Tag Archives: Personal Assistant

Layne Tinsley Sparkles!

What was your first experience in an administrative support role, and why did you choose to take that opportunity?

I prepared to be a high-level assistant by attending college for their certificated Legal Secretarial Specialist program. It was a tough program. To graduate, you had to complete assessments for typing 60+ wpm and shorthand at 100+ wpm, along with legal, computers, accounting, English, writing, and speaking & presentation courses. I was young, married, and two little babies and determined to attain the Dean’s and Honor’s list every quarter. I wanted to do great work for great leaders. What better than legal?

Through a serendipitous meeting with the office manager of the city attorney’s office, I was invited to interview for the position as the assistant to the partner of the law firm, assistant city attorney, and premier eminent domain attorney in Minnesota (all one person). It was the one attorney in the law firm that none of the assistants wanted to work under. I was up for the challenge.

When did you first decide you wanted more out of your administrative career, and what did you decide to do about it? How did this lead you to where you are today?

Events in my life have taken me to move all over the country: Minnesota, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Georgia, and Ohio that being an assistant has allowed me the ability to take my skills wherever I go and in demand. I started the change in the trajectory of my career when I accepted positions other than legal. Legal assistants would tell me that was risky, but I don’t like to be put in a box. I chose to expand my skill set and horizons. This provided me opportunities to work in legal, engineering, real estate, telecommunications, technology, government, medical, and education. I blew the box UP!

So here is where I have seen the two biggest obstacles in an assistant’s position. One is in supporting leadership also means that when they make a change, you are an extension of that leadership and the company has to figure out what to do with you. The second is company transitions: buyouts, mergers, acquisitions, and just plain going out of business. All of these constitute downsizing and assistants can be viewed as a luxury during a restructure.

I grew and grew up in the work that I love, I also embraced learning all the different aspects and industries an assistant serves. I was the first in my family (of my parents and the youngest of five children) to graduate from high school, attend college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Business Administration, and my mother was a small business owner (a gas and service station) when most agencies and businesses wouldn’t work with a woman-owned business.

Ultimately, I wanted to be independent – an entrepreneur. As I met and overcame my challenges, I wanted to be able to encourage and inspire other women to achieve their greatness and dreams.

My path, challenges, dreams, aspirations, people I have met in my journey, and God have brought me to where I am today. I am grateful for the people, challenges, and lessons learned along the way. It all has made me a strong and resilient woman.

In pursuing this new endeavor, what was your greatest setback, face-palm or challenge, and how did you overcome it?

I was married for ten years. It was great having a partner to make decisions with. He had his talents and I had mine. It was a nice mesh. But, after the divorce, I felt that I had to do everything on my own.

My biggest challenge would be that feeling all women have, that we are expected to do it all and we are supposed to be great at everything, which isn’t possible. Nevertheless, the face-palm is that you realize that you have access to a wide group of talented people through networking, social media, and just getting out and meeting people – developing relationships.

Because I feel this way, you will find others do too… if they can help, they will. There are a lot of people who root for the underdog.

Another face-palm is realizing, “You got this.” But this happens all the time when we face our fears.

What mentors did you have and how did they help you to get where you are?

I believe we have mentors throughout our careers and lives. Many informal, some more formal. My mother and my older sister (10 years older) were some of my early mentors. Others later in life have been teachers, instructors, direct reports or bosses.

Men are trained, guided, and nurtured to develop leadership and advancement skills to their underlings. What has been impressed upon women to advance is to “hold their cards close to their vest,” so to speak, for fear of another usurping their position. Which creates a hostile environment for women to encourage one another.

When we come from a position of lack (such as there is not enough room for more women in leadership positions), we stunt the evolution of women taking their rightful positions at the leadership table. When we share knowledge and nurture one another, we grow and expand our influence.

I mentor every chance I get. As the Millennials take over where we leave off, it’s important to provide the knowledge of our experience so they can take our collective fight to the next level. The fight that we are ALL “created equal.” Our refrain does a disservice to our daughters, sisters, and mothers.

What’s the funniest story you experience on your path to success?

