Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

Tips for Being a Good Boss & An Update

being a good bossA member of ours recently read our white paper, “Defining Assistant Excellence” (.pdf format) and suggested that we create a white paper for bosses entitled “Defining Executive Excellence” that might help bosses create a better working relationship with their assistants.

We think that’s a great idea but given everything that’s going on in our lives right now -see update below-, I thought I’d give a couple of tips right here that will help even the toughest boss create a great working relationship with their assistant.

Before I go into those tips though, please note that these are just a general overview of what we (both Ethan and I) feel help us perform at a high level for our bosses.  They are both great bosses but there has been a give and take aspect of getting to know each others quarks that take time to smooth out when starting out as an assistant.  Tensions sometimes run high in both the finance and advertising worlds where we both work, but in general, these three characteristics that our bosses possess go a long way to creating a strong working relationship.

And the best part?  Any boss can employ these tactics real quick… so here they are:

1. When bosses use “Please” and “Thank You”, they go a long way in creating a solid working relationship with their assistant that will make their assistants want to bend over backwards and go above-and-beyond to please you.

2. When bosses set the rules and then sticks to them without changing them or their preferences from one instance to the next, they create a trusting relationship that is needed between boss and assistant.

3. When bosses understand that there are “uncontrollable” situations and don’t take instances that are beyond their assistant’s control against them will again create an endearing relationship where your assistant will tell you like it is but also work hard to come up with unique and out-of-the-box solutions to the particular “uncontrollable” situation.

What do you think?... If you have any additions to this list, please put them in the comments.


Now for an update to our BIG NEWS post:  I’ve got about a week and a half until my due date and my Doctor is going to induce if we reach the due date sooooo… Baby Bull should be entering the world pretty dang soon!

In terms of sex of the baby, we kinda went the unconventional route with Ethan knowing the sex and me not… pretty crazy and I was certain that he was going to spill the beans at some point but here we are a week and a half out and he still hasn’t… I’m amazed.  The baby’s room is all ready and getting that done has put us both at ease.  Sadie has been spending time in there sniffing everything out (she’s our dog if you’re a new reader) and we’re sure she’s going to be amazing with Baby Bull.

Anyway, that’s about it… Ethan will update the blog with all the details when Baby Bull enters the world… needless to say, I image I’m going to be a wee bit pooped when all is said and done so please bear with us if we don’t get back to your emails right away… we’re here, just a little bogged down.  And of course, Ethan will stay on top of any questions coming his way via the forum or email for our paying members.


Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

Sweet - SarcMark: A punctuation mark for sarcasm!

punctuation for sarcasm

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an email, IM, Facebook post or comment online and not known if the person writing the remark was serious or not. Most of the time I don’t even know them personally, just via email with no handle on their personalities so it’s hard to tell.

As discussed in our training, there is no place for sarcasm in business communications but now, with SarcMark, a punctuation mark specifically for sarcasm, that might be changing.

Say you’re in sales and you’re trying to build a rapport with a potential client by being funny—great idea if you’re in person but via email or text, a bit risky—then this new punctuation mark could help. However, if it doesn’t catch on and reach critical mass, no one will know what it is anyway.

We’re gonna keep an eye on this one but given that it costs $1.99 to download (why not free?), call us skeptical… don’t get us wrong though, the idea is genius and we’re pulling for it to succeed. And you can be sure we’ll update our training if is does catch on.


Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

Are your work communications professional?... Are you sure?

slang hurts in businessCame across an article from the site Careerealism recently that was a great story about the difference between being professional and “not so” professional in your communications at work and how that can affect your reputation, responsibilities and yeah, even your promotion.

I see this all the time at the advertising agency when either as an intern or new hire just out of college, no matter if you’re out on the town for a couple drinks with your college crew versus communicating with a client/partner/sr. executive at work, there is no difference in the quality and tone of their communication. Speaking, emailing or writing a new business deck, the communication doesn’t take on the formal tone that work communication deserves.

Some of this is because these young guns want to get their ideas out of their heads as quickly as possible so they don’t forget them and the other part is just not realizing that there is a more formal mode of communication when working with co-workers, superiors and especially clients and customers. I don’t blame our “wired in” generation for this; they’ve grown up with Twitter, Facebook and IM status updates where slang and short communication rule.

