Reading is Sexy. Do It More. Do It Often.

reading

My favorite thing to do for as long as I can remember is read. I have always enjoyed getting lost in other worlds with interesting characters, learning from the stories of incredible real-life heroes, or diving into a more prescriptive book to increase my business acumen. I enjoy reading so much that I majored in English in college just so I could spend four years with books!

Now, I’m a bit old school and prefer to read a physical book, rather than use an electronic reader (I need a break from screens!). Though, I will admit, I have finally adopted, and adapted to, audio books. It took me several years to get over my self-righteous approach to reading and finally get an Audible membership. Listening to books just didn’t feel “right.” But I’ve found a happy medium. Ninety percent of the books I listen to are for business or personal development. It’s the fastest way to absorb the most amount of information that I can then translate quickly into action (pro tip: set your Audible to at least 1.5X to go even faster). Reading for pleasure, though? I will always pick up a “real” book for that.

Since my 2019 growth plan includes a focus on finance and leadership, many of my books this year will trend towards those topics. But I still have a lot of great fiction to read too! In no particular order, here’s what’s on my 2019 reading list:

  1. Leaders: Myth and Reality by Stanley McChrystal and Jeff Eggers
  2. Winston Churchill by his Personal Secretary: Recollections of the Great Man by a Woman Who Worked for Him by Elizabeth Nel
  3. Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean by Karen Berman and Joe Knight
  4. Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work: 3 Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Life by Ariel & Shya Kane
  5. Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten T. Hansen
  6. The Millionaire Messenger: Make a Difference and a Fortune Sharing Your Advice by Brendon Burchard
  7. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
  8. Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John C. Maxwell
  9. The Women by T.C. Boyle
  10. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
  11. Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters
  12. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  13. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
  14. The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency by Chris Whipple
  15. Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Finance Basics for Managers
  16. The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course: Finance for Non-Financial Managers
  17. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
  18. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  19. The Road Less Stupid: Advice from the Chairman of the Board by Keith J. Cunningham
  20. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
  21. The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein
  22. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
  23. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle
  24. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  25. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

Now, my goal is to read at least 52 books this year, just as I did last year. This list comes up a bit short. However, I know there are going to be several bestselling, must-reads that are released throughout the year. Case in point, my favorite book of 2018 was only published in the 30 days. In addition, my fiction choices are usually more spontaneous, so I have to leave some room for picking up a few light beach reads while I’m on vacation. Hell, three new books (not on my list) arrived on my doorstep from Amazon just since starting this post!

Whether reading on the beach, listening on the drive to work, hosting a book club, or adding another book (that I may or may not ever read) to my collection, books are my passion. Whatever the reasons you have for picking up a book, do it more and do it often.

You can follow what I read throughout the year on Goodreads and start your own 2019 Reading Challenge. Please share your reading list in the comments. I am always looking for my next favorite book.

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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!

Lead Yourself First. Get Uncomfortable. Be Indispensable.

magic happens

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being on Liz Van Vliet’s podcast, Being Indispensable. Liz is as passionate about the Executive Assistant career as I am and has created content through her website and podcast to help EAs not just survive, but thrive. Liz empowers EAs to first shift their mindset to become true partners with their Executive, and then teaches them how to take action.

When Liz first asked me to be on her podcast several months ago, I had a very quick, “Hell, yes!” moment, followed closely by panic, anxiety, and feelings of self-doubt. Why was she interested in me? What did I know? I’m not a public speaker. Who is going to listen? I’m going to sound like an idiot. I like being behind the scenes, not in front. Negative self talk spiral ensued… so, naturally I emailed back and said, “Yes, I would love to!”

Why? Because despite my fear of public speaking/sharing my story/blogging/recording a video/doing a webinar/etc. (basically anything in the put yourself out there and wait to be judged category) the opportunity for career growth (i.e. results) outweighed any fear. I believe in coaching and have a deep desire to help others develop their careers and achieve their goals. The only way to do that is by speaking up and speaking out (even if it’s into a microphone huddled in the corner of my bedroom). Coaching and leading others, starts with coaching and leading yourself. How can I possibly help others grow and succeed, if I am not challenging myself, getting outside of my comfort zone, and growing? So I asked for it. I put it out in the universe that I wanted to coach and teach and grow. And the universe answered in the form of Liz. Thank you Liz (and universe)!

being indispensableClick here to hear my inaugural podcast with Liz on Being Indispensable. 

