3 Things to Start Doing in 2017 and One Thing to Stop

blank-notebookOne of my very favorite things is a blank notebook. (Another favorite thing is the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball Extra Fine black pen. Executive Assistants and their office supplies, am I right?) Back to the notebook… Empty pages to fill with ideas and plans for the future. And lists. Lots of lists. When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, it’s as if the collective world population opens a fresh notebook. White blank pages. A fresh start. A new beginning.

What will you write in the pages? If the idea of a blank notebook is daunting, then here are 3 ideas to get you started for the new year:

1.  Put your health first. For the past six years I’ve been completely focused on building my career (in between buying a house, getting married, acquiring a dog) and during that time I’ve gained over 50 pounds and lost a lot of confidence. I am a project manager by nature. Put a task or mission in front of me and I will get. shit. done. The project I have failed to work on for the past several years is me. But doing so will have the most impact on the rest of my life.

Executive Assistants are some of the hardest working and most selfless individuals I know – which means they often put themselves on the bottom of their to-do lists. Family, friends, their Executive, and the company all come first. I want you all to turn that to-do list upside down. YOU must come first. Your health is everything. You can not achieve what you want or give to those around you at the level you want to if your health is not in check. I’m talking directly to myself here too! Your energy, mental clarity, and mood are all effected when you are not fueling your body with proper nutrition and exercising regularly.

If I accomplish nothing else this year, but this one thing, I will have succeeded. If you are struggling to get into a fitness routine or looking for some accountability, let’s connect and support each other.  I have started a private Facebook group where we can work together to put ourselves first, while still crushing the rest of our goals at work and at home.

2.  Create more than you consume. How many times have you gotten lost in the black hole of Instagram? We have become a society that just consumes, whether that’s binge-watching The Walking Dead, stock-piling toiletries from Costco, ordering take-out, or skipping from Instagram to Facebook to LinkedIn to Snapchat to Twitter and back again looking for another hit. I am just as guilty as the next person, perhaps more so.

But I challenge you to create! Journal, paint, build a bookshelf, plan a charity walk, start writing your novel, get certified to teach yoga, host a dinner part and cook!, make your own holiday cards, plant a garden, hell, build a chicken coop and get some chickens! Just create. We all have such unique gifts to offer. That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to share them on Instagram, but perhaps during your scheduled social media time (remember, time blocking is key!).

3.  Leverage all non-essential tasks. There are only 24 hours in the day. Focus on what only you can do better than anyone else and what you actually enjoy doing, and leverage the rest. At the end of the year, I started my NOT to do list. Those items can either become another individual’s job description OR perhaps areas where you can simply outsource or ask for help. For example, at the office I was able to leverage all social media and marketing by making a key hire. This applies to your personal life as well. Perhaps you hire a housekeeper, or the neighborhood kid to mow your lawn, or a college student to do personal errands for you once a week. I would much rather spend time with my husband, working on a project, or traveling to visit my niece and nephew, then cleaning the house or running errands. Life is too short to do the dishes. I mean, someone has to do them, it just doesn’t have to be me. This year, it is particularly crucial for me to leverage as many tasks as possible so that I can accomplish #1 – putting my health first. Every time you begin a task, stop and ask yourself if someone else could do it, then go find that person! I might mean asking your mother for help, but sometimes we’ve just got to do what we’ve go to do.

And here’s one thing to stop doing in 2017 – in fact, stop right now!

comparisonStop comparing yourself to others. There is a great quote that goes something like, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” We are all flawed. Embracing those flaws is the first step in living a fulfilling life. We are all on our own journeys and you don’t know where someone else is on theirs. Everybody is better than you at something. The trick is to accept yourself and accept where you are on YOUR journey. It’s very easy to get stuck in our heads and think we’ll never be as good as whoever we’re comparing ourselves to. But there is no benefit in the comparison. In fact, it can actually paralyze you and derail you from your own goals. You stop yourself before you even get started because you don’t think you can ever be as fit as Jennifer Lopez (#bodygoals), as fearless as Indra Nooyi (#leadershipgoals), or as fun as Marie Forleo (#lifegoals). But we all must start somewhere. And if we don’t start, we’ll never be able to share our story and and inspire someone else along the way. Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap and just get started.

So what have you decided to tackle in 2017?  Are your goals big enough? If your goals don’t scare you, then you are not pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and you’re not growing! None of my goals scared me, so I had to challenge myself to go back to the drawing board and think bigger. I’m still working through my my Future Self (a 3 year goal/visualization document) and making sure my goals scare the shit out of me. I hope you do the same.

Here’s to your best year yet! Cheers!

 

 

 

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One Habit to Implement NOW to Make You an Invaluable Assistant

Do you want to be an invaluable resource to your Executive? Do you want to form a strategic partnership with your CEO? Do you want to seriously impress your boss? Then work on developing this one habit that will make you an invaluable asset to your CEO:

Know what your Executive knows.

Simple, right? But not always easy. This goes far beyond knowing how your boss takes his coffee (Note: Adam takes his strong and black, but prefers green tea in the afternoon). This habit requires some serious dedication (usually reading or listening to books and podcasts in your “off hours”). But I think it is the most critical habit to develop as an Executive Assistant and something you can implement right away, no matter how new you are to the EA role.

working

This habit has helped me gain trust and become an invaluable resource to my employer. If he mentions a book he’s reading, I read it. If he is following a blog or podcast, so do I. I watch the movies, read the books, and listen to the radio stations he does. Why? Because the more I am able to align myself with his interests, and more importantly, his knowledge, the more I am able to not just listen, but to participate in conversations with him or that he is having with other leadership members or key business partners. He never asked me to do this, but my natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge led me to create this habit from the beginning and it has truly been invaluable. When he is in a meeting and says, “Who was that quote by?” or “What year did that company go public?” I know. He doesn’t have to repeat himself or fill me in on a critical article he read or a book that he would like to discuss at a company meeting – I’m already familiar with it.

