Top 10 Contradictions of the PA/EA role!

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To get what I and my manager need, I have to:

1. Keep the goals of my manager at the centre, whilst responding to numerous other requests

2. Build a close relationship with all the ‘important others’, and maintain a distance that allows me to manage interference

3. Lead, drive and cut through, being sure of myself, and yet hold myself in the background, seeking concensus, being tolerant, patient and diplomatic

4. Know exactly what needs to be done, and yet be able to wait, allow others space and time to catch up

5. Be assertive, confident and direct, and yet warm, inviting and humble

6. Be inspiring, dynamic, energetic and also reflective, co-operative and concilitary

7. Be highly effective and efficient, focused and planned, and yet be responsive, able to change direction in a moment and spontaneous

8. Know myself, my personality and leverage off my strengths, whilst flexing my style to get the best out of others and my manager

9. Plan my own time, but be flexible with my schedule

10. Focus on the here and now, and also look into the future and pre-empt

Then you wonder why some days you feel like you have 2 personalities!

Partnering really well with your manager can help ease some of these contradictions and make you work day less frenetic. For example:

* Have you and your manager discussed how you work together, your communication preferences, time wasters, roles and responsibilities, complementary abilities, priorities and truly explored the word ‘partnership’?

* Have you (and your manager) identified key stakeholders, built successful relationship platforms, and are able to trouble-shoot when early warning signs appears that could derail goals?

* Do you have the necessary problem-solving and decision making skills, and are able to create and manage information flow?

* Can you easily influence the most challenging personality in the office, handle conflict quickly and efficiently and maintain the relationship?

Penny facilitates Bright*Star’s training course on ‘Partnering with Your Manager’

Written by Penny Holden

NEW Speakers for Web 201320Master facilitator, high calibre industry recognised trainer, and people and culture capability consultant, Penny Holden brings 20 years real business and workplace experience, expertise and knowledge. With an extensive background in behavioural  sciences, psychology, education and organisational development and people capability, she applies this in simple and effective ways to her workshops and projects. Penny is particularly recognised for her ability to work with anyone at any level with respect and robust appropriate learning methods.

Seeing the Big Picture: Developing Business Acumen for Organisational Awareness

“We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”


These are the words of Daniel H. Pink in his insightful book, ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’. Fascinating,don’t you think, that we can overlook something as obvious as the core needs for people to feel like they do their jobs well, that they have some degree of control, and that they have a sense of connection, or ‘relatedness’ to their work and their organisation. It’s hard to feel deeply connected to your work, or your workplace, when you potentially have a limited or incomplete understanding of the business roadmap. As EAs and PAs we often develop exceptional knowledge and insights into the functioning of our own roles, those that we support, and the key stakeholders with whom we interact, but there’s a bigger context. Sometimes it’s that bigger context where a deeper understanding and broader awareness could make a profound difference to the way we shape our perspectives, make decisions, add value, establish our profile and generally interact with other people in a professional capacity. So how do you build your ‘business acumen’ and cultivate a higher level of organisational awareness in your role as an EA or PA? In reality, it’s about becoming better informed, and staying current in terms of how your organisation operates, competes, sustains itself, grows, and contributes to its customers, industries and communities.

In practical terms, there many ways to achieve this, but here are five simple things that you can do to cultivate your business intelligence and stay connected and purposeful in your work:

#1 Dedicate time to having conversations with experts within your business Experts love to share their expertise, so create opportunities to learn what you can from them about their role, their teams and their goals. Once you have a basic understanding of their roles and how their part of the operation works, you’ll be better placed to continue these conversations on a regular basis, and constantly learning more about how each part of the organisation can help make other parts more successful.

#2 Tap into information about your industry For each and every industry there is a plethora of information that is easily accessible via industry organisations, publications, current affairs and professional networks. Make this material your reading “fodder” and us it as the basis for learning more about your own organisation and how it works within the industry.

