Advice on Being a Boss

Getting to the C-suite isn't always as easy as it seems -- being a boss can be trying in new and challenging ways. Whether you need some help getting to be a boss, or now you're a boss and need advice on things like delegating and managing subordinates -- we've got you covered.

The Lazy Secretary

How To Inspire a Lazy Secretary | CorporetteHow do you get a lazy secretary to work harder for you — or how do you complain about her to the Powers That Be without seeming petty? Reader E, a reader from New Zealand, has this very problem…

I share my secretary with my supervising partner, however he hardly uses her and often if she doesn’t have work to do for me she won’t do anything all day. She works part-time and has been a legal secretary for about 20 years.

She spends more time walking around the office talking to other staff than she does working. I dictate work for her to do that does not come back in a timely manner, instead she returns the dictated work just before she leaves (despite my requests for it throughout the day) so that if there are any changes to be made to work that needs to go out that day, I have to do it myself. Unfortunately, whilst everyone else in the office notices that she is lazy, my supervising partner either does not notice or doesn’t want to notice as he thinks that she is great. [Read more…]

How to Become a Leader: Leadership Resources for Female Executives

how to become a leader2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to become a leader (and links have been updated below), but you may also want to check out our latest discussion on online women’s management training

Ladies, what are your best tips on how to become a leader? Reader S has a great question about how to grow her leadership skills as a young female executive…

I’m not sure if this has been discussed before, but I’m looking for recommendations–either from you or your readers–on some good leadership skills workshops/trainings/webinars. I’ve recently been promoted to the executive team at my company. While my initial reaction was excitement, I’m now starting to feel a bit out of place at times. The promotion was given to me as a “stretch” role, which the CEO defined as a bit of a leap of faith. He’s confident that I’ll be comfortable in the role and gain the skills necessary in short time, but ever the over-achiever, I want to quell my discomfort ASAP!

I’m finding myself acting a bit more assertive and, well, tough in the negative as opposed to assertive and confident. It’s a natural “defend my right to the role” mentality whenever I’m questioned on anything. But, I know signs of a true leader are to emit the entitlement to the role through leadership and confidence.

On top of all this, I’m somewhat young (35–the youngest member of the exec team) and am a mom to 2 children (4yo and 18mo). I’m wondering if there are any good leads or advice from working women in similar situations?

Huge congrats — this sounds like a great accomplishment, and I applaud you for trying to stretch yourself to get to the next level.  I think this is a great question, because it can be difficult to grow your leadership skills. Ultimately, I think Reader S needs to focus on a) what you think you’re doing well (so you can play to your strengths), b) what you think you need to work on (so you know where to focus your reading) and c) who to ask for feedback (and when) so that you have someone else giving you some feedback also. (Pictured: Follow the leader, originally uploaded to Flickr by jtu.) [Read more…]

Delegating: Using Your Assistant Well

delegating to your assistant2016 Update: We still stand by these tips on delegating to your assistant — but you may also want to check out our latest discussion on how to delegate!

Reader E wonders what you can and should ask your assistant or secretary to do — and what is off limits. Great question!

I have been fortunate and I find myself a busy exec at a consulting firm at a young age. I am working 60-80 hours a week and just learning how to leverage my assistant. She is helping me with my expenses and time entry, but I suspect she and I could both get more out of the relationship. I’ve grown up in a world where I can do almost everything myself (like book travel) but I’m struggling to manage my work/life balance. I could use help with just about anything but as I dive into the world of asking for help, I don’t want to find myself at the other end of the spectrum where I’m asking too much or being inappropriate. Advice that outlines do and do not categories or mentions creative ideas might be most helpful.

Congrats to be a busy exec, and a special congrats on getting what sounds like a competent and helpful assistant — they can be hard to come by, so treat him or her like gold! (And apologies in advance for every time I say “her” meaning the assistant — in addition to being Reader E’s situation, it’s easier to type than “him or her” every time!)  (Pictured:  Screencap from Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.  We’re right on top of it, Rose!) Oh, and PSA: Don’t forget that tomorrow is Administrative Assistant’s Day. Check out our poll on what to get your assistant.)

