Aspiring Cat Herder

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just got a huge promotion at work. I was in the right place at the
right time, an assistant to along time operations manager who had a
heart attack and retired within a month. I’d been her assistant for
three years and frankly am the only person in the company who could
do this. The problem is that the company president assigned me a
thankless task that she managed to dodge starting (let alone
completing) since before I got here.


The details don’t matter but in order to complete the task I need to get
20 very busy professionals to participate in a process that they won’t get
paid anything for doing, and getting them to give me lots of information
about past projects/clients/references. My salary is to do admin work;
theirs comes from being billable. I’m also supposed to run a series of
trainings with the controller that will help us collect more money for
the work they do and bill. How can I slip my task in under the wire so
I don’t look like a failure from the get-go?

Aspiring Cat Herder

Dear Aspiring Cat Herder:

Set up a calendar for three training sessions. Let the controller run the
first two with you as her assistant. Make sure that there are cogent
agendas and take-away handouts for every participant in each one.
Provide some incentive, like free lunch and be clear that the start and
stop times are fixed. Have each participant get a ticket for a prize to
be drawn at random at the end of each meeting – something worth
caring about like a $100 gift certificate to a great restaurant or concert

You run the third meeting, which should also have a prize. Give it a
sexy title like Upping Your Bottom Line or Get a Bigger Bonus. Give
each of them a blank form or computer screen to complete the
questions you will ask. Break down the information you need into
small bite-sized pieces like: Who are your top three clients in terms of
revenue? Next three? Next three? Who would you never ask for a
reference? Which five clients always speak well of you? And so on,
until you will have collected all the info you can get in an hour. It won’t
be enough to finish your task, but it will get you going.