While working for the City Attorney’s office, during the OJ Simpson trial, it was one of the rare moments when all staff and attorneys would collect in the conference room to watch. The fascination of a high profile case on tv with legal minds – it was entertaining! Another instance when the law firm put together an event and paid for everyone to see “The Firm” with Tom Cruise. When working for the engineering firm, whenever someone bought a house, everyone was invited to the housewarming. This probably happened once a year. Other than the the traditional Company Christmas (or holiday) party, it’s a great opportunity for everyone to mingle and interesting conversation.

What advice would you give to other admins considering following this path for career advancement?

As administrative professionals, our job is unique in that we work with a great deal of technology and various levels of professionals. It is important to conduct yourself in the highest degree of professionalism – in conduct and appearance. SOFT SKILLS – work diligently on soft skills (soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, interpersonal skills, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people.). HARD SKILLS – It’s so easy today to be continually learning and expanding skills with access to Lynda, Udemy, etc, and reading. Technology changes fast with constant developments and upgrades. NETWORKING – Put yourself out there and develop relationships through local networking events (Meetup), as well as online (LinkedIn). Get engaged with conversations and participate. A big part of networking is giving and sharing. These three things will take you far.

ABOUT LAYNE TINSLEY 

Layne Tinsley is an entrepreneur helping businesses with processes & procedures, increasing productivity, while focusing on alleviating and solving administrative struggles, and challenges. Layne’s career has comprised of administration, human resources, and office management with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management & Administration and has worked in legal, real estate, higher education, technology, coaching, and government. Layne’s mission is to inspire, teach, coach, and empower women to grow, lead, and embrace their unique talents. She lives in Georgia with her daughter and their two dogs, Honey and Lucy.

Email Laynehttp://Layne.Tinsley@mykta.com/
Sparkle Websitehttp://www.mykta.com/
Layne on LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/laynetinsley
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Administrative.Sparkle/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MyKTA


Admin Trailblazers is a series about serious administrative professionals who have excelled in their role and gone on to the top of the profession, management roles or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Admin Trailblazers is published on the fourth Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Are You a Culture Cultivator?

What would happen in a business that was run as though each individual had the potential to bear fruit, rather than simply bearing a load?

First published at EXECUTIVESECRATARY.COM on March 24, 2017 in LEADERSHIP / MANAGEMENT
(c) Marcham Publishing 2017

Are You a Culture Cultivator?

“Company culture? Sure, we could do better,” you may think, “but I’m just an admin.  What can I do about culture?”

As it turns out, you can do quite a bit!

Due to the prevalence of permission-based operations[1] and the strict pyramid of hierarchies found in most organizations, many administrative professionals do not think of themselves as influencers. Administrative support roles are both structured and commonly perceived as subordinate, so it is easy to make the mistake of thinking our influence is limited by this relationship.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For Growth, Think “Garden”, Not “Pyramid”

The pyramid offers obvious analogies to the way most organizations are built: a large base (workers) supports ever-smaller layers (management and executive leadership); the shape (goals and strategy) of the organization is defined by the capstone (c-suite) of the structure. Then there is the unintentional irony: a pyramid is a tomb…and many large organizations are indeed tombs full of untapped personal potential and good ideas left to die. Workers are slotted into place like blocks. A really good block may eventually be relocated to an empty spot higher up on the pyramid, but the ultimate function of the pyramid is to support the pyramid…not to grow.

What if we were to flip that pyramid and imagine the organization as a garden container instead, designed to concentrate resources to support growth? What would happen in a business that was run as though each individual had the potential to bear fruit, rather than simply bearing a load? Executives would act as master gardeners, asking what is needed to create optimum growth conditions to maximize fruit from each plant; as strategic partners to these executives, administrative professionals could actively foster that growth in many ways.

As the go-to problem solvers for our departments, administrative professionals are in a unique position to answer the key question, “What is needed to create growth?” With our in-depth knowledge of how things work (and don’t work!), we can use our creativity and skills to solve problems.  Moreover, being privy to the challenges and frustrations of our colleagues, how we choose to respond has a clear effect on the culture of our departments and, by extension, the organization as a whole. If we participate in gossip, feed fears and amplify complaints, we break down team spirit and undermine our executives’ ability to effectively lead. Conversely, when we choose to redirect negative talk, counter fears with positive suggestions for improvement, and seek common ground to resolve conflicts, we create a fertile soil for collaboration and growth.

