A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action

 

ropes

It’s 6:00am (on a Saturday, I might add) and I just finished working out. It’s this new thing I’m trying this year. Doing the thing that I committed to doing and then talking about it, instead of the other way around. I’m finding that there is power in doing, rather than discussing. It’s going to take some getting used to. You see, I’m an external processor and like to talk about all of my plans and intentions. My husband thinks that I’m constantly changing my mind, when really I’m just discussing all available options and running through each scenario before making a decision (I swear he loves me). I also like to externally process because it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. You planners and thinkers out there know what I’m talking about.

We all have goals, dreams, Pinterest boards, wishlists, intentions, and buckets lists. Sure, they can be helpful to set the tone for the day or year, but creating the lists and creating the goals doesn’t actually get the job done. Believe me, I’m just as guilty as the next person to slap up an inspirational quote on Instagram and feel like I’ve done something, well, inspiring. But have I really? Often the quest for the perfect quote or time spent thinking or planning on how to accomplish a particular goal are really just procrastination and distraction from doing the work.

Earlier this week everyone was posting their word of the year and I thought I should probably jump on that bandwagon. But why? Just because everyone else was doing it? Jordan Peterson in his book, 12 Rules for Life, talks about Rule #4, “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” It’s that whole run your own race, stay in your own lane stuff. Was I choosing a word just because other people were doing it or because it was something that was meaningful to me? Jordan’s rule isn’t only about not comparing yourself to others. He explains that comparison is natural, we just need to be focusing that comparison on ourselves. Are we fractionally better than we were yesterday? If we can make those incremental changes each day, using our self from yesterday as the baseline, then we will make some serious gains in life. I think it comes down to being true to who you are and want you want, ignoring the cool kids and the haters, and following what interests you, what challenges you, and what will make you grow.

Now, back to my word of the year. Yes, I do think there is a place for them, for some people. They can offer clarity and guidance for the year ahead, just like thinking and planning. But how much thinking, planning, and self-reflection does a girl really need? I toyed with the word relentless because I really like that word. Why? Because I’m already relentless! That word isn’t going to challenge or change me. So, I scrapped that word and spent an hour or two googling synonyms for follow-through, because, you know, it’s the ONE word of the year, not two. I didn’t find any words that spoke to me. Finish kept flashing in my mind. I need to finish what I start, what I commit to, I need to follow-through.

No word is going to help me do that. I don’t even need a reminder. I know it. When I’m being honest with myself and not making excuses, that is. I am amazing at starting things – it’s in my fiery Aries blood. But finishing? Finishing is boring. I lose interest and want to start something new. The beginning is always the most fun and interesting part. Which is why after almost nine years I still haven’t “finished” my weight loss because I simply “start” it each week and allow the excuses train (unlimited pizza included) to come rolling on by. Finishing what I start comes down to one little concept, discipline, or as my Exec, Adam likes to say, “Mastering the boredom of success.” Truly successful people take action on the boring things. That is what I am committed to doing. But I don’t want to talk about it. I want to show you.

Are you being honest with yourself? Do you know what you need to do in order to achieve everything you want and live the life you desire? I bet if you stopped and thought about it (but not for too long), you would know what needed to be done.

I’m at a place in my life and career where I don’t need to find another word or do any deep soul searching, I just need to take action. That might change a few years from now when I’m in a different season of my life. But right now? This season? It’s all about the hard work. I know what I want. It’s time to get after it.

What season of life are you in? Do you need time and space to find clarity? Do you need to figure out who you are or what you want? Or is it time to get to work?

Advertisements

The Who, What, When, Where, How of Growth Plans

grow

I love this time of year, mostly because it’s the turning of the page, a fresh start. Blank calendars, blank notebooks – they scream of possibility and opportunity. This year, rather than simply outlining my goals for the year, I decided to be more purposeful and create a growth plan.

Now, goals are great. Without them you really have no direction or focus throughout the year. I’ve definitely got goals (in business and in my personal life), that’s the starting point. Goals are the target. Growth plans are how you become the person you need to be in order to hit them. Traveling to Paris is a goal. Building up the confidence (and letting go of your ego) in order to invite your mother (who you haven’t spoken to in over a year) on this trip of a lifetime (and perhaps going to some family therapy first), is the growth plan.

Business growth plans are a strategic planning activity that enable businesses leaders to plan and track growth while allocating limited resources towards specific business objectives. If you aren’t doing this in your business or for (or with) your Executive and leadership team, you should be. It’s a great exercise to purposefully plan to succeed now and in the future.

