go back and ask that as well.  If you manage your boss's Inbox then one of your roles when you find emails such as this is to ask them if they want to attend and if they would like you to get back to the meeting organizer with their availability and then take it from there.

In my organization we deal with government and many times we will get a request for a meeting with my boss and ask for his availability.  I will first check with him to make sure he needs to be at the meeting and if anyone else from our organization needs to attend with him.  Once I have all the information then I can get back to the person requesting the meeting to give available times, request the agenda and meeting materials and give the names of the people from our organization who will be attending.  My role then becomes the leader, at least as far as internal participants are concerned.  I will be the one who needs to make sure to pass along the meeting materials to them and ensure they have all the details about the meeting and if the meeting is cancelled to make sure to notify everyone.  You should also ask your boss if a pre-meeting will be needed as oftentimes if they are meeting with the government they want to make sure they are prepared and have all the information they think they are going to need.  You will be the one who will have to organize that meeting.

If you know your role in the meeting then it makes it easier to determine what your next steps need to be.  If you are ever unsure -- ask!  Never be afraid to ask questions.

30 January 2011

Guidelines for correspondence

Recently at an admin meeting I went over these guidelines with our team and wanted to share them with you.
  • When addressing correspondence you should ensure you have the correct date, name, title and full address.  It is worth the check to make sure this information is correct.  I have worked in many offices and it has never failed that some very strange spellings of my boss's name have appeared on a letter.  Do you think they are going to take those letters seriously?  I recall one letter where the year on the letter was 23000.  Talk about into the future!
  • You should have a salutation and closing.  I would suggest Dear Ms. Brown and end with Yours sincerely or Yours truly. 
  • If you are addressing dignitaries you should consult a protocol book or website to ensure you address it properly.  Here is a site the Canadian government put together, which gives proper addressing protocol for royalty, government dignitaries and other important people - Styles of Address
  • If there are attachments to the letter Enclosure(s) should be noted at the bottom of the correspondence.  It is acceptable to indicate what the enclosure is, but if you have put that in the letter, it is not necessary to note it again at the bottom.  You should also ensure you attach the enclosure before sending the letter.  Seems obvious, but keep it in the back of your mind to look for these types of things.  I put a yellow sticky on the letter when I bring it to by boss for signature with instructions on what I need to do next, i.e. enclosure attachments, make sure to send to whoever you want to be copied on the letter, scan and save it electronically, or whatever it is you have to do with it.
  • As a general rule letters should be sent to individuals and not to multiple recipients.  An exception would be if they are co-chairs or people of equal title that you are writing on the same topic or issue that you want their joint action or feedback.  Otherwise, if you just want them to be aware of the correspondence you would copy them on the letter with a c.c. at the bottom.  Alternatively, if you want to include someone on a letter, but do not want the recipient to know you are copying the other person(s), you would use a blind copy (b.c.c) and make sure to only to put it on the copy and not on the original.
  • If you are sending a letter by email, I prefer an orginal signature be on the letter and then scan it to send by email, but if you have an electronic signature you can insert it on electronic letterhead and then save it as a PDF.  You should always make sure you have permission when using someone's electronic signature and never send it in a Word document where someone could easily copy and paste the e-signature.
  • If you are sending a common notice such as an invitation by email to multiple recipients you should insert the email addresses in the b.c.c. section of the email and put your email address in the To section.  It is important to protect the privacy of the people you are sending to.  I once sent a personal email to a number of my friends and one person on the email distribution list took all those email addresses and started contacting them for a pyramid sales-type business.  You can see how that would not be a good thing to happen to your boss's business contacts.
  • As technical as we have become, I do not trust email 100% and usually follow up the emailed letter with a hard copy by regular mail.  This is not always necessary, but depending on the importance of the letter and how much you want to impress it upon the receiver, delivering it by regular mail is a good way to do that. 
  • You should save electronic letters just as you would hard copy letters --you need to keep a record of them too.  I have a folder that I call Correspondence and save letters in that folder by year.  That works for me, but you may need to make it more specific.  The goal is to be able to retrieve it easily if you need to find it later.
I hope these few tips will help.  Most are common sense, or maybe they are common sense to me because I have been doing it for so long, but since we don't know what we don't know, this might be helpful to someone so I thought I would share.

22 January 2011

Can you ever ask too many questions?

My current boss gave me some good advice when I first started working for him and it has served me well.  He suggested that when I set up a meeting or organize travel for him I should ask myself, if I was the one going to the meeting, or on a business trip, what would I need in order to be prepared?  So I do and when he has a meeting I make sure he has the agenda and any back-up materials, the location and directions if needed, the name and title of the person he is meeting, especially if he doesn't know them well, and the purpose of the meeting.  Most of this information you can get in your initial phone call or email correspondence with the other party when you are organizing it.  If they are not sure then they can ask their boss so both of them will be prepared to meet each other.  If my boss is travelling abroad I check to see if a visa is required and make a note to remind him to bring his passport with him.  I also register him with the Canadian Embassy in the country he is travelling.  If they travel a lot you never know when they will be in a country that it will important for the embassy to know where they are to bring them home safely.  If you look in the side bar of the blog under Travel, you will see links for useful sites to do this and get other information.