Why Be a Cultivator?

Because we combine expert operational knowledge with an extensive network of working relationships at all levels of the organization, admins are in an incredibly powerful position to influence culture and create change…if we choose to do so. Take Mimi[2], for example: when she joined my department, it didn’t take long for me to notice that Mimi felt overwhelmed and underappreciated. At the time, I felt much the same: a long-promised promotion had just been given away to a new hire from outside the company; the economy was in a major slump; and unemployment rates were at record highs. I felt betrayed by my manager, and trapped in my job.

Recognizing my own vulnerability to negative talk, I made a choice to use my conversations with Mimi as pep talks, both for her and for myself. When Mimi complained that her training manual was inadequate and her supervisor unavailable, I empathized, but observed that it was very rare to find a training manual for any role in our organization, and staff reductions had reduced our manager’s availability for personal time. By doing this, I both acknowledged and depersonalized the issue. I then applied my operational knowledge to help Mimi document her processes and create some collaborative tools to streamline her work. Having an ally made all the difference to Mimi, and helping Mimi realigned me with my mission at work.

On another occasion, Mimi needed some reports from some senior colleagues, but she was acting as if her request was an imposition on them. I helped her to craft an email that focused on the common business need instead, a peer to peer communication. As we worked through this process, I saw her posture literally change before my eyes: standing straighter, walking more confidently and decisively editing the language of the final email to make it truly her own.

Over time, Mimi even began to consistently mirror that positivity back to me. She pulled me out of my own attitude slump more than once and, more importantly, began to change from a victim of circumstances to a person in charge of her own career. Knowing she was not alone gave her the courage to stand up for herself. As she did, she earned increasing respect from her supervisor and colleagues, and the entire department began to see her as a valued contributor instead of as a burden they didn’t have time to carry. Our overall culture improved directly as a result of my choice to cultivate possibilities instead of problems.

Can you imagine if I had instead given in to my own depression and indulged in a mutual pity-party with her? It would have been easy to do, but I would have missed out on seeing this amazing transformation! I would have missed out on one of the greatest successes of my career.

Cultivation Starts With YOU

One of the best things you can do to become a culture cultivator is to practice your communication and feedback skills. Co-mentoring – a mentoring relationship formed by two persons of similar experience and background – is especially valuable for this, because it requires many of the same skills: active listening, collaborative problem solving, and providing feedback, to name a few.  If you connect with a mentor outside your organization, you will have the added benefits of expanding your network and gaining a truly fresh perspective on your challenges and opportunities.  This can be especially valuable if your own work culture is currently stressful, draining or negative.

About now you may be wondering, “Where on earth am I going to find a mentor?”

Happily, there are many resources available today just for administrative professionals, and more being created by the moment. The Associations page[3] at ExecutiveSecretary.com aggregates admin-oriented resources from around the world, and can help you locate and connect with both established and up-and-coming professional organizations in your area for training and networking.  These, in turn, can lead to many wonderful mentoring opportunities. Also, be sure to check out the comprehensive list of conferences[4] for administrative professionals at TipsForAssistants.com. Pick one or two conferences that are accessible to you, and start making your plans now: conferences are a great way to connect with like-minded admins and build your culture-cultivating mojo!

I also invite you to check out MentorsAndMasterminds.com[5], a website I created specifically to make it easier for administrative professionals to connect with each other in professionally supportive relationships. Membership is free, and includes the Mentors and Masterminds Co-Mentoring Quickstart Guide, packed with advice and tools to get your co-mentoring relationship off to a great start.

Conclusion

It’s easy to assume that responsibility for creating a great corporate culture is the job of executives and managers; the truth is, everyone within the organization contributes to the culture that emerges. For better or for worse, we are all culture cultivators.

