Learning to manage – Being director for the day


By Katie Driver


Katie is an Executive Assistant with four years’ experience in both the private and public sector. She started her career studying an Executive PA Diploma at Pitman’s Training College in Cambridge before taking on an internship at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director. She has just completed her first year as an EA in local government, working with the Director of Environment at Cambridge City Council.

Recently, I was fortunate enough be chosen to represent my council at the Local Authority Challenge East of England and East Midlands 2015. Whenever a training and development opportunity arises, I am always keen to grab this with both hands. One facet of my skills I really want to work on as a PA/EA is management experience.

The Local Authority Challenge is a simulation exercise in which delegates have a go at performing the role of a district council senior management team. As an executive assistant, the opportunity to be fully exposed to the organisational issues I assist with every day goes hand-in-hand with my working knowledge and corporate understanding of the authority I work for.

I was tasked with the role of Director of Environment, incredibly fitting and now an ongoing witticism in the office as I am in fact the EA to a Director of Environment.  We had to regularly brief our leader, work with neighbouring councils, and deal with the media and co-ordinate with various agencies. At the end of the day, we provided a presentation to members and submitted a recovery plan for our council, which was all independently assessed. As a team we were commended for being energetic, enthusiastic and inspirational to watch.

On a personal level, I have noticed I have a tendency to seek approval for my upcoming decisions, before I actually make them, which I think is a trend PA/EAs starting out in their career can often fall into. I found myself with such responsibility for strategic issues which needed to be dealt with, I would look to the Chief Executive to approve my thought process, as opposed to putting my case forward for approval. My prioritisation and time management skills, which are critical in a management team, shone through, and the reactive essence of the day was taken in my stride.

So what did I learn during the day? Alongside picking up key management experience, the necessity to be assertive and decisive and the importance of team work, I also helped tackle a personal battle I have been experiencing since starting my career. I was very conscious I was the only member of the team without direct line management responsibilities. I used to wrestle with the feeling of not being as credible as other colleagues I work with, but this exercise has certainly shown me just how important I am and significantly boosted my confidence.

A Chief Executive, Leader and Director of a local authority rely heavily on senior managers for news, updates and advice, and as an EA/PA, we are relied heavily upon to proactively recognise this information alongside providing exceptional support.

Recognising your Value


By Shireen Dallas Portrait Photograph-1

Shireen is a highly qualified and experienced legal secretary, who has a diverse expertise in the legal field for more than 15 years. Shireen currently works with 3 partners in a law firm in Dublin.

“Your value doesn’t decrease by someone’s inability to see your worth.” ~Unknown

 Others will treat you as you expect to be treated!

During my twenty-year career I have had the opportunity to work in two differentcountries one in Europe and the other in Africa,in different kinds of company’s and varying administrative roles. This has meant that I have had to adapt and grow as a person.

When I started out in my administrative career I was so eager to please and to prove my worth,but sadly, I had no sense of my own talents or the value I brought with me to work everyday.  Here I was putting all my energy in trying to make it work and being liked, that many times I abandoned or pushed aside my own needs. The result was, that I was seldom taken seriously or even noticed, you see I didn’t respect myself enough to realise I deserved to be treated better.

It is natural for us to want to feel valued and respected and for our ability/talents to be valued and matter.For me this meant that I had to start visualising what I wanted and believing that I could achieve this.

I have always supported my husband and his drive to excel in his career and this has meant that I have moved around a lot and worked at a number of different companies.  I never really built up enough confidence in myself or valued what I had accomplished.  Therefore, when I applied for a position as a legal secretary in one of the top law firms, I was first unsure if I would even get an interview let alone be successful. So with my husband’s assistance I started working on defining and showing the success’sin my career.  It was a small step, and the start of recognising my value and what I had accomplished,as well as being a foundationto build on going forward.   This meant that at the interview I was more confident in who I was and what I could add and bring to the team.  Over time my sense of self worth has moved from just believing I was valuable to portraying it.   Who I am as a personis my brand and I have worked hard for it, why should I give someone the power to make me feel less valuable?  By the way I did get the job….

So in learning to recognise my value here are a few things that I have worked through:

  • Defining my professional values;
  • Defining what I bring to thecompany and team;
  • Realising what makes me feel respected or valued in the workplace. Sometimes you need to realise what doesn’t make you feel valued to find out what does; and
  • Discovering my core values that define me as a person.