You’ve likely heard of growth plans in business. But what about personal growth plans? How many of us are doing this in our personal life? A personal growth plan is a strategic planning activity that enables you to plan and track your growth while allocating limited resources towards specific personal goals. What we focus on expands. Are you putting intention behind the activities you are filling your 2019 calendar with? Are you all over the place with goals and have pages of things you want to do someday? That’s not going to cut it. Time and attention are limited resources. In order to grow, you must purposefully choose conferences, books, coaches, and more, to get you where you want to go. That’s what a personal growth plan is all about.

The first step to creating a growth plan is determining your overall goals for the year. Here are a few of mine:

  • Write 1-2 books with Adam
  • Get my real estate license
  • Read 52 books
  • Pay off all non-mortgage debt, max out my Roth IRA, and start looking for our first investment property
  • Lose weight for good and maintain new lifestyle
  • Travel to North Carolina monthly
  • Attend Muster or Sheepdog Response

Once you have your big goals for the year outlined, get a bit more specific. The goals are the WHAT you’re going to accomplish. You need to drill down on the WHO. And the who is you. Who do you need to become and what areas do you need to improve on in your life to hit these goals? What do you want to learn? What skills do you need to hone? Do you want to work on your follow-though, your public speaking skills, your spirituality, or your 5K time? For me, I want to work on my financial knowledge, my leadership skills, my overall health and fitness, and overcoming my fear of judgement and overthinking in order to take more action!

After you are clear on what you want to work on, the next step is breaking that down into actionable and measurable steps. For example, I want to write and create more. That is incredibly abstract and easy to dismiss and push to next week or next year. So, what does writing and creating more actually mean? How do I want to realize that growth? Through my blog. Taking that once step further, I plan on writing one blog post a week in 2019, for a total of 52 blog posts. That is an aggressive goal for me, but that’s what growth is all about. Testing our limits and seeing what we are capable of. Publicly proclaiming your intention helps with accountability too.

Below is an example of my personal growth plan for 2019. I have divided my growth plan into two main categories: Learn and Act. I could get lost in learning, if I don’t purposely design ways to take action on what I learn. All of these items are designed to help me get out of my comfort zone, to do hard things, and to push me beyond what I thought I was capable of.

LEARN:

  • Quantum Leap (January 24)
  • Inman Connect in NYC (January 28 – February 1)
  • Keller Williams Family Reunion in New Orleans (February 15-19)
  • Behind Every Leader in Austin (May 3)
  • Career Visioning
  • 306090 & Success Through Others
  • Muster or Sheepdog Response
  • Chief of Staff Mastermind
  • Randy Mayhew School of Real Estate
  • Read 52 books (2019 reading list coming next week!)

ACT:

  • Launch http://www.TheSheepdogLife.com
  • 52 Lead & Assist blog posts
  • Host one webinar each quarter
  • Host Lead & Assist 4 week webinar series
  • Coach two clients
  • Lead and engage with Reading is Sexy monthly book club
  • Workout a minimum of 5 times a week

I’m still working on adding in some conferences as dates are announced, finalizing my 2019 reading list, and creating a content calendar for my blog.  But the framework is there. I not only have a goal of growing my leadership skills (through education and by coaching/training others), increasing my financial acumen (through books and courses), and become a more well-rounded individual through experiences (traveling and creating), but I have specific actions I am going to take to get there.

Once you have your growth plan outlined, it’s time to take that list and add all events, vacations, and deadlines to your calendar. When it’s scheduled, it’s real. Pro tip: If going on vacation(s) this year is important to you, then even if you don’t have the entire trip planned, at least block off the dates in your calendar. It will give you something to look forward to and it will help push you on your other goals to make it happen.

Let’s recap how to create a growth plan:

  1. Outline your 2019 goals (WHAT)
  2. Translate your goals into specific areas for improvement and growth (WHO)
  3. Create actionable and measurable steps for your growth (HOW)
  4. Schedule all events, deadlines, vacations, etc. in your calendar (WHEN & WHERE)
  5. Grow!

If you take the time to plan out your year in advance in detail, with deadlines, success is inevitable. Almost… There is one caveat to all of this. You have to do the work. When it’s 5am and your alarm goes off, you have to put on your lulus and hit the gym. You need to block off two hours each week to write your blog post. You need to put your phone away at X time each night to spend time with your kids. You need to save a percent of your income each week in a travel fund. It is the small daily habits and activities that will ultimately dictate your success.

