Administrative Support eBook

Administrative Support

Training Manual

 All Rights reserved – Kolena Corporation

 

Table of Contents

 

Module One: Getting Started. 6

Workshop Objectives. 6

Pre-Assignment Review.. 7

Module Two: Getting Organized (I). 9

Dealing with Email 9

Managing Electronic Files. 10

Keeping Track of the Paper Trail 11

Making the Most of Voice Mail 12

Case Study. 13

Module Two: Review Questions. 14

Module Three: Getting Organized (II). 16

Keeping Your Workspace Organized. 16

Using a To-Do Book. 17

The Extra Mile: Adding Project Management Techniques to Your Toolbox. 18

Case Study. 19

Module Three: Review Questions. 20

Module Four: Managing Time. 21

Managing Your Time. 21

Keeping Others on Track. 22

Maintaining Schedules. 23

Case Study. 24

Module Four: Review Questions. 25

Module Five: Getting It All Done On Time. 26

Prioritizing. 26

The Secret to Staying on Track. 27

Goal Setting. 28

Case Study. 29

Module Five: Review Questions. 30

Module Six: Special Tasks. 31

Planning Small Meetings. 31

Planning Large Meetings. 32

Organizing Travel 33

Case Study. 34

Module Six: Review Questions. 35

Module Seven: Verbal Communication Skills. 36

Listening and Hearing: They Aren’t the Same. 36

Asking Questions. 37

Communicating with Power. 38

Case Study. 39

Module Seven: Review Questions. 40

Module Eight: Non-Verbal Communication Skills. 41

Body Language. 41

The Signals You Send to Others. 42

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It. 43

Case Study. 44

Module Eight: Review Questions. 45

Module Nine: Empowering Yourself. 46

Being Assertive. 46

Resolving Conflict. 47

Building Consensus. 48

Making Decisions. 49

Case Study. 50

Module Nine: Review Questions. 51

Module Ten: The Team of Two. 53

Working with Your Manager. 53

Influencing Skills. 54

What to Do in Sticky Situations. 55

Case Study. 56

Module Ten: Review Questions. 57

Module Eleven: Taking Care of Yourself. 58

Ergonomics. 58

Stress Management. 59

Dealing with a Heavy Workload. 60

Case Study. 60

Module Eleven: Review Questions. 61

Module Twelve: Wrapping Up. 62

Words from the Wise. 62

 

 

Module One: Getting Started

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.

Machiavelli

 

It is 8:50 AM and you just arrived at your desk for work. Your manager is waiting for you with a concerned look on their face and asks, “Is the sales report ready? I have to present it to the senior management team at 9:00 AM!” You hesitate before you respond. Then you say, “I thought the meeting was tomorrow.” You can imagine how the conversation goes from there.

Welcome to the Administrative Support Skills workshop. Having effective administrative skills are essential in today’s work environment. Being organized, punctual, and effective in your communication skills, both written and verbal are crucial if you want to achieve your goals in any endeavor you pursue. Think of it. The current business environment is filled with many sources of information, and you have to take that information and analyze it, prioritize it, and process it to the extent where value is achieve for the organization. Good administrative skills reduce the risk of “things falling through the cracks.” Great administrative skills create exponential results that spot potential problems, overcome obstacles, and leverage resources effectively.

In this course, you will learn the core skills that will help you use your resources efficiently, manage your time wisely, communicate effectively, and collaborate with others skillfully. The practices presented in this module will take time to root into your daily work routine. However, making the commitment to consistently apply the concepts every day is the key to changing and adopting new behaviors in a short amount of time.

 

Workshop Objectives

Research has consistently demonstrated that when clear goals are associated with learning that the learning occurs more easily and rapidly. With that in mind, let’s review our goals for today. By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Getting Organized
  • Manage their time more effectively
  • Prioritize their time so they can get it all done.
  • Complete Special Tasks
  • Verbal Communication Skills
  • Non-Verbal Communication Skills
  • Empowering Yourself
  • Deal better with their managers
  • Taking Care of Yourself is a priority

 

Pre-Assignment Review

The purpose of the Pre-Assignment is to get participants thinking about the Administrative Support strategies they are already using and where they feel a need for improvement. You will also find a Pre-Assignment handout in the Activities folder.

List three areas in relation to Administration Support you feel you are strong.

  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  3. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

List three areas in regards to Administrative Support where you would like to see improvement.

  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  3. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Module Two: Getting Organized (I)

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

Hans Hoffman

 

Organization begins at your data entry points. Emails, voice mails, and interoffice mail are all channels that ebb and flow with information that require processing and organization. In this module we are going to take a moment to see how these various entry points of information can be harnessed and used efficiently.

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Email

Email is one of the largest sources of information you will have to deal with on a daily basis. Email is a useful tool if handled properly. It is common practice for an administrative assistant to be in charge of their manager’s inbox. This means you, as an assistant, have to monitor twice as much email, and typically managers tend to have more emails than regular employees.

Although having email makes communication much easier, it does present some issues when it comes to organization. Determining which emails are important or should be deleted places you in the position of making decisions for both you and your manager. You cannot approach your manager to ask if this email is important or not. That is why you are there. Having a technique that enables you to process emails systematically allows for faster decision-making and organizing. Below is a quick and easy technique you should use to process emails more effectively.

The READ technique allows you to process emails in the following manner:

  • Read
  • Evaluate
  • Act
  • Delete

The Act step in the process is the most important. Here you determine the following:

  • Do you reply to the sender?
  • Do you relay this information to you manager?
  • Do you resource this information for future reference?
  • Do you reject the email and delete it?

 

Managing Electronic Files

Major file folder structure:

Storing electronic files is easy, but can create a haven for outdated and unorganized documents. Many people take the same approach with electronic folders like physical file folders and use them as places to hold every document, saving them for just-in-case. This is not the best strategy, because memory space on the server or your computer is usually a limited commodity. Enormous data files slow your system down and create a vast sea of files to manage.

Another issue with electronic files is the organization. Having endless files filled with randomly named documents slows you down when you need to search for a particular document. Without a file naming strategy, you will most likely have to rely on your memory for retrieval, which is another time waster. Taking the time to set up your folders and naming both files and documents with a systematic format makes organizing and searching your files and documents more efficient.

Having a filing strategy that manages your file size and facilitates faster retrieval is the goal. Moving files through phases of inactivity helps you determine when to archive your data to external media. Finally, naming your documents with a uniform pattern allows you to use the search function on your computer more effectively, taking away the need to rely on your memory.

The method presented here is a recommendation. You certainly can modify this to fit your individual needs and circumstance.

Just remember the following when developing your own strategy:

  • Make it consistent
  • Use your computer’s file search function
  • Make it time sensitive
  • Place your archive material on an external medium

 

Keeping Track of the Paper Trail

Even in our electronic age, we still have to contend with paperwork. You may receive letters from customers, invoices, or contracts. Being an assistant, you will need to manage and keep track of all the paperwork that is circulating around your desk.

Often times, you will need to act on the paperwork and send it to other departments like accounting or HR. Other times you may need to produce a report and have it ready on a certain day for your manager. Having an organized method of tracking your paperwork at your desk helps to reduce missed deadlines and lost paperwork.

A good practice is to create a filing system, using either a traditional filing cabinet at your desk or a Pendaflex folder. The strategy here is to stage out the paperwork over the course of the week. You will need an inbox, five folders for each day of the week, a folder for next week’s work, outbox and a red rush folder.

Place the inbox in a clear area on your desk. Review the paperwork in the inbox and determine what day you intend to work on the item. Place the item in the corresponding day of the week. If you determine it does not need to be done this week, place it in the Next Week’s folder. As you process the work each day, either file the documents you do not need to send out or place the document in the Outbox for sending in the mail or interoffice system.

Note: The outbox concept will be elaborated more in the lesson for organizing your workspace in the next module.

Use the Red Rush folder as a communication piece for between you and your manager, when an urgent document needs to be addressed. This takes precedence over other jobs. Finally, at the beginning of the new work week, review your Next Week’s folder and your Inbox and plan out your work for this week.

Applying this strategy consistently is essential to its effectiveness.

 

Making the Most of Voice Mail

Voice mail could be the most misused form of communication in the business world. There are countless ways this could be accomplished. Here is a list of possible offenses:

  • Caller hears voice mail greeting and waits until the beep to hangs up, leaving a recording of the hang up.
  • Caller leaves a message to call back with no background information.
  • Caller is obviously unprepared to leave a message and is thinking out loud and rambling on and on.
  • Caller begins leaving information without first warning you, causing you to have to replay the message.
  • Caller leaves way too much information in their message.
  • Caller lacks common courtesies like please and thank you.