#3 Explore general management concepts and topics You may not have the word manager in your title, but even if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to be a good manager! The vast subject of management applies to anyone who drives or contributes to organisational goals, and there are some foundation management concepts (like ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ or ‘cause and effect’ for example) that can help everyone to be more personally effective. Whenever you enhance the way in which you deliver results in your role, your team, your organisation and your customers all benefit – it’s like the “butterfly effect”!

#4 Think of yourself and your role in terms of how you serve customers Even if you think you don’t have any direct connection to customers, you will be amazed to “map” how your efforts indirectly contribute to the success of your team, your department, the business, and ultimately the people that your business or organisation serves. In everything you do, you will be able to find a connection back to the customer and the overall prosperity of your business or the community it serves – you really just have to think about it.

#5 Become a ‘Maven’ A maven (a.k.a. mavin) is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word maven comes from Hebrew, meaning “one who understands”, based on an accumulation of knowledge. This concept isn’t about being the gatekeeper or holding knowledge because knowledge is power, but it’s more about being well-connected, wellinformed and being known for having a deep understanding of how things work and how things can be achieved. Being a maven is also about being one of the first to pick up on new trends or information (an ‘early adopter’), and being influential because you can help others to grasp new trends or insights. Developing your business acumen and organisational awareness is as important as learning about the latest tools and best practices in your role. Overlooking this vital dimension of your professional repertoire can be a self-limiting move. The solution? Stay conscious of, and focused on, your mastery, self-drive and connectedness, and you will become an even more valuable asset to your team, your business, your customers and potentially your profession.

Pamela is facilitating The Strategic EA: Business Acumen for Senior EA/PAs for Bright*Star Training


Written by Pamela Cronin

NEW Speakers for Web 201318Pamela Cronin has more than 15 years’ experience working with organisations across the public and private sectors.  Her training combines rich, contemporary theory and stimulating activity, providing practical tips and advice.  Pamela draws on her expertise in the areas of people management, business strategy, communication and team development to deliver challenging learning in a personable way. She is an accredited Team Management Index (TMI) Facilitator, and is the author of the Brooker’s New Zealand ‘Guide to Training and Development’.

How EA/PAs Learn on the Job

EAPAIn last month’s issue of Shine – our popular newsletter for Administration Professionals – we asked our readers how you like to pick up new skills.

61.54% of you prefer to learn on the job (compared to 23.08% choosing face to face training course and 15.38% coaching).

At Bright*Star Training we are all about learning, and how we can best support your professional and skill development. Learning a new skill has all kinds of unexpected benefits, including improving working memory, keeping your mind active and increasing engagement at work.

We have gathered our top 7 tips on how you can fit in learning while ‘on the job’ and how to ensure that you get the best results from this learning to continue to grow your skill set and knowledge.

Note that there are two types of On the Job Training (OJT), Structured and Unstructured.

This blog focuses on the second type, however there are lessons to be learnt from the structured OJT, mainly around setting specific goals with your manager and get their support for what you are wanting to achieve. For more on Structured OJT, we recommend reading this brilliant article by Charles I Levine.

If you’re ready to start learning, here are our top tips.

1. Be clear on what you want to achieve

Make a list of the Top 10 things you’d like to master. Then prioritise in order of preference and importance to your role. Create an action plan to tackle each new skill and set a deadline by when you want to achieve it. Remember “Goals are dreams with deadlines”!

2. Get your manager involved

Why not ask your manager what areas they would like you to focus on? Dust off your professional development plan (84.62% of you have one), set a time to go through it with your manager, and ask for his/her support for your plans. This is a great way to show initiative and commitment to your role as well as your willingness to grow and learn.

3. Be hands on

Rather than just having someone show you how something works, have a go at it yourself. Take over the keyboard and actually work through the process yourself. Take time to familiarise yourself with new technology. Follow the lead of 2015 AAPNZ Award winner Rebeka Adamson and turn on the new printer and find out how it works before anyone else. It’s a great way to become the “go-to person” in your company and it can hugely increase your sphere of influence and people’s perception of you.

