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.”

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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

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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’.

The Art of Conversation for Leaders: Building Rapport

BS 2016 Website-EventBanners10 In the business world, the word ‘LOVE’ is rarely used, yet that’s exactly what most people really want – we ALL want to be loved – so how do you become a leader in expressing this key quality that we all want in a business context?

It boils down to one word…INTEREST.

In sales as well as customer service, sincere interest is the best ingredient in a successful relationship. Building rapport and strengthening relationships is all about expressing your interest and caring. When you take the lead in terms of getting to know someone, you consciously set the intention to discover their concerns as well as passions, and to help them to feel heard and acknowledged. You take leadership in building a bridge of friendship with them.

So, how do you express your interest specifically? How can you consciously begin to practice this ‘love’ for others in a business context? One way you can express your interest in others is by asking open-ended questions. This means your taking responsibility to deepen a conversation through continuing to encourage others to reveal more about their concerns, thoughts, and feelings. To get to know someone better, you need to express your interest – and that means probing deeper with successive questions which follow their train of thought.

So, here’s an example of how you could develop and deepen a conversation expressing your interest using open-ended questions.

You: So, how’s it going, Paul?

Paul: Oh, not bad…been a hectic day.

You: Really? What’s been happening?

Paul: Oh, I’ve got four new contracts – which is great, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all.

You: What about it feels overwhelming?

Paul: Well, I suppose it’s the pressure of feeling like I need to stay on top of everything without dropping the ball.

You: How do you handle the pressure?

Paul: Well, fortunately, I go walking in the mornings which seems to help.

You: Really, where do you go walking?

Paul: Cornwall Park – I love it there.

You: What do you love about it?

Paul: I love that you can see sheep roaming all around – a bit of country in the middle of the city…I love the peace and quiet, and I love the trees. Etc…..

Enjoy getting to know your clients, colleagues, friends, and family members. If you consciously practice asking open-ended questions which follow others’ ‘train of thoughts’, you’ll develop the trust, goodwill, and warm feelings that help them and you ‘feel the love’. Plus, as an extra benefit, your business will get a boost as a result!

If you’d like to develop your ‘executive voice and presence’, I invite you to join me on the new Bright*Star course in 2016: ‘Building Your Executive Voice and Presence’, 19 August in Wellington

Sally Mabelle, M.Ed, B.A hons, has 20+ years’ experience as a ‘Voice of Leadership’ specialist. She combines her professional background in Communication, Education, and Psychology with her extensive stage experience in her courses. She has honed essential skills in voice projection, emotional connection and physical presence and is an award-winning inspirational speaker.

Sally Mabelle, ‘The Voice of Leadership’ Specialist. www.sallymabelle.com

Top 10 Management Tips for New Managers

Want to avoid committing common management mistakes? Bright*Star training team provides you great management tips that will define your success in your new role. To get specific insights from our expert facilitator, sign up for our training course on ‘Management Skills for New Managers and Supervisorspersonalpresence

1. Choose respect over love without morphing into the Grand Dictator A new higher level position doesn’t give you automatic permission to order people around and watch their every move – would you have appreciated that in your previous role? On the other hand, as human beings we are often conditioned to seek approval so many new managers experience cognitive dissonance as a desire to be approved interferes with their ability to lead. Your staff are relying on you to be their manager which means that generally you cannot be their friend. Making the tough decisions and being respected by your people are the hallmarks of an effective leader.

2. LEAD by example – Become a Role Model People will always learn what behaviour is acceptable by your actions. Role models in the workplace are often characterised by credibility and have built trust by doing what they say they will do or being upfront if they are not able to keep their promise for any reason. You have probably worked for several different managers over the years so examine what motivated you and just as importantly, what didn’t.

3. Master the Art of Influence A big part of your new role will involve requesting people to complete tasks and projects on your behalf. Clearly explaining content, timeline and why that staff member has been asked to assist with the task increases influence and reduces ambiguity.

4. Compare leadership styles with your predecessor One of the most common mistakes new managers make is changing who they are to fit a pre-determined ‘manager’ mould. One of the reasons you got the job is because of who you are, however possessing a leadership style that differs from your predecessor will mean your staff will need to align with a different set of expectations and preferences. You can’t expect your team to know how these have changed unless you tell them so encourage an open conversation around similarities and differences between leadership styles.

