In this, our fifth webinar, we were thrilled to be joined by none other than international speaker and the best-selling author of ‘Be the Ultimate Assistant’, Bonnie Low-Kramen

Bonnie, who is at the forefront of thought leadership in relation to the executive assistant world, was the celebrity executive assistant to Hollywood actress, Olympia Dukakis, for 25 years. An influential keynote speaker, Bonnie also delivers training to executive assistants around the world.

We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing Bonnie’s pioneering training first-hand when we attended her ‘Be the Ultimate Assistant’ session in New York last month (March). Her level of insight and experience is truly inspirational, so much so, that we invited her to share some of her valuable pearls of wisdom with you in this webinar.

If you weren’t able to make it, you can watch the video here, and below are the key takeaways from the webinar.

We’ll be hosting weekly webinars on various subjects which are impacting our clients and candidates – details of the events will be on both our LinkedIn page and my LinkedIn profile, so make sure you’re following us for the latest updates!

Key takeaway #1: Why Assistants are more important than ever
Assistants are being called upon to rise to the occasion, which they are doing all over the world. While these may be challenging times, situations such as these, play to assistants’ strengths because they’re planners by nature.
They know how to respond quickly to change and have the ability to bring teams together, whether that be on video calls or other forms of remote communication. It’s the people behind the scenes who are really important right now in making sure everybody pulls together. As team players, Assistants are at the forefront of making this happen.

Key takeaway #2: What are the main challenges for Assistants?
Adjusting to the current situation, which involves having to communicate in different ways (i.e. via Zoom or other forms of video conferencing) and not going into the office every day, which can be unsettling.
Many assistants have great relationships with their managers and colleagues, and then, all of a sudden, they find they’re now having to deal with a whole new ball game because everybody’s working remotely. What’s more, the current ways of working aren’t seamless because everything’s so new. For some, additional communication may be required, which may result in Assistants feeling more stressed. In the meantime, many assistants may find they have too much work to do, while others, don’t have enough…

Key takeaway #3: What are the opportunities that are presenting themselves?
On-boarding virtually is a big opportunity and Assistants are integral to helping shape the future virtual on-boarding process. There will soon come a point when HR, administration and business support functions will become overwhelmed with ‘return to work’ plans, which presents opportunities for Assistants to step up and help. They have access to the whole company and this insight is invaluable. You probably already know how job descriptions have changed, if so, offer to rewrite them or help with rethinking title structures. Or perhaps you could create a list of the tasks that didn’t get carried out pre-crisis and propose how they can be revisited virtually? Creating documents that contain details of people’s contact information and core skills is simple, but highly effective.
Now’s the time for Assistants to brush up on their technical skills by getting/updating their Microsoft Office qualifications and taking part in other training that can offer long-term value.

Key takeaway #4: Why leaders need the unique perspective assistants can offer
Many CEOs and leaders have been caught off guard by the current crisis, and so too have their teams. This has resulted in them having to make tough decisions (e.g. laying off staff) and acknowledge that everybody deals with stress differently.
This is where Assistants’ emotional intelligence can really help. It’s important leaders are mindful of when their staff are at their best and, with their Assistants’ help, factor this in when scheduling VC calls. The best leaders right now are tapping into their teams with the help of their Assistants.

Key takeaway #5: How Assistants can be part of the conversation
Leaders may not realise this, but they need the perspective of their Assistants more than ever right now. Assistants should be looking to align themselves with their leader’s goals by showing maximum empathy and putting themselves in their shoes. This can be achieved by having sight of their leader’s inbox, so that they can gain oversight of the issues at hand.
Now’s the time to also ask to sit in on meetings (remember our 30 day challenge, to sit in on one senior meeting in the next 30-days 😊). Be proactive, if your leader’s overwhelmed with the messages that are in their inbox, agree to respond on their behalf.

Takeaway #6: What strategies can Assistants use to exert their influence and make sure their ideas are heard?
First and foremost, Assistants need to put themselves in their boss’ shoes and think about what they most need help with. Persuade them to sit in and take the minutes for certain meetings and, more importantly, work collaboratively.
Assistants that may see themselves as being more of a senior executive should mentor their junior colleagues and help them through the situation. Use team meetings to acknowledge everybody’s subject matter expertise and teach each other something new. Finally, if you have any ideas for how things can be done better, NOW is the time to share them! 

For more information or support please get in contact with either ourselves or Bonnie via her LinkedIn or email. You can also check out Bonnie’s website to access her wealth of resources, podcasts and training.