Much of what I see and read about the future of work seems to be doom and gloom. Will AI make the assistant role a thing of the past? As a response to this, I started trying to educate myself on what employers will be looking for in the future, irrespective of the job title and that is how I first discovered the Future of Jobs Report in 2016 and tracked this information ever since.
This report is compiled at the World Economic Forum in conjunction with the top CEOs, HR Leaders and consulting groups globally.
The list is overwhelmingly positive for top level assistants because we already use and display these skills on a regular basis in our normal daily activities. So, I put it to you that we will be ideal employees in the future (if this list is what leaders are recruiting and retaining talent on)
Our focus should be the ROI the company receives on our salaries not what we are called (as I am sure that this will change and evolve too). The goal is to create a profession beyond the operational administration tasks (easily handled by Alexa) and to start adding strategic value. I feel that if we focus on and most importantly develop the skills listed below, our careers will evolve naturally and become infinitely more future-proof, tasks more interesting, meaningful and diverse. We will be called upon to create the next iteration of the profession and I think we are up to the challenge.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will be a challenging time for the global labour market. The Mckinsey Group research found that, conservative estimates of job losses due to AI and robotics are expected to be in the range of 800 million by 2030, so this is a reality that we need to prepare for if we want to not only survive but ultimately thrive.
Competing with AI, on the traditional knowledge-based framework is a poor strategy. Machines will always beat us on that score, but they have not yet learnt to be creative, solve problems or have empathy. We need to do the “human work” and this will be the major differentiator and competitive edge for us in the future world of work.
So, let’s look at the list and how we are already using these skills and think about how we can develop and enhance our own proficiency.
1.Analytical Thinking and Innovation
As assistants we use this to create new processes, when solving problems or streamlining a task. We also need to apply both analytical thinking and innovation when we are organizing things as simple as a storeroom cupboard or as complex as a board meeting or large event. Some of the other functions that require this skill set are, troubleshooting, problem solving, budgeting and reporting. As well as preparing complex or sensitive communication and reporting or reviewing information.
2.Active Learning and Learning Strategies
The modern EA is expected to learn on the job. Often early adopters of new software and expected to train others. Learning by doing, is an essential part of the assistant’s skill set. We need to start moving away from perfectionism, which is a wonderful asset in the role itself but holds us back from innovating and acquiring a growth mindset, which will be very valuable in the future. We need to focus on excellence and be willing to take the risk of failing.
Assistants often work on unique tasks and deal with unforeseen circumstances which requires them to apply common sense, experience and to learn at speed and at a pace seldom expected of other employees.
We will need to be focused on continuous personal development (which no longer has to cost money but does require an investment of time). The access to information is no longer the issue, but how we use the information.
Formal and informal training will no longer be a luxury but a survival strategy not only for us but also our companies in the rapidly changing world.
3.Creativity, originality and initiative
Creativity cannot be taught, but it is like a muscle. The more you explore and expand your horizons (and comfort zones), the easier it gets. Assistants are exposed to many different people, diverse information streams and interesting interactions, this greatly increases your ability to be creative or take another view.
I am always in awe of what an assistant can do with a colour printer, a laminator and a pair of scissors. I cannot wait to see what these creative and resourceful employees will make when they start having access to 3D printers.
To improve and encourage creativity we need to see things from a unique perspective and join the dots that others don’t see. This is when we start to add real value in the business sense.
As assistants we do need to volunteer more and speak up when we have good suggestions. In the future of work where structures will be flatter and less hierarchical, we will definitely be able to do so more freely. And I for one am excited about the rise of the millennial managers within our ranks who will value and encourage this.
4.Technology design and programming
Technology is shaping the future of work. I would advise that we all start to deal with how we feel about technology and change. For most of us learning a programming language or basic robotics now, many not be practical but for children who are preparing to join the workforce it will be essential.
I encourage you to take part in the onboarding of AI and digital assistants in your environment, that way you can influence and shape implementation as opposed to having it forced onto you. Ride the wave, don’t be crushed by it.
