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Table of Contents

Getting to Know Your Boss Time Management The Schedule Suspense Tracking & Following Up Correspondence
The Boss’ Quick Reference Book
Protocol and Special Events Staff Meetings Technical Issues The Staff Car The Typical Day
A: Commander’s Call Action Plan B: Sample Background Paper C: Sample Protocol 3X5 Cards D: Sample Commander’s Reference Book E: Sample Exec Continuity Book
Example Desk Layout


Incoming Correspondence

It is very important that incoming correspondence gets into the hands of the people who need it immediately. In some cases, incoming correspondence will task your Boss or the unit. In other cases, it may simply provide much needed information. In either case, your job is to build a mechanism that will keep incoming correspondence moving.

First, you must determine what correspondence the Boss needs to see. In most organizations, there is a tremendous amount of incoming correspondence; however, the Boss does not need to see all of it.

Normal, routine business correspondence should be sent directly to the person needing it. If it establishes a suspense for the unit, make a copy of the tasker and put it in the Boss’ READ folder, have the command administration section make a suspense log entry, and keep the original moving.

If the incoming correspondence is addressed directly to the Boss, in most cases you simply place it in the HOT folder and get the Boss’ guidance on who, what, when, and how the correspondence should be worked. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, because some people will attempt to use your Boss as the entry point to the organization, thinking if they get his/her attention then everyone will pay more attention to the correspondence. Use good judgment here and ask the Boss how to work these. For example, promotional literature, routine administrative or personnel letters, and solicitations do not need the Boss’ attention—shield him/her from this annoyance.

Outgoing Correspondence

Outgoing correspondence will be one of your greatest challenges. There is nothing more embarrassing than for a higher authority office or an outside organization to call stating that a document signed by your Boss has typographical errors, grammar errors, format errors, misspelled words or names, or worse yet--inaccurate content. You, the secretary, and the originator must work very closely together to ensure only the highest quality correspondence leaves over the Boss’ signature. You should consider it a personal failure of your processes for inaccurate or improperly formatted correspondence to leave under the Boss’ signature. Additionally, any correspondence that undergoes changes, rewrites and editing by the Boss merits a copy sent back to the Division Chief or originator so they can learn the Boss’ style and preferences. Too many times we destroy the original document without getting it back into the hands of the people that did the work so they can benefit from the changes.

Besides learning your Boss’ writing style, the two most important areas are format (punctuation, grammar, letterhead, etc.) and accuracy (completeness and accuracy of content).

Format issues should be checked by either you or the secretary, remember—you two are the last stop before it reaches the Boss’ desk. In fact, no one except you or the secretary should put documents for the Boss’ signature on the desk. Everything goes into the SIGNATURE folder that needs his/her signature. Obviously, in your absence or the secretary’s, the stand-in person should refer to the permanent person—plan ahead and train someone.

Accuracy of content is far more complicated, and it will take you some time to feel comfortable in this area—primarily because you must learn your Boss’ writing style.

Let’s briefly talk about OPRs/EPRs, civilian evaluations, and awards and decorations—they will take the most time, because the Boss will most likely have very specific philosophies on how these should be written and reviewed. However, if your Boss is a civilian or has little experience in writing these documents, take the initiative to suggest what you consider to be the best. In most cases, you can simply provide your Boss meaningful inputs for the document along with your suggested write-up. This will not only give the Boss an idea of what to write, but it will also show where you are in learning his/her writing style. When working OPRs/EPRs, civilian evaluations, and awards and decorations, do the research for your Boss ahead of time. That is, pull and review the member’s records and include them with your suggested write-ups. Reviewing these documents is the last part of a very tough job. To ensure performance is actually recorded you will want to institutionalize some type of a review process for these documents.

For business related correspondence, you must do your homework to ensure accuracy. The key here is understanding and insisting on good staff work. As a general rule, if your Boss is authorized an Exec, he/she is at a level that probably warrants the use of Staff Summary Sheets (SSS) for all outgoing correspondence. You can refer to “The Tongue and Quill” for more information on how to prepare SSSs. However, the SSS itself can not ensure accuracy—only the writer can. Once you’ve transformed outgoing correspondence into your Boss’ writing style, the key to ensuring accuracy of content is to ask the following questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. You may think this sounds juvenile or childish, but it works. If the correspondence does not clearly answer these questions in your mind (remember, you are the expert on the organization and your Boss is depending on you to ensure that what he says is true), then it probably will not answer the questions for any other reader, including your Boss. In such cases, politely and diplomatically go back to the writer and ask them to be more specific—they will appreciate you for covering them.

In all correspondence, you need to know the intended audience and ensure the correspondence relates to them. In other words, write to the audience’s level. For example, stay away from functional jargon and acronyms when the audience may have to look up the words before understanding what the Boss is trying to say. On the other hand, if the audience is very knowledgeable of the content, be as concise and to the point as possible, even using jargon and acronyms as appropriate. Your Boss may give you guidance in this area, but if not, use his/her editing as examples and build your own set of guidelines accordingly.

Finally, make sure all figures (numbers, dates, etc.) are correct. It’s very embarrassing to have the Boss point out that columns of numbers don’t add up; or, worse yet, for the Boss to sign the correspondence and have someone outside your organization points out the error.

The bottom line is to make sure the correspondence is ready for the Boss to sign BEFORE you send it in. Make sure the format is correct and the correspondence accurately and completely responds to the subject matter. You want the Boss to see outgoing correspondence once and only once if at all possible—you’ll get better at this as time goes on.

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Page Added on: 24 January 2006