I have learnt that in respecting myselfand mychosen professionothers will respect me and myprofession.Believe in yourself, respectyourself as a valuable employee and believe that your input is important.

If you feel under valued or not respected recognise that you have the power to change how you feel.  It might be that you may need to realise that your beliefs and perceptions are causing you to feel this way and make a conscious decision to refocus your thinking and remember what you bring to the team and that you are valuable.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

Self-doubt is complicated, you have to solve it for yourself—no one can do it for you. So take control, get out of your own way and believe that you deserve to be valued and respected for what you bring to the team.

I can’t make people value me

All I can do is show them who I am

What I feel

And what I believe in

It’s up to them to realize my worth



Is your Executive lonely at the top?


Worried BossAn Interesting article in The Times on Monday 30th November highlighted recent research that The Times undertook with Odgers Berndtson that C-level Executives are battling ‘burn out’.  The research findings show that many Senior Executives are being kept awake at night worrying about work to be done and finding it difficult to switch off and get a good night’s sleep. 60% of top bosses reported taking their phone or tablet to bed with them at night, 65% felt pressured to work at weekends and 92% responded to emails and messages at any time.

The pressure that C-level Executives are under will also impact on the Executive Assistants and Personal Assistants who work for them.  Many EAs and PAs that I work with tell me of replying to emails at midnight or 2am in the morning.  Globalisation and advances in technology play a big part in this evolving working environment.  So how can EAs and PAs support their bosses without suffering from the same issues?

Build a Communication Strategy between you

Regular communication with your boss is key to a successful partnership.  Setting firm guidelines with your boss on when you are working and when your phone and laptop is switched off is important.  I believe that EAs and PAs also need to play a key role in helping their bosses to learn to switch off as well.  The EA & PA role at C-Level is one of strategic business support to your boss and that includes managing communication between you clearly and with confidence.  Where you can, try and support your boss with health and wellbeing tips and when you see them doing too much, protect their diary and give them a chance to rest and restore.My relationship with my former boss, Sir Christopher Bland was one that developed over time into trust and respect between us and whenever I saw he was doing too much, not drinking enough water or had no time for lunch then I would intervene.

Evolving role of Executive Assistants & Personal Assistants

The EA & PA role in the 21st century is now very exciting with many opportunities. As C-level executives expand their companies across the world your role managing the complexities of their life is more vital than ever.  You are on the rise and developing key business knowledge and skills is vital for your career progression.  As your Executive rises so will you, enjoy the journey!

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below

The True Value of a PA/EA


By Sherri Eckworth


Sherri Eckworth has been a Senior Executive Assistant at TMW Unlimited since 2010. Sherri has worked across multiple industries and has been a PA at Board level for almost 20 years. Awarded SecsintheCity PA of the Year 2013 and shortlisted for Executive Magazine PA of the Year 2014. A regular top 30 member of Eventopedia’s PA Club Top 250 Power List and an enthusiastic supporter of the PA role.

A tough one to put in a few paragraphs but this is my take on a subject I feel very passionately about…the True Value of a PA/EA

Do you get maximum value from your PAs? Do you know how much additional value they can add to your business?

From a PA who’s been in the administrative support space for over twenty years, here’s a few reasons why I believe that we are a very valuable resource in business.

We make amazing Project Managers – it’s what we do best. Whether organizing an event or getting ‘impossibly difficult to pin down’ people in a room together, we make it happen. Our organisational skills give us a head start when it comes to managing projects from inception to completion. Our ability not to let anything drop ensures we’ll be ‘on it’ all the way through and because we’re used to changing environments, we won’t be phased if something needs to be rerouted.

We make great Facilitators – and I don’t just mean managing meetings to run on time! Yes we can take the notes, but we follow up on actions, understand the processes and know who the key stakeholders are. We’re enthusiastic and can create a healthy atmosphere around introducing change. For planning ‘away days’, we’ll also ensure you get the best venue at the best price too!

We are confidential sounding boards –people talk to us about their concerns and we know when to listen and when to feedback. We’re trusted by our colleagues as they know we deliver their messages in the right way.

We’re calm gatekeepers whilst being great ambassadors for our teams. We will never let anyone down. As much as we’d like to clone our bosses, we know we can’t, so we prioritise their time in a way that works best for all. Everyone needs to feel important and valued and understanding that is key.

