How to Communicate Effectively as a Personal Assistant

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Carolyn Cho Blog - How to Communicate Effectively as a PA CC portrait_html_m652af9e5How to Communicate Effectively as a Personal Assistant

by Carolyn Cho

Hello.  My name is Carolyn and welcome to my first ever blog. This inaugural post is about how you as a Personal Assistant (PA) can communicate effectively. Firstly don’t underestimate how important communication is for a PA. Often you are the first point of contact for your company both internally and externally so make sure you are prepared. Keep up to date with what your company is working on, and your industry as a whole. Be aware what the media and online community are saying about your company. Know who in your organisation is working on what project, and how the various teams work together. That way you are ready to respond to any question no matter how complex or random.

Carolyn Cho Blog img2The next important thing is how you interact with other people. Effective communication is a two way process, both talking and listening. When talking, think about what you want to say and how you want it to come across. This means focusing on choice of words, the tone, volume, and pace of voice plus body language. Research has shown that the words we actually say are less important than the non-verbal communication through voice and body language. When listening be an active listener by focusing on the speaker. Consider why they are speaking to you and what outcome do they want. Are they asking you for help, or just making a comment about something? Non-verbal clues may tell you what really is being said. I like to confirm at the end of the conversation that I have understood what we have talked about by paraphrasing back what has just been told to me. Often as a PA conversations with your manager are on the hop. Don’t be scared to ask questions so you know exactly what you are expected to do. Unfortunately as a PA not all communication will be positive. Now is the time to be assertive, but not aggressive. For example someone asks you to book urgent travel asap. State firmly and calmly why you can’t do this immediately and give a good subjective reason (e.g. currently working on an urgent presentation due in half an hour). If possible offer a work around, (e.g. provide contact details of travel booker), give them an timeline of when you can undertake their request, or even delegate to someone else. Otherwise politely say no and stand your ground.

Carolyn Cho Blog img1In today’s business world online communication is a vital tool. I send and receive over 100 emails per day. But even if just sending a casual email, remember that it can be forwarded to anyone. Always be professional, keep to the point, and check spelling and grammar before sending. For clarity the main point of the email should be in the first few sentences. Keep in mind when drafting emails you are often representing your manager and the company. Social media is a powerful force that can be used for promoting yourself and your company. As a PA it connects you with peers and provides you with incredible networking opportunities. Your online profile should be professional – keep your social life private. This is your chance to advertise yourself, what skills and experience you have, and where you want your career to go. Make your profile authentic by following or commenting on areas that are of particular interest to you. For example gender pay gaps, status of the PA etc. By being active online you are communicating to a much wider audience than you could reach face-to-face. Here’s hoping it brings you a wealth of opportunities.

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.

Tuesday 15th March at 8am: Invitation to Breakfast at Kensington Palace, London

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Global PA Fellow, Platinum & Associate Members are invited to Breakfast at the Orangery, Tour of Kings & Queens Apartments at Kensington Palace and private view of Fashion Rules Exhibition. EAs and PAs who organise corporate events are also welcome.

Limited places. Reserve your place today, follow the link below.

http://www.globalpa-association.com/index.php/news/detail/15th-March-at-8am-Exclusive-Invitation-to-Breakfast-at-Kensington-Palace