Tip of the month archive
Benefitting from change
A senior PA should see change in their organisation as an opportunity rather than a threat.
Rather than resisting or following, try leading...
The effective PA will keep informed, be proactive and maintain a positive attitude.
(Learn more in the latest "Executive Secretary" magazine.)
Where's my apostrophe?
The apostrophe has 2 functions:
The apostrophe is used to indicate the missing letter, eg:
She's told him = She has told him
I'm here = I am here
I can't = I cannot
I wouldn't = I would not
your = belonging to you; you're = you are
its = belonging to it; it's = it is or it has (its' does not exist)
there = over there; their = belonging to them; they're = they are
When the possessor is single (ie, just one person or thing), we indicate possession by using an apostrophe followed by the letter s:
The man's coat
My sister's hat
The lady's dress
When the possessors are plural (ie, more than one person or thing), we indicate possession by placing an apostrophe after the final s:
The girls' bicycles
My cousins' parents
The secretaries' desks
However: when a word changes completely in the plural, the apostrophe remains before the s:
The men's books
The children's toys
The women's bags.
Apostrophes are not required where there is no possession eg:
The PAs visited the seminar.
The PCs were working well.
She was born in the 1960s.
If the subject is followed by a verb an apostrophe will probably not be needed, if it is followed by a noun then one may be required.
Working with your colleagues:
Business nowadays is so much more about relationships. It is vital for employees, particularly PAs and administrators, to understand and empathise with their colleagues' roles.
Why not arrange "A Day in the Life Of..."* sessions within your organisation to learn more about what other departments do, what are their challenges and how can everyone work together more effectively?
*Many thanks to Pauline Coakley for the suggested title.
A very happy new year to everyone!
Working with your manager :
The manager and the PA do the same job... they have the same objectives; they just carry out different tasks to achieve those objectives.
Do you know your manager's objectives? You should; they are yours!
Prioritising and managing your time :
Never just focus on the task, always consider the impact of the task.
For example, a member of staff is leaving in a month and you need to arrange appointments for interviews for a replacement. If you think, "oh, there's still another month until she leaves" and don't start the process, you could end up working with one member of staff down for a few weeks.
You need to arrange the appointment, which may take a few days, you need to interview the candidates. If you like one of them, you need to make your decision and inform them. They may ask to think about it for a couple of days. If they accept, they will then have to work their notice (which could be a month); if they don't accept, you may have to repeat all this process.
It's not just about the appointment. Always consider the impact of the task.
Are you now arranging travel for your manager(s)? Here is a checklist that may help; of course, add any of your own specific requirements to this list :
• Does your manager need a hire car – check all requirements if so?
• Check the location on a good up to date, large scale map. Invest in a sat nav if not already in the car!
• Plan the route from the start of the journey to the destination – if you are unsure, travel organisations can help or you could use a computer software package or website that plots routes for you – www.multimap.com or www.googlemaps.com .
• You then need to estimate or get advice on how long the journey will take – check radio/internet/TV/travel organisations for any roadworks, weather problems or other expected delays. Or does your sat nav have live updates?
• Is overnight accommodation required?
• Are there places to stop for meals if required?
• Are there parking facilities where required and are passes/permits needed? How much?
• Check times and whether or not trains are direct
• What services are available on the train?
• Does your manager travel first or second class?
• Are there discount tickets available if you book in advance?
• Book ticket and reserve a seat as soon as possible
• Do you need a flexible ticket?
• How does your manager get to the station for departure and how does he/she get from the destination station to the meeting location? Is a taxi or hire car required? London underground (is a ticket for this included in the price of the main ticket)?
• Will someone locally arrange for your manager to be met?
• How far is the meeting location from the railway station?
• Are there any risks of delays that day?
• Do you need to delegate this to a travel agent?
• Check flight times, airlines (does your manager have a preference?)
• Can you check in online?
• Does your manager have a valid passport?
• What about frequent flyer schemes?
• Does your manager need a visa? Or vaccinations?
• Order foreign currency and possibly traveller’s cheques (although major credit cards can generally be used anywhere in the world)
• How will your manager get to the airport? How much does parking cost?
• Allow time for security checks at the airport
• Will your manager be met at the airport or do you need to arrange transport at the destination airport? Can someone locally do that for you?
• Do you need to arrange hotel accommodation?
Continuing the theme of tips for people wanting to progress to the level of a senior PA, this month here are just a few thoughts on working effectively your manager:
•Meet daily with your manager to confirm objectives and priorities for the day. You should also prepare for this meeting as it should be a two-way conversation. Anticipate your manager's questions and have viable solutions to offer. This can always be done by 'phone or internet if your manager is away.