These are just some of the abuses committed when leaving a voice mail. Voice mails should be well planned and professional. You may be asked to leave a message for a senior vice president or important client. Being prepared is the key to well executed voice mails.

Taking a systematic approach to making phone calls and leaving voice mails will make the process more efficient and make the best use of the time you are investing in making that call.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure you are making the most out of your voice mail:

  • Plan times during the day to make your calls instead of being random.
  • Before you make your calls summarize the nature of each call and write it down.
  • Have a prepared greeting with your name, time of day, and contact information
  • Make your message short
  • Before giving instructions or information the recipient has to write down, tell them to get a pen ready and pause for a few seconds so they can prepare.
  • Always be professional and use common courtesies.

 

 

Case Study

Alex recently obtained a fulltime job at a telecommunication company where he has to keep in touch with many people. Ever since he joined the company, he struggled due to the fact that he hated being organized. This was until he got in trouble with his manager, who decided to teach him how to deal with email and how to keep it organized to avoid losing data or not replying to messages. Tricks such as seeing who sent it and seeing what an email is about managed to help a lot. Together with this, his manager also thought him how to plan and manage electronic files in such a way that will keep everything organized. Additionally, he was also thought how to handle offline equipment and voice/video calls. Today, Alex avoided getting fired because of his lack of organization and work, but he also started thinking for himself, which in turn has made him a lot better in his field of work.

 

 

Module Two: Review Questions

  • What does the READ technique imply?
    1. Read, Edit, Abbreviate, Debate
    2. Rush, Enter, Absorb, Debug
    3. Read, Evaluate, Act, Delete
    4. Randomize, Economize, Acquire, Delete
  • Find a question which IS NOT important for the Act step?
    1. Do you reply to the sender?
    2. Do you resource this information for future reference?
    3. Do you reject email and delete it?
    4. Do you have time to read such a large email?
  • Why is naming the electronic documents with a uniform pattern convenient?
    1. It helps you to use the search option more effectively
    2. It looks more orderly
    3. It seems more professional
    4. It is easier to remember where the documents are stored
  • What does the time sensitive strategy for arranging electronic files imply?
    1. Using the files right away when they are received
    2. Arranging the files when they are received
    3. Separating the files based on the time of their inactivity
    4. Deleting the files after awhile
  • How many kinds of folders for paperwork are recommended?
  1. 5
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 1
  • What is the Red Rush folder for?
    1. For communication with the manager in need of urgent addressing of a document
    2. For leaving the everyday paperwork to the manager
    3. For storage of the daily amount of received documents
    4. For storage of the unnecessary documents

 

 

  • Find an information which is redundant for the voicemail:
    1. Time of the day
    2. Detailed explanation of the reason for calling
    3. Courtesy expressions such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
    4. Contact information
  • Find the key of successful voice mail call:
  1. Being prepared
  2. Being spontaneous
  3. Giving the detailed information
  4. Giving only a rough draft of the information

 

 

 

Module Three: Getting Organized (II)

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.

A.A. Milne

 

You are now ready to begin working on the data you received through the various channels we discussed in the previous module. Now it is time to organize your environment to be more efficient. This module will give you some great suggestions on how to organize your workspace, your tasks, and the people you work with on projects.

 

 

 

 

Keeping Your Workspace Organized

Our workspace is a reflection of your organizational skills. Having a cluttered unorganized workspace sends the message to others that you may be the type of person that loses things or is constantly behind on projects. Taking the time to organize your workspace is a good investment. It not only improves your efficiency, it sends the message to your manager and peers that you are organized.

Here are some basic suggestions to make your desk a true workspace:

  • Only place books, binders, and other reference materials on your desk that you use on a weekly basis. All other infrequently used materials should be placed in a drawer or cabinet.
  • Keep personal effects to a minimum on your desk. Perhaps one or two photos of your family, favorite sports team or pet are enough to personalize your area.

Next, create a workflow pattern on your desktop. This will keep you from creating piles of work to accumulate atop your desk. Here are some recommendations:

  • Create a landing place where you will begin processing work either from left to right or vice versa. This work could come from your paper trail folder system mentioned earlier or just work you have to complete.
  • Move your first task to the middle of your desk where your computer and other office supplies are neatly organized in trays or holders.
  • Once the work is complete, place them in one of four trays at the other end of your desk. These trays are your Outboxes mentioned earlier in the previous module.
  • Mark your trays “To be filed”, “To be mailed”, and “To be reviewed” or “Pending information.

Try avoiding working on too many things at once. This will lead to multiple piles of work on your desk.

 

Using a To-Do Book

Having a to-do book or a planner is a useful tool. Many times in meetings, tasks are given and expectations are set. It is best to bring along a book that has all your to-do items scheduled. This way you are able to determine when you are able to complete the task. Placing all of your tasks in your computer is a good thing, but you cannot take your computer to a meeting or when meeting a client. A to-do book is a simple way to carry all your pending tasks.

Here are some simple tips in keeping a to-do book:

  • Get a planner that is right for you. This means the size, features, and format should make you feel comfortable using it.
  • Use a book mark or insert tab as a place holder for the day’s work, making it easy to access.
  • Take your to-do book everywhere you go.
  • When a task arises immediately write it in your to-do book, forwarding to the day in your book you expect to complete the task.
  • Avoid squeezing in last minute tasks in your to-do book or over scheduling.
  • Negotiate, whenever possible, another deliverable date.

The best practice in using a to-do book is remaining consistent in its use:

  • Always consult your to-do book before committing to a task.
  • Respect the other tasks already scheduled in the book.
  • Synchronize whatever tasks you have in your computer with your to-do book and vice versa.

If you follow these steps, you will be very successful in using a to-do book.

 

The Extra Mile: Adding Project Management Techniques to Your Toolbox

Adopting project management tools into your daily routine will help to organize your work more effectively. Modern project management started in the 1960’s and identifies five major phases of a project: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing. Within the planning phase are three important tools for managing people, tasks, and communication. Becoming familiar with these tools and using them will help you organize those that work with you by their involvement in the project and influence.

Below is brief description of each tool:

  • List of project stakeholders: a tool that identifies all people that are affected by a particular project or have influence either directly or indirectly over the project. Each project should have a list of stakeholders. The list also outlines each stakeholder’s perspective as it relates to the project, which includes their interests, rights, and values. Knowing this information as an administrative assistant helps you relate effectively to each stakeholder.
  • The work breakdown structure (WBS): a tool that identifies all the people responsible for a task or deliverable in a project. The person is listed on the WBS along with a description of the task to be completed and the start and end dates. The WBS makes it easier to identify who does what in a project and hold them accountable for completing the task according to the dates on the WBS.
  • The communication plan: a tool that lists all the project stakeholders and performers. It also lists the method and frequency of communication between them. This plan will help to structure how and when you should communicate with people, preventing lapses in communication. This is a valuable resource in your toolbox.

These three tools represent a fraction of what project management offers. Learning project management methodologies enhances the skill of the administrator. You do not have to pursue a career in project management in order to study it. Project management offers many tools that are applicable to almost any function within an organization.

 

 

Case Study

Even from a very young age John has always avoided staying organized. This has made him unable to understand how important doing activities such as keeping your workplace organized are. This was until he realized that people in his office at worked laughed at him for the childish ways he used to manage his work. Then, John decided to make a change. This was when he asked a close friend for some tips and brainstormed some of his own and finally realized that the workplace is a reflection of who we are together with our abilities to stay organized. He managed to learn where to place and how to do things for full efficiency. John was also given tips on creating a to-do list which he can use in order to keep track of his work and make sure not to miss anything.  All these changes together with adding more project management techniques to his daily use, managed to make John a more organized person who knows how to handle big amounts of work without having to worry about aspects such as forgetting where something is, how to or to do something.

 

 

Module Three: Review Questions

  • What items should be at least present on the workspace?
    1. Paperwork
    2. Books
    3. Office supplies
    4. Personal items such as photos
  • Find a convenient way for organizing your desk:
    1. Putting away the unnecessary items into the drawers
    2. Creating a workflow pattern on the desk
    3. Often arrangement of the items on the desktop
    4. Improvising the desk arrangement depending on the working circumstances
  • Why is a to-do book more efficient than a computer planner?
    1. Because there is no danger of losing the data
    2. Because it is easier to use
    3. Because you can take it with you wherever you go
    4. Because you can have a better overview to your schedule
  • Which of these steps related to the to-do book IS NOT recommendable?
    1. Negotiating another deliverable date
    2. Over scheduling
    3. Constant consulting the to-do book
    4. Combining the tasks from to-do book with the ones from your computer
  • Which phase of project consists of three important tools for managing people, tasks and communication?
    1. Planning
    2. Executing
    3. Initiating
    4. Monitoring
  • What does the work breakdown structure tool (WBS) identify?
    1. The arrangement of the tasks
    2. The segregation of duties within a project
    3. The schedule of project phases
    4. The structure of a project

 

Module Four: Managing Time

Those that make the best use of their time have none to spare.

