Leadership & motivation – how to support others and lead by example

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Leadership & motivation – how to support others and lead by example
by Amy Marsden

am001There are many definitions of “leadership”; “the action of leading a group of people or an organisation”; “the state or position of being a leader”; or, “the power or ability to lead other people”. Who are leaders? Assistants are not the typically the first group of people which spring to mind when you think of leaders – in our roles we are often instructed and sometimes considered subordinate by outsiders. Of course, within the profession we know that this is far from the truth, and the changing nature of our field heavily relies on our ability to lead and motivate others, driving results, subtly influencing change behind the scenes.

Anyone can be a leader. You do not have to be a manager, or in a position of hierarchical power to lead. One of the easiest ways for assistants to lead is to “lead by example”. Intrinsically linked to positive leadership is the ability to motivate others, and double standards or a “do as I say, not as I do” approach is bound to have a negative effect on energy levels and morale. Strong leaders think strategically and have a clear big picture vision, are supportive characters who nurture relationships and above all are effective communicators. These are all traits which good EAs/PAs possess. Below are some basic suggestions of how you can lead by your conduct and motivate others:

Strategic thinking

  • Lead through planning and information sharing. Assistants are natural leaders when it comes to thinking ahead; get dates in diaries early, create briefing packs, be proactive in asking for information upfront to keep colleagues/teams informed and explain why this is important. Encourage the people you liaise with to keep, what seem like distant future projects, on their radar and direct their attention to lead efforts.
  • Link your actions to company initiatives or align your work with a shared vision; if your company is trying to improve cost efficiency, reduce waste in your own work environment, remind your boss to try and use public transport, draft a memo about why it is helpful to take advantage of advanced train fares etc. Uphold company objectives/credos, be a shining example of your organisation’s professional standards.

Be supportive

  • Guide and support others by encouraging team work and team efforts. Demonstrate that a collective and collaborative effort is more effective than trying to amalgamate separate and disjointed operations. Offer to assist with a project, offer to take minutes at meetings and follow up on actions, schedule catch-ups and chase status updates for circulation.
  • Be kind, polite and always show respect. Office tensions can sometimes run high (especially at the top of the chain), but by remaining calm and relaxed you can try to encourage others to do the same. Refrain from exchanging cross words, and should you come up against an issue, be confident enough to address it in person in a polite yet assertive manner. Forgive your colleagues for the times that you end up on the receiving end of their bad mood or stress, move on and do not hold grudges.
  • Build and maintain relationships; take the time to get to know the people you deal with regularly, take an interest in what they do and how their role fits into the overall picture of the organisation. You never know when you may need somebody to cover your phone for an hour or two, or when you may need to ask for a one hour turnaround on a document – but never ask something of a colleague that you would not be prepared to do yourself. Lead a supportive and social culture, build rapport.

Communicate effectively

  • Lead in the way that you communicate by upholding some basic rules – if it takes longer to type than to say, pick up the phone! Go over to your colleagues desks instead of clogging up their inbox. We are all aware of how many hours are wasted going back and forth via E-mail. Hopefully your face to face approach will rub-off on other members of staff.
  • Be honest and clear. Leaders never under deliver, primarily because they manage expectations. If a task you are given is unachievable, be honest that this is the case, offer an alternative time frame and suggest other ways to move forward. Honesty commands respect. Be clear in your instructions or ask for clarity when given ambiguous instructions – this can encourage the people you work with to refine their own objectives before handing out vague directives.
  • Lead by listening. Those who shout the loudest go unheard. Listen to your colleagues before you speak and do not interrupt others. Manners have been known to be contagious!

Organising Workshops & Events

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Studio shot of young woman working in office covered with adhesive notes
Studio shot of young woman working in office covered with adhesive notes

 Organising workshops & events isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard either…

Everyday, EAs, PAs, and VAs like you get lumped with dozens of tasks on top of your ever-busy days. You’re all masters of organisation, timing, and efficiency but this is a catch-22, because the more you manage to efficiently pack into a day, the more jobs and tasks you get lumped with. It never ends!

The worst part is that sometimes these tasks include organising a workshop, event, or seminar for your company, which you know from your experience takes a lot more time and effort to put together than your boss realises… It’s rarely a matter of ‘just a couple of emails’ and ‘a quick invitation’, and much more likely to be countless hours setting up an event page, getting an invitation out, and trawling through email after email counting RSVPs on a spread sheet.

