Lindsay Taylor explains how to work quickly and efficiently without getting tongue tied

As a busy Assistant having to “think on your feet” is part and parcel of your role – you need to work quickly and efficiently without getting tongue-tied – in order to foster credibility and respect in your workplace.

So, how do you achieve this?

1 “Failing to plan is planning to fail”

Be as prepared as you can be for every eventuality. Pre-empt any impending or likely situations that could arise, holding the belief that “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” An excellent PA is proactive and always at least one step ahead of the situation.

2 Identify your outcome – what do you want or need to achieve?

Once you’ve identified any impending or likely situations, articulate your outcome and what it is you need or want to achieve. Use precise, towards language to verbalise this outcome. Towards language is vocabulary that has momentum and forward movement – you are moving towards achieving, gaining and getting the outcome you want.

Use the following format: [In the event that xxx happens, I will xxx.]

3 See, hear and feel it!

Rehearse the situation in your mind. Metaphorically step forward in time and imagine you have achieved your outcome. Notice what you can see, notice what you can hear yourself and others saying, and notice how you feel. In effect you are creating a sensory rich “future memory” – and, as sensory rich beings, that’s a powerful thing to do. This is a technique called “creative visualisation” and is something used by successful leaders across the world.

4 Fact find

Gain as much information upfront as you can for the impending or likely situations you have identified. When fact finding it is important to remain objective and collect data – leave any preconceptions and judgments out of the equation.

5 Resources

What are you going to need to achieve your outcome in terms of resources? Think about
the skills you need, the support from other people, materials and tools. Also think about internal resources – how do you need to be to achieve your outcome in terms of your internal state (eg confident, relaxed, energised, open-minded, assertive). Remember a time when you’ve had that internal resource and what it felt like to have it. Draw on that memory to recall the feeling.

6 Be assertive in your response

One internal state that is imperative in ensuring you do not become tongue-tied is assertiveness. You need to think about your communication in terms of the words you use, the tone of voice you use and the body language you use.
Be open, honest and to the point (I like to say “seal it with a KISS” Keep It Short & Simple!). Focus on problem solving, moving forward and thinking about the future.

With regard to an assertive tone think about how you say the words (“speak the meaning not just the words”), use evenly spaced words and a steady pace. With body language, ensure your eye contact is direct, relaxed and gentle and keep your posture upright and balanced (with your feet “planted” firmly on the ground).

7 Believe in yourself

Henry Ford (founder of the Ford Motor Company) said “If you believe you can or believe you cannot, either way you are likely to be right.” Understanding the power of your own thinking and “tapping” into your mind – believing in yourself – is imperative to your overall success.

8 Learn from every experience and opportunity
Use every situation as a learning opportunity by feeding back to yourself. If you were faced with a similar situation, knowing what you know now (for hindsight is a great thing) ask yourself:

What would you do more of?
What would you do less of?
What would you continue doing?
What would you stop doing?
What would you start doing?

Lindsay Taylor is the Director of Your Excellency Limited. A former EA herself, she appreciates the challenges and diversities of the role. Lindsay is a preferred training provider with The Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), one of the oldest ... (Read More)

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