Words that Matter: "Were you able to...?"

Tonight I got a text from my boss and as I read it my heart sank. "Were you able to…?" He asked me a question of which I dread to hear the end.

I would love to say that I am the kind of assistant that never has to deal with this problem--I always prioritize correctly and get everything done in the time allotted to it, but that's just not true. I have to answer NO to this question more times than I care to admit.

SIDE NOTE: For those of you who cannot relate to the heart sinking feeling when you hear this question from your boss, I both applaud and challenge you. I don't know if I will ever get there, but at the same time I am not sure I ever want to. At that moment, I would both boast up with pride that I had finally arrived at being the best assistant ever (beware of how steep the fall is from that place) and yet also feel disappointment that I wasn't stretching in my capacity or doing more than I was capable of handling in my own strength (and therefore fully leaning on the Holy Spirit every single day)

In this text conversation, I had not completed the task in question and was disappointed in myself because I wanted to be able to say yes (don't we always?). But this blog post is not about time management (though that would be a guest post sometime---looking for volunteers) or about to do lists and how to keep up with and prioritize them.  Instead, today is about TAKING RESPONSIBILITY and OWNING YOUR ERRORS. It is never fun to say "No, I didn't do that", but as an assistant it is important that it falls smoothly off your lips when necessary. 

There are two steps to taking responsibility and often it can be difficult to do either well. Daniel the Tiger teaches it best to my three year old with "Saying I'm sorry is the first step, then how can I help." When you make a mistake or neglect a task the two step process is to:

Apologize & Correct

1. Apologize-- this can be more challenging than it sounds. We have learned to say we are SORRY, but usually it is followed by a comma instead of a period in our language. This is because everything in our flesh wants to justify our mistake or blame another party: I am sorry, but... I was waiting on someone or something else, I didn't have all the information, I wanted you to proof it, etc. The list of "I am sorry I didn't do it, but __________" are endless. Unfortunately, this doesn't usually matter. What matters is that I was asked to do something and it isn't done yet. Tonight I added a comma my response, and immediately regretted it. In the future I will work hard to hold my tongue and my flesh and simply respond, "I am sorry I didn't do this yet like you asked me to. PERIOD."  From there comes part two. 

2. Correct it-- the only statement that needs to come after "I'm sorry" should be "I'll take care of it right now/tonight/first thing in the morning/as soon as possible". Then the kicker--- DO IT in the time you promised. Whenever you say it will be corrected by, make sure it's done. This is key because it speaks highly of your character; you are true to your word (integrity could be an entire category of this blog) and your apology was sincere.

My pastor says, "You either win or you LEARN. You only lose, if you don't learn." Take the opportunity to learn. Apologize AND Correct your mistake. Then next time they ask, "were you able to..." you can say with a smile, "Yes, I took care of it."

Your Turn: How do you do at apologizing and correcting? Is it easy for you? What have you learned about how to recover from your mistakes?


That's kind of your job

I have a confession... Rescheduling appointments is not my favorite responsibility as an assistant. It is just never fun to call someone and let them know that unfortunately a conflict has arisen and the lunch you have been trying to coordinate for the last couple of weeks will now have to wait a few more days. Luckily, I don't have to do this too often, but when I do I just don't love it. It would just be easier if every appointment happened on time for the allotted amount of time on the day it was scheduled for. But life happens and conflicts come up.

Okay, another confession, while I am on a roll: Every now and then I have an email that requires a well thought out and extensive reply, and I get discouraged when I spend a lot of time working on it, and finally get it sent, only to see the person respond within five minutes. Could they give me a few moments to enjoy the cleaned out inbox? Just one day where emails don't pop up every ten minutes.

As I was ranting to a co-worker during one of my selfish whiny moments (that NEVER happens...), she said something to me that slapped me straight in the face. It was one of those short phrases that make a great impact--- like when I blab at my husband for ten minutes straight and then finally take a breath and after a moment of silence in our argument I lash out with, "well, don't you have anything to say??" and he quietly and ever so sweetly cuts me to the core with one short but convicting question of "are you finished?"----my co-worker kindly listened to me complain about another rescheduled appointment and an overly excited email responder. Then after a brief pause, she looked at me and said "that's kind of your job".

Ouch, but true. That IS my job. That's why I am an assistant. I take care of the details of the day, the appointments and the emails. These appointments are set and reset and reset again, so that my leader can make time for people. The lunch will happen, but it may need to wait so that he can minister to a family that just lost a loved one, or visit the hospital of a sick cancer patient. The event debrief may have to be pushed back while he meets with a business leader that ends up going long so they can discuss the vision of a new campus plant or giving resources for holiday outreaches. Each meeting is important because each meeting is with a person who is cared about deeply by God and we need to make time to listen to them.

And those emails. Thank God for those emails. The emails are people, families with needs, individuals with questions, church members with testimonies. I am honored when I get to play a small part in helping my pastor respond to these people, care for their needs, minister to their families, and celebrate their testimonies.

So when you get frustrated about that email or have to make that phone call to schedule the appointment again, take a moment, breathe, then put on your big kid pants and get it done. That's kind of your job. And it's a great job to have.

Your Turn: What task isn't your favorite part of the job? How do you get over your feelings to get it done?