A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action

 

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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?

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

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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?

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.

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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!

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?

The Girl Next to the Corner Office

Did I have dreams of being in the corner office? Not really. Did I have aspirations of being in the Oval office? Yes – I dreamed of being either an FBI profiler, a fashion magazine editor, or President. In high school I did my senior capstone project on serial killers, but wasn’t ready to commit to a life of crime. After I started college as a Journalism major and realized that a core part of the position would be talking to strangers on the daily, I quickly switched to a more appropriate course of study – English with a Writing Concentration. The only strangers I met were in the pages of Chaucer, Marquez, and Camus. As for being President? It hasn’t completely lost it’s allure (despite the current state of politics). But let’s be honest, I’m much more of an Olivia Pope, than a Fitzgerald Grant.

So, here I am now, almost 10 years out of college, next to the corner office. And it feels like home.

Being an Executive Assistant (Chief of Staff, Executive Secretary, Coordinator of Chaos, Executive Administrative Assistant, etc.) is not just a stepping stone to another career (as it may have been in the past) it is a dynamic and fulfilling career all on its own. I hope to empower Executive Assistants to own (but never abuse) their power, develop their leadership skills, and continue to learn and grow and make themselves an invaluable strategic asset to their CEO and their organization. I also hope to help Executives understand what a valuable asset they have or can have if they hire, train, and invest into their EA the way their EA invests into them. The best EA/CEO relationships are not hierarchies, but partnerships.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s 2014 data, there are approximately 2.5 Million top executives (CEOs, COOs, government officials, education leaders) and 3.9 Million assistants (executive assistants, medical assistants, paralegals, administrative assistants). That is about 1.5 assistants for every executive. My point is, we need each other to survive. And in order to thrive, Executive Assistants can and should both lead and assist.

Let’s get started.


 

next to the oval office

Fun Fact: Next to the Oval Office is the President’s second dining room; throughout the years it has been used as a private dining room, private study, or secretary’s office. The photo above was taken in 1946 during Harry S. Truman’s presidency when the dining room was used as the office of the “President’s secretary” (a position now know as the White House Chief of Staff). Below, the dining room in 1974, as the office of Richard Nixon’s personal secretary, Rosemary Woods.

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