by Tara E. Browne, DTM
When I was awarded one of three scholarships for the 2016 Conference for Administrative Excellence, I was beyond excited. I looked forward to acquiring strategies and tools to advance my administrative career. I expected to be totally blown away by insights and techniques from thought leaders on the cutting edge of the administrative professions: new measures for peak performance; creative methodologies for problem solving; fresh perspectives for relating to those I work with every day.
What I got was all of the above…and so much more.
As speaker after speaker challenged our assumptions about administrative work, and I found myself being inspired by a profession that I had so long ago wandered into with neither purpose nor ambition. There were so many “AHA!” moments in this conference that it would be impossible to do justice to them all in a single blog post, but I’d like to share my top three with you here. These were paradigm-shifting moments that sharpened my sense of mission, strengthened my commitment to cultivating professional community, and expanded my vision for our potential to impact our careers, the companies we work for and the communities we serve.
Ownership and Mission
Dr. Daren Martin’s presentation on showing up like an owner – and not “just an admin” – provided many great examples of how we can choose to show up, from dress and grooming to meeting etiquette to original professional contributions. At the heart of it all, though, he underscored that we must become clear on our personal mission.
In my “other life” as an artist, I have a clearly defined mission statement: I create art and experiences that help others to recognize their creative potential, and I help them to manifest and celebrate that potential in ways that make our world more beautiful, joyful, loving and abundant. As an administrative professional, however, applying this mission statement to my daily work is a stretch, to say the least. Often I feel torn between my personal mission and my professional reality. So when Dr. Martin casually remarked, “In fact, I have a couple of mission statements,” he kind of rocked my world.
Wow. You mean I can have more than one?!
I was, however, concerned about diluting my effectiveness by having conflicting missions. Instead, I realized, I could translate my artist mission statement to the fit the needs of specific focus areas. First, I broke it down into three parts:
- What I Do: I create art & experiences…
- Why I Do It: that help others to recognize, manifest and celebrate their creative potential…
- End Result: in ways that make our world more beautiful, joyful, loving and abundant.
Then I translated that to fit a task at hand – developing MentorsAndMasterminds.com:
- Experience I Create: I help administrative professionals connect…
- Activate Creative Potential: through the power of their stories…
- Make Our World Better: to become heroes of their careers and mentors to others.
I help administrative professionals connect through the power of their stories to become heroes of their careers and mentors to others.
Now that feels like a mission I can accomplish!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- What are the core elements of your personal mission statement: the “What”, “Why” and “End Result”?
- Are there areas of your life that might call for a supplementary mission statement?
Part of the Admin Nation
Of all the presentations, I was perhaps most excited to hear Peggy Vasquez expand on her May 2016 webinar and the subject Develop the Power of Your Inner Circle: after all, it was her webinar that inspired me to create Mentors And Masterminds! As she shared her stories, I was transported right along with her, from her earliest DECA mentoring experience, to the challenge of writing her first book, to her vision for an #AdminNation. It was this third element that truly inspired me.
In particular, Peggy talked about the concept of Ubuntu, which Wikipedia describes as “a Nguni Bantu term roughly translating to “’human kindness’…often used in a more philosophical sense to mean ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’”. Further, Peggy argues, “human beings didn’t become the dominant species by competing, but by collaborating.”
Certainly in my own career I have to avoid the most prevalent forms of competition in our profession: information hoarding, adherence to obsolete processes, and the vicarious exercise of executive privilege, to name a few. Unfortunately, many colleagues still seem to struggle to understand the value of collaboration, and that’s where this succinct value statement fits in. This message – “Human beings didn’t become the dominant species by competing, but by collaborating.” – paints a powerful word-image of how collaboration creates success that I can share to bring still more administrative professionals on board the “Admin Nation”.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Where would you like to see more collaboration among your administrative peers?
- What methods – both direct and indirect – could you try to help foster that increased collaboration?
A Revolutionary Vision
The most impactful moment of the conference, however, did not come from one of the scheduled presenters, but from surprise guest and Marcham Publishing CEO, Lucy Brazier, whose presentation about the Isipho Admin Bursary in South Africa created a true paradigm shift in the way I see the administrative support professions as a whole.
I understand the value of the work that we as administrative professionals do, of course…but the tribute paid to that value by colleagues and executives has often felt like little more than lip service. Many administrative professionals provide years of service with ever-increasing skills and responsibilities, but no corresponding path for career advancement and compensation. Having wandered accidentally into this career, I saw no way forward, up or out…and I struggled to rid myself of an underlying sense of professional deficiency and self-doubt.
When Lucy shared the life-changing impact that the Isipho Admin Bursary will have for the scholarship winners who will attend this training in the coming year, I felt true appreciation for the privilege I have to be secure in my own job. Moreover, I was reminded of Erick Gray’s famous words:
Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.
According to the US Department of Labor, Secretary/Administrative Assistant remains the #1 job for women in the United States, and although recent data is harder to find, a 2011 Monster.com article estimates that 95%+ of administrative support roles are held by female employees. Given that so many women rely upon this profession, I realized that this role holds the potential to change the lives of not only women and the families they support, but even for healing communities around the world.
In just a few short minutes, I gained a completely different perspective on the value of this work we do. For the first time ever, I felt truly proud to call myself an administrative professional, and inspired with a conviction that yes, I am a Revolutionary Assistant, and I can help change the world.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Watch the original Isipho Admin Bursary video.
- Visit the website: http://www.isiphoadmin.org.za/.
- Donate to the fund: https://gogetfunding.com/isipho-admin-bursary/.