5.Critical Thinking and Analysis
Top level assistants use critical thinking and analysis well and regularly. They review information, compare trends and alternatives or make suggestions. I would like to urge you to grow your business acumen at every opportunity and to take advantage of the information that you have access to. Don’t just take minutes…use the meeting to learn more about your team and the business landscape. Don’t just check and beautify the presentation, read it! You are getting management training for free, you have a front row seat, now use it!!
6.Complex Problem Solving
This is the area where top assistants truly excel. They are master problem solvers and use this ability daily. They deal with issues of varying complexity and are incredibly resourceful. They also have large networks that they can harness to solve problems. They exhibit common sense, can do the relevant research and know how to reach the experts.
7.Leadership and Social Influence
Assistants have been using influence not positional power to ensure performance from their teams for years. They work cross functionally on a regular basis and have no positional power to fall back on, so they are already adept at leadership and social influence. A great assistant can affect the morale and engagement of the team and assist management to retain talent for longer periods (which will become increasingly important in the future)
Assistants understand that relationships and trust are valuable and that in the end, people do business with people that they like. So this ability supports not only your team but your client base too.
Avery UK undertook a study of assistants vs general employees. When they compared IQ between the groups, they measured much the same but when they measure EQ the assistants did considerably better. Not a surprise to anyone who has ever been in the role but a major advantage to us as a group in the future (Avery Survey Global Results )
Emotional intelligence will be a differentiator and will aid us in the building of rapport, understanding others, negotiating and being able to diffuse difficult situations to name but a few advantages. Sadly EQ is also often lacking in organisations which will make assistants more valuable in good corporate cultures.
9.Reasoning, Problems-solving and Ideation
Assistants are often called upon to work with unfamiliar tasks. They apply their imagination, work in terms of ‘what if’ and alternatives when faced with problems or challenges. They were also on the frontline of the cost cutting initiatives which meant that their resourcefulness had to scale in the wake of dwindling resources. They are often the ones who not only identify repetitive problems but also find and implement innovative solutions.
10.Systems analysis and evaluation
The EA always knows “who is who in the zoo”. They understand who is responsible for what? Who influences decisions and where the points of failure are, be it in a process or a person who consistently lets down the side. They understand and evaluate the parts so that they can build in the required redundancies to avoid failure.
They understand the flow of communication both upwards and downwards and can change the dialogue and perceptions on the shop floor.
So, my major take aways from the list are that thinking, being creative and stepping up will be required if we want to be successful in the future. We will need to be able to collaborate, reject our comfort zones in favour of challenge and embrace the coming changes in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Being fearful or ignoring the changing landscape will not serve us.
Having this information should inform our development plans and how we rate our performance. And yes, this list will change and continue to change just like the world around us but at least it gives us a sneak peak into the future and some guidance on how to prepare for it.
Assistants need to become the CEOs of their own ‘companies’ and start selling time and talent to their employers. Take your brand more seriously than your job title. Create the new activities required when the operational/transactional tasks are taken away. Pay attention and innovate yourself into a valued role within your team. The best strategy to future-proof our profession is to keep learning and to add value.
How often have you been asked to think outside the box?
Someone comes to you and says they’ve hit a snag, and they need to think outside the box to come up with a new idea, a new way of doing something. The implication seems to be that if you get outside the box, you’ll suddenly see the things that were outside it, waiting to be discovered by an open minded, un-boxed-in person.
I always wonder who they think did the boxing in to begin with? them as a manger, or employee or servant of the company Way, perhaps? Certainly, not as a leader; leaders don’t box people in.
Leaders know the truth; the box is like the emperor’s new clothes. There is not and never has been any box for you to think outside of. No-box thinking acknowledges this, and is my of reminding myself and the clients I mentor and coach, that we do ourselves a disservice when we believe in boxes.
When I was growing up, I noticed I was often put into these boxes by adults who played important roles in my life. Adopted, challenging child, musical, obstinate teenager, stubborn patient and show-off. It hit me that far more of the boxes adults put us in were negative than positive. I remember wondering when that changed, because I did not think of my friends that way.
In adulthood, I discovered that we do this as part of a group behaviour, often triggered by a need to fit in, to be accepted. We tend to slip in to this habit and soon, we believe the boxes define us and those around us. And I believe we miss so much when we do this, often failing to see how multi-layered and multi-talented others are, because we had them in a certain box.
