What idea do you have that could help make your workplace better? asks April Stallworth
I recall early on in my career as an administrative support professional how my co-workers and I would lament and complain about upper management not doing anything to help fix the problems that we had self-identified in the organization. We would often begin our conversations amongst ourselves with, “when are THEY going to do something about….” and “THEY really need to get a handle on….” Little did I know at the time, THEY were never going to be the ones to transform our workplaces.
Fast forward many years later as I progressed up the secretarial ladder. I found myself supporting a cabinet-level Executive in a large, public school district. It was Administrative Professionals Day, 2014. You wouldn’t have known it because there was no acknowledgment of it anywhere in the building. No sign, no thank you for all you do, NOTHING. This lack of appreciation sparked a fit of righteous anger in me that finally stopped me from pointing the finger outward and instead I started pointing the finger inward. I asked myself, how could I and my fellow support professionals let this happen? Better yet, what were we going to do about it? The THEY had finally become the US. I was going to lead the charge to figure out a way to ensure that our 150 administrative support professionals in the district felt valued, had meaningful training opportunities, resources, networking events, and better communication within the district. It was then that the H.E.A.R.T. program was born. H.E.A.R.T. stands for Helping Empower Administrative support professionals through Resources and Training.
The vision of H.E.A.R.T. was to have a world-class team of administrative support professionals who were well informed, collaborative, technologically astute, personally & professionally developed, and committed to excellence. We would realize the vision by establishing multiple channels of communication, networking opportunities, access to technological resources, and personal & professional development training that would help the administrative support professionals of our public school district excel, lead, and grow. By achieving this vision, we would have higher morale, retain more employees, provide superior levels of customer service, increase our sense of community & teamwork, and obtain advanced skill levels while achieving financial savings for the district. Our goals were ambitious, but we were also determined to raise the profile of administrative support professionals throughout the organization. We took on a huge challenge and we were very successful in our undertaking. H.E.A.R.T. went on to win the American Society for Administrative Support Professionals (ASAP) very first Eureka Award in 2015.
Through H.E.A.R.T. we were able to participate in a variety of personal and professional development training. This training included the expertise of local management experts, motivational speakers, and technical gurus. We spent time networking with each other and various other people in our organization that we had never had the opportunity to spend time with. One of our favorite activities was participating as a group in a community service project.
Some of the things that made H.E.A.R.T. so successful were the key elements we put in place. We created a big vision, enlisted sponsors, rallied participant support, set goals, established a growth track, and ensured we used little to no financial resources to begin. We did so because we were implementing this program in a very impoverished district in terms of funding. We didn’t want to be another drain on the system. We also wanted to take the time to prove our concept and its benefits before asking for investment into something that had not yet been tried and tested.
So, what does your heart beat for? What idea do you have that could help make your workplace better? How can you start pointing the finger inward and being the THEY in your story? What unique skill and ability do you possess that can contribute to the environment you spend the majority of your day in? If you knew you could not fail at implementing something really amazing at your company, what would you dare to do? By answering these questions you can begin creating the blueprint for a new expression of yourself that may solve a current workplace problem or develop a new idea that is just waiting to take off.
I encourage you today to just go for it. Don’t focus on the worse thing that could happen. Instead, set your sights on it working out just as you planned.