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15 Challenges Only Secretaries Can Handle

15 Challenges Only Secretaries Can Handle

You’d be surprised to know that the most popular profession for women in 1950s and today is the same—secretary. About 4 million girls employed in the US fell into the category of “secretaries and administrative assistants” and I believe it is a job you can be proud of.

Being an executive secretary, personal assistant, legal, medical or a school secretary means dealing with a lot of ongoing tasks at once, mastering time-management and keeping razor sharp attention to details. No matter what they may say, it’s an important and rewarding job to take. Just think of the next 15 challenges we can handle with ease and grace as part of our profession!

1. You can smile and stay friendly even if you are not in the mood.

No matter what’s boggling your mind right now or tears your heart apart, you are a true professional and will always greet your boss’s clients with a bright smile and warm notes in your voice. You are particularly good at separating you work and emotions as you are the person who makes the first impression for the company you work for.

2. You can keep any secrets.

As a secretary you often deal with a lot of sensitive data and private information. The saying “curiosity killed the cat” has a sacred meaning for you. Yes being curios is part of the human nature; however, there’s a fine line between wanting to know more and and being so exuberant that you want to tell everybody what you have just learned.

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You are proud to say that you are someone your employer can wholeheartedly trust and stay sure nothing will ever leak, even the most hilarious or obscure things your boss does. Besides, you are perfectly aware of the difference between being helpful and being too bubbly. The latter includes spilling out information from a client’s file to a caller who barely introduced himself or going into too much details of what exactly your boss is now up to.

3. You can DIY basically anything.

All sort of emergencies happen in the office. Most probably you are the person to deal with them. So now you happen to know a lot of handy hacks from how to DIY last minute business invitation and business cards to creative ways to clean up wine spills fast and even making a lip scrub  (true story). Everyone in the office know you can figure things out and propose an unconventional solution to any problem out there. Surely, you feel really proud of that, but sometimes constantly feeling challenged is a bit overwhelming as well.

4. You can taking notes really fast.

Your typing speed is somewhere close to the speed of light, but you also know that taking longhand notes can be even more effective when there’s a lot of information to digest.  During the past few years you’ve mastered shorthand, developed your own writing system and bought at least 4 new notebooks. Also, you had to master calligraphy as you are the person asked to write some beautiful text on those last minute invitations.

5. You can always stay organized.

You just cannot let yourself zone out, daydream or be a tiny bit absent-minded. Even if you are woken up at 3 a.m. in the morning, you can fire out your boss’s daily schedule for the next month. You have a few to-do list apps in your phone, a corporate Google calendar sync with all your devices, numerous reminders on your desktop and colorful stickers everywhere with the most important tasks to handle.

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6. You are a planner.

As you spend most of your days coordinating events, scheduling company meetings and making all sort of other arrangements from travel to catering, in your daily life, you have become an absolute planner as well. The world “spontaneous” makes you cringe and think of how bad will those unplanned things turn out, even if it’s just a weekend getaway to the countryside with your SO. Your have a strict daily routine and you start slightly panicking when something intervenes and you need to make changes. Some of your friends say you are a bit boring, but you just love to keep everything well-planned and organized.

7. You need to care a lot about your appearance.

Part of your profession is to look and dress well and appropriate. You carefully plan your outfit, accessories and shoes in the morning, watch for new business fashion trends and even secretly flip those “dress for success books.” You frequently visit your hairstylist (sometimes more frequent that your wallet would want to), nail salon and other beauty parlors to look groomed. You wish you could wear anything to work and stop applying makeup in the morning, but sadly there is no way around the fact that people judge you and the company you work for by your personal appearance.

8. You are in constant search of new ways to become even more productive.

Typically, you have a lot of work at hand and loads of tasks to juggle at once. So you spend most of your evenings testing yet another time-management app, reading all about the new productivity trends and hacks out there. The truth is, sometimes you get so engaged that you actually procrastinate by trying to become even more productive instead of getting things done.

9. You can be very flexible.

That means you come early in the morning and stay out til late if that’s absolutely needed. You are okay with flexible working hours that often get sporadic and can easily adjust to nearly any schedule or working environment. However, that means you can’t maintain proper work-life balance and oftentimes sacrifice your personal time for the sake of work.

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10. You can deal with any type of person.

Obviously, you don’t work in a vacuum and apart from dealing with your boss, you also happen have a sort of interactions with vendors, clients, board members, other employees and all sort of other folks out there. Yes, most of people you interact with are genuinely pleasant, but you often get face to face with “difficult people” as well.  You are forced to exercises all your patients and professionals to keep the communication smooth and polite. In real life you’ve probably said the f-word already at least twice, but at work you can’t let your emotions dominate.

Apart from that you are sometimes bullied by those who see you as a subordinate. It’s another unpleasant situation you have to tactfully deal with and communicate assertively while keeping good work relationships.

11. You can always learn something.

Now you can master any new accounting software in about 15 min, set up any email client, deal with different models of printers, scanner and VoIP phones without calling the IT guys. You learn new things every day and master new skills depending on the task you are supposed to handle. However, being a Renaissance man sometimes gets tiring.

12. You can never be late.

Actually, being late is your worst nightmare. So you always set two alarm clocks in the morning, especially if you have an important meeting. You leave home well in advance to have some extra time in case you get stuck in a traffic jam or something else turns out.

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13. You can never throw papers away.

During your first month you were kind of afraid to throw any paper away as it might later turn out as important. Now, you need one quick glance to identify which pile the paper should go to trash; to add to the folder as it might be needed some day; important and “never through that away under any circumstances.”  The problem is: you’ve stopped throwing away papers at home to and keep them neatly organized in folders just in case it’s ever needed.

14. You are very attentive to details

As you deal with a lot of paper work and important data, one small typo can not only cost you a job, but get your whole company in serious trouble. Say, typing $600.000 instead of $60.000 in a vendor contract. Your job made you manically attentive to all the details, you triple check everything you send to other people. Also, you are probably a grammar nazi and can help telling your friend that he misspelled something on Facebook or didn’t use the correct tense.

15. You can always crack a good joke.

As a recent survey found, 98% of CEOs prefer candidates with good sense of humor. Yes, you are a true professional, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at the same time. People like you because you can give a witty remark or make a good joke even when things get really intense. Your sense of humor is among the things that help you handle even the most daunting challenges with ease!

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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