In my recap of Executive Secretary Live London, I mentioned that one of the things that resonated most with me was Jasmine Freeman asking, “What are you telling yourself that simply isn't true?” It was a reminder for me that our perception of ourselves is often far from reality and that it was time for me to check in on reality vs. perception. This is an exercise I do by giving my network a homework assignment. I ask questions to obtain their perception of me and compare their answers to the story I’m telling myself.
The first time I did this exercise was about 10 years ago while job seeking. I was researching common interview questions and one that was giving me anxiety was “Give three adjectives to describe yourself.” I decided to utilize my network and posted a request to my friends on Facebook to give one adjective they would use to describe me. Some of their answers I expected: Loyal, Caring, and Generous. Others blew my mind. Fearless. Creative. Social. These were words I would NEVER have used to describe myself, yet my friends used them over and over. It sparked some interesting conversations and forced me to take a long hard look at how critical I was being of myself.
A life changing shift in my paradigm happened two years ago in Susan Leahy’s Leadership Bootcamp. Susan spoke to how much we all dislike boxes and labels, but how we need to accept responsibility for putting ourselves in the biggest and most confining boxes in which we often sit. BUT, we can change that by throwing out the stories that do not serve us. We have to remember that we are not the stories we tell. We are the stories we CHOOSE to tell.
The powerful lesson I took away was that I needed to move out of the boxes I wasn’t comfortable in and move into boxes I had built. For example, the story I told myself a couple of years ago was I was not good at networking because I am very shy. Yet my friends kept telling me I was “fearless” and “social.” I had to reexamine my reality. The new box I built is that I’m an extroverted introvert. I’m actually pretty good at networking, as long as I remember to schedule downtime to recharge my internal battery.
I ask you to take a look at your boxes. Are you sitting in a box that someone else built for you? Do you believe your perception as gospel? Are you willing to do a little research into how others perceive you? Start by giving your network a little homework. Ask them for two or three adjectives they would use to describe you. Or maybe ask what talent you have they wish they had. Or ask what skills they believe come easily to you. You may be surprised to find how different their perception of you is from your own. I know I was.
I believe the way people view us is often a reflection of how we view ourselves. Talking to my peers, I'm frequently shocked and saddened by how many feel their role has little or no value, or that they are not respected. Under the category of things I know for sure, I know the role of the assistant IS a valuable one. But how can we get others to believe that if we don't believe it ourselves? How do we get our bosses to believe in us if we don't believe in ourselves?
I’ve been in administrative support roles for just shy of twenty years now. I’ve had roles ranging from entry level administrative support to executive assistant to the CEO and have always been considered a valued member of the team. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with executives who understood the value I brought to the equation and utilized me to the point that their trust intimidated me. I’ve also had the misfortune to work with executives who refused to provide me with the information and tools to be successful. Those executives viewed my role as insignificant and thought executive assistants were a dime a dozen. Worse, they saw the role as a place to lay blame when they messed up. I didn’t last long with those executives. With one, I managed to change their mindset and partner with them as a strategic business partner.
My goal, my passion and my dream is for all assistants to understand the value they bring and the importance of their role. If you believe you are “just an admin” that is how you will be viewed. When you embrace the significance of your position, others will as well.
travo.com/for-adminsTravel planning can be a frustrating task, especially if you support multiple executives. Each traveler has unique preferences and as travel planners we need to think through each step of the journey as if we were the traveler in order to predict all of their needs. Now there is help!! Last month TRAVO released their breakthrough web application designed to create customized itineraries around an event, meeting, or conference.
During the design phase, TRAVO reached out to many of the top admins to determine what features they needed to become a valuable tool for administrative assistants and travel coordinators. Based on the feedback they received, they incorporated many admin-specific features in the roll-out and are still adding valuable tools, such as the ability to export to Outlook.
TRAVO saves valuable time. You now longer need to utilizing many different websites to compare flights, lodging, and ground options, TRAVO does it all for you in an instant. Once you’re crafted the perfect itinerary, you can export it to the traveler’s calendar or as an editable word document.