4. Don’t let what you don’t know hold you back

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to not get it right the first time. Nobody (other than perhaps yourself!) expects you to be perfect. It is a proven fact that we learn the most by

experiencing and overcoming failure. At the 2016 AP Day in Auckland, the keynote presenter Bev Adair-Beets really inspired the audience with her honest account of how she didn’t let her lack of knowledge hold her back – she simply started with “Mr Google” and taught herself what she didn’t know.

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad

5. Schedule in time to learn and make it a priority

How many times have you saved an interesting article with the intent of reading it ‘when you have time’? If you’re nodding right now, then you’re not alone. We have to make time and make learning a habit. Charles Bruxton said “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it”.

Emona Numanga, the President of the Auckland AAPNZ group shared a great tip with us at their last monthly meeting: if you struggle to find time in your day, spend a week noting down how you spend your time and you will soon discover time wasters such as interruptions that you can manage better.

6. Challenge yourself

The harder the task, the more you learn. No matter your role or how long you’ve been in it, there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow. Find it and take it! By challenging ourselves, and overcoming obstacles, we grow our confidence and our resilience – both key attributes for successful people. Over the last few years, so many Administration Professionals have told us that these are two key areas where they struggle. Bright*Star offer training courses on both topics, however the best way to start building your confidence is by tackling a new challenge – even if you start small.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

7. Share your knowledge

The best way to truly absorb learning is when you’re asked to present it to someone else. It forces you to verbalise what you have learnt and think about how it benefits not just you but also other people. You may like to present to your manager, colleagues, a peer group such as your local AAPNZ group, or even friends and family.

As you learn on the job you may identify a larger skills gap or professional development need you can’t tackle on your own. This is where attending structured training will be helpful. The Bright*Star team is here to guide you in the right direction to find the best suitable training solution for your needs.

They say that “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try” – learning on the job is no different. Think about what you can do right now that will put you on the right path.

Click here to take the next step in your professional development

Written by Lone Tapp

loneLone leads Bright*Star training’s ever growing portfolio of professional development programmes that includes over 165 public courses and customised in-house training courses each year. Before joining the team at Conferenz in 2003, Lone worked at the Trade Commission of Denmark in Auckland. Originally from Denmark, Lone has spent the past decade designing and delivering Conferenz & Bright*Star’s professional development training initiatives across New Zealand.

Read through the Analysis of the Survey Results:

1) Do you have a professional development plan in place?

Yes: 80%

No: 20% (No opportunity to talk to boss, awaiting management approval, not sure how to do this)

2) How often do you get a professional development opportunity?

Twice a year: 40%

Other: 33.33%

Once a year: 26.67%

3) What has been the most unexpected skill you’ve needed for your job?

Some sample responses:

To be a Counsellor

Dealing with different personalities


Juggling the needs of multiple direct reports 

Copying with bullying

Conflict Resolution






Celebrating Admin Day: Inspiration Galore!

April 20th was Administrative Day and New Zealand witnessed the coming together of some of the country’s finest and brightest admin professionals. The Association of Administrative Professionals of New Zealand (AAPNZ) hosted simultaenous celebrations across the country to celebrate the amazing skills administrative staff bring to all businesses and organisations


As one of the longest supporting partners of AAPNZ, Bright*Star Training decided to add some more Shine to the AP day celebrations. At the AP day event in Auckland and Wellington, we decided to recognise an inspirational admin professional for their contribution to the field and reward them with a Bright*Star training voucher so they can take the next step in their Careers.

image1Congrats to Simone Bantjies and Rebecca Sykes on winning our Admin Day lucky draw. Shine on Ladies! A big shout out to our friends in Hamilton, we heard the event was stellar!

At the Auckland event, Lone Tapp from Bright*Star Training who is returning as judge for this  year’s AAPNZ Administrative Professional Award shared her tips with some AP professionals on what it took to be a standout administrative professional.

If you are considering entering or nominating someone you know for the 2016 event, do read on Lone’s previous blog for her tips.