Your growth plan is not a one and done activity. This is something I would recommend you revisit each week during your Sunday planning time. What do you need to adjust on your calendar in the week ahead in order to hit your growth goals? Do you need to double down on your workouts or writing time? Who or what do you need to say no to or eliminate from your day, week, or life? Harsh? Perhaps. But this is your life. The second you let someone else start dictating what is right, what is important, what you should or shouldn’t do, is the second you are no longer living your own life.

Creating a growth plan is all about you. Be selfish with your growth and with your time. Ultimately, by become the best version of yourself, you are able to give the best of yourself to others. Who can argue with that?

Share your 2019 growth plan in the comments!

Confessions of a Recovering Workaholic

 

do more

I’ve thought about how to write this post for far too long. At this time last year, I had just given my notice to Adam and told him that I would be leaving Adam Hergenrother Companies as of December 31, 2017. It was a decision that was not made lightly. It also didn’t last very long. By February 2018, I was back. In October of this year, I celebrated my eight year anniversary working with Adam. So much can happen in just one year.

Earlier this week, I posted briefly about that experience, which inevitably sparked a lot of messages and questions. hallie_2018

It was exactly the push I needed to write about it. I hesitated in the past, not because I didn’t want to share my story, but rather because I didn’t have any great answers. It’s taken quite a bit of reflection to be able to really articulate my thought process during that time. Here’s the long and short of it. I love my career. I love being a Chief of Staff. I love the company I work for. I love our team. I love our culture. I love the opportunities that are available to me. And I love being able to work alongside Adam every day. I was also burned out and had been operating like that for so long, I didn’t know any other way to “escape” from it other than to cut ties completely.

This is no one’s fault but my own. I am a work horse (perhaps more aptly, a stubborn mule). Head down. Blinders on. I was going to get done whatever needed to get done, no matter what. I did not ask for help. I did not wave a white flag. I just kept pushing forward.

I am a recovering workaholic. We actually talk about that concept at the office quite a bit. I would generally prefer to work with “workaholics” rather than those who are on the quest for work-life balance. Personally, I think work-life balance is bullshit. I don’t play in the middle well. So, at the other extreme is workaholism, right?

Well, let’s look at the actual definition of workaholic. A workaholic is defined as someone who compulsively works hard and long hours. I’m all for working hard. And as an Executive Assistant, and then Chief of Staff, long hours are a given. No problem. It’s the compulsively part that became an issue for me. I was living in fear that if I slowed down or took my eye off of work for just a minute, I would lose what I had worked so hard to attain. Success. Sigh. I was holding on for dear life to something that wasn’t sustainable and my relationships, health, and happiness began to suffer.

At the end of 2017, we hired an amazing Executive Assistant to help both me and Adam with the work load and we quickly got to work redistributing responsibilities. I was drowning. Amy was my lifeboat. I finally felt like I could breathe. I am fiercely loyal and would never have left Adam, the company, or his family without the support they needed. Within a month or so of Amy joining our team, I think I felt comfortable leaving because I knew Adam and the company would be taken care of.

Hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t actually need to leave the company. What I really needed was a sabbatical or extended vacation. Within about three weeks of leaving Adam Hergenrother Companies, I was questioning my decision and ready to be back in on the action. I missed the growth. I missed being pushed. I missed solving problems every day. I missed working alongside Adam to build a business. Could I have pushed through and continued to pursue my coaching and consulting opportunities? Absolutely. Would I have been successful? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Would I have been as fulfilled as I am working as Chief of Staff? Nope. When I created this role for myself five years ago, I knew then, and I know now, that it is the position that I am meant to be in. My greatest fulfillment comes from aligning myself with a dynamic and driven leader and helping him or her succeed.

I’m am grateful that Adam answered my text that fateful January day and scheduled a meeting with me two days later. The reality is, I never really stopped working with Adam. Sure, I was no longer next to the corner office as Chief of Staff, but I was working on several writing projects with Adam and was still coaching though Adam Hergenrother Training. That wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted back in the inner circle. After several hours of discussion about rejoining the team (and in what capacity), Adam and I decided that I would resume my position as Chief of Staff. It’s exactly where I wanted to be. Same position. Same company. Totally different me.

I had a complete mindset shift and it truly changed my life.