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PSA: Administrative Assistant’s Day is Almost Here!

how-much-to-spend-for-administrative-assistants-day2017 Update: Administrative Professionals’ Day is April 26, 2017. You can check out our most recent thread on what we’re getting for our assistants on Administrative Professionals’ Day here

As some commenters are noting today, Administrative Assistant’s Day is April 27 — right around the corner.  (Most flower places are touting “Administrative Assistant’s Week” as starting April 24.)  We haven’t had a thread on gifts for your secretary/administrative assistant for a while, so I thought now would be a good time for one. (Pictured:100 BLOOMS OF PERUVIAN LILIES, available at 1-800-FLOWERS for as little as $34.99.)

First, a poll:
administrative assistants day

Years ago, a friend explained to me that she always got her administrative assistant both flowers and cash: flowers so everyone in the office knows you appreciate your assistant, and cash to keep the assistant happy. My friend’s system made sense to me, so I never really looked for more than flowers — but I’m curious if other people get the assistant a personalized gift, or take him or her for lunch, or something else? Please comment in the thread about what you’re getting him or her — and how the equation changes if you share an assistant with other people.

Also, do you plan to celebrate Administrative Assistant’s Day or a full week?  Just curious…

Better Off Ted: Interview with Veronica’s Stylist

Better Off Ted: Veronica Palmer's Work Outfits2017 Update: We’re thrilled people are still looking to Better Off Ted for workwear inspiration — you can also check out some of our more recent reviews of TV work fashion with our posts on how to look like Selina Meyer in Veep, and how to get Claire Underwood style from House of Cards.

After last week’s how to dress like Linda Zwordling on Better Off Ted, we got a ton of comments about how beautifully dressed Portia de Rossi’s character, Veronica Palmer, is — and how much folks would love to chat with her stylist.  We did some poking around and, lo and behold, found our way to Brandy Lusvardi, the costume designer for Better Off Ted.  We just got off the phone with her, and thought we’d share our conversation…

(She is the NICEST person on the planet!!)

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Navigating the Murky Waters of Being Friendly With Staffers


2016 Update: We still stand by the advice in this post, but you may also want to check out our latest discussion of whether you can be friends with your secretary

Can you be friends with your secretary?  We got this e-mail from Reader A and it raises a lot of interesting questions, such as how to treat your assistants, how to behave in a male-dominated field where you’re one of the only women who isn’t a secretary, and so forth….

I’m wondering how one is friendly with colleagues at work without becoming friends with colleagues at work. I’m an attorney and have recently moved to a firm where I’m the only female attorney, and the staff is comprised almost entirely of women. I was warned in a joking manner by one of the partners when taking the job to beware – previous female attorneys at the firm have fallen victim to being ‘friends’ with staff (regular lunches, after-work drinks, etc) and then later suffer the wrath should someone need to be called on the carpet for job performance or with claims of favoritism.

So far, I’ve gone to lunch with only a couple of people who have initiated the invitation, and I avoid discussing others in the office and steer conversation away from that topic. However, I plan on being here a long time, and I wonder if you or your readers have insight that might help me or have found themselves in similar situations.

Right? Great e-mail. So far, what reader A is doing sounds great to us. Here are some further tips:

  • There’s nothing wrong with finding a friend who happens to be a staffer. Like our advice for dating at the office a few weeks ago, though, we would not recommend looking for a best friend at the office (really, among the staffers or elsewhere). Aim for collegiality. You’re all in this together, and you all have your own jobs to do, and it’s often best if emotions are kept out of it.  Friendship can be harder with people you supervise directly —  it’s important to see both their skills and weaknesses as clearly as possible, so you can compensate and better manage, either by delegating things in certain respects, or knowing to phrase your requests in a certain way.

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