Thomas Fuller

 

Now we have to focus on organizing your time. Building effective time management skills requires discipline and constant practice. It is easy to become fraught with tasks that are non-productive and time wasters. This module will discuss how to be a better time manager with some very simple behavior modification.

 

 

 

 

Managing Your Time

Time is a limited resource at work. Being an administrative assistant means you will be dividing you time with your manager. Your manager will ask you to do things and take up your valuable resource. This, however, is the nature of your job as an administrative assistant.

Developing good time management skills takes discipline. It is a conscience effort in knowing what you are doing for how long. It is defending your schedule and fending off distractions. Wasting time at work could infringe into your personal life like working extra hours or taking work home. If you resolve to make time management your goal, you will be good at it.

Do not be ashamed to let people know that you are conscience of your time. Furthermore, if you demonstrate respect for other people’s time, they will respect your time. Being fervent in managing your time transmits a productive attitude to your peers and manager. When you find yourself with free time at work, look for ways to make use of it productively. Go to a peer or manager and ask if they need help. They will see that you care about their time.

If you are easily distracted, then remove anything that distracts you from your work area. Avoid the Internet or talking with peers at length. Constantly feeding these distractions will become a bad habit and you will be seen as unproductive and subject to scrutiny by your manager.

Time management is not an art, it is a discipline. Use it wisely and you will reap rewards that will impact both your work and home life. Use it unwisely and see how time will seem scarce. Remember, once time is wasted, you cannot get it back. We all are given the same amount of time per day. No one has more and no one has less.

 

Keeping Others on Track

Almost every task that requires coordination among various persons could be deemed a project. A project is a temporary endeavor to reach a common goal by several entities. This could be interdepartmental, departmental, or external with a vendor. There may be times when you are called to lead a project or subproject. Keeping those on track presents both logistical and political challenges.

In project management, the project manager is skilled in holding project performers accountable and producing their task on time and in good quality. They accomplish this by documenting the name of the person responsible for the deliverable (item or task owed to the project). The work breakdown structure (WBS) document is the tool they use to monitor the deliverables of all project performers in an easy-to-read format. We spoke about this tool earlier. Now you will get specifics on how they work and how to use them.

The key to using a WBS is the level of detail you break down the task. Each task in a project should be broken down to a level where individual components and personal responsibility are identified. The start and end dates are then identified. To get this information you should meet with the project performer and their manager to solidify the deliverable. The more detail the better. If you are given vague information, it will be difficult to hold the performer accountable. Here are some questions you may need to ask:

  • Are there any tasks this deliverable is depended on?
  • Is the person assigned the only one working on this task?

If you get a yes to any of these questions, then record this on your WBS.

The next tool a project manager uses to hold performers accountable is the communication plan. The key to using this tool is to establish predetermined intervals of communication before the project begins. Set this expectation as you have the ability to contact each performer without appearing like a micromanager, which could cause conflict.

When creating your communication plan, incorporate intervals where you can communicate with a performer on a weekly basis (if a project is a quick project, then every couple of days is recommended). This way you are not reaching out to them only when things are falling behind. In your plan, schedule meetings for larger projects.

The best thing about these documents is that you will distribute them to the project team once they are complete. This public disclosure of who does what and your schedule of when you are going to call on them for updates create a natural desire to get things done.

 

Maintaining Schedules

Maintaining your schedule is a constant challenge. There are so many traps throughout the day where time could be wasted or mismanaged. Knowing common pitfalls that rob you of your time is a simple but effective way to maintaining your schedule. Here some common time traps to watch for:

Avoid meeting run-over. This is a common area where time is wasted. Meetings can easily run over by at least 30 minutes. Do this several times a day and you could lose hours of time this way. Making a conscious effort to avoid meeting run-over is essential. You have to make the decision before you enter the meeting.

To start, if you are not the meeting organizer, before meeting begins, tell the meeting organizer you must leave on time, and then sit as close to the exit door as possible to avoid disrupting the meeting when exiting. If you are the meeting organizer, before the meeting begins, tell attendees that you plan to end the meeting on time, and then end the meeting on time

Avoid additional work that is unrelated to the activities you are currently working on. Many times, a simple task pops up, and it seems like something you can handle quickly, but once you get involved, it takes up more time than you think. Unplanned or poorly organized tasks tend to cost more time than at first glance. Sometimes it really constitutes unproductive or busy work. If you see something pop up that needs work. Put it in your planner.

Do not volunteer every time additional work is offered. Constant volunteering alters your schedule. You may feel pressure to volunteer and save the day, but you might be inviting more trouble. Take a look at your schedule before you volunteer, and if you do have the extra time go for it, but be cautious not to over volunteer. If you keep on sending the message that you have all the time in the world to do extra things, then you will have people dump tasks on you. Your time is precious. Demonstrate the importance of your time to your peers.

Negotiate timeframes when additional work is given to you. Be assertive and defend your schedule. Avoid being pushed into timeframes that work against your schedule. Ask questions like, “When do you need this by?” If you must work on this task immediately, negotiate the timeframe of a deliverable already on your schedule. Many times you are able to find a lower priority task on your schedule.

Decline work you know you cannot deliver. Many times you may just have to decline the job. If you are unable to exchange the new task for one that is already scheduled and you know you cannot deliver both, decline it. Just remember do not decline a job then later be caught standing around at the water cooler for 20 minutes. This will damage your credibility.

Case Study

Maria had problems relating to managing time which greatly affected her productivity. As time passed, she continued not to understand how important the issue actually was. She was later given a project for her university and she procrastinated until the last moment. When she realized that the time she had was not enough together with the fact that she had problems in managing time, Maria decided to make a change.

She studied project management and read a lot on how deliver tasks in a timely manner. She also started using a communication plan in order to keep others on track while also making sure that she maintained her schedules. All of this has thought her a valuable lesson on how to avoid additional work and how to have a good turnaround for any projects she got.

 

 

Module Four: Review Questions

  • When it comes to time, the nature of job for an administrative assistant implies:
    1. The constant lack of time
    2. Dividing the time with the manager
    3. Complicated organization of the time
    4. Perfectly steady timetable
  • What’s the key for productivity in relation of your and other people’s time?
    1. Adjustments of own time depending on other people’s time
    2. Adjustments of other people’s time depending on your own time
    3. Demonstrating respect for other people’s time
    4. Individual time planning, regardless of other people’s time
  • According to WBS, what is identified by breaking down each project task?
    1. Individual components and personal responsibilities
    2. Project ideas and goals
    3. The methods of conducting the project
    4. The time plan of conducting the project tasks
  • What is the most important thing related to the communication plan?
    1. Establishing predetermined intervals of communication before the project begins
    2. Everyday contact with the performer
    3. Regular reports about every detail of the project
    4. Reaching out the performer when the project is falling behind
  • When should the additional work be avoided?
    1. When it is too challenging
    2. When it requires a lot of time managing
    3. When it is not related to your current activities
    4. When it expands the volume of your current activities
  • Find a question which can be helpful in negotiating the timeframes:
    1. “How important is this?”
    2. “Is it possible to mark this task as non-emergency or low priority?”
    3. “How long can we delay this task?”
    4. “When do you need this by?”

 

Module Five: Getting It All Done On Time

Better to be three hours too soon than one minute too late.

William Shakespeare

 

Ultimately, it is our job to deliver things on time. Prioritizing your work, staying on track and accurate goal setting are essential elements to you being able to deliver your project or tasks on time. This module will allow you to explore techniques that increase your effectiveness in meeting your deadlines.

 

 

 

 

Prioritizing

When dealing with many tasks, prioritizing your work becomes an important step to perform.

Using the WRAP technique in prioritizing will help you start your day on the right foot. Avoid approaching your day unplanned or haphazardly. Once you take the time to prioritize the things you have to complete in your day, you will have a sense of direction. Let’s take a look more closely at the WRAP technique.

When you start your day, you should take inventory of the things you have to complete and Write them on your to-do planner. You may have things on your to-do list already. That is okay. Just add the other tasks on them.

Once your task is in your to-do book, Rank each task by importance. You may use numbers or letter, but do not exceed more than three rankings. You want to be able to keep track of the most important tasks. Making your ranking system from 1-20 or from A to Z, will make it ineffective in determining which are all the important tasks. There are several questions you can ask yourself to help rank your tasks. Here are some examples:

  • When is it due?
  • For whom is it for?
  • Is it related to a specific project?
  • Can this be done later?
  • Is another task dependent on this one to be finished before it can move on?

