Leadership Credentials at Work- afterthoughts from the DE-MD-DC IAAP Fall Ed Program

When it comes to the workplace, career administrative professionals deal with so many interesting challenges, priorities and personalities.  When the day is done though – many just want to hear the words, ‘Thank you’.

I’m grateful to have worked in many organizations that encourage an environment of strong mutual respect and direct communication. Yet, I hear over and over from my peers that mutual respect and acknowledgement of administrative support contribution is rarely encountered in the day-to-day work.

What’s been your experience? Have you ever pulled a co-worker aside to address this issue?  I suspect my love of what I do for a living –shows through– and leaves my co-workers with little doubt about my dedication, experience, and skills. I’m honest about what I cannot accomplish. I’ve got the worst poker face anyhow.. everyone can tell when I’m tired, frustrated, or just not 100 %.

I have to have enough self-awareness to not let my fatigue or hangry (that’s hungry +angry for those of you not familiar with the term) take over my vocal cords. I get out.. Get a walk. Get a drink of water. Maneuver my way into an earlier lunch break.

Most importantly, I pay attention to what is going on with the industry, the company I work for and the people I work alongside. I don’t need to know their personal business– but I can tell when we’re all in a time crunch.. and I can certainly recognize the face of someone that is overwhelmed.

Lately, I’ve been reading more blogs on leadership and employee engagement to help me get a better perspective.

Here are a few of my faves-

Dan Rockwell, LeadershipFreak
Alli Polin, Break the Frame
Jon Mertz, Thin Difference
Liz Ryan, Human Workplace
Lolly Daskal, LeadFromWithin — though I read her stuff almost every day!

So how do we show what we know and how competent we are.. if we are invisible as support staff to those around us? That’s the question lingering in many a competent admin’s brain cells.

I’d love to read your thoughts on this.. please do share! Thanks.

Suggestions of Admins to Follow for APC14NationalHarbor

Hopefully you’re on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Or, better yet..you’ll join one or both of these platforms right after my sessions on social media.

In either case, here are some admin leaders you might want to follow– and they happen to be here at #APC14NationalHarbor this week!

@JuliePerrine — All Things Admin

@LucyBrazier – Executive Secretary Magazine and her PA, @MatthewWant

@BonnieLowKramen-  Author, Be the Ultimate Assistant and hosts many superb training events with @RedcapeCo (Vickie Sokol Evans)

@RhondaScharf – On the Right Track Training

These are just a few!  Enjoy the conference!



Getting Inspiration- Reading Books!

I’m currently reading Thrive:The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington.

Here’s one of the paragraphs that has really stopped me in my tracks and made me ponder.

One reaason we give for allowing stress to build in our lives is that we don’t have time to take care of ourselves. We’re too busy chasing a phantom of the successful life (my emphasis- not the author’s). The difference between what success looks like and what truly makes us thrive isn’t always clear as we’re living our lives. But it becomes much more obvious in the rear-view mirror. Have you noticed that when we die, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success? (pg.15) 


Just wanted to stop and share this .. even thought I’m way off track of showcasing an admin a month.. :)  Oh, well.

~ Kemetia



Last day of #EFAM2014 — Passing the Gavel and Taking on the Challenge


Antoinette (Toni)  Smith, CAP-OM took on the gavel for IAAP’s International Assoc. of Administrative Professionals presidency for 2014-2015 year. Her walkup music, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’.. which I love.

Some highlights to Toni’s incoming speech:

  • Talked about the support of her supervisors and the role that has played into her success as an administrative professional
  • Recognized her Boeing colleagues– First-timers! and her family in attendance
  • The impact of IAAP membership.. on members
  • The challenge of moving the organization forward and move it forward quickly, to address the disconnect between the current workplace environment and the membership organization and governance
  • Challenged membership to help increase the number of certified members
  • Move to the electronic certification exam
  • Plenty of new leadership opportunities,especially with the transition to branches
  • Competition from other administrative professional organizations

The last day of EFAM is always bittersweet. Everyone is tired, but happy. Ready to go home but hating to leave behind our colleagues.


Please Pardon the Interruption– A Report from EFAM2014

Good morning from Milwaukee.
I have to say there is a ton of interesting news coming out of EFAM here in Milwaukee. Governance changes, education news etc. (See IAAP Web Community for full details under the revitalization blog)
From my own personal point of view.. It’s overdue and hopefully not too late to implement the many changes that IAAP is proposing, along with the ones already underway.

