People are the foundation of all businesses, and those who are team players will transcend the pack, explains Joan Burge
“No man is an island,” we’ve been told, and the truth of this quote stands strongly in the administrative career path. Whether there are two administrative professionals in your office or 200, joining forces with your administrative peers will contribute to greater success for your organization.
When administrative professionals work together, there is less duplication, resulting in savings to the company and increased profitability. You learn simplification techniques from each other, gain new perspectives, add freshness to your ho-hum routine, and even share technical shortcuts. Working together can mean cross-training for out-of-office coverage, and expansion of what the team together can accomplish that one person alone cannot do. Sharing expertise, mentoring, and offering to cover for your colleague are all great contributors to peer synergy.
In the business world, we do not work in a vacuum. We cannot only think about “me, myself, and I.” If we do, we will miss so much and fall behind our peers who share and help each other. People are the foundation of all businesses. Those who help each other, develop their emotional intelligence to work well with others, cross-train, and show up each day ready to be team players – they are the shining examples who will transcend the pack, rising to the top.
To really make peer synergy work, you must value diversity. Some of the dimensions of diversity are background, religious beliefs, education, income, race, gender, social status, and age (just to name a few factors).
The beauty of diversity is that everyone has something to bring to the table. In fact, if you want to create the perfect administrative group or team, you need Assistants who each bring a different gift or perspective to the group. You need members who are big-picture communicators and others who are detailed communicators. You need some Assistants who are social individuals and some who exhibit get-down-to-business personalities. While it is easier to collaborate with Assistants who are just like you, that is boring and not the most effective use of peer synergy. You must enlarge your vision if you are to bring greater value to your executive and your organization.
Just think: Each of us is made a certain way with specific gifts and abilities. But the way we are shaped and the gifts and abilities we have also create blind spots in our vision. We can’t see 100% of everything or be right all the time. By working together, we can help each other with our blind spots. That way, we increase our vision by working together. We limit our negative tendencies, fears, insecurities, and ignorance.
Your goal is to create a healthy workplace with your peers – one that is filled with trust, respect, and cooperation. If some of your administrative peers do not wish to participate, it is okay; simply move on. Be the light through the dark sky. You can be the one who leads by your actions, and many times you will find other Assistants eventually follow you or light the way with you. It’s extremely rewarding.
Coming together is better than fighting for your own agenda alone. It is much easier for management to say “No” to one person than a group. This does not mean that I am advocating that you organize a union. I want to be very clear on that.
When you are trying to create change, whether in a process or for the administrative community in your organization, it is much easier to be persuasive when there is a group. There is strength in unity.
The Power of Teaming
Teaming brings holistic energy. Instead of working in silos, which is the case for many Assistants, seek to work with your administrative peers. Consider working with them equivalent to being well-rounded, full, universal, complete, all-inclusive, and whole. Doesn’t that make you feel better and stronger when you read what is possible? Instead of trying to figure everything out on your own, wasting precious time and energy, you can increase your productivity and experience better outcomes.
Now that you are sold on collaborating more with your peers, how do you do that?
1. Be Interested in People
You create synergy with your administrative peers when you show a sincere interest in them. What do they like to do inside and outside work? Do they have a hobby? Do they like to travel? Sometimes it is just learning the basics about your peers. Be interested in their challenges at work as well as their areas of expertise. Is there a hot project they are involved in? Do they work out at the company fitness center? Are they hooked on a television show or going to school at night? Be interested in whether they are having a bad day. Show understanding and empathy. Help them achieve their goals. When you help others achieve their goals, they win and the organization wins, which affects you!
Mentoring, in its most basic form, is one person teaching another. Mentoring relationships often develop on an informal basis, as a result of one person working closely with another person. Any working relationship has the potential to be a mentoring situation.
As a mentor:
- share your wisdom with a fellow employee, which will teach you the skill of training through explaining how to do certain tasks. You will also master the art of coaching through offering constructive criticism. These are skills that organizations are seeking, and skills you will need to succeed in the workplaces of today and tomorrow.
- set an example of professionalism; demonstrate a strong work ethic to a mentee who is eager to follow your lead. By showing your mentee the right way to do things, you help your company create a more qualified pool of employees and show you are a team player.
- be prepared to give and take. For a mentor, that may mean being patient and juggling a hectic schedule while answering questions your mentee will undoubtedly have.