Once ranked, Anticipate how long each task is going to take. If you run out of time for all your tasks, move those tasks, which should be low priority, to the next day and rank them higher by one category.

Once the time is set, Perform each task as planned, guarding against time-wasters mention in past modules.

Your prioritized list is your guide for the day. Remember to calculate into your prioritized list the time you need to attend meetings and the time you need to make telephone calls.

 

The Secret to Staying on Track

Aside from managing your schedule vigorously, you should develop behaviors that help you enjoy your work. Becoming bored or frustrated could easily become distractions that will cause you to lose sight of your daily objective of being effective and efficient.

Your work and home life should be separated as much as possible. Leave your home issues at home and leave your work issues at work. When you begin mixing the two worlds, you will experience fatigue and perhaps unnecessary conflict. These conflicts are major distractions that will easily take you off track, causing you to miss deadlines. Let the ride to and from work be your transitioning time. On the way to work listen to motivation and inspirational messages to help gear you up for the day. On the way home, listen to soft or classical music. This will help you become more relaxed.

Another secret is to schedule your creative work in the morning. Things like writing a proposal or presentation require creative thinking, and you are most creative in the morning. You have your most energy and thrive in the early part of your day. Once the afternoon comes, you will probably have lost most of your zip. Save work that is repetitive or mundane for the afternoon. Tasks like running a report or filing require less energy. Trying to perform creative tasks in the afternoon could become a frustrating experience, causing you to get off track.

Finally, track progress, check off things that you have accomplished and celebrating completed tasks are helpful in boosting your morale. Many times we do not get the pat on the back or recognition on a daily basis that helps motivate us to keep a high level of energy and productivity. Take the time to track and celebrate your achievements. Whenever we check off a task on our to-do list, a chemical reaction takes place in the brain that gives us a good feeling. These chemicals are called endorphins. You get them all the time when someone tells you that you did a great job or when you take a moment and look over the job you just finished. Help yourself by triggering these chemicals on your own by celebrating success, because becoming distracted or bored leads to losing track. Avoid it by following these secrets. Think of it. Whenever you do something you like and it give you a sense of accomplishment, the time goes by fast and you get a lot done. The same holds true for your work. Make it a fun thing to accomplish tasks at work.

 

Goal Setting

There are many ways to set goals. When dealing with project or task related goals, making you accountable to others is a huge motivating factor in reaching the goal. Many times we set goals for ourselves, but rarely share them with others. There is a temptation not to meet the goal since no one is watching except you. DART goal setting is designed to help you maintain motivation in reaching the goal. It requires you to define or determine the goal, announce the goal, adjust it and time lock it. Defining the goal is probably the easiest step. Write down what you want to accomplish and review it. Ask yourself if it is too vague. If it is, then you may need to write it again to be more specific.

Next, announcing or making a public statement about the goal you want to achieve puts natural pressure to achieve the goal. If you tell your manager you will have the report done by the afternoon, you will do all you can to meet that goal. If you tell your project team you will have the task completed by a certain day, you will feel a responsibility to the team like the runner from the marathon team I mentioned earlier.

In addition, when you publicly state your goals, you are inviting feedback that may help you revise your goal to be better. For instance, you may state that you will complete a task by a certain date. However, a colleague may inform you that an issue exists that may hinder your progress. This is information that should help you revise your goal with a better time frame.

Setting goals does not have to be daunting task. It should be quick and easy with plenty of opportunity for obtaining feedback from your peers and manager. DART is designed to help you hit your target.

 

 

Case Study

There are certain techniques which were created for the purpose of getting things done on time. Jamie was one of the persons to use one of them, as his brother dealt with this kind of problem on a daily basis. Teaching him how to prioritize and ask questions such as when it is due and for whom a project made Jamie’s brother become a bit more mature and learn more about how important time is. Together with this, Jamie’s brother also learned to anticipate.

He used this knowledge to predict when he will get more projects and which of the weeks to come were going to be filled with more work than usual. This way, he managed to do everything on time by using a simple technique. After all, the secret to staying on track is managing your schedule together with developing a behavior which can influence the fun you have while working on a certain project.

 

 

Module Five: Review Questions

  • What does the WRAP technique imply?
    1. Waiting, Anticipating, Ranking, Performing
    2. Writing, Anticipating, Ranking, Performing
    3. Writing, Accentuating, Ranking, Planning
    4. Writing, Arranging, Ranking, Producing
  • What is the ranking phase for?
    1. Defining the importance of each task
    2. Defining the duration of each task
    3. Defining how challenging the tasks are
    4. Defining the daily schedule
  • What time of the day is very convenient for creative work?
    1. Afternoon
    2. Evening
    3. Morning
    4. It is not important
  • Why is celebrating small accomplishments helpful?
    1. It gives us a reason for taking a break
    2. It gives us comfort even if we do not accomplish the main goal
    3. It can give us the necessary illusion that we are doing things right
    4. It can motivate us to keep a high level of energy and productivity
  • What does the DART goal setting technique imply?
    1. Defining, Announcing, Revising, Time locking
    2. Defining, Abstracting, Reacting, Time locking
    3. Deciding, Announcing, Reevaluating, Time locking
    4. Deciding, Abstracting, Rationalizing, Time locking
  • Why is public announcing of the goal helpful?
    1. It can cause a pressure which will force you to work better
    2. It can invite certain feedback and help you revise your goal
    3. It can create psychological feeling of obligation to accomplish your goal
    4. It can initiate the fear of failure which will lead you to the success

 

Module Six: Special Tasks

If you’re a hard-working, flexible, task-oriented, computer type with overseas experience, go to the front of the line.

Carol Kleiman

 

As an administrative supporter, you will be tasked in organizing special and unique tasks that will require precise organization and execution. This module will give you the basics in handling several special tasks you may encounter.

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Small Meetings

Small meetings could either be productive or total waste of time. People may come unprepared to share or participate. If your meeting does not have clear goals, objectives, and a clear time frames for each topic, you will surely lose control of the meeting and waste time trying to keep the group on track.

Having a set approach to planning small meetings will assure that you will set up your meeting to be the most efficient and effective. Here is a quick check list for planning a small meeting:

  • Purpose defined: your meeting should have a purpose. What is the reason for the meeting? What is this meeting going to accomplish? Defining the purpose will even help you determine if a meeting is necessary. Many times there are meetings called to share updates. This could be accomplished with a simple presentation sent via email. Subjecting project teams to constant update meetings decreases the power of meeting in general. Save your meeting time for brainstorming, problem solving, etc.
  • Objective of the meeting determined: state what the result or outcome of this meeting will produce. For example, you could say that the objective of this meeting is to brainstorm ideas on overcoming the shortage of widgets. If you have several objectives, set time limits for discussing each objective. If the objective is complicated, then use the entire meeting time to resolve it, but try writing an agenda that will keep you on track of the topics you need to cover.
  • People to attend identified: once you set your objective, then you are able to determine who to invite. If major decisions are going to be made, then invite the right audience.
  • Checklist of supplies created: you may need flip charts and other items or resources to facilitate the meeting.
  • Organize the resources: make sure all resources on your check list are available and in working order. Make appointments with those you need to meet in order to acquire the resource.
  • Reserve a place or room: make sure you contact the keeper of the room schedule. Reserve the room well in advance to avoid being block from that room. Make sure you get confirmation of the reservation.
  • Notify the attendees: send a meeting invite to those attending the meeting with at least a few days’ notice. Try avoiding last-minute meetings. In your message, state the meeting purpose, objective and place it will be held. Be professional in your invitation and avoid being too casual.

 

Planning Large Meetings

Planning for large meetings poses different challenges to that of small meetings. In large meetings, you will have to deal with vendors and other external entities that you will depend on to help execute your plan.

Another issue is coordinating the travel arrangements of those who are traveling to the event. There are many details to cover and it really cannot be done all by one person. The FAST strategy helps you organize who, what, where, why and how for your large meeting. Let’s take a look.

  • Form: in this phase, you will form your meeting project team. There are many things to think about and organize, and doing all on your own is taking a big risk. Gain approval from your manager to enlist the help of others in planning for your event. Once the team is formed you should create project and budget plans.
  • Acquire: in this phase, you will acquire the necessary information to begin solidifying your plan. Here you obtain quotes from your vendors, caterers, entertainment provider, printing costs, and hall or hotel venue. In addition, you would acquire a list of resources you may need to bring from work like reports or a presentation.
  • Secure: in this phase, you will confirm the needed resources for your large meeting. Make sure you get these items secured in advance; waiting till the last minute could result in you not being able to secure the resource. Make sure you secure the venue, caterer, attendees, transportation, hotel accommodations, and the date for the event.
  • Take: in this phase, take the time to arrive early and verify all is set up according to your plan. This is when you test any audio visual equipment, and the presentation. You should take the name of the manager of the venue and get to know them just in case you need to contact them for an issue or problem. The same is true for the caterer and the entertainment provider. Take their names too. Finally, take down lessons you learned from this event for planning future events. This is how you get better at planning for large events.