5. Preparation is the key Preparation is the key to success at any level – however tracking projects (who they are assigned to, expected outcomes/dates and their current status) allows everyone to be on the same page and work more effectively as a team. This may be the first time you are responsible for recruiting new team members. Prepare ahead when hiring new staff – hire for team fit, train for skill and ensure you have a comprehensive and planned on-boarding process for when they arrive.

6. Manage your stress Stress may be a part of any new management role for a period of time as you adjust to the extra responsibilities and tasks. It is important that you recognise your own personal signs of stress and stress management tactics that work for you. Don’t be tempted to flag that yoga workout in lieu of spending some catch up time in the office – extra-curricular activities and having good ‘sounding’ people outside of work will help you to get through the busy times and initial learning curve.

7. Understand individual differences and communication style Your role now involves managing a team of people with different styles of working, decision-making and communicating. While your team’s individual styles may not be how you approach your work, if the results are good than you will need to learn to accept these differences. Get to know your team, making an effort to spend time with them both as individuals and a group and this will help inform professional and personal growth plans as well as establish the ground rules of team communication.

8. Organisational Culture Companies all have their own culture and it is essential to understand what is important in your organisation. Spend some time getting a feel for the company environment and mission and remember that by representing the organisation as management everything you say can be perceived as a company statement regardless of its intent.

9. Managing Up In other words, an effective manager knows how to handle and manage their own boss. All levels of the organisation (including your manager) have things to accomplish in order for everyone’s job to be completed successfully so ensure you keep your manager up to date on all projects including the issues. Your manager is there to also provide guidance however you should discuss a preferred communication method with them in order to gain the best results – do they prefer a weekly catch up or emails as the issues arise?

10. Accept that you will make mistakes You cannot possibly know everything the first day your start any new role and management is no different. However it is important to realise that now your mistakes are likely to affect the team. Instead of beating yourself up about it, come clean, rectify where possible and learn from the error in order to improve your leadership skills.

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Management Skills for New Managers and Supervisors

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Top 10 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

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Keeping cool, calm and collected when dealing with difficult people is easier said than done. It is no wonder then that Bright*Star’s recent networking event on the topic of “I Can’t Work with that Idiot” booked out in a matter of hours.

We all have that one person that comes to mind every time the topic of “dealing with difficult people” is discussed. There’s just something about them that touches our wounds and brings out the worst in us — our pain, irritation, impatience, anger or even hostility.

In the workplace, difficult people range from those who don’t turn their work in as promised, don’t show up for meetings, push back on work that they’re responsible for, question everything you do, and try to belittle you – and more.

It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. But when walking away or avoiding the person isn’t an option you need the skills to deal with them.

For the last 15 years, Bright*Star Training has delivered the popular two-day programme on Dealing with Difficult People and Different Personalities. A lot has changed in that time but not the fundamental principles of how to deal with those challenging behaviours nor the practical psychology skills on which the course is built.

Our facilitator, Keith McGregor, an experienced organisational psychologist, knows just how badly a working relationship can disintegrate due to conflicting personalities. Over the years he has worked with thousands of individuals to try to rectify the situation, giving them invaluable tips and techniques that has allowed them to handle the conflict in a much more positive and constructive manner.

Without breaking the confidentiality of the course participants, Keith has shared some of the common threads of these stories with the Bright*Star team. We felt that his insights were so useful that we combined them with other research into the topic to give you our Top 10 Tips on how to deal with difficult people who push your buttons.

Tip 1: Be calm.

The first rule in the face of an unreasonable person is to maintain your composure. The less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation. When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting.

What makes a person difficult to deal with? The surprising answer is that it really depends on you and your emotional triggers. We all have different personalities and communication preferences and that is what determines who you find it easy to get on with – and who you don’t!

To enhance your personal power in conflict situations you need to examine the way you think and react to difficult people and different personalities. As much as we would like to, the reality is that we cannot directly change other people. We can only change ourselves.

“While we can blame others for the things they say or do, we cannot blame them for the way we feel.” Keith McGregor

Tip 2: Listen.