Another executive mentioned that when she is giving a presentation, she appreciates that her assistant ask herself what would she need if she was giving the presentation.  Does she need time to prepare the presentation ahead of time? If so, do you  have a reminder set and blocked off time for her to do so? Does the presentation have to be put on a memory stick?  Do you need to organize for a laptop, projector and screen or will there be one available when she gets there?  Do you need to make copies of the presentation for the participants?  What time will she be presenting and when would they like her to arrive.  Most places like them to be there at least 30 minutes before they present, so make sure to block that time off in the calendar as well as travel time to get there and back.  Who will the audience consist of?  And of course what is the location and the directions to get there?  There is more to it than just putting the date in the calendar.

If something raises a question with you then make sure you get the answer.  If you have set up a meeting and wonder how your boss will get there, then that is a good question to bring up with them.  Are they driving or will they need a reservation for a flight or train?  Will they need a hotel room?  It will not only show them that you are thinking ahead, but that you have their best interests in mind.  If the meeting is around lunch time and you wonder if something should be ordered in or will they take the client out for lunch and you need to make a reservation then those are good questions to ask. 

Often I have looked in my boss's Sent messages and notice he has emailed someone that he would be happy to speak at their conference, but when I look in his calendar I see he is scheduled to present at another conference in a different city on the same date.  This is a good thing to bring up with him or her.  They will certainly thank you and it will show you are looking after them.  You might also have to follow up to make sure they have emailed the other party to advise them they are no longer available.

It is always good to think ahead for your boss.  You have control of their schedules and are in the best position to make these observations and bring it to their attention.

If something prompts a question - ask!  If you read an email or something in their calendar doesn't seem clear - ask!  If you are wondering if they might need something for the meeting - ask! 

You can never ask too many questions, but having a good strategy on when to ask is good.  Scheduling yourself in for weekly meetings works well.  When you have a question, ask yourself if you need to ask it right now or if it can wait for your weekly meeting.  When you meet with them you will have their undivided attention and can take advantage of this time and ask all the questions you need to in order to organize their travel or prepare for a meeting or whatever it is you are doing for them.  Another thing you can do is try to answer your own question before bringing it to your boss.  Sometimes the answer is at your fingertips and a Google search will do it.  Or a colleague will have the answer, and is who your boss would have asked anyway, so you just have saved him the trouble and did it for him.

Questions, questions, questions!  Whether you are asking them of yourself, your colleagues or your boss, if you don't know how to do something, it is always good to ask.

4 January 2011

Taking Effective Meeting Minutes Webinar

Hi Everyone,
Once again I will be presenting on Taking Effective Meeting Minutes.  The webinar is scheduled for January 25, 2011 at 1 p.m. ET.  It is an informative session that will bring you from the pre-meeting checklist to taking the minutes, with ideas for formatting and suggested wording.

Please click on the link for more information or to register:  http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/glp/35355/index.html?campaigncode=286EPR

I look forward to meeting you live on the webinar.

P.S. Here is a previous article I wrote on minute taking that will give you a flavour of some of the things the webinar will include: Minute Taking Made Easy

1 January 2011

Looking Forward in 2011

Happy New Year everyone! 

The new year is a good time to bring up the Look-Forward Agenda.  One of the challenges the recording secretary will have is to make sure they don't miss items that need to be dealt with at each meeting.  The Look-Forward Agenda is very helpful for this.  It is basically a list of items that are regularly dealt with throughout the year and provides a timetable of when these items need to be added to the agenda.  For example, our senior leadership team review financial statements each month at the first meeting after the 10th business day, and each year they need to set the annual budget in February to bring to our Board of Directors.  As well as business items, I put things such as the All-Staff Appreciation Breakfast and the Christmas Party.  These items are put on the agenda to make the decision on what date we will have it and who will arrange it. Small items, but still things we need to remember to look at.  Depending on what level of meeting you attend will depend on what needs to be on the Look-Forward Agenda.

The example below is for items for a Board of Directors' meeting, but you can customize it to your particular needs and the level of meeting you are responsible for.  We operate on a fiscal year so I put my timetable by quarter (Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4), but you can also set it by month if you use the calendar year:

Item                                                                                      Timetable

Financial Matters
• Approve quarterly financial statements     
• Approve year-end audited financial statements
• Approve banking and signing resolutions (as required)

Appointment of Directors and Officers
• Appoint members to Board of Directors
• Appoint Chair of the Board
• Appoint Committee Members
• Appoint officers of the company (as required)

• Receive and review Chair's Report
• Receive and review CEO's Report
• Review reports on corporate performance measurements
• Review and approve amendments to by-laws or letters patent (as required)
• Approve corporate policies, code of business conduct, etc. (as required)
• Receive report of Corporate Secretary on disclosure by officers and Directors of conflicts of interest
• Meet in camera with and without the CEO at each Board of Directors meeting
• Approve appointment of auditors and their fees
• Receive and approve reports of Chairs of Committees
• Participation in Chair and CEO Review Process (as required)

Each time you set the draft agenda you should review the Look-Forward Agenda before bringing it to the Chair. It is a useful tool and the Chair and your team will be very appreciative that you have captured these items and have taken the guess work out of what needs to be on the agenda.