We are facing something invisible,
Something life threatening,
Which changed our entire world in a blink of an eye.
Everyone of us has lost something or someone.
Nothing is the same anymore...
There is absolutely nothing normal about the "new normal"
It's OK to be sad,
It's OK to be grumpy and tired
It's OK to be chubby
It's OK not to feel like yourself!
This is hard!
I look around at what is happening in technology, communication and in business and see disruption in every sphere of work and life. I worry that our profession is not thinking about what we need to do to compete and survive in this rapidly and radically changing environment.
It’s like there is a bit of denial at play, a perception that all of this will not at some point profoundly impact us too. Much of the what I see in the market and development for assistants is “business as usual” and I want to raise the alarm and say that this is a dangerous path to take. If we remain complacent, we are facing serious challenges for the profession.
It is estimated that 800 million people will lose their jobs to AI and robots. It is logical to assume it will impact us too. We must fundamentally rethink the role, its requirements and skill sets.
I am not a futurist but from my own research and contact with senior leaders globally I think that we should start to focus on the following 5 criteria to future-proof our profession and to start preparing ourselves for what is to come.
If you are not developing your skills and elevating the potential value that you can have in your organisation you can very simply and efficiently be replaced with a cheaper option, human or otherwise.
You need to ask: what are the problems I could solve? What knowledge do I need to acquire? Am I following industry publications for both the business as well as the EA profession? Am I using the documents that cross your desk daily and the meetings I attend to build your business acumen? Am I exploring a specialisation or a technical/industry specific competency?
There is nothing wrong with traditional EA type training, but we also need to explore beyond this in intelligent ways to ensure that we expand our roles to fit our organisations and the future.
My opinion is that we need to assemble short courses/certificates and create our own custom curriculum. Formal qualifications and even our school system is not really in a position to prepare us adequately for the future and the rate of change we are experiencing.
I also want to note it here that development is not HR’s responsibility and there are tons of FREE online resources some from top international institutions like Stanford University. You only need to commit the time, so there is no excuse.
And for those who turn down training or think they know it all, it is already too late.
2. Creativity and Innovation
This is a valuable and sought-after ability in all companies today. Creativity is like a muscle and can be developed with practise and intent. I want to challenge you to look for opportunities to solve the problems in your teams/company and community. Listed below are some great tips I found on becoming more innovative from various sources:
a. Just start. Keeping an idea in your mind doesn’t make it better or lead to a product. It’s not the idea that is valuable but the execution.
b. Collaborate with others and share ideas. More people, equals more and better quality ideas. This has been proven by research. Cognitive diversity matters. If everyone agrees with you or has the same point of view/background/job/nationality/culture it is unlikely that you will come up with something truly creative and unique.
c. Think in terms of options or possibilities, not problems. Be ok with failure. Ask questions like ‘what if’ and “yes, and…”. Creativity needs space and permission to be wrong, make mistakes and look stupid. If people don’t feel safe, they will not innovate. In the words of Elon Musk (probably one of the world’s most daring innovators) “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough”. Perfectionism and caring about other people’s opinions of you is the enemy of innovation.
d. Learn as you go along. Newsflash, no one else knows what they are doing either. It is ok to say “Yes” and then figure it out.
e. Focus on visual elements and information. 40% of your brain’s resources are utilised for processing visual inputs. It’s a powerful tool so use it! Visual components often stimulate new and very exciting ideas. Most importantly visual inputs do not need language so immediately put another part of your brain to use.
f. Break the frame of the problem. Take the issue out of its context, see it another way. This will create fresh ideas and new connections. Change your perception physically and emotionally.
I want to HIGHLY recommend the book Non-Bullshit Innovation by David Rowan and his various YouTube videos to you and your teams as a brilliant starting point with amazing case studies.
This is about empathy, service and love. This is the work that is sorely needed in the world today and something Alexa cannot do. What can you bring to your team to help with engagement and morale? How can you provide a superior customer experience? In a world with a lot of competition and similar products, customer service is a major differentiator and valued, it’s premium work.
4. Role expansion
Our roles will have to change and evolve. Are you keeping an eye on what your team and companies changing requirements are? Your job description and role should not be the limit of what you are willing to do and achieve, because if it is, you will not be levelling up and staying relevant. BUT HERE IS THE FINE PRINT – I am not advising you to allow yourself to be abused or exploited. Yes, by all means deliver beyond your job spec and exceed expectations but know your worth, have the confidence to be assertive and get what you deserve for the value you deliver. You should be the CEO of your own company and sell skills and time to your employer. Always be on the look-out for new “products” and “services” you can sell to your “client”.
I truly believe that the right attitude is the first and main requirement for this role. All the skills can be taught if the person is positive, diligent and concern about the quality of work they deliver. Be a life-long learner and have a growth mindset. Develop resilience and the ability to deal with and dissipate stress for yourself and your manager.