The biggest shift was my conscious decision to put myself (which included my personal relationships) before work and let go of the outcome or consequences of doing so. I had to break a seven year long habit of saying yes to work fist. But I was determined. As I mentioned before, I was holding on so tightly to my career and identity as Adam’s Chief of Staff, it left little, to no, room for anything else. I had become one-dimensional, uninspired (and uninspiring), and ultimately, unfulfilled. I had to let go and allow other aspects of me to shine through. In doing so, I had the best year of my life. How’s that for an endorsement for self-care and work-life integration? Not only was I holding myself back from living a full life and realizing my potential, I was holding the company back (which was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do)! By not taking care of myself, by not having a clear mind, by operating at maximum [self-imposed] stress, and by not leveraging, I was not being the best leader I could be.

So, what activities or behaviors changed? Well, it’s sounds so simple, that I can’t help but laugh. When you’re in it, you’re in it, and can’t see the forest for the trees, am I right? Essentially, I said “yes” to life again. I said yes to date nights and let a project at work wait until the next day. I said yes to visiting our in-laws instead of working on a Saturday. I said yes to wine on the back deck and left my phone in the house. I said yes to long weekends and more travel instead of sitting at home reading yet another business book. I said yes to morning workouts instead of trying to get to the office first. Those were all things that got me to a certain point in my career, and I will never regret them. And it was time for a new chapter for my life and career.

As force multipliers (Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff), our work is so closely aligned with our leader’s role and responsibilities, it can be easy to forget who you are without them. While coaching and training force multipliers now, I hope to help them learn from my mistakes and put systems and strategies in place to both build a thriving career and not lose themselves along the way. I wholeheartedly believe in the grind, but there have to be rest and recovery periods. I forgot that very crucial step until year seven. Lesson learned.

My chapter as Adam’s Chief of Staff is not over. We have so much more to accomplish together. As “just Hallie” I have a lot more to do too.

 

 

 

 

 

Lead & Assist Survey Results: Long Hours, Longer Lists, and Loving What They Do

rawpixel-com-340966

Almost 100 people responded to my Lead & Assist Giveaway Survey and as I reviewed all of the data over the past week, a few things became very clear: Executive Assistants (and any of the other 28 titles they go by) work very long hours, struggle to find work/life balance, are constantly managing multiple competing priorities, and yet, still love what they do.

First, let’s look at the hard data. I asked this group of pro EAs the following questions:

  1. What is your title?
  2. What are the top three responsibilities in your role?
  3. What is your work schedule? Do you work 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday? Do you have a flexible schedule? Do you work weekends? Or something in between?
  4. What is the biggest challenge you are experiencing at home or at the office due to your role as an Executive Assistant?

Here’s what they said:

  1. What is your title? // The overwhelming title that EAs go by, is (surprise!), Executive Assistant. Just over half of the respondents went by Executive Assistant. The rest of the survey participants who identified as an Executive Assistant, went by the following titles:
  • Senior Executive Assistant
  • Office Manager
  • Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Chief of Staff
  • Operations Manager
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Senior Assistant
  • Executive Personal Assistant
  • Senior Administrative Assistant
  • Senior Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Personal Assistant
  • Executive Business Admin
  • Executive Administrative Specialist
  • Lead Executive Assistant
  • Administrative Coordinator
  • Office Manager & Executive Assistant
  • Administrative Business Partner
  • Team Administrator
  • Executive Assistant II
  • Executive Secretary
  • Lead Executive Administrator
  • Business Support Supervisor
  • Director of Operations
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Closing Coordinator
  • Transaction Coordinator

My personal favorite was Director of Getting Shit Done. So, what’s in a name? Some say it’s simply semantics, others believe a proper title clarifies the role and dispels confusion, especially in a large organization, and still others want clear titles because many have worked very hard to get promotions and yes, the title that comes along with those increased responsibilities and seniority.

I used to fall into the semantics camp – does it really matter what your title is? In the grand scheme of things, no. If you are providing value at a high level and leading up, down, and sideways, then a title is irrelevant to the internal team. However, as I have grown in my career and worked very hard to get where I am, I understand this whole title thing a bit more.

Earlier this year, when I was speaking at the Behind Every Leader conference one Senior EA brought up this topic. She was proud of her accomplishments and had earned the right to the Senior Executive Assistant position; she was no longer an Executive Assistant and she was adamant that the roles and titles be clearly defined. I tend to agree. It doesn’t mean that the Senior EA is better than the EA, simply that their roles and responsibilities are different. They are both providing high value to their Execs (one may simply be supporting the Chairman and overseeing a team of other Admins, while the other is supporting two VPs). But I guarantee both have worked their asses off to get where they are. I believe in clearly defined roles, coupled with clear titles. I think it is particularly important because the EA role is still largely misunderstood and the more clarity we can provide to the public, the better, especially when interviewing for a new position.