Large events do not have to be complicated. If you follow the FAST steps, you should be able to handle this process with minimal stress one step at a time.

 

Organizing Travel

In today’s business environment, many employees book their own travel arrangements. With the advent of the Internet, making flight, car rental, and hotel accommodations can be easily done at the cubicle. Being an assistant may require you to book travel for your manager or other high ranking leaders. Becoming familiar with certain travel arrangement Internet sites will help you organize travel easier.

Internet travel sites are a great tool for arranging travel to other locations away from your site. Events like training, conventions, sales meetings, board of director’s offsite are examples of travel to a location away from the site where Internet travel are very useful. If your travel group is numerous, you may want to call a particular hotel at the destination site and negotiate a good rate.

For travel to your site, you should establish a relationship with a local hotel. You can call your local hotels and negotiate a corporate rate for those travelers coming in from other sites. Obtain a written agreement on the rate. It is also a good practice to visit the hotel and visually inspect the property. Here is a list of things you should look for when visiting:

  • Parking
  • Safety
  • Cleanliness
  • Proximity to restaurants
  • Hotel amenities

You could do the same with your car rental agent. The Internet has made travel arrangements easier to organize because they typically use emails to confirm all arrangements and you are able to access the reservation yourself and make adjustments as necessary. Travel agents are become less used by companies.

 

Case Study

Peter works at a law firm where he is in charge of the local projects and requests which come in. From time to time, his boss asks him to plan meetings and organize different events. However, Peter used to feel out of his element whenever such a thing happened.

Fortunately, he stopped worrying about such issues after a while when he finally had enough practice.  Peter understood what to check for before a meeting starts, how to make sure that the guests are engaged together with how to get a point across and make sure that everything is running smoothly. He has finally become one of the best employees in charge with organizing different events at his company.

 

 

Module Six: Review Questions

  1. Which one of the following IS NOT a part of the POPCORN planning technique?
  1. Reserving a place or a room
  2. Creating the checklist of the supplies
  3. Defining the purpose
  4. Planning the time for a break
  1. What is the solution for meetings with multiply objectives?
  1. Prioritizing and leaving the less important objectives for another meeting
  2. Setting the time limits for discussing each objective
  3. Estimating the importance of the objectives during the meeting
  4. Extending the meeting and discussing all the objectives normally
  1. What phases does the FAST planning technique imply?
  1. Forming, Acquiring, Securing, Taking
  2. Forming, Arrangement, Securing, Talking
  3. Following, Administrating, Saving, Testing
  4. Firming, Actualizing, Saving, Taking
  1. The FAST strategy DOES NOT help you organize:
  1. Who is going come to the meeting
  2. Where is the meeting going to be held
  3. When is the meeting going to be held
  4. How is the meeting going to be conducted
  1. What DOES NOT belong to the list of things for checking when you are looking for a hotel?
  1. Cleanliness
  2. Hotel amenities
  3. Activities available in the hotel
  4. Proximity to the restaurants
  1. Find the most convenient way for negotiating a good rate for a numerous travel group:
  1. A phone call
  2. Sending an email
  3. Talking in person
  4. Travel agency

 

Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.

Jim Rohn

 

Module Seven: Verbal Communication Skills

Your job as an administrative supporter will place you in many situations where you are speaking with the leaders and decision-makers of the organization. Having sound verbal communication skills is essential in influencing those around you. This module will give you techniques to ensure you are communicating effectively and influentially.

 

 

Listening and Hearing: They Aren’t the Same

Listening and hearing are two different concepts. We take our ability to hear sound many times for granted. Hearing is the human body’s ability to register sound in the brain. Sound waves trigger nerves that say you heard a cat or dog, etc. Listening, on the other hand, is our conscience effort in understanding what is being heard and acting on it.

For example, if you are at a park with many children, you will hear the sound of children playing and screaming. You may be talking with a friend at the same time you are hearing the commotion. At this point, you are hearing the children. However, when your child falls and is crying, your brain understood it was your child and you react by getting up and looking for them to attend to their needs. You were listening for that cry or shout for help.

Active listening requires an intentional focus on what is being said and processing the information. We can easily default to hearing if we are not careful. For example, you may be talking with someone and your eyes start focusing on the TV in the background. Once your eyes become disengaged from the talker, you are most likely in hearing mode.

To be a better listener you must build good habits. Keeping eye contact and stopping what you are doing are the first major steps in good listening habits. For example, you may have someone approach you at your desk while you are working on something on the computer. You may be reluctant to disengage the computer and continue the conversation that way, but you do this you may miss important information and you are sending the wrong message to the person talking.

When someone approaches you to talk, do the following:

  • Disengage from whatever you are doing and face the person
  • Do not answer the phone when it rings, unless this one you were waiting for and ask the person if you could answer the phone
  • Use a note pad to jot important things down
  • Summarize the conversation
  • Keep eye contact
  • Ask questions
  • Avoid thinking ahead or focusing on what you are going to say next

These behaviors will send the message that you are listening and improve retention of information.

 

Asking Questions

Questions are a very helpful tool for us to gather information. In the last lesson, we discuss how we can demonstrate we are listening by asking questions. There are two levels of questioning, including close-ended questions and open-ended questions. Each has their purpose, but we have to be wise in how we use them.

Close-ended questions evoke a single or very short response. Here are some examples:

  • What is your name?
  • Do you like this?
  • Do you want to do this?

Close-ended questions are good when you are looking for a specific answer. This also helps control your discussion.

Open-ended questions evoke a long response. When you ask an open-ended question, you may have to be prepared to listen intently, because the information you are looking for is embedded in the answer. Here are some examples:

  • How do you feel about it?
  • What are your thoughts?
  • Why do you think that?
  • What are your suggestions?

Open-ended questions are well placed in conversation where you want to get to know someone like a business client. Open-ended questions give you more information to process.

When determining which type of questions you are going to ask, ask yourself if short or long answers are what you need. If you are preparing for a meeting, have your questions ready in advance. It is also a good practice to develop follow-up questions too. For example, you may ask the initial question, “What are some ideas in resolving this issue?” A good follow –up question may be, “Why do you think this is a good idea?” Close-ended questions are also useful. For example you may ask, “Do you like this idea?” A mix of both questions allows you to gather information and opinions quickly and efficiently, but remember that planning your questions ahead of time is a good practice. Finally, bring plenty of paper to take notes.

 

Communicating with Power

Being an administrative assistant will place you at times in front of the meeting room, relaying information or leading a discussion. Powerful communication requires several key behaviors. People will assess your ability to speak in less than two minutes. Unorganized and unplanned communication reduces your effectiveness. Furthermore, it could be a distraction to your audience.

Communicating with power is not too difficult. It does require some know-how and practice. Here are some things you should do to communicate with power when delivering a presentation:

  • Plan before you talk
  • Develop a goal for why you are talking
  • Use good posture and body language when talking, keep your hands to the side, or strategically placed in front of you. Do not wave them around constantly
  • Be concise in the delivery
  • Avoid speech fillers like ahh’s and umm’s
  • Use stories or anecdotes to get your point across, the audience will always remember how you made them feel more than what you said

Increase your communication power when having regular conversations in and out of the meeting room by doing the following:

  • Listen more than talk. You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk.
  • Ask questions of your listeners
  • Avoid arguments when disagreements occur
  • Watch your body language as well as your listener’s, adjust your behavior
  • Take notes of key information
  • If you make a promise, keep it

Communicating with power takes time and practice to develop. However, the greatest factor in developing your skills is being prepared. Take the time to write things out and practice saying them in private. If your goal is to be concise time your talk and adjust. If your goal is to remove speech fillers, then tape yourself practicing your talk and play it back. Being conscience of our mistakes helps us to improve them as time goes by.

 

Case Study

Having a good verbal communication skill set is essential in business. This was also the case of Daniel, who has a job as an administrative supporter. This requires him to have good communication skills and be able to take decisions quickly based on what he hears. Due to the fact that he was considered to be the only one capable of doing such a thing in his company, Daniel was in charge of hosting all internal meetings. He was also present at most of the external events in order to get the most out of each.

His knowledge on noting down what is important, listening and asking questions gave the company a lot of profit, as Daniel also had the capability of influencing other people’s decisions. In turn, his way of communicating with power also inspired other people to learn from him.