As a self-proclaimed force multiplier, the more I can align my knowledge and thinking with Adam, the more valuable I become to him and the company. As Executive Assistants we are tasked with furthering the reach of our Executive. Often that is by completing tasks and projects that, while important, are not the best use of our Executive’s time. More often it means making decisions and speaking on behalf of our boss. The most effective way to do that is by having the same information as them and thoroughly understand the way they think. Yes, some of this will come with time. But start right away! Gain as much knowledge as possible. Study his/her emails and responses to questions. Listen in on phone calls (get permission first!). Attend as many meetings as possible. Be able to speak your boss’s language. This will allow you to be a part of the conversation and eventually be able to speak on behalf of them with accuracy and authority.

Does your Executive read the Wall Street Journal or Inc. Magazine? Get a subscription. Is he/she watching House of Cards or Blacklist on Netflix? Watch it. If nothing else, instead of being on the periphery, it will bring you closer to the inner circle. Your Executive will want to be able to discus the latest episode of Sons of Anarchy with you, just as much as the most recent article on Elon Musk. Be ready and ABLE to participate and add value to the conversation. This is such a simple habit to implement, but one that will set you apart and help you grow that much faster.

Knowledge is power. Start by gaining as much of the same knowledge as your Executive as possible. Couple that with a clear understanding of their thought process and communication style and you will be unstoppable.

 

 

What Does an Executive Assistant Do? Whatever It Takes.

The Executive Assistant role is one of the least understood positions, in part because it encompasses so many different responsibilities and can differ greatly depending on the industry or Executive. My husband doesn’t even fully understand what I do (and I talk about my work a lot).

In the past five years or so, I have seen significant improvements in both the perception of the position and the training resources available for this career. Yes, executive support and administration is a career. One, I was happy to discover, which was actually very fulfilling and lucrative, because it was made for me (a Type-A, overachieving, organized, detail-oriented, intrapreneurial leader). I have made it my mission to dispel the myths surrounding this career and find as many resources as possible (or create my own) to support Executive Assistants in their career development.

So, what do I do? What do Executive Assistants do? Whatever it takes.

executives

Executive Assistants are the ultimate force multipliers and project managers. Our project just happens to be our Executive. From purchasing unique gifts for a business associate, to managing internal and external communication, to preparing speeches, to reorganizing staff roles, to creating business plans, and everything in between, we’ve got it covered. Executive Assistants are problem solvers and fixers. They are some of the most resourceful and connected individuals in your organization. If you have a challenge, bring it to your nearest EA, and I guarantee they will have a solution for you by the end of the day. Executive Assistants are leaders and seeing them as anything else is a complete underestimation of their ability and a disservice to you.

I am fascinated by the Executive Assistant position because I find it varies so significantly depending on what industry you work in, how established the organization is, and the personality and behavior of your Executive.

I have been an Executive Assistant/Chief of Staff for over six years with the same Executive, yet my responsibilities have significantly evolved over the years. Here’s a little bit about what I do as a Chief of Staff at Hergenrother Enterprises (which encompasses six companies):

  • Manage and plan Executive’s time and priorities (including all meeting prep, briefing, taking meetings on Exec’s behalf that aren’t the best use of his time)
  • Act as an extension of Executive and help lead the organization
  • Review current operations and make recommendations to support overall company objectives (then lead implementation of changes)
  • Lead all special projects and track initiatives to ensure successful completion
  • Handle all communication on behalf of Executive (calls, email, social media, media requests, staff questions, meeting follow-up, etc.)
  • Recruit and hire for key positions
  • Key relationship management
  • Schedule, calendar, travel, event management
  • Whatever it takes so Executive is only focused on leading, training, coaching, and spreading the vision of the organization

As the Chief of Staff to a serial entrepreneur I have done everything from setting up new entities, to refining systems that allowed us to launch teams in new states, to planning, organizing, and selling tickets for a non-profit speaker event, to reviewing budgets and strategic plans, to training other Executive Assistants, to recruiting and hiring staff, to helping write course content, to scheduling meetings and travel, to holding other staff members accountable, to preparing presentations, to conducting meetings on behalf of my Exec.

Regardless of the exact responsibilities Executive Assistants have, I haven’t met individuals who work harder to accomplish a mission. When Adam travels without me, I don’t go to bed unless I know he has arrived. I’ve emailed with him at 2am before he went off the grid to hike Kilimanjaro. I’ve come into the office on more than one weekend to work on a project, prepare for an event, or move offices. I’ve gotten out of bed more than once to rearrange travel and get him booked on a new flight after delays or cancellations. It needed to be handled. I handled it. I’m sure this is sounding pretty familiar to my fellow EAs.

For people who don’t quite understand our unique roles, they think our Exec is expecting too much or that these requests are unacceptable or intrusive. But what they don’t know is that very rarely does the Exec actually have to request that these things happen – they just get done of our own volition. I knew what I was signing up for, in fact, I thrive on this. I work for an incredibly interesting and dynamic entrepreneur and I am helping him build multiple organizations; occasionally work doesn’t happen between 9am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. The trade-off? I get to work for an incredibly interesting and dynamic entrepreneur and help him build multiple organizations – the work is challenging, rewarding, and it doesn’t hurt that I have complete flexibility with my schedule and unlimited vacation and time off.

What about you? What does your day look like? I want to hear from you! What is your title and what are your top five responsibilities? Share in the comments below and let’s keep the conversation going!