Let difficult people know you’ve heard them and understood their point: People often become difficult if they feel their message isn’t getting through. To capture our attention, they might resort to strong language, shouting, exaggerating or getting ‘in our face’. If we attend to them, really listen and show we’re listening with our body language and our responses, people are less likely to become difficult in the first place.

To figure out what they want try asking questions such as:

  • “Tell me more”
  • “What does that mean for you?”
  • “How do you feel about?”
  • “What is your perspective on…?”
  • “What would be the best way to build on that?”

Tip 3: Don’t make it personal.

When we avoid personalising other people’s behaviours, we can separate the person from the issue. Make it clear that you do not have a problem with that person and you are simply trying to solve the very same problem that the difficult person is so mad about. This will allow you to preserve your relationship with this person without being perceived as weak when it comes to dealing with the issue at hand.

“Resolve the difficult person’s behaviour, don’t try to fix their personality.”

Tip 4: Make it about them.

Difficult people often refuses to accept responsibility for their actions and are great at playing the blame game. Typically, they’re quick to point out there’s something not right with you or the way you do things. In these situations, you need to tactfully shift the focus on them. Don’t let them make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate – and don’t get defensive. Simply use Tip #3 above and keep the focus squarely on the issue at hand and how you can solve it together.

Tip 5: Use careful questioning to get to the real issue.

Very often criticisms are vague or poorly worded. Before responding it is important to gain a clear understanding of the specifics so we know whether it’s genuine (we have actually done something wrong) or if it is manipulative (someone is trying to wind us up).

If someone says you’ve angered or offended them, Keith’s advice would be to:

  • Ask – ‘What specifically did I say or do that has upset you?’
  • Listen carefully and let them ‘get it all out.’
  • Tell them you appreciate their telling you.
  • Ask – ‘What can I do to make it right, right now?’

Tip 6: Pick your battles.
Problematic people are often confrontational. Do not give them a reason to have one. You have the power to decide if a situation is serious enough to confront. Think twice, and fight the battles that are truly worth fighting.

If you have already tried everything above and the person is still not being receptive, the best way might be to just ignore them. After all, you have already done all that you can within your means. Get on your daily tasks and interface with the person only where needed to avoid any unnecessary confrontations.

Tip 7: Avoid escalating the problem.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of dealing effectively with difficult people. Work towards a satisfactory outcome, not to get ‘one up’ on the difficult person – as tempting as that might be!

If you lose the plot and react aggressively or angrily it will only lead to a fight and this can really hurt your reputation. People will only think that two problematic individuals are having a go at each other. Instead you need to focus on a good outcome and be calm and considered in how you respond. Rather than engaging with the intention of making the other person wrong, you can consciously choose not to be an adversary.

Tip 8: Use humour.

Laughter is an especially powerful tool for managing conflict and reducing tension when emotions are running high.

Being humorous even in difficult situations around difficult people gives you a reputation of being composed. While it can be hard to get right, it can work wonders in disarming unreasonable and difficult behaviour when used correctly.

“A well-timed joke can ease a tense situation and help you resolve disagreements.”

 Tip 9: Don’t avoid conflict.

If problems are left to simmer rather than addressing them in a calm and respectful manner, they can easily escalate into nasty remarks and heated arguments which may cause irreparable damage to an otherwise salvageable relationship. This is why you want to make sure you act and speak up.

  • You don’t want difficult or aggressive people to perceive you as weak. As long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target.
  • Make sure you speak up if your opinion differs from theirs. Otherwise your silence could be interpreted as implicit agreement by everyone present.

Tip 10: Don’t put yourself down.

Don’t let the difficult person get to you or give them the power to make you feel bad, upset or angry. It really isn’t worth losing sleep over chronically difficult people. Some people are just plain difficult and there’s nothing you can do about it.

When coping with difficult people, use the “reasonable person” test.

  • Ask yourself “is this the behavior of a mature adult?”.
  • If not, what emotional age is the person indicating?
  • Then shape your response to how you would normally handle a person of that age.

You may also like to get someone else’s perspective. Most likely, your colleagues, managers and friends will have experienced similar situations. They will be able to see things from a different angle and offer a different take on the situation. Seek them out, share your story and listen to what they have to say.