We are proud here at Bright*Star Training to hold a long standing commitment to the EA, PA and administration community. Each year, we offer a comprehensive and vibrant calendar of specialised EA/PA training courses. Please browse the many courses here or contact us to discuss how we can create a bespoke training programme for your organisation.

Register for our free Shine EA/PA newsletter today!
White papers, interviews, articles, subscriber only offers, recipes and much more. Join us!

Nominate an Exceptional Admin Professional

personalpresenceLone Tapp, General Manager Bright*Star Training, is returning as judge for this  year’s AAPNZ Administrative Professional Award and we wanted to repost her blog from last year where shares her tips on what it takes to be a standout administrative professional. If you are considering entering or nominating someone you know for the 2016 event, do read on…

Earlier this year I was honoured to be asked to judge the Administration Professional of the Year Awards at the AAPNZ conference in Christchurch. It was a real privilege to get to know the three finalists and to learn about their journeys. What talented women!

With so many amazing applicants, whose stories I was fascinated to read, it was hard enough to get down to just three finalists, so imagine the difficulties in choosing the winner.

What made Rebeka Adamson stand out in my eyes was that her passion for the profession really shone through, she was extremely well prepared, and she was very clear on where she was headed in her career.

Since July I have been thinking about what advice I would give to other administration professionals looking to enter next year’s Awards. What would help them stand out and possibly get to the next stage? Here are my top five tips:

  1. Let your personality and passions shine through in your application and in the interview
  2. Don’t be shy to talk about yourself and what you have achieved (please give examples)
  3. Talk about yourself and your role rather than about your organisation
  4. Be clear about what your goals are, how you plan to achieve them and how winning the Award can help you do that
  5. Make sure you follow the format and instructions given in the application form

I strongly encourage all Administration professionals in New Zealand to consider entering the 2016 Awards. This is your chance to step out from “behind the scenes” and share your story and your experiences with your peers. Don’t be daunted by the process – I promise you that you will not regret entering. We need to celebrate the amazing diversity of roles, skills, and career opportunities that are available to administration professionals and continue to raise the profile of the profession. Your stories should be heard. Your contributions recognised. Imagine how amazing it would feel to win!

If you can answer yes to the following three questions, then you should apply.

  • Would you like to take stock of how far you have come in your career?
  • Would you like your boss put down in writing just how outstanding you are?
  • Would you like to be recognised within your profession?

These are just three of the many reasons cited by previous applicants as to why they find it so rewarding to put themselves forward for this award. Whether you win or not, everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that it is hugely beneficial and eye-opening to go through the process. It builds their confidence, allows them to reflect on their accomplishments, and makes them consider what’s next in their role or career.

I have met some absolutely inspiring administration professionals over the last decade, both through AAPNZ and through my work on training courses and events for EA/PAs through Bright*Star and Conferenz. What these women have achieved, the responsibilities and huge workloads they seem to carry with such grace, it really does humble you. What then surprises me is that almost every single one of them feel that they don’t have what it takes to be considered for the AAPNZ award. Digging a bit deeper, what I’ve found is that the main two things holding them back are:

  • They don’t feel confident enough to put themselves forward
  • The prospect of having to do a short speech in front of their peers terrifies them

I understand where they are coming from. I have struggled with those two areas myself but in the end found that the only way to overcome my fears was to tackle them head-on. Both are simply skills that can be learned. Once you pick up a few techniques and start practising on a regular basis, the fear goes away. Personally, I joined Toastmasters and went through an assertiveness training programme. There are many options available to you so if you start now you will be ready for when nominations open for the 2016 AAPNZ Awards. If you want any advice on options, I would be more than happy to help you. Contact me directly on 099123610 or

Written by Lone Tapp

loneLone leads Bright*Star training’s ever growing portfolio of professional development programmes that includes over 165 public courses and customised in-house training courses each year. Before joining the team at Conferenz in 2003, Lone worked at the Trade Commission of Denmark in Auckland. Originally from Denmark, Lone has spent the past decade designing and delivering Conferenz & Bright*Star’s professional development training initiatives across New Zealand.