 

 

Module Seven: Review Questions

  1. What is listening?
  1. The ability of human ear to register sounds
  2. Unconscious registering of random sounds
  3. Our conscience effort in understanding what is being heard
  4. Listening is the same thing as hearing
  1. Which of the following actions DOES NOT help with maintaining the listening focus?
  1. Using a note pad and writing down the important things
  2. Straining hardly to keep the concentration
  3. Asking questions
  4. Keeping the eye contact
  1. What are the close-ended questions good for?
  1. For shortening the conversation
  2. For saving time
  3. For getting the specific answers
  4. For avoiding the boring answers
  1. What kind of answer can we expect after asking an open-ended question?
  1. Longer and informative answer
  2. Unnecessarily prolonged answer
  3. Concise answer, no longer than couple of words
  4. Evasive answer
  1. What is the greatest factor in developing the verbal skills?
  1. Entering into the big discussions when disagreeing
  2. Using the memorable expressions
  3. Using a lot of impressive words
  4. Being prepared
  1. Recognize a helpful tip for improving the verbal skills:
  1. Talk whenever you can so you can lose the ‘stage fright’
  2. Talk only when it is necessary
  3. Develop a goal for why you are talking
  4. Be absolutely spontaneous and improvise

 

Module Eight: Non-Verbal Communication Skills

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.

Peter F. Drucker

 

Our body language dictates much of what we are feeling inside. Understanding effective body language is essential for an administrative supporter in building relationships throughout the organization. In this module you will explore body language, which will help you monitor your own body language as well as those around you.

 

 

 

Body Language

Our body language is a large portion of how we communicate. The position of our arms, the expression on our faces both tell what we are really feeling inside. Trying to hide it makes it even worse.

The best deterrent to negative body language is to know that body language is a large factor in how you communicate information.

Body language comprises almost 55% of what we are saying in our communication. We cannot hide it. We have to make an effort to address our feelings and emotions before we engage a person in conversation. Not addressing it may send the wrong message to the recipient of your message.

In the next lesson, we will identify some of the negative body language that we may mistakenly send to our recipient.

 

 

The Signals You Send to Others

Negative body language comes in many forms. Below is a list of some common body language that sends the wrong message.

  • Keeping distance
  • Folding arms tightly
  • Leaning or turning away
  • Using only fleeting eye contact
  • Small pupils
  • Tapping foot or drumming fingers
  • Tightening lips
  • Hunched posture
  • Fidgeting
  • Clenching hands
  • Fiddling with objects
  • Looking over your shoulder or averting their gaze
  • Shrugging shoulders
  • Negative grooming gestures, such as pushing their nail cuticles back or picking fluff off their clothes
  • Looking at the floor
  • Fiddling with collar
  • No touching, not even accidental

Half the battle of addressing negative body language is awareness. The other half is being conscience of it when you are doing it. Before engaging with someone, try to check your emotions. Are you nervous or upset? Are you frustrated or bitter about something? Addressing it a head of time will help you be better prepared.

Here is a quick note on positive body language. In order to demonstrate positive body language, do the opposite of the list of negative one. That’s it.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Our tone is often times difficult to detect. That is because it is usually a result of our environment. Many times we are in the middle of getting something done or concentrating on a task and we are not in the interaction mode. Perhaps we are having a stressful day and we are stewing in it to the point that we are frustrated.

These conditions affect our tone. We may be willing to help someone, but it comes across as out of obligation. No one likes to be helped out of obligation. It makes them feel like an inconvenience. Being short in your responses or sighing are the tonal messages we send to our recipient that we are bothered and do not want to really do what they are asking.

In order to address this you could do the following SMILE technique:

  • Smile first
  • Make eye contact
  • Initiate the conversation
  • Lighten up
  • Energize the conversation

Do not take yourself so serious that you forget that a major portion of what you do as an administrative assistant is to interact with other people. By you having the right tone and attitude when interacting with others will help you advance your career.

Remember that your tone is more influential than your words. This is true especially over the phone. In fact, your tone over the phone is more of a factor than your words, because you lack the influence of your body language. Even if they cannot see you, you should smile into the phone. It makes a difference.

 

 

 

Case Study

Most psychologists in the world know the importance of non-verbal communication and how it can affect people all around you. Despite of this, not many actually know how to apply such skills in real life. This wasn’t the case with Maria. When she was faced with a very difficult situation over a change in her company’s policies, no one seemed to express themselves and say what should be done. Maria couldn’t either as there was a chance that doing such a thing may cost the company. Instead, she relied on her non-verbal communication skills and looked around the room to see how everyone was acting. She saw a person folding his arms when faced with a decision, and others looking at the floor.

This made her realize what each person in the meeting was thinking about and therefore made her be able to communicate efficiently and get her point across. When she would see that someone didn’t agree, Maria quickly changed the approach to the subject in cause to make sure that everyone is happy which has finally lead to a successful policy change for the company.

 

 

Module Eight: Review Questions

  1. How many percent of our communication is manifested through the body language?
  1. 5%
  2. Almost 55%
  3. Less than 20%
  4. More than 75%
  1. Recognize a body language sign which DOES NOT send a negative message:
  1. Nodding
  2. Folding arms tightly
  3. Fiddling with collar
  4. Small pupils
  1. What can you do with your emotions to prevent sending a negative body language message?
  1. Practice the emotions
  2. Repress the emotions
  3. Check your emotions
  4. Try to change your emotions
  1. What is the key to avoiding the negative body language signs?
  1. Being ware and conscientious
  2. Avoiding the communication when you feel bad
  3. Hiding the negativity and forcing the positivity
  4. Shortening the communication
  1. Why is our tone sometimes difficult to detect?
  1. Because the tone can be easily faked
  2. Because the tone is generally not important
  3. Because it is difficult to relate the tone with the body language
  4. Because it is usually a result of our environment
  1. What does the letter L in the name of SMILE technique stand for?
  1. Look in the eyes
  2. Lighten up
  3. Let the conversation go naturally
  4. Love to talk

 

Module Nine: Empowering Yourself

If you think you can, you can.  And if you think you can’t, you’re right.

Mary Kay Ash

 

Being an administrative supporter leaves plenty of room for empowering yourself. Often times, you are expected to act independently, make decisions and resolve issues with little or no guidance. In this module, you are going to learn how to empower yourself through assertiveness, consensus building, conflict resolution and decision making.

 

 

 

 

Being Assertive

Being assertive does not mean you have to be pushy. Dictionary.com defines assertive as being confidently aggressive or self-assured or positive. When you are an administrative assistant, you will encounter times when you have to be assertive. This means pushing back, and being clear on what you need to get done.

Here are some five tips we call the Five B’s to becoming or demonstrating more assertiveness in your work life:

  1. Be involved in the conversation. When you make a decision or state an opinion, include yourself in the state. For example you might say, “I disagree or I have a different point of view.” You might say, “I like the idea or I think this is great.” In any case, place yourself in the conversation.
  2. Be brief. Being to the point demonstrates confidence in what you are saying. When you say too much, people will tend to lose focus and question you. This is true also for written communication like email. Giving too many details weakens your message. Avoid this if you can.
  3. Be positive with your body language. We spoke earlier about body language. Negative body language sends a message of low confidence. Make good eye contact and be willing to engage in dialogue even if it is a difficult discussion.
  4. Be direct. If you beat around the bush or try to find other ways to say things, this will affect your assertiveness. Do not be afraid of being direct. Be tactful in how you say it, but mumbling and grasping for the right words constantly shows lack of confidence.
  5. Be calm in conflict. Don’t lose your cool. Conflict is a normal part of our work life. Knowing this will help you react to it with calmness. If we are easily rocked by conflict you will lose your assertiveness because you will want to avoid conflict at all costs.

Being assertive takes time to develop. Practice a little at a time. You want to avoid becoming a Sherman tank and run everyone over. This is the extreme, and it could affect your ability to gain consensus. We will discuss this in a later lesson in this module.

 

Resolving Conflict

Conflict is normal. Most of us are passionate about our beliefs. We want so much to achieve our goals that sometimes we run right into conflict over it. The first thing in conflict resolution is to know that it will happen. Avoiding conflict is also unhealthy as it leads to harboring emotion and passive aggressiveness. It is better to engage in conflict and then move on to resolving the issue or gaining consensus.

There are two stages to conflict resolution. First, we need to contain the damage. Second, we have to move to a resolution. The second part will be discussed in the next lesson under building consensus. For now, we want to focus on damage control. The biggest enemy to conflict resolution is time. Do not let time pass. Give some time to let the emotions settle, and then engage that person as soon as you can. Call them, send an email, or walk over to their area. Be the bigger of the two. Make the first move. Say to yourself, “That if I do not move, no one will.” When you do find them, ask them if now is a good time to talk is. They may still be upset. If they are upset, set a time later that day to meet with them. If they are okay with you being there, then follow the steps to mending the relationship.