3. Welcome Input
Input comes in various forms… and provides a variety of information: input on your performance; input on the meeting you just hosted; input on a technical shortcut; input on an idea you have.
The idea is that you want to receive input, but of course, how the message is delivered is important. Since you can’t control how your administrative peers will communicate with you, just be open to the idea that they are sharing with you. Put aside the way they said it or presented it. However, if they are downright rude, that is different. In that case, you may correct them in a professional manner.
I am talking about being open and encouraging input. Ask fellow administrators what they think about your idea or approach to a problem. Tell your peers that you are interested in knowing any technical shortcuts they know. Ask them to share the ins and outs of getting meeting rooms or getting another department to cooperate with you.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. If someone in the office is an expert in an area, ask for their advice. That is what being on a team is all about – combining the strengths of a group of people to produce stellar results.
4. Cross-function Ideation
Ideation is the process of creating new ideas. Cross-function ideation is the creation of ideas across a function, thus increasing the available input of fresh new ideas and creative solutions, while eliminating blind spots.
For example, suppose you work in a legal group supporting dozens of lawyers. Several people, professional consultants, submit invoices for their work with the lawyers. But your company is slow to pay the invoices, and you do not know why.
You contact Accounts Payable and work with your counterparts in that department to develop a better invoice template that contains the information necessary to obtain faster processing and approvals without delay. They are thrilled that a user wishes to improve the process and jump on board to show you what needs to change, and even provide samples of what they’d like to see used.
Through creative ideation, after learning that the invoices were slow to be paid due to missing chargeback information, an incorrect general ledger account number, and the “bill to” field missing the company’s name, you develop the new template and pass it by Accounts Payable. You then give the vendor the invoice template, show them what fields to complete, and monitor the first several uses to ensure no further tweaking is required.
That is cross-function ideation. And that’s a true story of how it creatively solves problems at work!
Celebrate Your Peers’ Success
Far too often, administrative professionals have a reputation for displaying jealousy. This does not look good in the eyes of management and diminishes the profession. When you are strong and confident within yourself, you can easily rejoice in the success of a peer. Think about yourself. What would you want from your peers? How would you want them to react if you were given an award or recognized for a great job? When we share in the victory of another person, we all win.
This doesn’t mean you have to throw a big party. It means when a peer comes to you and says, “I am so excited – I achieved the completion of an entire 8-week class,” you reply, “Great job! I admire your commitment to your education.” Or if an administrative peer was given a special award within your organization, send a congratulatory email.
Be happy for others’ success, and let it encourage you that anything is possible. Take time to dream about what you would like to do, and then use that motivation and momentum to make your own dreams a reality.
We discussed welcoming input above, but this is different. This puts the action on you. Be willing to share all your vast knowledge. Think about the number of years you have worked, all the places you have worked, the people you have met, and your wealth of knowledge. Don’t be stingy! If you know a shortcut, then say, “Hi, Madison! I learned a great shortcut in Outlook. Would you like to see it?” Extend your best practices to others for their benefit. You may think that every good Assistant must know what you know. That is not true.
You can hold weekly collaborative meetings. If you decide to take this on, make sure your meetings are organized, expected outcomes are communicated, and they end in action items. These meetings are not a venue for Assistants to complain and whine. Issues and problems can be discussed, but it should only take 5 minutes of the entire meeting time. The group needs to spend most of the time on problem-solving and decision-making.
You can identify a specific topic for each meeting. For example, at one session, everyone brings a best practice related to technology; the next session, each attendee brings an idea and resource on meeting planning. Or your meeting can have a set agenda, such as:
- Welcome by meeting host (it is a good idea to take turns)
- Quick overview of today’s meeting with objectives or expectations
- Share what has happened since your last meeting with each other
- New items such as projects your managers are working on, news about the organization or organizational changes, or seasonal items of importance
- Optional: Everyone brings at least one article, a handout, or a resource related to the topic. If there are 10 people in attendance, then everyone walks away with at least 9 new pieces of information!
This is also the time to make suggestions whenever appropriate, flag potential problems, or share ideas that you think will benefit a project or the company.
Trust Your Colleagues
It is true that some Assistants have been burnt. I have heard stories about Assistants who opened up or shared all kinds of information, only to be hurt or feel overworked. If that happens, move on. Don’t let one or two incidents hold you back from building a good relationship with other administrative peers. Keep in mind that you and your co-workers are working toward one common goal – a successful company. Have faith in each person’s ability.