Archive for February, 2010

Same work, different walls

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

There comes a point in everyone’s career when we look around and discover that we are dealing with the same work, the walls have simply changed. Now this is not a bad thing, but at times, it is amazing and amusing to see the lengths people will go to in an effort to try to convince us “old dogs” that this is somehow bright, shiny, new and different.

I was an Executive Assistant for many years. I was blessed to work with some really amazing men and women in the Entertainment Industry over the course of 15 years. Both on the corporate level and the creative. But the truth is, getting coffee is getting coffee. There isn’t much difference in answering the phones for a Movie Producer that for the CEO of a company. Except the Producer may or may not have his pants on. (True story.) But, for those who have worked their way up the ladder and have put their time in, there is a huge difference is their attitude and the intangibles. What I call customer service mentality. With a dash of agent provocateur thrown in.

I recently sat in on a group interview for an Executive Assistant position for a start up. I carefully listened to the head of the company who was giving the presentation. He explained to the group of mainly over 50 women, that he was expecting them to dedicate 55 hours a week to the job – without additional compensation – for an unlimited amount of time into the future. He also expected them to be willing to allow him to show them, on a daily basis, where they were coming up short in their work. His exact words were, I am going to challenge you to be better every day. I will hold a mirror up to you and reflect back to you where you need to improve every moment.

He also said that he planned on micro managing his assistant. At least until he was comfortable that they were capable of doing their job.

The look of sheer terror on the faces of the people in the room was amazing. When invited, only one person left. And she did so because she was a single mom who couldn’t have her child in day care 55 hours a week. Kudos to her for having her priorities straight.

The presenter read from a script. When asked directly to clarify something, he quoted the script. It was physically exhausting. When directly asked about pay range, his response was, I don’t care what you have made int he past, I will base my offer on what I consider you to be worth. Some people I have been known to pay much less than what they have made in the past with promises of more should they improve, and others, I have paid much more.


Let’s go back to old dog here. It has been my experience that once someone reach a certain level within any given industry, it is the same work just different walls. Most people do not get to a high level with out putting in their dues nor do they reach good pay without having earned it. When someone out shopping for a new post, they bring so much more to the table than simply a great set of office management skills. And if the people who hire them know how to properly utilize their employees skills, the employee can be a great asset to the firm and worth every single dime twice over.

At a high level, this becomes a question of is personalities. And what does someone bring to the table beyond the basics.

This goes for everything. I had a conversation with someone recently about transparency (I’ll blog more about that on a different day,) and how I interview my Doctors, dentists, etc, asking questions which include price. I want to know not only about their education, but their personality and how honest and upfront they are. As a Coach, I definitely want my potential clients to talk to me before we engage. After all, we will be working together intimately for a year. Shouldn’t I be someone you like, respect and feel comfortable with? Okay, liking is an option, but trust isn’t. Methodology, philosophy, and what you can expect, are pretty up front.

Back to qualifications, once you are comfortable with someone and you believe that they are capable of delivering what you are asking for plus more, then it is only appropriate to compensate them properly. Don’t be cheap! You do get what you pay for! And sometimes the repair work is much more painful than taking the time to do it right and paying a little extra would have been in the first place. (I’ll tell you about my recent misadventure with that in a day or so!)

So what is it that makes for a good fit? What are you looking for and what questions are you asking? Do you know what questions to ask whether it is for a job or for a new doctor? And finally, what is the person holding the script really saying? And are you willing to take responsibility for agreeing to what you have heard?

Things to think about. Until next time.


Nothing to talk about. . .

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

(Those who know me can stop laughing now. Okay, in a minute)

Some times, I feel as though I have nothing to talk about. No, really! I sit down to write, have a huge list of topics, get the first few sentences out and then, nothing. Nada. Zip, zilch, zero! ACK! What is that about?

I am not a writer, per se. The fact is, that I didn’t even learn to read until I was in Junior High because I was dealing with dyslexia, and until 7th grade was mainstreamed. A year in the Language Arts Lab helped to straighten this out, teach me some tricks which allowed me to over come most of the problems associated with dyslexia and become a rather voracious reader.

But writing? Not so much.

In addition, I sometimes have the fear that the only people who read what I write are robots who are trying to get more hits on their website! Whether this is the truth or not, writing in a vacuum can be rather daunting.

And every once in a while, I wonder if what I am saying is interesting.

Now, taking all of that into consideration, the truth is, all of the above are both true and false. Yes, my dyslexia does, upon occasion, cause me to have problems with what I write. It can be very frustrating typing something three times and STILL not seeing the spelling errors. The solution is to ask someone to proof read my blogs before I publish. Looking for that person. I might have found them. More on that later.

The idea that the only people who read my blog are robots, while there may be some validity to that – I know that a high percentage of hits and comments are from robots because I have a filter on all my comments and approve them or delete them as I deem appropriate – is not wholly true. I know that there are other people who read my blog because I have had personal conversations with them. So I know that there are people reading my blog.

So what it comes down to, when I am ready to be completely honest, is my own doubt that I can 1) write, and 2) have anything worth saying.

As a Coach, there are a few things I would remind myself as a Client about: This is a Blog. And the nice thing about this being a blog is that this is my opinion on what ever topic is at hand. This is my, the Clients, opportunity to explore and develop points of view, language and conversational tone. Do I come off as friendly, didactic, knowledgeable, open or closed? Does my choice of words support my agenda and the level of audience I am trying to reach? Am I open to exploring new ideas and situations and how do I express this? What am I projecting? Are my choice of topics on any given day relevant to the world, to my perspective readers as well as to me? Or am I coming off as simply vain and maybe a little attention hungry?

One note about doubt: it can actually be helpful. I remember speaking to a Jesuit several years ago who told me that part of the innate philosophy of the Jesuits was to question. He told me that a Jesuit was encouraged to look himself in the eye in the mirror every morning and reaffirm his faith and his decision to be a Priest. To reaffirm his path. And that when there was a crisis of faith, that this was an excellent time to take an opportunity to reconnect with what first caused him to choose the path he was on and then make healthy, balanced choices about his future.

Does this sound even vaguely familiar?

So the Coach in me tells the Client in me to look at my doubts, to see which is true. To see which is still serving me and which are simply getting in the way. Adjust my agenda accordingly and then take the appropriate actions which will support the agenda.

In other words, write!

I have a list of topics. You will hear from me!

Until next time.