  • Conflict identified: state the issue or activities that made the encounter become heated. You might say, “I think we may have lost track of the purpose of the meeting” or “I believe we have strong viewpoints on the subject and it showed.”
  • Address the other party’s concern: you might say, “I know you are not in favor of (insert issue). I respect that.”
  • Listen to them: use your best listening skills and let them vent about the situation.
  • Mend relationships: tell the person that your relationship with them is important and you value them. Apologize or at least leave on good terms.

During this time, you may want to avoid trying to resolve the issue that caused the conflict right away. Leave that for a different time. For now, your goal is to patch the relationship. Later, you will try to build consensus in order to move forward beyond the conflict.

If you experience a group conflict, perform the same technique. Get them back in the meeting room and have them vent and get things out respectfully. Take notes and adjourn the meeting for a later time to build consensus at the group leave.

Building consensus is the topic of our next lesson. Let’s explore this process.

 

Building Consensus

Dictionary.com defines consensus as a general agreement or concord. Sometimes we view consensus as total agreement. This is not the goal of building consensus. It takes negotiating and problem solving. You may run in to problems with your peers or project team in getting everyone on board on an idea or you may be resolving a conflict. In any case, building a consensus is a skill worth developing.

Below are PEACE techniques to building consensus:

  • Problem defined: it is difficult to build consensus when you do not know what you are trying to overcome or achieve. Define the problem as a goal to achieve. Have the participants give you the goals. Encourage those who are not participating to do so. Remember you have to get a general agreement form all.
  • Everyone vents thoughts respectfully: you will find that people will want to say things against opposing ideas. Encourage them to frame their venting positively and allow them to do it.
  • Alternative solutions explored: have the participants come up with various solutions to the problem. Then reduce the alternatives to a short list.
  • Choice is made: before this is done, make sure everyone agrees that the alternative selected is the best for the team and they will support it. Make the choice.
  • Everyone agrees to support the solution: get everyone’s approval verbal and publicly in the meeting room before you adjourn.

Building consensus takes time and could happen over several meetings, depending on the complexity of the issue. Nonetheless, bringing the team back to the table to reach a consensus should never stop.

If your role in the team is too involved, you may want to get someone who is not a part of the team to help facilitate the consensus building. Avoid getting the vice president or some other high ranking employee. This will shoot the process down. They have to feel comfortable venting without any restrictions.

 

Making Decisions

Many times we are faced with situations that require us to choose among other options. Most of us want to make the right decision. However, we do not want to spend time doing so. Paralysis by analysis could become a problem, making us inefficient and hesitant in making a decision.

As an administrative assistant, you may face times when you have to make a decision on behalf of your manager. Below are some basic elements to making a decision:

  • You must have two or more options exist in order to make a decision
  • Brainstorming all possible alternatives for each option
  • Weighing the pros and cons of each alternative and its outcome
  • Narrow down the alternatives to a short list
  • Evaluate the remaining alternatives for risk, stakeholder impact and your comfort level
  • Decide on an alternative
  • Monitor outcome of selected alternative
  • Always have a backup plan ready in case first alternative does not work out.

If you are looking to make the perfect decision every time, you may be setting yourself up for a frustrating time. We cannot always predict everything that is going to take place once a decision is made. Careful planning and weighing of options is the best method to reaching a solution. Gut instinct could lead you into trouble. Do not make those kinds of decisions for your manager. It could cost them dearly. Finally, always document your process. This way you have something to refer to when asked why you chose that option.

 

 

Case Study

Making people notice the things you do is a task that many find difficult, regardless of whether it is applied in the work environment or at home. When faced with a troubling decision of letting some employees go due to financial cuts, Anna was assertive for the first time in her life. She knew that by giving them the painful news, many were going to suffer and lose a lot of hope in what was to come.

This is why she made the decision of talking to her manager and trying to figure out a solution. As he was a difficult person to convince, Anna was involved in the conversation, but also brief while making sure her point went across. By resolving this conflict, she managed to lower the salaries of the employees a bit, but keep them on the team while also helping the company adopt a new financial plan meant to make the company shine once again.

 

 

Module Nine: Review Questions

  1. Which of the following qualities is not a part of definition of being assertive according to Dictionary.com?
  1. Confidently aggressive
  2. Positive
  3. Pushy
  4. Self-assured
  1. Which of the following B’s is not a part of the five B’s for demonstrating more assertiveness in work life?
  1. Be brief
  2. Be intrusive
  3. Be calm in conflicts
  4. Be direct
  1. Why is avoiding conflicts unhealthy?
  1. Because it develops a habit of yielding
  2. Because it makes you feel less worthy
  3. Because it complicates the existing problems
  4. Because it leads to harboring emotion and passive aggressiveness
  1. What should you do next after the conflict is identified?
  1. Wait for a while
  2. Address the other party’s concern
  3. Mend relationships right away
  4. Talk about the conflict with someone else
  1. What is the first step of PEACE technique for building consensus?
  1. Defining the problem
  2. Analyzing the problem
  3. Thinking about the solutions to the problem
  4. Trying to suppress the problem if it is possible
  1. How much time does the building of consensus usually takes to happen?
  1. Several meetings
  2. Several hours
  3. About a week
  4. It usually happens immediately
  1. Which of the following step IS NOT considered to be an effective help in making decisions?
  1. Brainstorming all possible alternatives for each option
  2. Weighing the pros and cons of each alternative and its outcome
  3. Having two or more options
  4. Taking the additional time to make sure you will make the right decision
  1. What can be caused by expecting to make a perfect decision every time?
  1. Faster decision making
  2. Frustration
  3. More obstacles
  4. A number of unexpected complications

 

 

Module Ten: The Team of Two

Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is a process.  Working together is success. 

Henry Ford

 

Working as a team with your manager is essential in keeping the lines of communication open and building rapport. A good and positive relationship with your manager is the foundation and support structure that gives you the ability to function independently. In this module, you will learn the basis of building a good relationship with your manager.

 

 

 

Working with Your Manager

Your best relationship to build is the one with your manager. Being an assistant to them is a crucial part of their success. Good communication with your manager is essential and keeps you on track.

Working with your manager requires some of the following to take place in the relationship:

  • You must build trust
  • You must remain professional
  • You must communicate constantly
  • You must always speak positively of your manager
  • You must have a high level of integrity
  • You must keep things confidential when appropriate

These elements take time to build. Building trust comes with a high degree of quality in your work. What and how you produce speaks volumes of you. This instills trust and gives your manager the peace of mind that you know how to do things right. Remaining professional is essential. It is tempting to become more personal with your manager. Avoid sharing too much detail about your home life or other personal issues. This could cause conflict of interest. Of course, if you have a personal issue that affects your job, you can discuss it with your manager, but remain professional about it.

Foster communication. Find out how your manager likes to communicate. They may prefer email over voicemail. It is your goal to determine the best form of communication. Many times, your manager may get bogged down with issues, try pulse checks throughout the day to keep communication flowing. Always speak positively about your manager. If you have issues with your manager discuss it with them directly. Avoid venting about it to coworkers. This could get back to your manager, jeopardizing your trust. Work with a high degree of integrity. Always do the right thing. Your performance reflects on your manager. Many times you may be included in a sensitive discussing about the organization. Never share those things outside of your manager’s office.

The next lesson will give you some tips on how to influence your manager.

 

Influencing Skills

As an administrative assistant, you may find times where you think your ideas are viable and worth implementing. However, you need to gain your manager’s buy in. Influencing your manager is possible and enables you to expand your career in a direction that could lead to a promotion.

There are steps to influencing and by no means are you to manipulate your manager. These steps are meant to foster relationships that help your manager see your point of view and consider your ideas.

  • Build a trusting relationship with your manager as discussed in the previous lesson. This is achieved through your integrity, quality of work and commitment to your job.
  • Aligning your goals with your manager’s goals helps to create common ground. If your goals are to move to another department, and your manager’s is to develop a sales program, then your goals will conflict. Align your career goals on the success of your manager’s projects. This way you will work as a team.
  • Assume positive intent by your manager. By this we mean to always believe your manager has your best interest at heart. When you assume positive intent, you will be more open and accepting of your manager’s actions and decisions.
  • Try not to change your manager. You may be tempted to try to improve you manager’s demeanor or personality. Attempting to do this will cause your manager to reject you and question your motives. Accept your manager for who they are. Work with their faults. We all have them.
  • Learn from your manager. Nothing expresses more gratitude when you learn from someone. Your manager needs positive reinforcement too. Seeing you adopt their management style, or other practices says you respect and find value in your relationship with your manager.