•Be the ears and eyes of your manager; they are often in meetings all day and may not always be aware of any conflicts, successes or other issues within their department or organisation.
•Be aware of your manager's working style and preferences.
•Build relationships and be positive and proactive.
If you'd like to progress to the level of a senior PA you need to be confident and proactive. In particular, you should understand as much as possible about your organisation's business. Here are some ways to do this :
- Speak regularly with your manager and colleagues
- Ask questions
- Read emails, notices, reports
- Read newspapers, trade journals
- Subscribe to specialist magazines such as Executive Secretary
- Use the internet and your organisation's intranet to research topics
- Attend meetings (not just to take minutes)
- Take and make training opportunities
- Network internally and externally (join local groups such as the Manchester PA Network, or international groups such as EuMA)
- Take advantage of social media ; join LinkedIn and benefit from the PA groups there
- Keep your ears and eyes open
This month's tips (BOGOF this month!) come from senior PAs who trained with me in their "early (or earlier) days" and have gone on to even greater things.
Read about their careers, their challenges and what makes them love their roles. Find out about the training they did and then learn from their Top Tips ........ read Successful PAs' Tips
An email is just a letter sent electronically.
With the exception of some layout issues, an email is basically a letter or a memo sent electronically and yet it is often thought that emails are "less formal". Originally emails did tend to be just sent internally and were, therefore, possibly less formal. However, nowadays we send emails everywhere; all the same standards applied to letters should be applied to these emails.
Less care may be taken with the preparation of emails and they are sent without a moment's reflection.
Always stop before you send.
Make people feel valued
I was recently reminded of the saying that people don't always remember what you say or do, but they always remember how you made them feel.
In these busy times we seem to have forgotten about how we make people feel. How many times, while you are speaking to someone, are they taking quick glances at their mobile phone? People rushing off while you are trying to tell them something; too busy to give you a few minutes of their time? Every time you tell a story, they have to have done it already - or better? There are so many other examples.
Try these simple things and make people feel valued:
•put your phone away when you are with others - in meetings, training, dining or just chatting
•stop for a few extra minutes and listen to people
•when someone tells you about something they have done, enjoy their pleasure, don't try and cap it
In the PA's world, interruptions are normal and regular; they are a part of the role and have to be dealt with professionally. It may be the boss, colleagues or clients and there is no point in becoming stressed about it as it is an essential part of the role.
However, the situation is made worse by our interrupting ourselves .... that is by not staying focussed. First of all, take off the alert that tells you emails have arrived. You should check whether you have emails when you are ready, not when your pc tells you. Stay focussed on what you are doing rather than jumping from one task to another. Write things down if you think you'll forget.
Finally, turn off the alerts on your mobile phone - again, that is letting other people control you. Always turn off your phone in meetings, conferences or training sessions; it is impossible to focus clearly and, therefore, be creative, if you are constantly checking for messages.
People have been talking about paperless meetings and paperless offices for a long time but we are still, mostly, a long way from achieving it.
We have to totally rethink the way we work and I believe paperless meetings are certainly viable; it would also save money.
Here are some possibilities you might like to research
• Papers via email
• Drop box
• Video and teleconferencing
• Microsoft sharepoint
• Shared drives
• MS Lync
• Google phone
• Livescribe smartpens
• Electronic white boards
• Live Meeting programme
• Telepresence videoconferencing
• Microsoft Cloud
What else could you use?
8 tips for faster writing,
•Always keep your writing small and close together; you will write faster because your pen spends less time on the paper.
•Don’t press too hard; you will become more physically tired.
•Don’t use capital letters; block capitals are much slower to produce.
•Don’t write too close to the edges of the paper; this prevents faster writing because you have to slow down near the edges.
•If you’re using an A4 notepad, fold the page in half lengthways and write down one side and then the other; because you have less space you will automatically write less.
•As you near the bottom of a page, start to push the paper up and then flip over as you reach the end.
•Use your non-writing hand to fold over the bottom corner of your pad to enable a quick flip (see above) and hence faster writing!
•Learn a system of speed writing; BakerWrite takes just 6 hours to learn and only a few weeks to become proficient (with regular practice).
•You can now learn BakerWrite speedwriting online at www.BakerWrite.com
You can make things happen.....
It's a new year and a new opportunity to really improve our lives. Think about what you really want; what do you need to do to get it?
If you sit back and wait for things to happen, they may do .... or they may not..... or something you don't want may happen.
But .... if you plan and act, the world's your oyster!
Always prepare before you make a 'phone call ....
If you want your 'phone calls to be effective - stop before you dial..... It may only take 30 seconds, but that bit of preparation can make an enormous difference.
Here are just a few things you could think about before you pick up the 'phone (particularly if it's going to be a tricky call):
1.What is the objective of the call?