TRAVO is easy to use. Simply enter the dates, times and locations of the desired meetings and/or events. TRAVO then scans over 800,000 hotels, flights and ground transportation and millions of potential itinerary combinations to present a suggested itinerary. You are then able to customize and finalize your bookings through one of TRAVO’s partners or send the itinerary to your corporate travel partner to book.
For more information, please go to TRAVO’s Admin webpage to watch a video tutorial explaining how TRAVO can help you.
If you have any comments, suggestions or features you'd like to see them develop, please comment below or email me and I'd be happy to pass them on to the TRAVO team.
Monday I was thrilled and honored to share the announcement that I was selected as one of of the five 2016 OfficeNinjas All-Stars!!!! What an incredible way to kick off Administrative Professionals Week!!!!
What amazing company I'm in. Please read about my fellow 2016 All-Stars:
I confess to needing more than one Kleenex when reading the wonderful nominations my co-workers submitted. I’m truly blessed and very grateful.
What makes Debbi Shaffer an Office Ninja All-Star? There are three characteristics that stand out.
First, she’s both competent and quick to respond – getting it right the first time, and getting it done swiftly is the name of the game when you’re supporting two senior executives as she does, and she does it as well as anyone who’s worked for me over a forty-year career.
Second, once you’ve asked Debbi to take on an initial task, she anticipates the ”next time,” by storing the process she followed, the preferences I expressed, the necessary contact details and other follow-up information where it’s easily retrieved – there’s virtually no reinventing the wheel where Debbi’s concerned.
Third and perhaps most outstanding, she makes time for others in our workplace community – she’s there with advice, assistance and a genuine customer-friendly personality and temperament for her co-workers, clients, visitors from other offices, and vendors/suppliers. Everyone gets the same friendly, professional treatment from Debbi. She’s a credit to our company, and certainly worthy of the title “Office Ninja All-Star”!
Debbi really changed what I understood the role of an executive assistant to be. I previously thought it was a “helper” role for all of the mundane daily tasks. I now know better. She is the ubiquitous force that drives everything. Her executive has many trusted lieutenants. He only has one right hand. That is Debbi.
Debbi is the fine detail that makes ideas reality. She is the thread that stitches thoughts into action. There is no detail too small for her attention, regardless who's responsibility it is when she is on watch.
When a team of our executive elite assemble, from around the world, to determine the focus of our company for the coming year they knew just who to call. She orchestrated the event coordinating the efforts of other executive assistants, support organizations, vendors.
So what? Right? It is not an uncommon event. Often we take little notice of who sends out the communications, who puts out the name tags, who arranges for the reservations and food. It is all background noise to the focus of the day. Her thoughtful execution caused every executive to question what was possible. Many commenting, “why don't we do this elsewhere”. From the thorough welcome packets, that oriented each traveling executive for EVERY aspect of their stay, to the magnetic (not pinned) name tags Deb had taken the mundane and made it appreciably better.
You asked for one story, I have many. I could share individual times where Deb has provided her executive with the cover he needs to be effective. Making sure the right info gets through and the rest held at bay until the time is right. She enables focus.
I could share stories when she was able to rescue her executive from technical details halfway around the world, rallying resources to keep him whole. She is the angel that protects.
I could share stories on how she intuitively knew when to add, and remove people from information threads to ensure a good outcome. She is the force that connects.
But you asked for one story, and one, brief, and poorly written work is all that I can offer. There can be only one. I would take Debbi any day of the week. She exemplifies invaluable.
Dedicated, creative, and professional – is how I describe the work Debbi Shaffer does for her executive managers. Debbi is courteous, articulate, organized, task-oriented and a savvy problem solver. She is extremely diligent and thorough in her approach to work. The senior executives she supports benefit from her attention to detail and organizational skills. She is always willing to help her co-workers in addition to delivering her own responsibilities in a timely manner. She utilizes her technology skills to perform her duties and to assist her team. Debbi’s constant quest to improve her skills are a reflection of her passion and commitment.