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But we don’t believe it should have to be like this, we don’t believe that the thought of organising a workshop or event should strike stress and fear into you. That’s why we built micepage, a strikingly simple event tool designed for people like you to help plan and organise your workshops, seminars, and events smarter, not harder.

micepage packs a lot of punch for a simple tool, automating invitations and RSVP tracking, giving you tools to setup task & event checklists, dedicated spaces for agendas and cloud storage, and allowing you to invite other colleagues to collaborate on the event; many hands make light work! It’s a much smarter way of planning your event, and it will work alongside whatever system you’re currently running. To learn more, you can reach us at team@micepage.com, or log onto www.micepage.com

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And before you say to yourself that you don’t have time to look at micepage, think back to your last event and the hours you spent pulling the information together, and the countless phone-calls you had with your boss about the RSVP numbers and what tasks were left to be done etc. micepage will help you, and it will make your life easier. Work smarter, not harder, jump onto www.micepage.com today and see how easy MICE can be to organise.

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How to communicate effectively as a Personal Assistant

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Amy Apolonio Blog 7th March 2016_html_m2d8e8447

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If you can influence someone to do something, what would it be?

I knew someone whose mere presence lights up the room. She came across as self-assured and assertive; I was in awe. I admired the way she “worked the room” and wondered how she developed such confidence. Well, according to her, there is no exact science to it. Learning to accept and respect different communication styles result in better communication. How we apply these learnings impact our ability to persuade and influence. Here are some key tips:

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EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS

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Three seconds…that’s all it takes for someone to form a judgement on you based on first impression. Understanding the way you communicate and how you come across helps towards creating a good first impression.

The three main styles of communication are:

Amy Apolonio Blog 7th March 2016_html_mbd224f81. Aggressive (I win/you lose) – you are forceful with no consideration of others. Your wants and needs matter more than others; you appear selfish and domineering.

Amy Apolonio Blog 7th March 2016_html_7c0fe4a52. Passive (You win/I lose – and I resent you) – you don’t express thoughts and feelings clearly, thus putting your needs last. You feel people walk all over you and you become resentful.

3. Assertive (I win/You win) – you stand up for your rights thus increasing the chances of getting what you want. You clearly express your thoughts, wants and needs & make reasonable requests of other people.

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Developing an awareness of communication styles and an ability to adapt to it helps remove barriers of communication.

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ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION

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Cultivating a greater sense of respect for yourself and others paves the way for assertive communication. State your wants and needs in a clear and positive way, whilst taking into consideration those of other people.

Assertiveness tips and techniques:

  • Use I statements to begin a sentence – Example: “I feel this when you do that.”

  • Broken record technique – use calm repetition to reiterate your views

  • Be direct – get to the point/do not waffle; “Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.”

  • Ask questions – ask for clarification and time where needed

  • Workable compromise – choose your battles; consider compromising providing it doesn’t affect your self-respect

PERSUASIVE AND INFLUENTIAL COMMUNICATION

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The art of successful persuasion is creating a win-win situation that benefits both parties.

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Principles of Persuasion and Influence:

  • Amy Apolonio Blog 7th March 2016_html_m7c5d72e5Build Rapport – build rapport by establishing common ground with people

  • Body language – learn to read non-verbal signs; mirroring one’s body language, without being obvious, is one way of building rapport

  • Active listening – learn to listen with an intent to understand rather than reply

  • Be prepared – prepare a benefit statement; put forward the idea; discuss potential value; back up with evidence; diffuse any objections; summarise and reiterate benefits

  • Behaviour – hold eye contact; practice how you would like to sound and come across

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Developing your knowledge of communication styles and applying the principles of influencing & persuasion will go a long way towards communicating effectively as a Personal Assistant.

Find out your communication style by taking this quiz and learn about the four behavioural styles by viewing this video.

The multifaceted role of a PA

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By Joanne Manville

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Joanne Manville is a Virtual Assistant who started her own business ‘Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance’ after ten years as a successful Executive Assistant to Chief Executives and Managing Directors in both the public and private sectors. 

Whilst in some organisations the role of a PA has changed little from the traditional role of secretary, in many the PA now undertakes a wide variety of responsibilities and roles.

The core roles and responsibilities of PAs still tend to be centred around arranging and facilitating meetings, diary management, emails and booking travel, but it doesn’t stop there.  Many of the things that we do as PAs are outside of our basic job description and often come under the elusive heading of ‘any other tasks appropriate to the role’.

The title ‘Executive Assistant’ is becoming more widely used to describe a PA who is not only the PA to an Executive, but also undertakes more strategic functions in the business – requiring a different skill-set altogether.

