Aliina Rowe explains the importance of shifting your mindset when going through organizational change

Organizational change is not only about changing internal processes, tools or infrastructure; it’s about changing hearts and minds in our workplaces. It’s about approaching change together, as a team, for the greatest success. Assistants are often situated at the center of their organizations – reaching across reporting lines and up, down and across company structures – which makes them uniquely suited to engage hearts and minds towards change that matters.

Assistants play a crucial role in building the foundations needed for change in ways both big and small. Assistants do not just make copies; they can make or break the day. They do not just take minutes; they take the pulse of organizations. And they do not just create agendas; they create culture. Assistants are leaders and can have real impact on the mindset of those around them.

Why Shift to a Mindset for Change?

In researching how Assistants engage in change in their organizations, I found that they are already well on the way. Making a deliberate shift to a mindset for change can take Assistants even further.

Making this shift in mindset is imperative if we want to succeed in transforming hearts and minds to engage well with change. Research points to the mindset of leaders as fundamental in setting the stage for success. Assistants, along with the leaders and teams they support, must be aware of the importance of making this shift in mindset if we are to succeed together.

Our organizations are under constant pressure to improve. While we plan for incremental changes in processes and procedures, there will always be an undercurrent of continuous change.

Transformations are underway not only in our organizations but within ourselves. Especially now, in the beginning of the post-pandemic era, we know that – despite all of our differences – what we all have in common is this experience of change.

We need to be able to approach and engage with change in the best way possible, whether it be incremental, continuous or transformational, and whether it be within ourselves or within our organizations.

How Can We Shift to a Mindset for Change?

Individuals can inhabit a multitude of mindsets: a project mindset, an agile mindset, a futurist mindset, a fixed mindset, a growth mindset, as well as creative and discovery mindsets.

Research on the new capabilities leaders need in agile organizations, along with timely and relevant articles here in Executive Support magazine, can serve as a guide to just how we can begin to shift to a mindset for change.

Five Practices to Shift to a Mindset for Change

1. Engage

First, create space that allows time to pause and reflect. While this may feel counterintuitive – neither making progress nor engaging – it is a way to move faster.

Assistants, and the leaders and teams they support, need time to focus for clear judgement, original thinking, and purposeful action. Assistants can be effective about re-prioritizing and making time.

Thinking about time to pause and reflect as an action, a way to engage, can begin to shift mindset to approach change in a positive way and create a healthy and nurturing environment.

  • Take breaks; leave a 5-minute sand clock on the desk as a reminder
  • Create white space in the calendar between meetings
  • End meetings early when the discussion has finished

2. Embrace ignorance

Listen, think from a place of not knowing, and remain curious.

Listening and being a true sounding board allows us to listen to the stories that are being told in our organizations, find out about any disconnects or miscommunication and acknowledge where there may be a need to align and have a conversation.

  • Ask questions you may already know the answer to
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Ask what you may be missing

3. Experiment

Assistants are on the front lines of processes and procedures and understand scenarios where changes can go wrong. Use your experience, resourcefulness and problem-solving skills to experiment. Testing yourself and the capabilities within your organization can make change exciting and a little less daunting.

  • Be a pilot-user for a new tool being implemented
  • Brainstorm scenarios for various use cases on changes to be implemented
  • Align with others and collaborate on ideas

4. Energize

Be an advocate for the organization’s objectives while proactively bringing people together in a positive way for collective purpose.

We need to accept that change is hard. Giving energy where we can to advocate for the leaders and teams whose efforts we support and to create a positive and purposeful working environment goes a long way.

  • Set the direction, not the destination
  • Practice kindness, express appreciation and give recognition
  • Enjoy the journey

5. Establish your role in change

Establish your role as a catalyst for change. You are already building foundations for change in your organization daily and already have the skills required to engage in change deliberately and proactively.

  • Start the conversation on how what you do contributes to enabling positive change
  • Be the bridge that connects people to each other to engage in change together
  • Encourage other Assistants to do the same

Who Is Impacted by a Shift to a Mindset for Change?


When I started to research ways in which Assistants were engaged in change within their organizations, at every turn I also found literature on well-being and self-care. I must admit, I was initially surprised at the breadth and sheer volume of information on the topic. But the more I’ve explored the role of the Assistant profession as it relates to change, the more I appreciate the necessity and connection between being able to start with change from within ourselves and building strong foundations for change within our organizations. Assistants have many ways to find opportunities in change and can guide leaders and teams through the good and the bad. We must remember, to best support others in shifting to a mindset open for change, we need to start first within ourselves.

Our leaders and teams

Ample research has focused on how mindset drives what leaders do and why. Shifting to a mindset for change means taking time, creating space for dialogue and focusing on new approaches. When leaders shift to a mindset which is open for change, the lens becomes more focused on creating nurturing working environments. This kind of working environment is built on strong foundations and is one in which the team feels open to discuss and continue to improve, impacting change in a positive way.

The administrative profession

As awareness grows of what it really means to be an Assistant and as so many work to change the perception of the profession through such tools as the Global Skills Matrix, embracing a mindset for change to keep this momentum going is essential. We need all of us to focus the lens on positive change for the administrative profession. Together we can change the perception, elevate the role and celebrate it for what it is – providing the crucial support needed to run our companies and lead our organizations through change in exceptional ways.

There are many ways to approach change in the organizations we work in. Assistants can take steps to engage in change by starting small from where they are right now, focusing on mindset, assessing and acquiring information, leveraging information and learning along the path to change.

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Aliina Rowe is a proud, experienced Executive Assistant who champions the unique and integral role of the Assistant in good, meaningful and impactful organizational change. She is a certified Change Management Practitioner and recently earned an Executive ... (Read More)

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