Podcast done. What’s next?

Something even further outside of my comfort zone. Being in front of the camera. Recorded for posterity. But comfort zone be damned. I’m stepping out of that small, limited little circle and finding that magic!

On Thursday, November 2, I am launching my first webinar series, Lead & Assist. Lead and Assist is a six-week online training program designed to redefine the Executive Assistant role and help you take your career to the next level.

As you know, I believe that an Executive Assistant position is not just a stepping-stone to another position but a dynamic career all on its own. Executive Assistants are the ultimate force multipliers and project managers. Your project just happens to be your Executive.

For more information about my upcoming webinar series, feel free to email me at hallie@adamhergenrother.com. You can also listen to my Intro to Lead & Assist recording here to learn a bit more about what we will be covering during the class. I hope to see many of you on the call and I look forward to masterminding with EAs from around the world!

Lead and Assist - S1

Now, let me ask you this, when was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone? Share your stories in the comments! 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

5 Things to Prepare for Your Next Performance Review

I may be the minority, but I love my yearly performance reviews! It is such a great time to reflect on what you have accomplished, where you can improve, and set new goals. And of course, it is the (sometimes only) opportunity to discuss compensation, increased responsibilities, flexible schedule, or other requests that benefit YOU, not the company.

career_is_your_businessHere are 5 things to prepare for your next performance review:

  1. Do a thorough review of what you have accomplished this year, and what you did not. (TIP: Keep a running list of all of your accomplishments throughout the year in Evernote, a spreadsheet, or Word doc so you don’t miss anything). Discuss why certain objectives were not hit and how you will work to close the gap (and by when) or if you need additional resources to accomplish said goals.
  2. Review your objectives/goals for the rest of the year or the following year. Do not simply review the company goals, but what you want to accomplish in your career (do you want to take on a new project, lead the culture committee, write a blog, etc.?). Then outline the 3-5 strategies you have developed to achieve those goals. Include deadlines and any resources you need to accomplish them.
  3. Request specific training opportunities (I highly recommend Behind Every Leader!). Outline the cost and the benefit the training will bring to you and your organization.
  4. If this conversation will include a discussion about compensation – be prepared. I recommend outlining everything you have accomplished in your role (tie specific dollar amounts or clear company wins to each one). Also, do some extensive research on compensation for your role in your city/state. Because EA positions are so varied, I often include the compensation info for several different roles and then find an average based on the percentage each plays in my role.
  5. Prepare an agenda including the four points above (review previous year, next year’s goals, specific training requests, compensation analysis) and any other special requests or key points you would like to discuss. Email/print for your Exec the week of your performance review (usually the night before will do as that is likely when they will review and we don’t want it to get lost in the inbox!).

While I hope you are having these conversations more frequently than once a year (at least quarterly), often annual reviews are your one chance to discuss, well, your performance. I know these are not always easy. The first few performance reviews I did with my Executive, Adam, I was a nervous wreck. The compensation conversation was the most difficult part. But I found that having the facts prepared always bolstered my confidence. And they were never as difficult as I had built up in my mind. If you are being honest with yourself and have done a thorough reflection of your past performance, you know if what you are asking for is legitimate.

Bottom line: Move beyond the basics of what went well and what didn’t. Do your research, be prepared, bring evidence, and advocate for yourself. No one else will do it for you.

Quick Tip: Make sure you stay on topic! These conversations can sometimes get off track and before you know it you’re discussing who your Exec needs meetings with that week. Prepare the agenda and talking points and keep going back to them until you have satisfactorily discussed all points. This is your meeting. Own it!

Have a performance review story to share? Tell us about it in the comments! What else would you add to this list?