The rule of thumb for work though is to be as formal as possible until the person your communicating with sets the tone of the relationship. And even then, I personally still communicate more formally since when I’m working, I’m working and then when I’m playing, I’m playing. Separating the two makes all the difference for me.

But the best trick of all for avoiding this communication pothole is two fold: Set automatic spell checking to all of your emails AND re-read every email and document you send out for tone before hitting that send button. Agree, disagree?... comment below please.

Flickr Creative Commons image by ruminatrix


Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

What’s the key to online social media?...

social media chart...The key is to mind your manners!

We ALL participate in online social media in our world today… and if you think you’re one of the people who DOESN’T, I’ve got news for you: Just reading this blog is participating in the world of online social media.

See, our blog has a comments section where back and forth communication of ideas and positions about any of our posts can take place—granted, we don’t get a ton of comments but we do get some—and that interaction is social. Inside our member’s area on our private forum, these conversations and interactions are very robust and we’re all learning a lot from them. Forums—private or open—are another form of online social media.

Other social media outlets are everything from YouTube to Twitter to Facebook to MySpace to Linkedin to Digg to StumbleUpon to FriendFeed to… well,  you get the point. There are so many different ways for people to communicate online nowadays, I can’t image anyone being able to keep up with all of them.

But whatever platforms you decide to participate in, you should also realize that there are un-written rules to interacting and communicating on each. No one is going to spell these rules out for you and as a matter of fact, they’re not even written down anywhere… basically, it’s to mind your manners.

I find it humorous that the most important thing about online social media is to be nice… if you’re nice, most people will respond positively to you and what you have to say. Take this list of “LinkedIn Pet Peeves” that users have… most of them are about having common courtesy and being nice!

As assistants, you will continue to grow your online social presence by communicating more and more with people in your network so keep your parents voice in your head and “mind your manners” because in this new world of communication, everyone is watching.

Flickr Creative Commons image by garyhayes


Articles in: Interpersonal Skills is such a great site… we’ve been watching these videos over the last couple of weeks and they are truly priceless.

There is really no reason anyone with an Internet connection who’s read the 20 interview tips listed on the site and viewed the accompanying videos, should blow an interview.

Below is the first video in the series and you can find the rest of them at the site: - they’re up there now so check ‘em out if you’re interviewing soon and then after that, nail it!


Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

What We Can’t Teach Your - Blog Series Part 3

Patience & Sense of Urgency

imagePatience and “sense of urgency” might seem like opposite ends of the spectrum but both are very critical and intrinsically linked when working effectively as any kind of assistant.

Many job postings for assistant positions will mention a “sense of urgency” as a trait they’re looking for in candidates for the position. From our experience, this means they’re looking for someone who is “on the ball”, someone who gets their “to-do” list done as quickly as possible and presents any “situation” to their boss in a timely fashion.

However, in the real world—not in the interview situation—, you’ll find that you’re constantly waiting for people to return your phone call/email or get you specific information you need to get your job done. Whether it’s waiting on an answer from your boss or your travel agent to get back to you, waiting on answers is part of the game. This is where the patience comes in.



Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

What We Can’t Teach You - Blog Series Part 2

To Have Manners


Having manners is something that we won’t be able to teach you… you know, things like:


“Thank You”

“Excuse Me”

“I’d appreciate it…”


“Your Welcome”

Manners, if you’re lucky, were instilled in you at a very early age by your parents or another adult figure in your life.  Manners are important and in the working world, especially the world of assistants, because manners help you influence people, get what you need and win the game.

But, let’s not forget, winning the game, getting what you want and influencing people is NOT the reason that you should have manners and use the above sayings to express those manners. No, you should use manners and be polite because it feels good.

Don’t believe me? Try it.



Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

To ‘cc’ or not to ‘cc’...

…THAT is the question.

Knowing when to (and when not to) ‘cc’ –which stands for “carbon copy”– someone on an email is more important than you might think.

When starting out at a new job, we suggest that you ‘cc’ your boss on almost all email communication concerning them and their office. By doing so, you will quickly learn which matters your boss really cares about and which matters they would rather leave to you for action and decision making.

During your first week, you can tell your boss that you’re going to ‘cc’ them more than usual so you both are in the loop and so you can get a better understanding of their preferences and office procedures. This also helps them to remember to ‘cc’ you on anything that they feel you should be in the loop on.

