Executive Secretary Live – a two day event for top notch Executive Assistants and PAs from around the world was launched this weekend. Delegates came from the UK, Russia, Belgium, France, Australia and the USA. It was a momentous and exciting two days. There was a mix of sessions on the soft skills such as communications and networking and the hard skills of producing a procedures manual and using Microsoft Office to save time. For those who missed the event, here is my take on the highlights.
Bonnie Low-Kramen opened the conference with a session on how crucial communications skills are if you want to be the ultimate top EA/PA. She discussed how to bridge the gap between the way different generations and personalities communicate. For me the top tips were around improving your body language.
There were two jaw dropping session from Vickie Sokolov Evans on how to exploit the power of Microsoft Office. Most of us use only 13% of the functions in Office. Yet there are another 87% which are guaranteed to save you time if only you know where they are and how to use them. The ones which set me alight were how to use the Styles function.
Why is it that some days it all goes pear shaped? One reason is often lack of clear procedures. Julie Perrin ran an excellent hands-on workshop on how to produce a Procedures Manual which will not only save your day but help those who cover for you. Having such a manual will help you stand out as an outstandingly well organised PA/EA.
How many of us reach a certain age and point in our career when we think can I grow any more? Eth Lloyd gave a very personal account of gaining a Masters late in life and through that experience helping others to reach for the sky.
What is it about some people that they walk into a room and can persuade people to do something? It’s all down to charisma as Susie Barron Stubley showed us. You need to create presence, power and at the same time warmth and these are skills which can be learned if you work at changing your mental state from negative to positive. Neutralize negativity was her key message for me.
This was a point which Doug Dickerson underlined in his session. Attitude and expectations are what limits most of us from becoming centers of excellence. Raise your expectations and you will be amazed at what you can achieve was what I took away from Doug and Eth’s sessions.
Laura Schwartz closed the conference with an amazing session on the power of networking and how to do it properly. The key messages for me are to research who you are meeting and identify two key people you want to meet at each event and what you want to ask them. And remember it is not about what the other person can do for you, but what you can do for them.
What was I doing at this extraordinary meeting of talented speakers and delegates? I was one half of the ‘E-Babes’. I had the enormous pleasure and honour of running an email best practice workshop with Marsha Egan of Inbox-Detox. Lucy Brazier created a first by having the two of us as leading experts on email best practice on stage at the same time and we had a lot fun thank you.
The speakers and the delegates made this the most stimulating conference I have attended for a long while. Topping it off there was a private ten course taster meal in Harrods Food Hall which included some fine wine!
If you missed this inaugural Executive Secretary LIVE event make a diary note for next year. That is if you want to expand your skills and become even more successful.
We all like to feel valued when we have either helped someone or done something really well. Many feel that saying thank you encourages better team work and bonding. A point supported by David Desento’s research. But what is the best way to say thank you? A thank you email is one way and is often the default. However, how many of those ‘thank you’ emails are really sent with genuine warmth and gratitude? For those who receive over 50 emails a day, the ‘thank you’ either might be overlooked or worse still just add to feeling of suffering with chronic email and information overload.
In workshops and coaching sessions, when asked what annoys people the most about email, 75% cite ‘thank you’ emails. Many perceive they are sent without thinking but rather almost as a Pavlovian response which is meaningless and without any feeling of real gratitude. After all if the boss ask for something why would you not do it.
In this age of electronic communications what is the best email etiquette to say thank you and do with feeling? Drawing on discussions with clients and their experience here are some which work really well without driving up the email overload.
1. Add a line at the end of the original email to show your gratitude in advance of the response.
2. If the person has gone the extra mile and done an exceptional job then:
especially if the person has gone the extra mile).
3. Only if none of the above work, should you ping back a ‘thanks’ email. But make sure it sounds sincere and it stops there. Don’t be sucked in to a pointless round of email ping-pong if they respond.
Using good email etiquette like this and switching to an alternative medium is also a very good way to improve performance and business relationships whilst at the same time reducing email and information overload.
For more ways like these to save time and enhance productivity ask us about our email best practice training and coaching.
How the shape of the earth dictates email’s longevity
Nathan Zeldes, Nov. 4, 2012
Email was invented in 1971, with a message crossing from one end of a room to the other via ARPANET, and has gone on to become a major presence in the life of every knowledge worker on the planet. We devote to it 20 hours a week, complaining endlessly about the overload and the stress. And yet – despite the availability of many more modern tools like IM and various Social Media, email is still here, based on the same paradigm it had 41 years ago. In fact, when Google introduced Wave, that exuberantly media-rich social messaging platform, they said it’s time to reinvent email to match the 21st century; but Wave has since followed the dodo and email is still here.