Debbi devotes her spare time to non-profit organizations dedicated to fundraising and raising breast cancer awareness and sharing her professional knowledge and resources with her administrative colleagues through her professional development webinars and her Admin Blog.
Debbi is a pleasure to work with.
Debbi is an amazing organizer that never neglects a detail. She anticipates the needs of out of town guests for meetings and contingency plans are developed in advance for the unexpected.
It is a pleasure working with Debbi and I know that anything she is involved in will be well thought out and executed! Peace of mind is what applies when Debbi is involved!
I am writing this paragraph to strongly recommend Ms. Debbi Shaffer for Office Ninja All Star.
Ms. Shaffer is a strong professional who leads multiple groups within our office. She is well respected by all those she serves and works with. I am enjoying working with her and cannot express my joy in having the opportunity to nominate her for Office Ninja. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I truly hope I have expressed strongly enough to you that truly there is not a better candidate than Ms. Shaffer.
What an amazing Executive Assistant she is. Ms. Shaffer immediately came to IT when I started in the office, and asked for our assistance to enable her to support her executives.
After speaking with her and evaluating her level of expertise in the IT field we suited her up with the tools typically assigned to IT support to allow her to support her executives anywhere in the world. We immediately experienced a 95% reduction in calls from the staff she supports.
It was amazing to see, and not only did she reduced the number of calls to the IT team, but increased the level of satisfaction the executives are experiencing by a whopping 100% (measured by complaints received and get well meetings I personally had to attend).
It is not often you see an Executive Assistant perform so many duties so well, and it has been a personal pleasure working with her, so is she a Ninja All Star, absolutely you could not find a better person to award this honor to.
Debbi has a demanding job as executive assistant to our multiple senior executives. She has to be present, physically and mentally all the time. Despite this, she finds time to lead the local Women's Network, bringing speakers, opportunities and awareness to the women in the office, as well as management.
Debbi is a master at networking and takes her duties very seriously. She has been able to leverage her skills for the betterment of the women in the office. Gender equality is a hot topic currently and Debbi is on the forefront of leading this issue. Debbi has a solution or idea for planning events that cover almost any topic. Her outreach is amazing and she is able to accomplish planning events while tending to her duties. With this, I nominate her for Office Ninja.
Here are just a few examples of the things Debbi has done to improve our office:
She created a safety presentation and coordinated the installation of a tablet at our reception area for all visitors to view.
In dealing with a difficult employee, she gave me guidance on how to handle the situation and ultimately resolve it in a professional manner.
She took over our local chapter of Jacobs Women's Network and increased membership by coordinating interesting programs.
Debbi tirelessly supports multiple executives in our Arlington, VA office. Better yet, she supports several non-executives, like myself, with the same great respect and care.
I could talk about the hours worked, travel coordinated, and day to day care she provides our team, but as Debbi realizes, that's just part of her job. It's expected, and she nails it.
A few examples of her greatness:
--When she recognizes folks don't want to interrupt our top leaders, she will on our behalf, arranging meals, providing breaks for nursing moms, and getting people out in time to pick up their kids. She does so graciously, in a way that no one feels bad for having to leave, and in a way our executives don't mind, as we all have different demands pulling on our time.
--She maintains several people's schedules, making sure those who need access to our leaders, have it, and making sure the time is productive. When disrupters pop in and threaten a pre-set, goal-oriented schedule for the day, she works to get things back on schedule by shuffling meetings, postponing less critical items, and providing recommended resolution to issues.
--Debbi also understands how different people work differently, recognizing that one approach will not fit all when it comes to being an executive assistant. She adjusts her own approach to cater to individual needs.
--From a leadership standpoint, Debbi encourages growth in our office through our Women's Development Network. She gets our executives to engage. She also works to provide access at all levels, which is notices by our more junior staff.
Debbi is among the hardest working, results-oriented, compassionate people in our company. She's our office ninja.
Debbi is my go-to person for professional networking. She get things done professionally with a touch of world-class quality. Her passion in this area shines and touches so many colleagues on a daily basis.
