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.

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.

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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.

My training course experience by Ingrid Le Fevre (Road Safety Coordinator)

I selected Essential Management Skills for EAs and PAs for a professional development course as I wanted to hone up on existing skills and further myself in other areas.

I was able to take good notes from the facilitator and the standout for me was the networking. One of the best things was exchanging business cards with people – you never know when you will be needing those contacts.

However there were lots of other useful topics like time-keeping, list writing, remaining professional at all times and dressing smartly. Oh yes and how it’s important to have time to yourself (I need to re-read over that one I think!).

In terms of the facilitator, Elaine was an excellent professional lady who knew her stuff. She was easy to listen to and made you feel like you have known her for a long time. You were really receiving information from a very experienced professional.

I continue to use these skills today and have on my CV that I am a severe multi-tasker!

When things get a bit quieter in my role, I hope to make some time for me and see what is the next step might be for me and my career development.

Why consider external training as an Administrative Professional?

I was reading a blog by Nicky over at Practically Perfect PA the other day and it really struck a chord with me. Nicky was horrified at an Industry Snapshot report which indicated over half the respondents had not attended a training event in the previous two years – she couldn’t imagine this occurring in any other profession.

It got her thinking about reasons administrative professionals should consider training and I thought they were so on target that I have outlined them for you below:


Nicky points out the importance of having confidence in your own career choice. If you view yourself as ‘just’ an admin with little right to development due to being in a support role than you can’t expect your managers to see you as a true professional either.

Unique Skills

The role of an administrative professional is one made up of many skills, both hard and soft. From technology and report writing to communication and conflict management, continuous training ensures you stay current with new developments that can often save time and money.

Career Objectives

Objectives are measurable, tangible parts of your career development. It’s your chance to communicate to your manager that you wish to progress in the role, have thought about what skills might be useful and have looked for options in the field. This does mean regular 1-2-1 contact and formal reviews with your manager so don’t be afraid to request this. Nicky even suggests scheduling the meetings in their diaries yourself!

Business Case

It’s not enough to mention you are after some vague training of some type. Resources are lean and so the organisation and your manager need to know it would be money well spent. A business case allows you to professionally present why the training would be a good return on investment (ROI) for the organisation.

Value added training

Events and conferences differ in content, price, focus, location and duration so it’s important for you to take the time to research and select options that suit your needs. As Nicky rightly points out, if your manager can see you have done your homework on this than they will be more open to approving your request.

If you haven’t visited Practically Perfect PA already, it’s a fabulous resource for administrative professionals. Read other articles and tips from them here.

Minute Writing. Still a relevant skill for PAs?

How many meetings do you attend every week? Decisions resulting from these talks can involve huge investments for your company or influence the future of employees.

That’s why managers still consider accurate minute writing as an essential skill for the perfect PA. What do you do if you are asked to take minutes at one of those big meeting? We had a chat with Natalie Baker, former PA and EA and experienced facilitator of the successful: “Minute Writing Masterclass.”


Natalie, what would you say is the most difficult challenge PAs face when taking minutes?

I hear complaints from PAs daily about their struggle to get the gist of what is being said in a meeting.  Most PAs dread taking minutes and try to outsource it if possible.  The master class addresses myths around the roles and responsibilities to empower the PA to succeed.”


What would you say is the most difficult challenge Managers face in meetings?

I am yet to find a manager who is not worn down by ‘back to back meetings’ – we are time poor in our modern world.  There are subtle ways in which a PA can add tremendous value to meetings, and lift productivity levels.  In our master class, we discuss pros and cons of a variety of templates, and introduce more effective ways of working.”


Is minute writing still a relevant skill in today’s modern office which is surrounded by technology?

Most definitely.  There is a legal component to minutes, and most PAs are still expected to take minutes for a variety of meetings.  Twenty years ago, the focus was on pitmans shorthand but this is no longer a prerequisite. We discuss technology options in the course.”


Can you mention some tips or tricks to prepare smarter minutes?

I think it is useful to do an audit once a year to see if the process is serving you and the team effectively.  Minutes are there to document facts and action items, and should not be a long-winded stressful process.  The problem is often the ‘meeting process’ and less to do with scribing of minutes.  We explore some of the meeting dynamics in our course too.”


How does your Minute Writing Masterclass support PAs professional development?

“ I received a call from a PA to say that she found the techniques really useful.  She has also helped the team bring more structure to their weekly meetings, which in turn lifted productivity.”