Influencing is not about manipulation. It is about placing others first and showing them how important they are to you.

 

What to Do in Sticky Situations

It is a reality that things could go wrong between you and your manager. We should always assume positive intent, but when matters cause you to feel uncomfortable, it is best to try to move this discussion to the right parties at work.

First of all, if you suspect your manager of doing something illegal, report that to the proper authorities at work. Covering up such things could land you in jail for aiding and abiding.

However, there may be times when things are more subtle. Actions like harassment, verbal abuse, and vindictiveness are things you should not tolerate. Here is the Four D approach to handling a sticky situation.

  • Discuss, calmly, with your manager the issue and ask for it to stop
  • Document each time your manager repeats the offense if they do not respond to your request, then
  • Discuss with your manager’s supervisor
  • Defer the matter to human resources if your manager does not respond to their supervisor

At any time you feel the situation is out of control, skip this process, go immediately to your human resources department and get them involved. They are there to help you in these types of situations.

 

 

 

Case Study

After convincing the manager that some of his decisions were wrong for the good of the company, Paul knew that he could improve his position by knowing how to work with his manager well. After learning his normal behavior, Paul worked towards building trust, remaining professional and communicating in order to obtain a high level of integrity, needed for a working relation.

Together with this, Paul also had to have the ability of persuasion in order to guide the persons he worked with towards rethinking their decisions and putting employees first. Paul also learned what to do in sticky situations through this experience and finally managed to put the company on the road to success.

 

 

Module Ten: Review Questions

  1. What is essential in the relationship with the manager?
  1. Accepting all the manager’s ideas
  2. Absolute compatibility with the manager
  3. Good communication
  4. Unconditional kindness
  1. When it comes to the relation towards your personal life, you should:
  1. Have confidence in your manager and feel free to share personal details
  2. Avoid sharing personal details
  3. Share personal details occasionally
  4. Be relaxed and share the personal details if a conversation goes that way
  1. What kind of relation towards your goals is good for the relation with your manager?
  1. Accepting all the manager’s opinions about your goals
  2. Keeping your own goals regardless of the manager’s opinion
  3. Officially accepting the manager’s opinion, but keeping your own goals
  4. Aligning your own goals with the manager’s goals
  1. What is the purpose of your influencing?
  1. Imposition of your personal goals and ideas
  2. Manipulation
  3. Enabling a promotion and career expanding
  4. Emphasizing that your idea is better than other ideas
  1. What should you do if you suspect your manager is doing something illegal?
  1. Ignore it because it is out of your reach
  2. Report it to the proper authorities
  3. Deal with the manager
  4. Be on the manager’s side because he is your collaborator after all
  1. Find the four D’s for handling the sticky situations:
  1. Doubt, Document, Discuss, Document
  2. Discuss, Document, Declare, Document
  3. Discuss, Document, Discuss, Defer
  4. Doubt, Discuss, Document, Defer

 

Module Eleven: Taking Care of Yourself

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

World Health Organization, 1948

 

As we come to a close on this course, a very important topic is yet to be taught. Many of us spend more hours at work than we do at home with our families. The work environment can be a source of wellbeing or a source of stress and unhealthy living. The last module in the workshop focuses on how you can keep yourself healthy both mentally and physically.

 

 

 

Ergonomics

Ergonomics is defined as the applied science of equipment design, for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort.

Since you spend most of your time at work, it is essential that your work area is comfortable. Repetitive motion or being in the same position for hours could cause discomfort. Here are some tips on making your work place more ergonomic:

  • Make sure you have a mouse pad with a cushion for your wrist. This helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, which is scar tissue forming around the tendons in your hand at the wrist.
  • Make sure your seat is adjusted where your feet is touching the ground.
  • Make sure your computer monitor is tilted in a downward angle. This prevents the rays from the screen from going straight into your eyes.
  • Use a foot stool to prevent your legs from getting tired.
  • Make sure you have enough lighting around your work area.

If you have a special physical need, talk to your human resources department to see if they can help you with is accommodation. You may need to bring in a doctor’s note.

Another factor to your comfort at work is stress. In the next lesson, we will explore some ways to reduce stress at work.

 

Stress Management

One of the definitions of stress is physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. You know when you are under stress. Nothing is worth more than your health. Keeping your mind and body free from stress requires a conscience effort on your part.

Here are some suggestions to keeping a healthier you:

  • Get plenty of exercise. If you do not exercise, park your car farthest from the building and walk briskly, take the stairs as much as possible and walk at a faster than normal pace around the office.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Learn to compartmentalize your work and home life. Leave home issues at home and work issues at work.
  • Remain positive
  • Stretch at least twice a day. Take your hands and place them on your hips and lean back slightly until you feel your back stretch. Take your right arm and cross it in front of you, then take your other arm and gently push on the elbow of your right arm. Repeat this for your left arm. Get on your tip toes then rock back on your heels. Repeat several times.
  • Maintain your work schedule.
  • Leave early to work and avoid traffic if possible
  • Make sure you spend time at home with your family and meeting their needs too.
  • Laugh whenever possible.
  • Help others

Make your job a safe haven. Keep good relationships with your coworkers and manager and you will experience less stress. Next let us take a look on how to manage a heavy workload.

 

 

 

Dealing with a Heavy Workload

Heavy workloads are inevitable. One day we may be light on work and then the next we are hit with a huge project. A good way to deal with heavy workloads is to have a plan in place. We should avoid being caught off guard. Here are some ideas you could apply to your own work environment:

  • Have a set of close coworkers you prearranged to help you if they have the time available. Perhaps three or four contacts. Perhaps they can help you with your normal daily tasks instead.
  • Plan to divide the work into manageable chunks.
  • Plan on setting short term goals.
  • Plan an approach to the work. You may be tempted to dive right into the work. It is better to take a moment and prepare an approach to how you want to do things.
  • Prepare your family if you need to work overtime or on the weekends to get things done. Give ample warning.
  • Plan a short vacation after the work is done.

Of course, you can customize this to fit your work environment, but having no plan will lead to stress.

We have come to the end of the training course. Thank you for participating and working so hard during these few hours we spent together. We wish you the best of luck in your position as an administrative assistant.

 

Case Study

For many people, work is deemed as a compulsory stressful experience. Not many actually realize that regardless of the field of work, a person can work towards improving their conditions. When he was first hired, Andrew didn’t like any aspects about his new job. These included the salary and the environment he had to work in for an income.

Little did he know that there were things he could change in order to improve the overall experience. He learned many tips across the weeks such as keeping a close eye on ergonomics, but also following ideas which are pointed towards lowering the stress resulted from doing a certain task. He tried his best to remain positive even when he was faced with tremendous amounts of work.  In the end, Andrew left the job he didn’t like and got another one at a better company where he continued to apply the same procedures which managed to make work feel more like home.

 

Module Eleven: Review Questions

  1. What is the definition of ergonomics?
  1. Ergonomics is the applied science of equipment design, for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity
  2. Ergonomics is the applied science for general interior design intended to maximize productivity
  3. Ergonomics is the applied science of equipment design, for the workplace, intended to maximize relaxation and peace
  4. Ergonomics is the applied science of the workplace interior design
  1. What should you do if you have special physical needs?
  1. Get the special ergonomics tools by yourself
  2. Get used to the available conditions
  3. Talk to the human resources department
  4. Unobtrusively wait if someone will react to your special physical needs
  1. Which of the following activities IS NOT helpful for avoiding stress?
  1. Exercise and stretching
  2. Helping others
  3. Maintaining the good relations with the coworkers
  4. Getting the work done fast and achieving some extra time for a break
  1. Which of the following expressions DOES NOT refer to a kind of stress?
  1. Emotional
  2. Working
  3. Mental
  4. Physical
  1. What is essential for dealing with heavy workloads?
  1. Avoiding them
  2. Having a plan
  3. Delaying
  4. Asking for more time
  1. Which of the following IS NOT a part of the regular plan for dealing with heavy workloads?
  1. Asking coworkers for help
  2. Setting short term goals
  3. Forcing yourself to work more
  4. Dividing the work into manageable chunks

Module Twelve: Wrapping Up

This feeling, finally, that we may change things – this is at the center of everything we are. Lose that… lose everything.

Sir David Hare

 

Although this workshop is coming to a close, we hope that your journey to improve your administrative skills is just beginning. Please take a moment to review and update your action plan. This will be a key tool to guide your progress in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. We wish you the best of luck on the rest of your travels!

 

 

 

Words from the Wise

  • Yogi Berra: In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
  • Dwight Eisenhower: Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
  • Jonas Salk: The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.