Invest in Your Potential

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Ensure the conferences in which you participate are champions of authenticity says Melba Duncan

My work in recruitment, organizational consulting, coaching, and executive level training for global administrative staff is deeply rooted in the transformation of the workplace.  Today’s Executive Assistants are career professionals, whose purpose is of great significance and who are out to make history.  These “strategic company assets” will not permit the marvelous to turn into the mundane; they are champions of authenticity, excellence is their standard and as such, new learning opportunities are cornerstones of their professional lives.

Well-designed conferences for professional Executive Assistants that provide collaborative education, focus on the pursuit of efficiency, and create new learning to achieve maximum productivity are a powerful catalyst for this population.  Conferences that emerge as front-runners will be viewed as a productivity-inspiring resource that enable participants to return to their workplaces with new knowledge.  When applied, this knowledge will increase the probability of success and consequently add value to the organization.

If you are an Executive Assistant for all the right reasons, then you do not underestimate your potential because you know that in doing so, you will accept whatever “seems” likely to help you to succeed.  Rather, you know that you are special, and that your reliable competencies serve as a key point of differentiation.

Time and again, we speak about efforts to explore the impact of new learning and experiencing a global reach.   We have among us those who yearn for specialized opportunities that are focused on constructive change.  We rely on the weight of our experience to make judgments and decisions.  We focus on what we can see.  For these reasons, while searching for the right conference to attend, we must challenge the status quo.  We must confirm that the conferences in which we participate are champions of authenticity.  We must keep in mind that plagiarism of conference material delegitimizes its value and lacks moral standing. We must be vigorous in taking the time to reconfirm all details presented and allow ourselves to marshal information and think differently.  By doing so, we ask ourselves the following questions: 

  • What is the proposed model?  
  • Why this program? 
  • What differentiates this opportunity, and does it sustain its reliability?
  • What confirms its legitimacy?
  • How will the advantages and benefits of attendance be meaningfully applied?
  • How is this program taught and is it consistent with my style of learning?

It is not a matter of the right choice or the wrong choice.  Experience, introspection and awareness of your core purpose will enable you to challenge established patterns and responses to your inquiry.   This is a provocative idea that challenges the thinking that you do not need to know where everything is going before you get there.  There are some people who know that it requires diligence and courage to seek out the right resources, while others trust only intuition and experience. Finally, there are some who are blind to the challenges presented because they are relentlessly focused on self-improvement, and highly motivated to achieve unparalleled success.

Let me invite you to shift your thinking…

If our goal is to move from the general to the specific and to improve our decision-making, then what has our experience taught us?  One would argue that searching for conferences that offer learning opportunities requires due diligence.  As such, it’s incumbent on us to apply the same level of caution in our research as we would if we were representing the executives we support in this effort.  Said another way: we must challenge the status quo and apply our strategic thinking expertise for ourselves. 

This includes learning about the conference of choice, as well as gathering historical perspectives about the people responsible for its implementation.  These individuals must be reliable, trustworthy and experienced resources.  Only dramatic events make headlines; thus, responsibility for arriving at a better understanding of the basic dynamics of every conference are essential steps.  Do not overlook an ethical lapse.  Plagiarism is rampant in conference marketing and supposed training opportunities; so, it is best to confirm authenticity in any and all resources.

We must ensure that the conferences presented as opportunities in which we invest our time and capital are reliable and trustworthy. Their platform must be based on educating our community on what is needed to advance careers, rather than a focus on “star power,” which inevitably lacks integrity.  Remember, coincidence takes a lot of planning; so, we must ask ourselves the following

  • What is our takeaway?
  • What are our values and ethics? 
  • Are they in line with the offering being provided by the training team and its leaders?

Here is one theory you must be careful about:  Do not take anything for granted. Do not believe everything you are told.  Be inquisitive.  A thorough research process will validate, or not, the authenticity of the conference program being offered.  Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in the marketing effort of the conference organizers, rather than the content being provided.  A key to determining a conference’s viability and whether there is a moral respect for the material being presented is to research the individuals who are responsible for these conferences. Confirmed findings should demonstrate conscious integrity, confirmed by the conference leaders’ reputation, and the authenticity of the program content. 

There are some among us who apply stereotypes to Executive Assistants; thus, not treating them with the respect they deserve.  Their full contributions are not recognized, and their value is not validated by appropriate compensation levels.  So again, I caution you to approach all conferences being offered as viable training options with eyes wide open. Do not be fooled by unrelated ideas, do not be fooled by conference advertising that claim to be dedicated to improving the role of the global Executive Assistant and, most importantly, do not be fooled by those who plagiarize others’ work and standards.

Know that the programs we decide to attend must offer new learnings and the opportunity to build reliable networks. They should, by their reputation and influence, confirm that their unquestionable purpose is to educate, inspire and encourage participants to even greater capacities in their roles.

Anyone who is passionate about the future of this role knows that conferences that provide training opportunities must give visibility to experiences that would otherwise remain hidden.  Those who represent these conferences must be readily transparent, with proven and reputable accountability to support their claim of originality.

Let us remember that authenticity is a principle of integrity.

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About Author

Melba J Duncan

Melba J. Duncan is the Founder and President of The Duncan Group Inc. Since 1985, the firm has been advising CEOs and other corporate leaders regarding specialised senior management support resources. The firm operates nationally and internationally, and offers expertise in four practice areas: recruitment, organisational consulting, coaching and “executive-level” training for professional Assistants. She is author of How to Succeed in Business as an Executive Assistant (Macmillan, 1990), The New Executive Assistant: Advice for Succeeding as an Executive or Administrative Assistant, (McGraw-Hill, 1997), and The Idiot’s Guide to African American History (Pearson Education, Inc., 2003). She has also authored numerous articles, including the iconic overview of the Assistant’s role ‘The Case for Executive Assistants’, featured in the Harvard Business Review.

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