Learn why you should take notes by hand and visit our website to join Natalie’s course today. Learn best practices to create a professional document and how to select the most important and relevant information to be recorded.

Register now. The Minute Writing Masterclass will give you the skills you need to perform your role at the highest level. The skills you learn are yours to keep!

The Outstanding Reception Manager

 By Elaine McMeeking, Director at McMeeking Training and Development

In a recent study done by American Express, of what customers are looking for, most customers still don’t think service is good enough, much less getting better!

Among other things, this is what matters to customers, according to the study:

1. Quality personal connections still matter most

2. Those live interactions can make-or-break propositions

As a Reception Manager, you are the organisation… in the eyes of the customer! In just the first few minutes of interaction with a customer or visitor, the reception manager sets the tone for the company. The first impression you create matters!

And this of course is the challenge for you as the role of the modern reception manager is expanding. As well as being the face of the organisation (dealing with customers face-to-face and over the phone) AND performing general reception duties, you are increasingly expected to undertake a wider range of other tasks to better support the organisation. You are tasked with delivering exceptional service whilst multi-tasking and serving as a crucial central coordination point for the organisation, its staff, clients and suppliers.

The Outstanding Reception Manager course has been developed to equip budding reception managers with all the essential skills to better manage the front desk and support the organisation in a more efficient and professional manner.

We will cover lots of practical strategies and tools in the following areas:

  • Managing multiple responsibilities and priorities
  • dealing with difficult people
  • perfecting your telephone skills and
  • delivering exceptional service to both internal and external customers
  • Effective communication skills

Don’t underestimate the important part your role plays in contributing to the organisations brand. This will enable you to deliver on all that is expected of you as a modern outstanding reception manager.


Guest Blog | Penny Holden: The secret to successfully pulling the strings as an EA/PA?


  • Get things from others
  • Get others to do things
  • Get others to work together

……and get others to help you achieve these three!

Oh, and be recognised as a highly skilled competent individual in your own right (whilst making everyone else look good)!

You understand just how to get around the Manager of Marketing and her ferocious secretary; the finance officer hasn’t delivered his section of the quarterly report but you can draw him gently out and get him to deliver on time, and in between, the GMHR is asking (in her own unique special way) for data that only you have and all by lunchtime!

You’re influencing – one of the most important and sought after skills in today’s workplaces.

And this means…….understanding both your own and others communication preferences, drivers, motivators, needs and personality. Then being able to flex your communication style, solve problems in the right way and often ‘sell’ solutions to achieve the diverse and never ending range of deliverables (seamlessly!).

Can you see patterns arising between business units/ departments and then make it easy for people to work together and value it?  Can you really be all things to all people without trading off your own personal style and brand? Yes.

One of the most important personnel attributes identified for workplaces – both today and for the future is high EQ (Emotional Quotient) – self-awareness, reading and flexing to others, and the ability to influence and adapt. Why? The organisations of today and our future have flatter structures, less employees and tighter budgets, and they need effective cross-organisational communication and collaboration.

You are ideally suited to facilitate this role and organisations are increasingly asking EA/PAs to step up to this as well as assume management tasks.

Getting Results without Authority  is more than just how to influence. It not only gives you the influence toolkit but also helps you understand yourself, your brand, and the keys to communication success with anyone. Current and future employment is very much about who you, how you communicate and the ability to effectively and efficiently influence, persuade and negotiate. These skills are lifelong employment skills.

The real question is can you afford to miss this unique course as part of your personal and professional development giving you the opportunity to build a personal EQ portfolio and make your work easier? No.


Top qualities of great leaders: create your leadership blend


Like with the best coffees, you can blend a mix of leadership skills and attitudes to achieve your desired taste.    

Make a list of people you admire. Chances are they have some traits in common such as charisma, vision, passion, self-confidence, authenticity and ability to engage others.

What do you value in a leader?

Enjoy some of the best articles on leadership we selected for you . You will see how leadership is an art you can train and grow.

7 Traits of Effective Leaders

An innovative leadership model you can easily pick up

How Influential Are You? Measure It!  

Discover authentic leadership

What leadership skills would you like to master? 

To create your own leadership blend, join our upcoming training courses facilitated by top trainers .

Build your vision with our popular Strategic Thinking and Planning course and learn how to engage with Difficult People and Different Personalities. Improve your Assertiveness & Self Confidence at Work and strengthen your influence by learning the key techniques of Influential Leaders.

See our full range of courses for professional development in management to upgrade your skills and succeed in your role.