I’m certain there will be posts galore on the IAAP web community.. (hopefully respectful and appropriate MATURE discussions…) The board elections results were announced; the development of the CAP Study guide was announced; and the work-in-progress of the brand new (and online) Complete Office Companion was also announced.
IAAP gave attendees the Beta trial sample to the Complete Office Companion so they can provide feedback. Smart move!

It’s still amazing to me after all these years to come and meet so many amazing admin peers. I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

Here’s the BEST part of EFAM for me, so far.  Finally!  FINALLY! There is discussion and recognition that the geographic and corporate culture of the organization of where admins work – differentiates us from one another!! It’s not a snob thing! It’s the reality of the company we work for, the job skills required, the cultural expectations of the organization, and the cultural demeanor of your city.  I guess I’ve been trying to articulate this for years unsuccessfully.

What’s my take? It’s all positive, challenging and somewhat nerve-wracking. More importantly, IAAP must get the association in front of HR executives. The #IYOTSA2014 initiative to condense the vast number of titles and detail requirements of the positions is a great start to this.

An Interview with Victoria Rabin, CEO & Founder, Executive Assistants Organization


CEO / Founder
Executive Assistants Organization (EAO)
Behind Every Leader Events (BEL)

Ever since Victoria Rabin came onto the platform for administrative training, her passion and energy has captured the attention of assistants all over the world.  Her unique approach, her ability to garner presentations from some of highest level EAs in the business world, and her willigness to take risks has taken EAO on a fantastic journey of almost three years.

I had the benefit of speaking with Victoria and several members of her team at the November 2013 Behind Every Leader conference in New Jersey.  I later approached her about sharing some of her story with you.

Q1. You’ve had a whirlwind tour ongoing for about two years. What would you say has been your biggest challenge during this time frame?  How about your biggest success, the thing you want to brag most about?

A1. Indeed, in a mere two years EAO has changed lives, including mine.  What once was an inspired vision has now been realized.  And with that, EAO has the honor and the responsibility to take this vision to the highest heights.

This is an ongoing mission, and just like all remarkable quests, it has not and will not be an easy.
But let’s face it, If it were easy, EAO would have been realized a long time ago. For decades, Assistants have not been given the resources and support they truly need to become indispensable in their role. Why? Because seldom times do assistants make a stand. Until now.

The challenge with redefining any industry to one of power and leadership is simple.. Change is not always welcomed without a guaranteed advantage or certainty. Having successfully launched twelve active EAO Chapters, multiple EAO events and Behind Every Leader Conferences, as well as garnered some highly respected press coverage, I believe that EAO has broken through and become an epicenter for senior Assistants around the globe.

Q3. Your assistants must be amazing. Tell us a bit about delegating and working with assistants after having been employed as one for many years.
The amusing irony is that I was a successful Executive Assistant working for great Executives.  I am now a great Executive working for the success of hundreds Executive Assistants.

My team at EAO is extraordinary.  We practice what we preach and ensure that communication, trust, and upmost respect remain at the forefront at all times. No one can create anything to an exceptional standard solo. Working in unison is the only way to be the best of the best. I adore my team.

Q4. Do you see distinct tiers re: the level of skills and professionalism among administrative professionals? I know I perceive that to be the case.  What do you think pushes some administrative professionals to excel while others do not?

There are administrative professionals and there are career Executive Assistants.  I can say with conviction that the two are different breeds. EAO works alongside the career assistant.  This remarkable group of individuals are hungry to excel and possess an insatiable drive for excellence. Much like their relentless Executives. . They do whatever it takes.

EAO is not for everyone. Intentionally. We work with EA’s that make a stake in their future. That invest in their future and exude a dedication to excellence.

Q5. I know EAO is headquartered in San Francisco.  Have there been any cities during your travels that have surprised you?

At EAO we do not comply with one fits all. Each and every EAO Chapter boasts its own heartbeat. . Its own character.  We ask the most important questions and then we listen intently to the feedback we receive.  Every EAO is completely different. . And this is what matters to our members, and to us.

Q6. What do you think is the toughest  skill and /or the toughest soft skill for administrative professionals to conquer?

Communication is and always will be highly sought after topic for development.  EAO teaches members how to build a symbiotic and unbreakable partnership between the EA/Executive.
The toughest of all is staying current with the latest technologies, apps and efficiency platforms. The only way to always remain ahead of the curve is to consistently educate yourself.  At EAO we are very privileged to have technology webinars seminars and workshops taught by industry giants.

In addition to continued education and training (which is paramount in every quest for excellence) the equally most crucial aspect of personal and professional growth,  is sharing knowledge expertise and best practices with each other.  At EAO we urge members to make a habit of doing this each and every day. Our slogan ‘every Member is a Mentor’

Q7. (And I gotta ask this..!)  Have you ever caught yourself being star-struck when working with a celebrity or their assistant on BEL?  Tell us about it.