2. What are the top three responsibilities in your role? // The three most prevalent job responsibilities for EAs are scheduling/calendar management, travel planning and management, and event/meeting planning, preparation, and execution.

In other words, managing the Execs life (personally and professional as there is usually a lot of overlap, especially as you start working with more senior level Execs or company owners). Being an incredible planner and project manager with the ability to anticipate needs, create contingency plans, and above all, be incredibly resourceful, while maintaining the utmost confidentiality are all critical to being a top EA. Sounds easy, right?

3.  What is your work schedule? Do you work 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday? Do you have a flexible schedule? Do you work weekends? Or something in between? // As for work schedules, the majority of respondents worked 8-9 hours a day (usually from 8am/9am to 5pm), but that was just in-office. Most Executive Assistants said they check emails and work from home at night and on the weekends, and several EAs are on-call 24/7.

4.  What is the biggest challenge you are experiencing at home or at the office due to your role as an Executive Assistant? // The overwhelming response was work/life balance and boundaries, followed closely by not having enough hours in the day to handle all of the shifting priorities.

Let’s dive into questions 3 and 4 here. Long, often undefined hours, coupled with multiple competing priorities is tough. I’ve been there and I get it. But here is my (probably) very unpopular opinion: That’s the job. That is what an EA does. And it’s not for everyone. But that’s why we need an Executive Assistant community – so we can talk through the challenges, vent on those tough days, and strategize about ways to control the chaos and increase efficiency and effectiveness. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people should work all of the time. You need other hobbies, you need to spend time with friends and family, to take care of your mind, body, and spirit. It’s not easy for anyone to manage all of life’s obligations, and particularly difficult for EAs, but it is not impossible.

Ultimately, I think that EAs should make sure they are very clear about what they are getting into (with the caveat that no two EA roles are the same). Some positions may require being available at all times, some may ask that you simply stay connected via email, some require extensive travel, and others are simply 9 to 5, with no requirements outside of those hours. However, I would be skeptical about any position that is simply 9 to 5 (particularly at an Executive level). EAs make the life of an Exec flawless and what Exec do you know who only works between the hours of 9am and 5pm? Be aware of what the position entails before signing on.

Now, many of the survey participants also mentioned that they have flexible schedules. Again, they might be in the office from 9am to 5pm, but can run out to their kid’s soccer game, a dentist appointment, or meet a friend for lunch at their discretion. It works both ways. EAs may be up at 2am waiting for their Exec to land in Europe, but they may also leave early on a Friday for a pedicure.

So, why are so many EAs searching for that work/life balance if, in fact, most of the respondents said they love their careers in spite of the hours? I think it has a lot less to do with balance, and much more to do with not feeling in control of their schedules and their time. Very few positions are as demanding and dependent on the direction of someone else – someone else’s priorities, projects, needs, and deadlines. I believe that with the help of some clear expectations and extreme time management, inner balance can be restored, even if it still looks out of balance on the outside.

Reading all of the survey responses really bolstered my belief that being an Executive Assistant is an incredibly rewarding career choice. Despite some of the frustrations I read, I didn’t see anything that couldn’t be overcome with some personal development, fierce conversations, and time management. In fact, I think the frustrations only spoke to the passion and desire that all of these assistants have to be the best versions of themselves. They all wanted to learn, to improve, and take their careers and leadership to another level. No one was willing to settle for mediocrity, and that is both admirable and rare.

It is certainly an exiting time to be an Executive Assistant and I can’t wait to explore many of the above topics more in depth on my blog, during my Lead & Assist webinar series, and with my EA community.


 

intro webinar graphic

9 Things To Do on Sunday to Set Yourself Up for a Successful Week

Asian woman drinking coffee with friend free image

During the week, from the moment Executive Assistants wake up, until the moment their heads hit their pillows – they are on. I don’t mean they just show up to the office and sip coffee while scrolling through Facebook and occasionally answering the phone. I mean, they are responding to emails while they eat breakfast, scheduling social media posts as they slip on their stilettos, listening to leadership books while they grab a latte, and preparing for meetings between meetings. They don’t just show up, they step up, and step into any role that needs filled that day or any other day for their Executive.