Not believing there was a box to think outside, meant that when I was told my health issues were going to make certain dreams or goals of mine “impossible” I was able to respond with total conviction that this was not true in my world, and applied only because the assumption had been made that I fit in the box containing pre-destined outcomes. No box, no standard to follow, so I’ll create my own set of expectations and outcomes.
When we decide the boxes do not serve us, and often allow us to remain trapped in negative patterns of behaviour, we can make significant change to often lifelong negative habits. I believe we do not make change when we are in a place that feels comfortable; why bother to go through the pain of change, if we can manage as we are? The question I ask, is what is it about the box you have chosen to stay put in, that makes you feel too comfortable to leave? Perhaps you’re getting something from staying put that reinforces a message you tell yourself, like “I can’t change” or “I’ll let someone down if I fail” so you stay safely in the box.
Try asking yourself what succeeding at change might feel like and a positive message that you could create to replace your negative ones.
No-box thinking makes change into an adventure rather than a thing to fear or accommodate. When my husband, John, and I decided to move to Wales, and buy a woodland a field, we were completely re-defining our world. We embraced the change as we approached our fifties, with total belief that it would work, that we could adapt and thrive. We did not fear failure, so we didn’t define what the move and new life would be like in some box, we wrote the simplest life plan you can imagine:
1. Move to a cottage in the woods
2. Spend as much time working outdoors, together, as possible.
That was it, and we made the rest up as we went along. Four years along the journey, we’ve learned and built and planted and grown and nurtured and laughed more than I imagined was possible. No-boxes here thank you, just possibilities.
Dinah Liversidge Contact Information
Dinah’s website- dinahliversidge.com
Facebook group - facebook.com/noboxthinking
Tweet with her- @dinahliversidge
Stay in the Charcoal Hut in Dinah and John’s woodland garden- facebook.com/northlodgemyddfai
In the month of love I want you to focus on someone who really needs the gift of your time and attention. YOU!
We tend to expend so much energy and resources on other people which is 'nice' but it leaves some of us pretty burnt out and overwhelmed. I love the saying "don't set yourself on fire to keep other people warm" and this is such a true sentiment for assistants (especially those who have additional care giving roles in their lives such as parents, caring for other family members etc.)
Loving and caring for yourself is not vain, self-indulgent or arrogant, it is important for your mental health. It is a critical survival strategy. There is a reason you need to put your oxygen mask on first if there is a loss of air pressure on a flight. If you are incapacitated you cannot help anyone else.
The most important things we need to apply when it comes to self-care is being able to say no, set boundaries effectively and push back when we need to, with confidence. We are often bullied into taking on more tasks, extending beyond our limits because we feel that we need to be "nice and helpful" and if we don't say yes we will be seen as lazy. Thing is, people (especially the users and master manipulators of the world) know how to read you and use these ideas against you.
I want you to be a little more selfish. Self-preserve. Always have a little bit in reserve for times of crisis. If you are already running at 110% what happens when there is a real emergency?
So how can you enhance yourself love, self-care and self-respect? Here are 10 things to try!
1. Manage your inner dialogue - speak well of yourself and to yourself. Replace negative thoughts with at least three positive ones immediately. If done consistently, this way of thinking and talking to yourself will change. It is a habit that must be broken over time.
2. Rest - you charge your phone, you need to charge yourself. You are not a machine. You will have peak performance times and non-peak times. Resting is not lazy or unproductive. It fuels you. Learn to nap. Take time out to simply sit in the sunshine. TAKE YOUR VACATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
3. Have fun - take time out to do something you enjoy and that makes you feel alive. Being creative in another field e.g. painting or knitting can often lead to new ideas about work matters. Try it, you will be pleasantly surprised. This also greatly reduces mental fatigue and stress. Winston Churchill painted during WW2 for this exact reason and said that this was one of the things that helped him to stay focused, resilient and in control.
4. Connect with people in a meaningful way. A study about happiness found that people are happier (and live longer) if they spend time with people they like than acquiring material things. Have lunch with a friend; take your kid on a 'date'. Listen and also share your thoughts and feelings. Often by externalising a problem verbally we solve it, even if the other person doesn't give us any input. The mere act of talking can be therapeutic BUT make sure that you also listen to the other person and help them in this way. This is not a blank cheque to moan!!!! You need to rise above the drama and be solution focused. Playing the victim doesn't solve your problem or make you a nice person to spend time with.