We’re the best jugglers! From the minute we arrive in the office, we’re asked what feels like a hundred questions a minute. We’re fielding calls, managing multiple events, answering emails, making last minute changes to the diaries, checking out meeting rooms, liaising with other departments and normally all whilst preparing relevant paperwork for the day.

We’ve worked across many industries – we’ve shown curiosity about our surroundings and learned a lot about business. Transferable skills give us great advantages and crossing industries keeps us refreshed and enthused.

We’re ‘people’ people – we’re perceptive and knowledgeable when it comes to others. We often see potential issues before they become problematic and we know who may need a little extra help.

And of course there’s lots more – but I think that’s a great start.  A ‘personal assistant’ is so much more than the title suggests, often working for more than one person, acting as a contact point for the wider business and generally being pulled in many directions at once. A reliable, trustworthy, grounded PA is well worth your time and investment – with development, training and encouragement, we can really demonstrate our true value.

Career Progression for PAs & EAs


By Vivian Mensah

Vivien  has 18 years’ experience in the admin profession.  She began her career as a receptionist at Astra Zeneca PLC, a FTSE 100 Biopharmaceuticals company where she proceeded to hold Senior PA and Project Co-ordinater roles and is currently EA to the EVP there.  She is committed and passionate about her role as an EA who champions and advocates the value and impact the PA role brings to the organisation, team and individuals and was responsible for introducing lunch and learn sessions for the PAs at AstraZeneca. 

Career progression – Where do I start?

How many of us in the admin community have had some form of performance management engagement this year, last year or never – before you answer bear in mind that this can be classified as any of the following: Performance planning, Performance coaching or Performance problems.

We should all have a performance plan – whether or not it states “I want to remain in this position/post for the rest of my career” or “I want to become the CEO in 5 years” – that can be referred too, rewritten, amended, adjusted and referred to.

Many of us want to have longevity in the admin profession, we want to progress as far as our skills, capabilities, personality and leadership traits will take us. We have ambition and we have aspirations.

So, does the below sound familiar?

Admin: ‘I would like to speak to you about my career progression’.

Manager: ‘Career progression? But you are an admin’.

Career progression for admin professionals is available, achievable and deserved but it is up to you to remain focused, work hard and try to excel in everything that you. Always try your hardest and strive for success. If this is not recognised in your current role, it could happen in your next – be open minded and look to create those opportunities.  You may need to move teams/departments/organisations to realise your full potential.  You need to prioritise what is important to you, is it the career satisfaction?  Enjoyment?  Challenge? If you simply sit and wait for someone to take notice and offer you something better/a step up or put you forward for that EA/project management position that you have always then you may be waiting a long time.

There are many paths that we can take to avoid that but like most things sometimes it may take time, could get bumpy along the way and not always straight forward.

It’s not always easy to bring up the subject of career progression topic but a great opportunity to seize for that is your mid-year or year-end appraisal. I worry about two things here: that some of you may not even have appraisals or having to wait half or a full year to talk about investing in yourself which in turn will be beneficial to the organisation in so many ways – a motivated, highly-engaged employee who is likely to stay committed within the organisation.

For your first of meetings I would suggest the following:

Preparation, preparation, preparation. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of preparing for your meetings. Sometimes you only get one chance, so make it count!

Goals and Objectives:

Write down your goals and objectives as these are fundamental to accomplishing what you need to. Goals are long term aims that you want to accomplish and objectives are measurable, concrete and tangible.

Knowledge is Power:

You must become an expert in your field, e.g.progressing from a PA to an EA
Find out all is there is to know about an EA – how does the role differ to the role of a PA
What aspects of the role interests you? What are some of the challenges you expect to face in the role?

Ask if you can shadow an EA for a couple of hours or a day?

Ask an existing EA in your organisation or network to mentor you.

Schedule sufficient meeting time and advise your manager in advance of the topics and content you would like to discuss this with her/him.

Planning is essential to improve the odds of a successful outcome so go prepared – research relevant course/mentorship schemes/internships/in-house training etc.

Ensure that you have an open, honest and realistic discussion about your career progression because this might be your only shot in a long time to discuss training courses/mentorship etc.

Follow ups:
So you have had the discussion and you have the green light (yippee) to enrol on some courses/mentorship schemes.  This is really great news! It demonstrates that your manager believes in you and is investing time and money in you – Yes! You! Repay the compliment by scheduling regular update meetings to keep your manager up to date with your progress, experiences and whether it meets the objectives.