It can easily get overwhelming if you don’t have measures in place to streamline your days and weeks. Like many Executive Assistants/Chiefs of Staff my weeks are packed. So I use the weekend to set myself up for a successful week ahead. Every Sunday I spend several hours planning and preparing for the upcoming week. I hope some of these ideas will help you enter the week feeling a little less stressed, more in control of your time and schedule, and even more badass than I know you already are. Here’s what works for me:

  1. Family Meeting – My family consists of myself, my husband, Bill, and our mutt, Karma. And we all show up at the dining room table at 11am on Sundays. Bill makes the coffee. I bring the calendar. Bill works at night and has an unpredictable schedule including several meetings and trainings throughout the week outside of his regular hours. And I often travel several times throughout the month. We both work a lot and could end up being two ships passing in the night if we didn’t make it a priority to get on the same page. Every Sunday we meet to go over our schedules in-depth to make sure we each have errands covered, know who is on doggy-duty, and in general just make sure we know where each other are during the week! We also plan at least one date night. At this meeting we also go over our financials. We have specific goals to pay off all of our debt by the end of the year, so we make sure we are on track and transfer funds into the appropriate savings accounts and discuss any big trips or expenses that are coming up (hello, taxes!). This has been such an important part of our marriage; I highly recommend you institute weekly family meetings.
  2. Schedule Workouts – As I mentioned in a previous post, fitness is a huge focus for me this year (and for the rest of my life!). I’m on day 18 of a 30 day workout program right now. Every week as I’m going over my schedule with Bill, I also make sure I am scheduling all of my workouts. Depending on my work schedule, after-hours events, and date nights, that sometimes means I have to work out the morning. Not my preferred time to work out, but I’ve got goals.
  3. Meal Plan and Prep – This is such a critical one for me. I am on a fitness and health journey to lose 50-60 lbs and change my lifestyle indefinitely, so making sure I have healthy meals and snacks prepared for the week is essential. I usually make quick snacks like hard boiled eggs and oatmeal energy bites, and portion out other snacks, such as trail mix, fruit, and veggies. I also prep and portion out all of my lunches (for example, quinoa, chicken and broccoli or pesto shrimp and sweet potato noodles). Dinners are usually the hardest for me. My husband works at night so I don’t have a whole lot of motivation to cook for just myself. So I make two meals on the weekend that can last the week or are really quick to make (like quiche and salad or turkey meatloaf and squash). Even if I don’t prep everything ahead, I have meals and snacks planned for each day so I never have to think about what I’m eating or when.
  4. Call Family – While you’re meal prepping and cooking, it is the perfect time to call  your parents, siblings, in-laws, best friends, etc. and catch up. Everyone’s in a good mood on a Sunday morning after a fresh cup of coffee.
  5. Review Executive’s Schedule – Every Friday afternoon and Sunday I review Adam’s calendar for the week. If I haven’t already, I will confirm any meetings and make sure there aren’t any outstanding items I need to get ready for his meetings or training events for the week. If there are any meetings that are out of the ordinary or that might need additional explanation, I will email him so he has all the information he needs.
  6. Prepare & Anticipate Questions – Every Monday morning I meet with Adam for one hour. I prepare any questions or important items on Sunday night after reviewing Adam’s calendar in order to maximize our meeting. We may go over presentations for the week, travel schedule, or move through a list of items I need a decision on. In addition to preparing questions for him, I make sure to anticipate his questions in order to have that information ready (such as number of registrations for an event, specific amenities at a hotel, or cost of a new insurance premium) so we can both move forward with our priorities for the week.
  7. Plan Outfits –  I am a huge proponent of the office uniform and basically only wear skinny ankle pants, a blouse, and a blazer in either black, white, or beige. Why over complicate it? I do like to fancy it up with some gold or turquoise jewelry and leopard print heels every now and then. I also look at my calendar and plan accordingly. If I have a presentation or important interview, I may go more business formal, then if I have a solo day in the office following-up on emails or writing content. Regardless, it’s still black, white, or beige. I may throw in some navy blue or gray just to switch it up a little. Perhaps you have a little more fun with your fashion than I do, which means it’s even more important to plan your outfits – including jewelry and shoes. One less thing to worry about during your whirlwind week.
  8. Plan and Schedule Social Media Posts – If you manage social media for your Exec or have an avid following of your own, then plan your content and schedule your posts ahead of time. I’ve used Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule posts such as inspirational quotes, thought provoking questions, articles or blogs of interest, career opportunities, upcoming training events, and personal photos or anecdotes. It’s not always perfect, and there are things that often come up in real time that are more relevant. But, this way, you always have content planned and ready to go to continue to build the brand, provide value, and increase engagement whether that is for yourself or your Executive. Real time events that come up (like the massive blizzard we had in Vermont this week) are just bonuses.
  9. Complete Weekly Goal Setting Sheet – Every Sunday, I outline all of my priorities and must-do projects for the week (both personally and professionally) and then make sure I have time-blocked those items into my calendar. I use a document call a 411 from the book The One Thing (which is a MUST read for increased productivity and better time management). Click here for a copy of the 411.