Special thanks to Mark Schneider of M&M Photography for taking the amazing photos!!!
NOT cleaning up forwarded emails is one of my biggest pet-peeves. Not taking the time to do so can lead to embarrassing professional blunders. I’ve seen feelings hurt and jobs lost because of forwarded emails. Before you forward an email, you should always take the time to scroll through the message to verify you are not sending anything that could hurt feelings, invade privacy or is confidential.
Take the time to remove information not pertinent to the recipient – Review the message, the ENTIRE message, to make sure you are not passing on information that should remain private. An administrator at Oxford University accidentally forwarded a list of the 50 worst exam performers to thousands of students.
Remove previous email addresses – Would you want your email address sent to people you don’t know? I don’t. Show the courtesy to remove email addresses in the body of the email before hitting send. I have the personal email addresses of some real power players in the world thanks to someone that didn’t use clean up the body of the email.
Change the subject – When an email gets forwarded many times, often the topic may change completely from the original message. Make the subject relevant.
Remove unwanted attachments – Unless the attachment pertains to the message, remove it. I’ve seen someone lose their job because they forwarded a confidential document when all they meant to do was share the name of a restaurant mentioned in the email but didn’t take the time to clean up the email.
Use BCC – If you are sending to multiple people who may not necessarily want their email addresses known to each other, use the BCC field.
Delete unnecessary signature files and disclaimers – They are just a nuisance your intended recipients need to scroll through.
Add your intention – I often get forwarded emails from my executives with no instructions. Is it just FYI? Do you want me to schedule a meeting? Am I supposed to send something to someone? If you forward an email that requires an action, please include that information.
I’ve been home from Executive Secretary LIVE in London for a week and I’ve been trying to put into word how amazing this conference was. I’ve been to a few Admin conferences and always feel like they could have done better. Executive Secretary LIVE was like Lucy Brazier and her incredible staff got into my head and saw all the hopes I had for the other conferences and executed them. I loved each and every moment. At Lucy’s request I live tweeted the sessions. I’ve been on Twitter for years, but confess to not utilizing it enough. I’m sure I produced as many Tweets in the two days of the conference as I have in the two years I’ve been on Twitter. Please check out @Debs224 for most of my key take-aways from the sessions.
First, for those who are not aware, Executive Secretary Live is the world's leading international event for senior and aspiring Administrative Professionals and Executive Assistants. The conferences take place throughout the year and around the world and features inspiring speakers and internationally renowned trainers for the Administrative Profession. The session I attended was in London. It was an amazing week spent with my mentors, heroes and colleagues. I reconnected with friends and greatly expanded my network. All sessions were structured for high-level admins.
Day one included two master classes. In the morning Cathy Harris spoke on creating and maintaining a successful internal admin networks. My favorite tip from Cathy was: Joining an admin organization or expanding your admin network helps you become exceptional! The afternoon was spent with Laura Belgrado, one of Europe’s most sought after trainer, giving us the ins & outs of public speaking. My favorite tip from Laura: Public speaking does not necessarily result in hurling, anxiety attacks or death. Laura provided many valuable tips on breathing, timing, non-verbal presentation skills and so much more. I can’t wait to put what I learned into practice when I speak during APW.
Lucy Brazier kicked off day two reminding us that we are who we are because of others. So true. Every person has an impact. Make your impact a positive one.
The day was jammed-packed with inspiration, so I’m going to give you my key take-away from each.
Marsha Egan spoke about “Powerful Priorities.”
Don’t get so caught up in the daily grind that you forget to work on your goals.
The incredible Bonnie Low-Kramen discussed “Finding Your Voice to Handle Challenging Situations.”
Women, in general, are raised to be competitive, but we need to be collaborative. We need to overcome our fear of saying, “I could really use some help.”
Next up, Vickie Sokol Evans shared “Timesaving (and jaw-dropping) productivity tips using Excel” and the room filled up with gasps of shock and cries of joy. If you want to improve your productivity and hone your technology skills, I highly recommend taking one of Vickie’s classes. I thought I was pretty tech savvy until I took one of her classes. Oh, the hours she has saved me.