2.Who do you need to speak to? What do you know about that person?
3.Is this the best time to make the call?
4.What would be the best way to build rapport?
5.Have you got all the background information?
6.How might you open the conversation?
7.What might the other person say? And what might you reply to that?
8.What if he/she says something else?
9.How should you phrase your statements or requests? What are the best words to use?
How to write persuasively ....
1. Ensure high standards
2. Know your audience
3. Offer solutions rather than problems
4. Use your reader's words
5. Use positive words
6. Turn bad news into good news
WIIFM stands for What's In It For Me. When you want to persuade someone to do something for you, try and find a reason that it would be good for THEM to do it ... not always easy, but possible.
Find our more about WIIFM and the other points above in my new book on business writing due out later this year.
The less breaks you take, the less productive you could be.
People who choose to work without breaks could be less productive, less creative, less organised, more unfit and miss networking opportunities which could also improve performance and effectiveness.
Stop a while .......
If you hate minutes, here are two vital things to remember :
Minute taking is not dictation - don't try to write down everything that everybody says; just listen and then jot down key words that will remind you of what was discussed.
Don't try and write your minutes in the meeting - you should just take notes. You then write your minutes (the summary) afterwards. If you have any doubts about whether or not something should be included just take a note and decide later. Just because something is in your notes, it doesn't mean it has to go in your minutes.
For all the information you need about preparing for meetings, taking notes, being professional in meetings and writing up your minutes, read "Successful Minute Taking : Meeting the Challenge" or contact me for information about minute taking and/or speedwriting courses.
Rather than fitting new technology into the way we work, we should try changing the way we work to benefit fully from new technology.
The meaning of our communication is the response we get back, regardless of our intention.
Always plan and prepare before making a 'phone call, sending an email or attending a meeting.
Your emails and letters are often the first impression clients have of your organisation - are they giving the best impression?
Remember, emails are letters sent electronically and should be given the same care as you would give a letter.
If you'd like to know more, I am holding a business writing workshop in London on Tuesday 21 June. Contact me and quote TOTM to receive a 10% discount
One of the reasons people struggle to take notes in meetings is because they have no structure to their notetaking. Long words are abbreviated at random and then can't be read the next day!
Shorthand can take a long time to learn, whereas speedwriting can be learnt in a day and perfected within weeks.
If you would like to know more contact us. There will be a speedwriting workshop in Manchester on 14 June.
"If you can see change not as an enemy, but as a welcome friend, you will secure the most valuable prize of all - The Future."
If your organisation is going through a period of change, be proactive and take some control to enable you to take advantage of the situation.
Above all, show a positive attitude .....
If you would like to know more visit http://www.bakerthompsonassoc.co.uk/cms/benefiting-from-change-in-the-work-environment and contact us.
Exceptional PAs are proactive to ensure their effectiveness. They take initiatives, volunteer, make and act upon decisions, become involved and seek to learn.February 2011
Exceptional PAs are networkers and join organisations such as EuMA (European Management Assistants - www.euma.org), they get informed by building relationships with colleagues, managers and specialists, they read bespoke magazines such as Executive Secretary, which is being re-launched later this month.
Above all, exceptional PAs are communicators .....
How much time do you spend worrying? Probably far too much ….. The nature of work, particularly a PA’s role, leads to many worries during work time …. and often those worries are taken home and compound any personal worries.
Worrying is time consuming, stress inducing – and pretty much pointless.
Here are some tips :
If you awake at 3am worrying about work, tell yourself there is nothing you can do about it at the moment and force yourself to think about something else.
If, at a similar time, you wake up having just remembered something you should have done, write it down on a piece of paper and go back to sleep. From personal experience, I recommend you get up and write it down, I’ve often found illegible scribbles next to my bed which were written in the dark (possibly with my eyes closed)!
If you have a worry, focus on your possible options and then either act or wait.
If you have no control over the worry – let go (not easy, I know, but start gradually).
Most importantly, talk to somebody.
I thought for this month's tip that I'd suggest a few possible new year's resolutions that could improve business (and personal) relationships:
listen to people - really listen .....
be open-minded - we often assume we know what people are going to say and, even worse, finish their sentences
give people their "moment" - it's conversational to come back with something similar you've done, but sometimes it can really take away the moment from the speaker - do we really have to equal or better what they've done?
let others fill the silence - in a group, we don't have to always be the one to reply
Minute taking is NOT dictation - just because you have taken note of something doesn't mean it needs to be included in the final minutes.
Don't try and write your minutes in the meeting; just take notes.
If you or your manager have to travel overseas, I can recommend www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk as a helpful site. It gives information on vaccinations required, sun exposure and other overseas health issues - better to be safe!