Most importantly, don’t forget to relax and refresh! Grab brunch with you best friend, read a good book, binge watch your favorite show, go for a hike with your partner, take your kids to the movies, get a massage, sleep in! Whatever your go-to is to decompress and rejuvenate… do that.

How to do you relax and recharge? What do you do to prepare for the week ahead?

Top 3 Lessons I Learned in Las Vegas

Two weeks ago I was in Vegas for work with over 17,000 Realtors, executives, and administrative staff from around the world for a few days of intense training and networking for Keller Williams Realty’s annual conference, Family Reunion. We were only there for three full days, but it felt like three weeks! Each day was packed with masterminds, vision speeches, classes, and high level conversations. Mind expansion at its finest!

phone-and-coffeeThis is the fourth Family Reunion I’ve attended in the six years that I’ve worked with Adam, but this year was a little different. At previous conferences, I would obsessively study the agenda, pour over the class selections, and hurry from one breakout session to the next. But this year, I wasn’t there for the classes (which are all incredible!). I was there to make sure Adam had everything he needed for the two classes he taught (one of which was with the Founder and Chairman of the Board, Gary Keller!), to ensure that people who had questions for Adam were taken care of and followed up with, to handle social media in real time, and to network, network, network. My goal was to support Adam, to connect with leaders from around the country, and to scout for talent. And that is exactly where I thrive.

Now, while, I didn’t attend any formal classes, I still had some really big ahas while in Vegas. In fact, getting outside of my daily routine and having the time and space to think, and not just do, was critical. A different environment, a different routine, forces a different perspective and is invaluable in being able to think strategically and creatively. It also didn’t hurt that I got to spend three days with some of the best business minds in the country.

Here are the top lessons I learned while in Las Vegas:

  1. Choose your struggle.  On the plane, I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and one of the themes throughout the book was about deciding what you were willing to struggle with. What really drove this home for me was when Gary Keller said you are only five years away from wherever you want to be. Only five years. But those five years are not going to be easy. Success is not easy! It requires a lot of sacrifice and struggle. You just have to get on board with what you are okay not being good at for a little while. As a perfectionist, this is definitely not easy for me. But it did get me thinking…  I like to be comfortable, and I like to be uncomfortable. But I only like to be uncomfortable in the areas that I’m comfortable being pushed in. There are a few areas in my life where I consistently grow – anything related to work and my career. That was pretty clear to me. And the areas where I haven’t grown over the past few years? You guessed it, the areas where I wasn’t okay with being sub par, where I wasn’t okay being a beginner, where I wasn’t okay not being “the best”. The next question I asked myself was, “Well, are you willing to be bad at it for a while until you get good?” For some aspects of my life, the answer is no. I am not a very domestic individual and that is not an area I intend to struggle in – I’ll hire someone! I’m also not particularly tech savvy and while I wish I could navigate an Macbook Air like a boss, that is not a struggle I choose. What I do choose to struggle with is my health and fitness. I choose to struggle through workouts, struggle through repairing my nutrition, struggle through saying no to that second glass of wine. In five years, what was once a struggle, will just be my life. And then it will be time to choose a new struggle. That is the only way we grow.
  2. Talent is everything.  If we don’t have the right people on the right seat on the bus, we are never going to get where we want to go. You only know how great the individuals are in your organization based on the top talent you currently have. One of the benefits of attending national conferences is that you get to be around the best leaders in the industry. I very clearly saw the people I wanted to be in business with.   Empire builders are incredibly rare, yet we need to bring them into our world. I realized that in addition to making Adam’s life easier and him, as a leader, more effective, my 20% now needs to include better relationship management, more recruiting, and ultimately talent acquisition.
  3. Step up and own the role you want.  Being surrounded by top talent for three days really got me reflecting on whether or not was top talent. I concluded that I could be better. I love my career as Chief of Staff and have largely created the position that I currently have. But I want more. Therefore, I need to step up and own the role I want. While, I don’t actually want to change careers, I want to be a better version of myself, a better version of Adam’s Chief of Staff, and a better leader. This means elevating myself in all areas of my life. How? By taking ownership of my health and fitness, by dressing the part, by working on coaching and leading others, by joining a Board of Directors, by being vulnerable, and by not wavering from the standards I have for my life and career.