Rhonda Scharf entertained up with her presentation “Sometimes You’re theWindshield – Sometimes You’re the Bug.” My key take-away was that when you are the bug is often when you learn and grow the most.
After lunch Bonnie & Vickie teamed up to record their next podcast on training for admins. Did you know that one hour of technology training provides one hour productivity increase per day? That is a great point to include if you are requesting training dollars from your company. As soon as the podcast is posted, I’ll share the link.
The speaker that had the biggest impact on me was Jasmine Freeman. Jasmine’s story was powerful and she shared it so eloquently, and with such honesty. The thing she said that resonated the most with me is, “What are you telling yourself that is simply not true?” Often our biggest critic is the voice inside our own head. Make sure that voice is not telling you lies.
Our final speaker was Peggy Grande, former EA to President Ronald Reagan. Peggy gave us her 10 tips from the top. It is hard for me to narrow it down to just one item from her presentation, so I’m choosing three:
We closed out Executive Secretary LIVE London with one heck of a birthday gala at the beautiful Ham Polo Club. Executive Secretary turned five, so we had a celebration. You’ve haven’t been to a party until you’ve been to a party with 150 admins. We dined, danced, sang and networked until the wee hours of the morning. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
Lucy Brazier has accomplished so much. She has done so much to improve the Administrative profession in the past five years. I’m so proud of her and was honored to be there to celebrate this milestone. I look forward to the next five … ten … TWENTY years!!! Thank you, Lucy!!
I’m planning on being at Executive Secretary LIVE again next year. I hope to see even more new faces.
This was sent to me today. I did a little digging to find out it was written by Steve Tobak and posted to CBS MoneyWatch March 2, 2012.
There are hundreds of articles on the characteristics of great employees, but #3 on this particular list really struck a chord with me. It is the prominent quality of ALL the great administrative assistants I know. No job is too small, no task too great. They don't know the phrase, "that's not my job."
1. Take responsibility for hot projects with a fearless attitude. And get this. If it works out, you don't waste a lot of time basking in the glory, at least not at work. Maybe you go out and celebrate with the other team members. That aside, you're all about finding the next big challenge. You're hungry for more. And if it fails, you don't point fingers. You take full responsibility and learn from it. And you know what? That's when management will start to see you as one of them. That's big.
2. Demonstrate natural leadership. That means when you take charge of something, people naturally follow, even though you don't have the title or the authority. Never mind everything you read; that's what natural leadership is really all about. There are all sorts of different styles that work, but mostly it comes down to a fearless self-confidence and charisma that people find magnetic. That's like gold in the corporate world.
3. Say, "Sure, no problem, will do," and then do it. It's one thing to have a solid work ethic and get the job done. That certainly key in the real business world. But it's another thing entirely to always accept challenging assignments with open arms and a simple, "No problem, will do" acknowledgement. And the tougher it is, the more confident you sound and the harder you work to make it happen. That's the sign of an employee who needs a promotion or two.
4. Roll with the punches without taking things personally. Sure, it's hard to keep your balance when the rug's just been pulled out from under you. But let's face it. The nature of contemporary business is one of constant change, reorganizations and layoffs. Programs come and go. Companies too. One day you're rolling in resources, the next day you need three signatures for a chair. That's the way business is. And if you're flexible, you're adaptable, you've got fortitude and you don't take things personally, that's big.
5. Think of the company's goals as your goals. I know, the jaded among you will say that blind loyalty to a company will enslave you and get you nowhere. Well, there's truth to that. After all, any employee can be fired or quit, and that's as it should be. This is about understanding how companies operate and making the company's or the department's priorities your own. When you start to identify with the goals of management -- live, eat and breathe them -- then you start to become management. Yes, that's a good thing.