Some examples of these are:

  • Representing managers at meetings, or attend meetings in their own right, demonstrating confidence and decision making skills and a strategic understanding of the business;
  • Supporting more than one manager at once – requiring the skills of tact and diplomacy and excellent prioritisation skills;
  • Line management of apprentices, administrators and receptionists and sometimes even other PAs – requiring management skills, the ability to lead a team and to deal with conflict;
  • Training and development – requiring confidence as well as presentation and public speaking skills;
  • Recruitment – requiring objectivity, excellent questioning and knowledge of equality and diversity;
  • Drafting or writing papers to be received by management or Boards of Directors, requiring skills in writing, research, analysis and presentation of data;
  • Managing the social media accounts for the business, requiring knowledge of compliance, regulation, strategic awareness and the brand which the company wishes to project.

Should we be annoyed at having to take on these additional responsibilities, or seek them out to enhance our skills and ensure we are being the best we can be?  Of course, it’s a personal choice and taking on additional roles and responsibilities should not be done lightly or without discussion of additional responsibility allowances.  It may mean working longer hours or making difficult choices around our priorities.

In my career, I undertook all of these roles, sometimes at the same time.  I felt it was key to being the best PA I could be.  Managing others gave me valuable insights into the pressures on my colleagues and on their managers.  Training and Recruitment enabled me to choose and develop the team around me and make improvements to the way in which we worked together and supported one another.  I also felt the additional challenge was important for my own self development and career – although in the end not even that was enough and eventually I decided to use all the skills I had learned to help me build my own business as a Virtual Assistant!

What roles do you undertake outside of the traditional PA role?  Are there things that you would like to get more involved in? Feel free to leave your comments below

PA Goal Setting for 2016

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By Lauren Heath

Lauren Heath Headshot

Lauren is an Office Manager and PA to Partners. After starting out in the hospitality industry, Lauren has since gained a decade of business and administrative experience, having managed offices and supported senior staff in SME’s in a variety of sectors including construction, events, education and more recently in oil and gas engineering.

Since March it has been my goal to return to a fully fledged PA and Office Manager role. It has been tough going, with the competition beating me to it a few times. I did think – “why not stay in my job? I am good at what I do even if I don’t feel pushed to my full potential”. “No!” I thought – I know what I am very good at and I know what I want to be now that I am grown up! (I only just feel this in my early 30’s).

I finally got the new job, hurrah! I am now in a company that appreciates the need and benefit of CPD and networking, and now I feel more freedom and room to grow than ever before. Ironically, having achieved my goal for 2015 in the nick of time, I found an event on Eventbrite that was local to me for Setting Goals for 2016 – brilliant!

The facilitator was Mumazing Success,  a network group for Entrepreneur and career-minded mums to meet and find a work/life balance. It was really good to meet other working mums and business women and hear about their ups and downs as well as achievements for 2015; it puts your own life into perspective. Being a mum and working full time can bring on many feelings of guilt that most people don’t talk about or who are shy to say they enjoy working. I am proud to say I am very ambitious in my work, want to be the best I can be, and I ensure all the family time with my son and husband is quality time.

So looking back on 2015 we discussed our lessons, challenges, what we were grateful for and our proudest moments. It is good to reflect on your year and feel that you have achieved something – new clients, new job, even taking up a hobby that brings you happiness and de-stresses you. Don’t feel guilty; if you are the best you can be, then you will be the best to those around you.

So…the year ahead; what are your goals?

  • Choose goals that you have an emotional connection to – something that you want and feel is right
  • Have self-belief – you can do it!
  • Ignore negativity – it will only stop you from achieving. Surround yourself with good influences or attend other network meetings with like-minded people
  • Reward yourself – instil a good feeling on achieving your goals or the tasks leading up to a goal. Positive reinforcement goes a long way
  • Take action – break these goals down into an action plan, bite size chunks, so they don’t seem unachievable and avoid feeling overwhelmed,
  • Visualise your goals – maybe put up a picture at home or in your office of what you want to have, achieve or improve

At the end of the session, we did a mood board, which at first I found myself flicking through magazines not finding anything that seemed ‘me’. Then words started jumping out and then a few pictures as well. At the end I found I had put my goals into pictures and words in a visual display. Every now and then I can remind myself of what I want to achieve and even add a new cutting if something else pops up or my goal changes slightly.

Apparently 20% of people set goals and only 3% write them down and go on to review and achieve them. So go on, be part of the 3%, set a couple of goals for the year, write them down, ‘visualise them…let’s see what 2016 will bring and where you can find yourself in 12 months time. Life is a journey after all.

So what goals have you set for 2016? Feel free to leave your comments below.