You control the course of your life with every choice you make. I choose to struggle. I choose to focus on my 20%. I choose to step up and own the role I want in business and in life. After all, we are only five years away from who we want to become and from where we want to be. But if I am purposeful, focused, and maximize my time, I think I can get there faster.

 

5 Ways Executive Assistants Can Add Value to Their Company

Last week at a networking event I was called an “office girl” and a “very powerful person” within about 10 minutes by two different people. Yes, I am female. And yes, I work in an office. But that’s about the extent of my identification with the label “office girl.” I mean, what is an office girl, anyway? While that devaluation of my chosen profession always gets to me a little, I’ve been called worse. However, it did get me thinking about why that one individual called me a “very powerful person” in the first place. Did I really live up to that moniker? And how do career Executive Assistants continue to grow in their role and earn that title?

Here’s what I know: Great Executive Assistants are leaders, invaluable resources, and influencers (aka powerful people). But to be seen as such, we must provide exceptional value, not just to our Executive, but to the organization at large. We must go above and beyond the traditional EA responsibilities and think outside the box.

add-value-to-company

Below are five ways Executive Assistants can add value to their company:

  1. Keep information, the right information, flowing. Executive Assistants are in a unique position where they have the privilege of learning from and interacting daily with the top Executives in the organization. A large part of an Executive Assistant’s role is to act as a gatekeeper. Yet, gatekeepers are not meant to keep people out; rather they should let the right people in at the right time. Control the flow of information, do not stop it. You can either hoard information and use your position of power as a crutch, or you can share what you learn with your co-workers and be seen as a leader, a resource, and an influencer at all levels of your organization. Information should flow up, down, and sideways throughout the company – and it often hinges on the successful communication skills of the EA. That does not mean you should be an open book. Your first priority is to maintain confidentiality and the confidences of your Executive. But understanding what information can and should be shared with which team members is an important part of our roles.
  2. Volunteer to lead special projects. This may already be a key part of your role (as it is mine), but if not, step-up! Companies today are doing more with less and that often means with less people. But I imagine your Exec and organization are not slowing down. Often there are new projects or initiatives that the organization wants to work on, but they don’t fall into any particular category or department. That’s where you come in. Executive Assistants are problem solvers and fixers. Executive Assistants are detail-oriented, organized, perfectionistic, and the ultimate project managers. Executive Assistants do whatever it takes to get the job done. You are uniquely equipped to handle projects that are important to the CEO, but may not require a full-time hire (yet).
  3. Tell stories. Are you great at writing or marketing? Perhaps you could create a company newsletter, take over your Executive’s social media accounts, start a company blog, write feature articles for local publications, or pitch stories to national media outlets. Content marketing and public relations are king. If your company doesn’t have a PR or marketing department and you are great at telling stories – then that’s your niche! Positive, free media mentions for your organization will definitely set you apart.
  4. Create or join a committee. Are you passionate about wellness or company culture? Then create or join a committee that focuses on those issues and share your insights. Better yet, listen. As an influential person in the organization, you may be looked to for all the answers. Instead, ask questions and get other’s to share their ideas. The most powerful person in the room is not the one who talks the most, but the one who can take all opinions and information and make a decision that best serves the company.
  5. Draw on your strengths and share your knowledge throughout the organization. What can you do better than anyone else? The ultimate mark of a leader and an influencer is to teach. Find opportunities to share your knowledge with your co-workers. Could you hold a seminar about event planning with the other administrative staff in your company? Perhaps you could train department managers on a new software the company is rolling out. Start and lead a monthly book club. Or hold a class about managing up for Executive Assistants.

 

Executive Assistants are powerful people. But that title is not just given. It is earned by providing extensive value not just to your Exec, but to the whole organization. Above are just a few examples of how one can add value – there are hundreds more. But it is the rockstar EA, the very powerful EA, that actually does them.

How do you go above and beyond in your role and add value to your company? Share in the comments below!