5. Declutter - your space, your to-do list, your contact list, your social media and your commitments. Clutter drains our energy. Items that are unused gathering dust? Sell them second hand, donate them to charity. Stuff that has been on your to-do list forever, GET THEM DONE. Clean up your social connections. Spend time and energy on people who lift you up. Put some distance between yourself and the people who are not adding value or love to your life. Life is short. Spend time on the stuff that matters to you and your family. Stop moving forward other people's agendas at the expense of your own success and well-being. Be careful of those people who only call you when they need a favour.
6. Drop the guilt - this seems to be a very female problem and I think we were taught guilt so that we would be more compliant. Example. Your friend calls you up; you just got home after a tough day. You don't really feel like talking but instead of sending her a message and saying that you are not up to a phone call, you take the call out of guilt. Small example, but stuff like this happens daily. We need to unlearn this behaviour. Acknowledge the feeling, try to understand why you feel that way and release it!
7. Start to appreciate your body for what it can do, not how it looks and your perceived flaws. We ALL have something we don't like about our bodies. But actually they are magical! If yours is in good working order you have so much to be grateful for. Feed it well and enjoy using it. Don't see exercise as punishment and drop the diet for a better lifestyle!
8. Stop comparing, your life is different and so is your current journey. There will always be someone more successful, prettier, smarter (whatever...you get my point) but you don't see the sacrifices or heartaches that person has from the outside. Nobody's life is perfect and your comparison if often very one sided with limited information. Just focus on your grass and water it! Level up and realise you are your only competition! Be better than yesterday
9. Be focused on what you want, visualise and work hard. Set goals. Get after it! We all know what we should be doing and where we are currently wasting time or procrastinating. We don't 'have' time we need to MAKE time for the stuff that matters and ultimately moves us forward. Discipline is HARD but the results will be worth it.
10. Stop being a victim in your own story, you deserve so much better. Be the hero instead. You control your life. Hate your job; start preparing and looking for the next one! In a bad relationship? Have the difficult discussions, do the work or move on but don't just wallow and say that this is how things are and I can't change it, because that is simply not true! Change the things you can and work on how you perceive what cannot be changed.
Then lastly, LOVE YOURSELF, I DARE YOU...
We all really like the idea of New Year, new me. A new chapter, a fresh start...
We are all so motivated and positive in those first few days of a new year, but to be honest, it doesn't really last very long. All you need as proof is to monitor the gym attendance in January vs. February. Why is it that our New Year’s Resolutions feel like bad reruns year in and year out?
The problem is not goal setting or even the desire for change; it is being intentional, focused, accountable and disciplined.
My "WORD" for 2019 is intentional, so what will this look like?
That is my plan!
I hope you have already set some compelling goals, scheduled your actions steps for this week and that you are setting yourself up for success in 2019.
Maybe next year we can celebrate and call ourselves goal achievers! Let’s do this!
#liveyourbestlife #upgradeyourself #12monthsofcoaching
Why do we feel demotivated?
Sometimes it is as simple as the time of the year, the weather, being ill or not being able to take a break. We also feel demotivated and stuck if we are playing it too safe or feel under utilized. This gives us the sense that each day is much the same as the former. Our routine and our comfort zones can also contribute to this feeling of boredom.
If we reflect on our habits we can see what no longer serves us. Habits equal results. Changing habits however requires real emotional strength which to me, is beyond just simply being motivated. Is motivation a total lie? Sometimes I think so! The things we really "should" do for our health, finances, career or relationships are usually HARD. I completely agree with Mel Robbins that we need to parent ourselves and this parenting requires discipline more than motivation.
So what are our main tools to maintain motivation and create better results?