I’d like to suggest one reason for this seeming paradox – an attribute of email that is mostly absent in the tools seeking to replace it, and which represents a deep advantage for many users.
This relates to the fact that the earth is still (with all due respect to Thomas Friedman) round. In a globalized economy, this means that some of the people you must communicate with will be asleep when you have something to tell them or ask of them. And there’s more – cultural diversity ensures that holidays and weekends vary widely, so much so that Prof. Erran Carmel of American University has found that only about a quarter of the workdays in a year are common to all the countries where a large corporation may run its business. In this messy reality, email shines for its primary attribute: it is asynchronous. It is a messaging platform where messages arrive, accumulate, and persist until read. No matter whether your recipient is asleep, celebrating a local holiday, or on vacation, they’ll get your message when they return to their work.
I remember this aspect well from the eighties, when I was first exposed to email. Working in Israel for an American company, email allowed me to correspond with my US coworkers with a “guaranteed next day response”. The guarantee has since evaporated, alas, due to email overload, but the basic concept has remained: you send the mail out in your daytime, when the other fellow’s asleep, and you get a reply when you’re awake some other day. For global distributed teams, email solves one major issue caused by our spherical home world – it empowers members to work together without staying awake at all hours. Like the Fax machine, its extreme usefulness is keeping it alive.
True, Gen Y and Gen Z folks have different habits than their elders, and they bring with them from school a preference for Facebook and SMS as primary communication channels; but then, their life as students requires no participation in hectic global teams. I suspect that once they enter the enterprise they will retain Facebook as a social tool and even use it to good advantage for some work activity, but will stick to email for most of their globally oriented team interaction.
The challenge for us who combat Information Overload is therefore to help organizations and individuals use introduce some email best practice strategies to allow us to manage email in better, more effective, less stressing ways; because – unless someone finally invents a planet-flattener of some sort – email rules, it isn’t going away anytime soon!
Nathan Zeldes, 12 November 2012
In the USA, October is national prevent bullying month. We do not appear to have anything similar in the UK which is a shame especially as there have been a few cases of young people committing suicide through feeling bullied on Facebook etc.
Email too can easily be used to bully people. For example leaving insufficient time to reply, constantly sending email reminders and demands. Sending rude, arrogant and abrasive emails can be stressful too for the recipient. Attaching read receipt and reminder flags might also be deemed bully tactics. Such harassment is a drain on productivity as found previously. Perhaps the most serious form of email bullying is expecting people to reply too quickly and often outside acceptable working hours. Moreover, email bullying adds to the email overload and hence stress levels.
Any form of bullying is to be deplored and is unacceptable. Social technologies and email have just made it easier to do in a hidden and often covert manner. Deleting and/or ignoring such emails is not an option.
VW recently stopped sending email to workers Blackberrys thirty minutes after their shift ended. That is taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut.
At Mesmo Consultancy we have found a more informed a sustainable solution is to implement a proper email management code of conduct and email best practice charter. It should contain both what is acceptable email behaviour and the procedure if you are on the receiving end of email bullying.
Have you ever been bullied by email? Does your organisation have such an email management code of conduct?
Removing yourself from distribution lists and CC’d email is a powerful way to reduce the volume of email traffic through your inbox and reduce the email overload. Clearly if its an external newsletter the obvious way is to unsubscribe. But what about all those internal (or external) lists about matters which do not really interest you? It is no good just ignoring the email as that just leads to more of the same. Here are some tried and trusted responses which people have used in different situations and which demonstrate good email etiquette too.
1. Taking yourself out of the loop when someone asks you for help but you are the wrong person.
The gentle approach – forward the email with something like:‘Could you help Frankie? By the way, I don’t need to be copied in unless there is a problem.’
The blunt approach -reply directly to the sender with something like:‘Thanks for contacting me. The person who can really help you is John whose email address is ….. I suggest you email them directly.’
2. Getting yourself off a distribution list.
The gentle approach:‘Thanks for keeping me posted about developments with the Widgets project. Glad to hear it is progressing well. I am no longer involved with this aspect of the business. At the same time I’m trying to reduce the volume of email traffic through my inbox. Please can you help me by taking my name off the distribution list. Many thanks.’
The more direct and blunt approach: ‘Thanks for copying me in on developments about the Widgets project. What do you want me to do? If you are not expecting any input from me, please can you take me off this distribution list.’
What techniques and words work for you? What is your company policy on matter like this one?