Choose to be a conscious cultivator:

  1. Recognize your influence. Wherever you are in a position of trust, there you have influence.
  2. Show up authentically. When negative situations arise at work, respond thoughtfully from your core beliefs rather than reflexively reacting to the negativity.
  3. Be present to others. Take no one for granted: empathize and offer support where you can, and celebrate successes whenever possible.
  4. Develop your “culture cultivator” skills. Use professional organizations, networking events and mentoring relationships to grow your skills in collaboration, giving and receiving feedback etc.

Not only will you positively impact culture where you are, you will open new and unexpected doors of opportunity for yourself!


[1] Microsoft Modern Workplace, Season 2, Episode 9, “Management in Motion: Building an Energized Workforce” Interview with L. David Marquet; episode time code 16:50,

[2] Names used in this article have been changed.

[3] http://executivesecretary.com/associations/

[4] http://www.tipsforassistants.com/single-post/2016/12/30/Conferences-for-Assistants-Get-Energized-in-2017

[5] http://mentorsandmasterminds.com/register 

Additional References & Photo Credits

Holzhauer, Christina, “Conferences for Assistants: Get Energized in 2017!”, December 30, 2017 http://www.tipsforassistants.com/single-post/2016/12/30/Conferences-for-Assistants-Get-Energized-in-2017 

Hyatt, Michael, “Why You Need to Take Care of the People Who Take Care of You: Customers, Bosses, Boards, and Investors Matter—But They Can’t Come First” https://michaelhyatt.com/take-care-of-your-team.html

Microsoft Modern Workplace, Season 2, Episode 9, “Management in Motion: Building an Energized Workforce” Interview with L. David Marquet, https://vts.inxpo.com/scripts/Server.nxp?LASCmd=AI:1;F:SF!42000&EventKey=176659 (free account and login required to access; interview starts @ 13:35).

Great Pyramid of Giza (photograph) by Mstyslav Chernov used under terms of Wikimedia Commons License @
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Pyramid_of_Giza_(Khufu%E2%80%99s_pyramid),_Pyramid_of_Khafre,_Pyramid_of_Menkaure_(right_to_left)._Giza,_Cairo,_Egypt,_North_Africa.jpg

Apple Orchard (photograph) is a Public Domain Image by Scott Bauer, USDA ARS,  used under terms posted @ Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_orchard.jpg

 

 

Join Our Admin Network!

Thanks for visiting Mentors and Masterminds.com.  If you’re not yet a member, why not consider joining? Membership is free, and always will be.

CLICK HERE TO CLAIM YOUR MEMBERSHIP!

Here are  a few ways you can use our site to build a powerful Personal Advisory Board:

Co-Mentoring

To connect with lots of like-minded professionals to share success stories, get a fresh perspective and provide mutual support, select the “Co-Mentoring” option. You will get most of the benefits of a traditional Mentor/Protégé relationship, but without having to compete for the comparatively limited supply of senior mentors. A co-mentoring relationship is much easier to form, because even if someone doesn’t feel ready to be a mentor quite yet, most people are more than happy to be a sounding board and accountability partner to a peer – and gain those same benefits in return!

Coaching

A Coaching relationship more closely fits the traditional Mentor/Protégé model, with the senior partner providing coaching in specific skills and strategies of the trade in addition to the kind of support described in the Co-Mentoring model above. If you are a senior administrative professional, consider sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience with other in a Coaching Mentor capacity. There is truly no reward like seeing a protégé grow and succeed!

Mastermind Groups

If two heads are better than one, then how about three…or four? Similar in nature to a Co-Mentoring relationship, but expanding upon it to tap the collective energy and insights of a group, Masterminds can become especially valuable resources for those who participate in them. One member’s project is often another’s inspiration! Join (or form) a powerhouse team of motivated peers, focused on big goals and committed to helping each other along the way.

Networking Groups

For some much-needed fun and laughter after a hard day’s work, what could be better than socializing with others who know the tribulations and triumphs of your job? Networking groups are a great way to get to know other administrative professionals in your area, and benefits can include connecting to new sources of information, having inside contacts for event planning or services, or even getting a lead on a great job opportunity. Starting one can be as simple as finding a good happy hour at a local restaurant, picking a date and emailing some friends.