1. Improve your self talk
2. Stop making excuses and giving yourself a free pass
3. Focus on self care, if you feel good you will be able to produce better outcome
4. Be aware of and manage the effects of stress and fatigue.
5. When you are ill, take time off
6. Celebrate and savour the small joys in your life
7. Digital detox - social media can create feelings of overwhelm or negative comparisons
8. Be aware that learning or trying anything new will make you feel uncomfortable
9. Failure is not bad, just ensure you are failing forward and that you learn from each experience
10. Be grateful. Gratitude attracts positive people, new opportunities and GOOD STUFF to you
So what steps can you take to get back on track for the next few months so you can finish the year strong?
I am on a personal journey with this at the moment and wanted to share these observations and tips with you. Hope this helps to kick start your motivation again. I hope that this inspires you to stretch and go for that goal! I believe in you so go and make magic!
Hugs from DXB
This blog was created originally for the Platinum Assistant Network South Africa. I would highly recommend that you register as a member or attend their events.
It is mid-year, the time of the year where we traditionally experience a loss of energy, motivation and enthusiasm. The weather, workload and stress can all be contributing factors. So how do you get out of your funk and reboot for the next six months so that we can finish the year STRONG?
I hope that these tips help you achieve and thrive for the next six months. Wishing you power and energy for the rest of 2018.
As a trainer and coach I have been lucky enough to work with assistants all over the world and recently it dawned on me that we have one very significant problem facing us as a profession. And it is not the rapid advancement of technology, job security, economic shifts or artificial intelligence. It is confidence!
As a group, assistants are generally talented, intelligent and resourceful. They can deal with high stress levels and intense demands. They manage on-going interruptions and a very high volume of information (flooding in via electronic communication) without a decline in the quality of their work.
They are creative, reliable, loyal, have higher than average emotional intelligence and are able to build strong relationships with ease. So in other words, assistants are the perfect employee for the Fourth Industrial Age. So why, oh why, are we still underrated, under-utilised and more importantly underpaid?
The only logical conclusion for me is the lack of confidence I see and feel in the assistants I meet and this is the same whether I am in the US or Uganda.
How does this manifest?
Not being able to speak up when they need to, feeling like shining a light on their performance or achievements is bragging, always focussed on making others look good (without ever getting credit) and trying desperately to blend in and not to draw any attention to themselves. They are also often thrown under the bus by other employees and feel that it is wrong for them to fight back. It is being fearful and afraid of new opportunities and losing out on grand adventures.
Confidence impacts a few important aspects of your life and your career
1.How the role is perceived in your office and the business world
A wonderful friend of mine once told me that we teach others how to treat us. So, how have we taught our peers, teams and the business to treat us? Worth pondering, but on the whole we have allowed behaviour towards us that most other groups of employees simply would not have tolerated. People on the whole respond well to self-respect and self-confidence. When you display these attributes you are treated differently. Respect cannot be demanded but is earned and owned.
2.The way your brand is experienced by others
If you are too timid or you don’t highlight your special skills or accomplishments, others simply do not take you seriously or don’t actually know how valuable you are and what you bring to the table. Big brands are worth the big bucks!
3.What people are willing to pay you
I have only ever met a handful of assistants (less than a dozen since 2009) who have asked for a raise or negotiated a starting salary. Men tend to be much more assertive in this regard (according to global research) and the inability to have these discussions tends to aggravate the gender pay gap (in my humble opinion). We need to ask for and negotiate for what we want (and deserve) with confidence so that we can be compensated appropriately.
4.Being successful at interviews
It is a fact that the more confidently (not arrogantly or aggressively) you present yourself in an interview the more likely you are to be hired. This is even truer for an assistant, who is the face of the office and often the first contact with important visitors or callers.
5.The opportunities that you will have access to or be approached for
Confidence has layers: what other people see and what you feel. What matters here is how confident you feel. Tough or challenging experiences in your life (that stretch you beyond your comfort zone) will greatly enhance your confidence level. You will be more likely to be brave and accept the next opportunity, but also come across as more confident to others. This will draw more exciting prospects towards you. A bit of bravery will change the course of your life forever. This is like a muscle so start small but keep stretching beyond that comfort zone. Your comfort zone is what is making you feel bored and stuck.
6.Your inner dialogue & Imposter syndrome
What you say to yourself matters! Our inner dialogue can be one of the most damaging conversations we can ever have. It is full of negativity and limiting beliefs. I often wonder how long we would be friends with someone who spoke to us like we do to ourselves. This is a hard cycle to break but is probably the most important starting point if you want to increase your confidence.