If you wish to gain real practical skills in applying the 10 tips, we encourage you to attend “Dealing with Difficult People and Different Personalities” which runs in key centres across New Zealand throughout the year. Watch the interview with Keith McGregor to find out how participants benefit from the course.

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.

Survival or Self-Worth, What Would You Pick?

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore”.

André Gide‘s 1925 novel The Counterfeiters Freebird_June 2014_Istanbul_PR

“You cannot sit like a jewel waiting to be discovered, you should have told me what you wanted,” these were the words of my former boss and Editor in Chief of India’s leading broadcast news network, as I announced my decision to quit my job. Following a rigorous couple of years in a highly competitive and volatile workspace, I had made peace with the fact that I wasn’t assertive enough to climb the news chain at that early stage in my career.  “List down what you want on a piece of paper and we can talk about it”, he said temptingly.

Life would have indeed been very different had I caved in and continued oiling the television news machine. It would have earned me recognition, good amounts of money, a plush life, pretty much anything one could dream of. Alas, I would still be holed up negotiating for survival each day rather than feel good about what I was doing. Now, nearly a decade since transitioning from journalism to international development, I have amassed enough life experience to realize that grabbing career opportunities is one thing but building self-worth is another.

Working as a journalist was a tremendous learning experience for me in my formative years but it was also a time where I needed to find some acknowledgement from within, something I would have never found had I negotiated my way up the leadership chain. It does takes a great deal of assertiveness to say ‘No’ in order to stand up for what really matters to you.

Which begs the question, how many times have you felt the urge to say ‘No’, be it to your supervisors, colleagues, family or even yourself and just couldn’t get yourself to do it? “At the heart of the difficulty in saying No is the tension between exercising your power and tending to your relationship,” writes William Ury, in his book, ‘The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No & Still Get to Yes’. He elucidates that this tension makes us slip into what he calls the Three-A trap:

  • Accommodation (we say yes when we really want to say No)
  • Attacking (we respond with aggression and frustration)
  • Avoiding (we simple take the escape mode and do nothing at all).

Ury seems to suggest that the way to free yourself from the aforementioned situational traps is to learn to say ‘No’ amicably, something worth reflecting. We are constantly battling for approval and fear that saying ‘No’ would hurt our image. At the end of the day everyone has their own moral compass and it does take guts to stick to it in order to sustain your self-worth.

5 ways to be an Authentic Influencer- The power of ‘No’

  • Stick with Your Gut: Only you know what’s in your best interests. If it doesn’t feel right, be assertive and free yourself from an unhappy situation.
  • Take Ownership: Snap out of the blame game. Take ownership of the decisions you make and accept that making mistakes are part of the learning curve. Failure can provide inspiration.
  • Engage in Healthy Competition: Be mindful that opportunities that come your way don’t come at the cost of intentionally supressing someone else’s. The path to becoming a great influencer is to ensure you act in the best interests of everyone concerned.
  • Set an Example: Remember that you are not alone, there is always someone looking for inspiration out there. Think about the ripple affect you can create as an influencer.
  • Build Credibility: Ultimately your values will determine what is right for you. What legacy will you leave behind?  Don’t let your ambition hurt your integrity.

Saying yes in a survival mode will take you up the ladder for sure. Eventually though, sustaining self-worth is what will keep you on a strong footing up there.

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Blog by Pavitra Ramaswamy

Programme Manager, Conferenz & Bright*Star Training, New Zealand

A former journalist, Pavitra established herself as an international leadership and development consultant through her work with the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, USA. From India to America and now to New Zealand, she continues to work closely with leaders and organizations to build educated communities, something she is deeply committed to. She is currently the programme manager at Bright*Star training and engaged in executing professional development programs across New Zealand and beyond.

Interested in building Assertiveness?

Let Bright*Star help you expand your influence:

http://www.brightstar.co.nz/training/assertiveness-influencing-skills-and-conflict-management-for-women

http://www.brightstar.co.nz/training/developing-assertiveness-self-confidence-work

http://www.brightstar.co.nz/training/strategic-negotiation-and-influencing-skills