Take the lead with Bonnie Low-Kramen’s ideas and resources
“Leadership is neither a rank nor a title. It is a choice. The choice to provide care and protection for those for whom we are responsible.” Simon Sinek, TED Talk “Find Your Why”
Simon Sinek is right. Leadership is our choice, a conscious decision. Let’s get 2016 off to a great start by deciding to lead, support and like the successful men and women in our lives.
Why? Why should assistants also think like a leader?
Do it because the most successful assistants who are also leaders earn the most money and wield power and influence. Leading is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Our workplace and our world is more volatile and complicated than ever. None of us can know it all. Our leaders need support teams who are ready, willing, and able to step up as leaders in order to bring order to the chaos that has become our global “new normal”.
It seems very clear that no single person has all the answers to our day-in, day-out workplace issues. The job descriptions for assistants now include “expecting the unexpected”. That’s why two of the most powerful questions you can ask are, “May I tell you what I see?” and “What do you really think?” I learned this working for Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis for 25 years as her PA. Now I see the power of these questions with our Ultimate Assistant students who use them with their peers and managers. These questions require the courage to be vulnerable and honest and the risk to hear the answers.
Here are eight ideas to show how you can soar as a leader – and some resources to support you:
- Find your voice and speak up. Leaders fight the impulse to stay quiet when we know we should say something. Speaking up (or rather the refusal to speak up) is the number one challenge in our workplace. Managers and peers are counting on us to speak our minds respectfully, thoughtfully, and directly. It is the only way to move work forward.
Resources: Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny; www.speakuppledge.com
- Accept compliments gracefully. Many people, especially women, are uncomfortable receiving compliments. Whether it is about a project that you rocked, a client’s great experience working with you, or how attractive your new suit is, train yourself to say, “Thank you very much. How kind of you to say.” Leaders don’t minimize their accomplishments by saying things like, “Oh no, it was nothing.” Mentally prepare and practice receiving and accepting compliments graciously and without embarrassment.
Resource: The Confidence Code by Katty Kay.
- Accept responsibility and blame only for things that truly are your fault. Don’t apologize for things that are not your fault. Statistics show that women over-apologize on a daily basis, which diminishes confidence. Minimize this number and maximize your leadership potential.
Resource: How to Say It for Women by Phyllis Mindell.
- Elevate others. True leaders shine a light on their managers and peers. Publicly acknowledge them. Write notes of appreciation, recommendations on LinkedIn, and book reviews on Amazon. Doing these things without being asked will flex your leadership muscles.
Resource: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.
- Do not reward bad behavior. Leaders choose their moment to positively confront the situation. To accept poisonous behaviors such as bullying and disrespectful language is to diminish ourselves and hurt our teams.
Resource: Taming the Abrasive Manager by Dr Laura Crawshaw.
- Cut others (and yourself) a break. In the frantic pace of our 24/7 global life, giving each other the benefit of the doubt is a very smart leadership strategy. If you have ever forgotten to send an important email or make a follow-up call, know this is happening for others too. Do not allow “insult” to be your default response. If a report is late getting to you, check in with the person with a reminder and an offer to assist if needed. Watch how fast you receive it when you apply empathy rather than accusation.
Resource: Speaking Your Mind in 101 Difficult Situations by Don Gabor.
- Words matter and directly impact the culture of an organization. Leaders choose and expect professional and respectful language in the workplace. For example, we are “colleagues” rather than the “girls” in the office. Let’s leave the profanity and gossip by the curb. I promise you your colleagues will notice.
Resource: Words That Win: What to Say to Get You What You Want by Don Gabor
- “You cannot be what you cannot see.” This quote by Marie C Wilson is so very true. Be a mentor and a role model for others. No matter how rich or successful a person is, they did not get there alone. We need one another. Very much. Choose to help others generously and without keeping score. Hold the elevator even if it makes you late. Leaders say, “May I offer a suggestion about XYZ?” and then jump in to help on the project. Be the one who runs towards a problem, rather than away from it. “Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded.” Dr Wayne Dyer
Resource: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.
That’s leadership which leads to promotion, more money, respect, relevance, and increased responsibility. Leadership begins with you. Lead your peers and lead your managers. When this happens you will grow and transform and soar.