If Uber was the great disruptor for transportation and Netflix for entertainment, what will be our big disruptor? One thing I can tell you is that I don’t believe it will be Alexa. What worries me is that we are not thinking about it, we are not trying to prepare for it or actively create ,it but it is inevitable…
My current career was a side-hustle just a few years ago and because I had something to fall back on or go into, it was so much less stressful when people started talking about our company downsizing. In fact, if it wasn't for the voluntary severance packages I would probably be in that "safe" corporate job today...
But consider this, there really are no more "safe" jobs, not in any segment of the workplace, as most global economies are severely depressed, corporate's are all about profit and let's face it, bonuses, increases and benefits are not what they used to be. The world has changed but the narrative has not. Go to college, get a "good" job and retire... we need to rethink how we earn a living and how we can impact our communities. Also what we teach children about work!
Now, I am not advocating that everyone downs their tools and becomes an entrepreneur, but I am strongly urging you all to have another income stream to fall back on. This fills the gaps left by your salary not keeping up with the cost of living and gives you much more financial security and freedom.
Social media has made buying, selling and marketing so much easier. You no longer need a shop front or an office to ply your trade from, it can be done from your couch on your mobile phone. The other major advantage is that you can reach your niche market, so you can create or resell stuff you like (generic products to reach a mass market is so over). You can self publish, host a radio show, make videos...the platform is there!
Also the mere scale of your potential marketplace if we consider that Facebook alone has more than 2 billion users, this is a massive community for you to tap into. The opportunities are immense, available and not complicated to plug into.
So how do you identify a side-hustle? Here are a few thing to consider:
1. What talents do you have?
2. What problems can you see and solve?
3. What can you make?
4. Do I have a hobby that can become a business?
5. What would I do for free? What do I really love?
6. What services could I provide?
7. What do friends and family reach out to me for?
8. What do you do in your current job that can be re-purposed as a side project?
These questions will stimulate your thought process and observations. I also want to encourage you to get into the routine of trying to generate at least 5 new business ideas a week. Some will be rubbish but it will discipline your mind to look for opportunities and at some stage you will strike gold.
Here are the 7 kinds of income streams
1. Earned Income - this is your job
2. Profit Income - buying and selling
3. Interest Income - lending out money
4. Dividend Income - owning stocks
5. Rental Income - rent property out
6. Capital Gains - assets increase in value
7. Royalties - income from others using your work (an e-book, online video etc.)
Please remember that a successful side-hustle will take time and commitment. You will work while others relax, you will need to make this commitment to yourself and also set better boundaries at work to make this a success. Unpaid overtime, is time you could have invested in your side business. You also need to be very careful about any conflicts of interest or overlaps with your current employment. Follow your company policies in the case that you need to declare your side business. Also do not use company time or resources. There needs to be a VERY clear separation of interests and time for both.
We also need to spend our money more consciously. Support your local grocer, restaurant, makers or small business owners because this helps your neighborhood thrive in the long term.
Find your service/craft, build collaborations, plug into local networks, buy from your friends and support each other. This is good for all of us!
Long live the #sidehustle!
We all know them, the special wishes of our dear managers. And by that I don't mean the favourite type of chocolate that you have hidden at your desk for your executive. No, I mean the requests that come out of nowhere. The wishes and requirements that we receive from time to time and usually don't expect. Because they come in special situations, namely when you do not expect them.
Here is an example, which I once experienced myself a few years ago. One morning a former boss called me at the office asking me to stop Lufthansa flight 132 from Berlin to Munich, he was still in the lounge and was just leaving. Oh boy, I thought to myself. If I could actually do something like that, I probably wouldn't be working here anymore. Of course, I did everything in my power to stop this plane, but in the end it didn't help. The flight was gone and my executive mad.
I'm sure you also have an anecdote or two at hand when you think of these almost impossible requests from our managers. Some are hilarious, some just cheeky. I still laugh loudly at the wonderful scene of the movie "The devil wears Prada". A movie that every assistant in the world has surely seen several times. Do you remember the sequence where boss Miranda, played by Meryl Streep, is stuck in Miami because the weather has changed? She called it a "little breeze", but in reality, there was a hurricane level 5 in the background and assistant Andy should now bring her boss back to New York. No planes available, airports were closed. Wonderful! Many of you know these and similar situations. And it happens quite often that our managers believe that we have such a good connection to everybody that we can just turn the sun on and off.
But how do you feel about such requests? Do you feel challenged or humiliated?
I have always set limits, right from the start. I allowed a few requests and declined others. My bosses quickly noticed that, and I was really blessed to have managers who did not take advantage in this respect. And I appreciated that very much.
In the end, of course, everyone decides for themselves what to do and what not to do and how to deal with such situations.
And the next time you have such an unpleasant task in front of you, think of the Prada movie, smile and stand above things with confidence. This will work for sure.
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