So how do we fix it?
When you start talking to yourself in this way ….STOP! Reflect on these thoughts (often we already know that they are harsh and untrue) replace them with something neutral or (if at all possible) with something positive. Keep at it and it will become easier and your inner dialogue will be less limiting. Don’t try to push this voice away, just observe it and bring awareness to it. By tuning in mindfully you can change the story you are telling yourself which will change how you feel.
Imposter syndrome is another common ailment. It is that feeling like we have NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE DOING and SOMEONE IS GOING TO FIND OUT SOON! Well, the good news is that no one else knows what they are doing either; no one has this figured out. Each one of us is just doing the best we can so relax!
7.How much your natural fear limits you
Our brains are designed to be fearful. It is what has ensured the survival of the human race. But not all fear serves us. When you are nervous about something or you feel challenged it is often because you are learning or being required to stretch beyond what is comfortable and this is almost ALWAYS a good thing.
So instead of backing away from those feelings try stepping into it. Often it guides you to something bigger and more exciting.
How do we build confidence?
a.Your body does not know the difference (so start by faking it)
Neuroscientists have proven that when you put a fake smile on your face or even put a pencil between your top and bottom row of teeth and keep it there for less than a minute your body will give of the matching hormones and will change your mood accordingly (as if you were really happy) So, as Amy Cuddy put it “Fake it until you become it”. Create confident body language, practise sounding confident and it will eventually come naturally.
b.Be aware of your posture and your voice
Ask someone (who spends a lot of time with you) to watch your body language. Focussing on your posture, what you do with your hands when you get nervous and what you sound like. Start creating the picture you want others to see. This has a MASSIVE impact on how people experience you so bring awareness to this for big results.
c.Commit to and work at your craft
Work on your “thing”, become the best at what you do. Make mistakes but keep learning and take your development seriously. All of this turns into skill and depth of experience which in turn makes us feel confident and competent.
d.Surround yourself with supportive people
We truly become the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Pick your tribe wisely. Research has shown that negativity is as contagious as the common cold, and I am sure that lack of confidence is too. Surround yourself with people who want you to win and in turn be a cheerleader for them. The world has enough critics and haters!
e.Learn that fear is very often to your benefit and challenge is not always bad
I love the saying “It doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you”. It is what we make of our circumstances which shapes our futures. So step into those uncomfortable situations. They often lead you to magical people and places.
In conclusion, it is my sincere wish that each of you reading this realises how special you are. You are a once-off. There is something special that you need to do in this world. Don’t settle! Stretch, fly and create confidence in those around you as from today. It matters!!
Our society glorifies busy, lack of sleep, MATERIAL THINGS and distraction. We are bombarded with more information and digital communication than we can possibly manage. Our working days (and our family time) is punctuated with the incessant pings and bleeps of smartphones. And if you do find yourself just taking it easy you feel almost instant guilt, surely there is something I SHOULD be doing!
Time goes FAST....New Year's Eve feels like it was five minutes ago and yet we are already at the end of the first week in March, (and my husband and I are very close to our first year in Dubai) it is crazy! The pace of life is absolutely frenetic!
This got me thinking. Am I present in my own life? Am I showing up for myself and the people who need me? Does my routine serve me and my family? Do I repeat the same week over and over and call it a life? Do I have the same problems I had last year?
I loved the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off (I know that it totally gives away my age) and my favourite quote from the movie was this "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while you could miss it."
So this month I have challenged myself (and I hope you will join me) to:
1. Be aware of my daily routine, notice things and be in the moment
2. Spend more time in the real world with real people and make them a priority
3. Really pay attention to my emotions, my body and my relationships
4. Examine my relationships, who brings negativity and drama into my space? And start to manage this.
5. Turn small tasks into little rituals and ENJOY them
6. Savour things
7. Find time to be. Creating space for ideas and inspirations to find me while I am still
8. Manage distractions
9. Stop worrying about the future or living in the past.
10. Be more grateful and live with less!
So this is my homework for this month but I hope that by sharing these ideas with you that you will explore them and find some sanity, clarity and quiet too!
So until next time
HUGS FROM DXB