6. Do whatever it takes to get the job done, even when you're not getting paid for it. Look, success in the real world doesn't work like tit for tat. First, you put yourself out there, take risks, do the work, and accomplish things. Then, and only then, do you get to put your hand out and say, "Give me some." Then, if your company doesn't take care of you, you learn a lesson, put your accomplishments on your resume, and move on to a better place that values overachievers like you.
7. Grow the business or improve the bottom line. Yeah, I know it's not popular, but that doesn't make it any less critical or true. These days, it's all about doing more with less. Being more efficient, effective, scrappy, innovative, motivational, engaging, and not only that, happy about it. Think of it as a problem-solving challenge where the problem is how to grow the business or cut spending while improving productivity. Like it or not, that is what it's all about.
I received the following travel tips via email from iJet. In the wake of the tragic events in Brussels earlier this week, I'm sharing with the admin community. Please share with any international travels in your offices.
While terrorism can occur at any time around the world, certain places are more prone to terrorist attacks. Take the following precautions when traveling to areas with a history of terrorism.
Before You Go to a High-Threat Destination
Departure and Arrival
While at Your Destination
If Involved in a Terrorist Incident
Three times recently I've sat at a table surrounded by women who were asked to introduce themselves and share one interesting fact about their lives. Each time, for greater than 90%, the interesting fact was that they were married and how many kids or grandkids they have. While I hope their wedding day and the birth of the kids were some of the most exciting days of their lives, when I am attending a networking event, I want to learn about the person, not her family.
In my opinion, the “interesting fact” requested at these networking events is supposed to be something that makes you stand out. It is a networking tool. The fact you share should be a teaser designed to peak interest for others to strike up a conversation with you at a later time to get the full story. Your interesting fact should be unique to you, but also something that others will relate to in their own lives. You should put some thought into it and always have two or three at the ready to share.
Here are some examples of facts I’ve shared at these events:
Not only do these fun facts make it easy for others to strike up a conversation with me later, they make me more memorable than, “I’m married and have two children, of the four-legged variety.”
Please, on your commute home today, think about some FUN and INTERESTING stories from your own life and the next time you are asked to share an interesting fact, USE THEM!!!!
Today I want to discuss a pet peeve of mine, the email signature file.
Emails with no signature file make me CRAZY!!! Your email signature is an extra chance to shine, promote your business and makes it easier for people to contact you. It makes my blood boil when my boss gets an email and asks me to get the person on the phone and there is NO phone number. For the love of ice cream, please use a signature file.
And while we are on the topic, if your company does not have a branded email signature, please ask them to create one. Uniform signature files convey a professional image. While it may seem cute to express your personality on your work emails, it’s simply not appropriate, especially if you’re company is trying to project a professional image. Companies should have a uniform signature file that is clean and simple, including the company logo.
I've heard arguments that you should not put your email address in your email signature because the address should be able to be obtained by hovering over the name in the “from” field. As an Admin that receives forwarded emails all the time, I plead with you to keep the email address in your signature file so I don’t need to go into my executives deleted items or LinkedIn to find the address.
If you are using an image that includes your name, title, and logo as your signature file, please be aware some companies have default settings that block images in emails and you run the risk the recipient won’t see anything.
When creating your email signature, please don’t include every single possible way to contact you. I prefer to see the name, company, title, email address, work phone, mobile phone, website and perhaps a link to the LinkedIn profile.
You can create separate email signature files for originating, reply and internal emails. Internal emails do not require extensive branding and contact information – just the name and phone number should suffice, and location if you are part of a global firm.
My other two email hot buttons are thoroughly reading emails before replying and cleaning up forwarded messages. More on those later.
Bonus: Do you know what EOM and NRN mean?
EOM = end of message. Please use this in the subject line if the subject line is the entire message. Example: Your flight is delayed 15 minutes EOM.
NRN = no reply necessary. Please use in e-mails when a reply or response is not required or expected. Example: Bob called and wants you to call him back NRN
The Audacious Admin is Debbi L. Shaffer, an outgoing, resourceful and highly motivated executive assistant with 20 years of experience specializing in C-Suite Executive Support.