Once you’ve gotten your legs under you in a new position, you can then pull back on any ‘cc’ emails to your boss as you’ll be able to make decisions based on your knowledge about their preferences without involving them. Then, when you do ‘cc’ them on an email, they will know that their attention is warranted and needed.

In terms of people other than you boss, ‘ccing’ someone on an email is an easy way to bring someone into the loop on an issue, problem, plan or just as an FYI (For Your Information). In these types of peer and subordinate interactions, our suggestion is to err on the side of ‘ccing’ someone instead of leaving them off since it’s easy to do and will facilitate a better flow of communication.

The “sneaky” cousin to the ‘cc’ is the ‘bcc” –which stands for “blind carbon copy”– and much greater care should be taken when ‘bccing’ someone on an email. When you ‘bcc’ someone, none of the other recipients of the email know that the email is also going to the person that you put on as a ‘bcc’. The only time that we suggest ‘bccing’ someone is when you are asked to complete a task that falls outside of your responsibilities. In this type of situation, you can ‘bcc’ your boss on your reply so they are aware of outside obligations being asked of you.

Other than the above type of situation, you are better off not putting someone on an email as a ‘bcc’ and just talking with them directly about the situation. Do you have any ‘cc’ or ‘bcc’ stories or examples to share? If so, please do so below in the comments.


Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

Under Promise + Over Deliver = Success

overdeliverIf, as an assistant or intern, you are able to under promise but then over deliver on any task or project presented to you, you will be a success in your boss’ eyes.

This concept is simple at first glance but much harder to pull off in real-world work situations. You see, your boss always will ask for the world and you are there to give it to them… that’s just the way it is. When you have an assistant yourself, you’ll be the one getting the world but that discussion is for another post.

For now, we’ll explain our advice on how to under promise but then over deliver for your boss.

Following through on this equation, the first step is to communicate properly the obstacles that are in the way of getting what your boss wants… an example might be that the afternoon flight from NYC to LA is always booked in business and first class so getting one of those seats might be difficult when making a reservation two days before the trip. You need to communicate any facts like this to your boss so they realize that it will be an uphill climb to get that first class seat (or whatever it is that they’re asking for).

The second step is to find the first class seat. In the example above this could be accomplished by checking all three NYC airports for flights instead of just your boss’ preferred airport, La Guardia, AND you can have the flight agent search other airlines that your boss might prefer less but if there’s a first class seat, they’ll take it. When all else fails, you can take a look at your boss’ schedule to see if things can be moved around to accommodate an open first class seat at a less desirable time. Lastly, if you back is really against the wall, wait-list your boss in first AND business class on their preferred flight and keep your fingers crossed that one of those seats clear.

All of these tactics are a bit of outside the box thinking and that’s the whole point. The average assistant would not outline to their boss the difficulty of fulfilling their request and when they run into one road block in completing that task say that it’s not possible. You, on the other hand, set expectations properly and then use all of your skills and ideas to get the request filled.

Thanks to Network Performance Daily for the pic; they believe in under promising and over delivering in their customer satifaction so much that they wrote it on their wall… literally.



Articles in: Interpersonal Skills

“Are you having a bad day or…”

“…is it something I did (or said)?”

The above question can be used in any number of situations when you get the sense that the other person on the other end of the phone or email or standing in front of you, isn’t happy with you or your question or request.

As an assistant, you’re going to be asking people to do their own individual jobs all day long to get what you need done for your boss. Whether that person is the travel agent, IT help guy (or gal), person in accounting dealing with expense reports or anyone else who you might come in contact with if you sense them not being happy with you, you should ask the above question.

By asking the question you get one of two things:

  1. You give them an out to say, “Yeah, I’m having a bad day, sorry for my attitude.”… OR…
  2. You’ll find our real quick if it is something that you in fact did that made them give you their attitude.

You see, you can’t fix a problem or issue with someone else if you don’t know one exists so finding out the answer to that above question is your first step to creating a solid working relationship. We know that confrontation can be hard but if you ask the right question and give the person you’re dealing with an out, you will both be better off for it… and you’ll be surprised at how quickly that attitude you noticed earlier will disappear.


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