I have met some incredible people over the years. Needless to say, this is one of the ‘perks’ of leading this organization.  The interesting part is that each and every celebrity employer and his/her assistant was soughd out and approached, often more times than once, by myself and team with an undeniable and relentless proposition to join us on this exciting journey.  For me personally, receiving their acceptance and shared belief is the most riveting part of the initial introduction

But let’s face it, the real stars are the assistants.  They are the ones that make the Executive’s world turn each day. And now it is our chance to place each and every one of these remarkable individuals on a pedestal. One of my favorite quotes portrays how EAO value our members;

“Next to Excellence is the Appreciation of it” ~ William Makepeace

Stretch. Reach…. .and Sometimes You Pull a Muscle!

I have been working on this very ambitious project to interview admins each month and then post the Q&A here.

Well, I stretched.

I reached.

I pulled a muscle.  Not really.  But in the sense that I was overly ambitious and now I haven’t posted since April.

First, my apologies to my fellow admins that DO have their interviews in the post queue.

Secondly, my apologies to those friends wondering why I fell silent on my post.

A hard, but real lesson to learn.

Back on track now. Looking forward #EFAM twitter chat this week. Teaching at NVCC in June.  And a really big stretch, reach for me comes in late September/early October when I am presenting at the APC2014 at National Harbor in Maryland.

Hope to meet you at either EFAM (IAAP) in Milwaukee in July or APC2014 late September.

In the meantime, #KeepLearningKeepGrowing


IYOTSA 2014 Series #2 -Interview with Bonnie Low-Kramen – Part Two

PART II of my interview with the amazing Bonnie Low-Kramen, Author, Best selling author, Be The Ultimate Assistant

Q1.  Can you tell us about one of the most challenging situations you had as an assistant? And, how you approached resolving it?

It was the challenge of being a working mother which I think is pretty common. I often felt torn between my desire to be a great mom and my drive to be an ultimate assistant. I began working with Olympia Dukakis two years before my son Adam was born. When I discovered I was pregnant, I had a conversation with Olympia and asked if she thought it was possible to do both jobs well? Olympia is the mother of three children. She didn’t hesitate. Her answer was, “Absolutely without a doubt, yes. I think working mothers are the best employees to have because they have to be so organized and together.”

I clung onto that answer when I would bump up against those inevitable times when I would be traveling or needing to work and I would miss an important baseball game or a spelling test or a school dance. Hearing about it on the phone a day later felt pretty icky and like so many working moms, I had my share of guilt. I missed some precious little things too like driving Adam to school. I loved doing that. It’s amazing how much you can talk about in 10 minutes, isn’t it? I wished for heavy traffic.

As the years went on, my approach to resolving these conflicts was to try to plan as best I could so as to not miss the most important events such as the SATs and the proms. When I saw a scheduling problem, I would discuss it with my family and with Olympia. I realized I didn’t have to solve it alone. Adam appreciated that I talked about it with him and he was very understanding – most of the time. What mother doesn’t cringe at the words, “But you are never here!” Suffice it to say that I had to make some very tough decisions and I beat myself up pretty badly. I know I am not alone in this dilemma.

I loved being a working mom. My best advice is to not isolate and to share the challenges about needing to be in two places at once. Can one of us please figure out how to do that?

I happen to think that women can have it all. The caveats are that we can’t have it all at once and we need help and support. We cannot do it alone. No one can. If there is anyone who has, I haven’t met them yet.

Q2.  Traveling the world to meet and train assistants must be fascinating. My experience teaching has been that there can be a significant variation of skill set levels within the administrative assistant community.  Do you see this as well?

It is often difficult to quickly gauge an assistant’s skill level until I read their resume and/or see a writing sample. The more readily apparent skills are in public speaking and personal presentation. The clearest learning gap that exists in the workplace today is in MS Office and in Social Media because these technologies are changing so quickly. It is extremely challenging to keep up with the latest and newest. When an assistant says that she is “tech savvy,” it is very important to explore what does that mean exactly?

It is no surprise that the skill set levels are all over the map since so many assistants have received little to no training in their careers. Never before has professional development been more important in the workplace. When I first started, I was “winging it” every day because there were no books or classes to take. Now that there are, assistants must be proactive about seeking supplemental training to stay relevant, marketable, and employable.

Investing in and paying for training for the administrative staff is, astonishingly, still a fairly new idea for most companies in 2014. That must change in order for admins to stay competitive in an extremely challenging workplace. It is smart business for leaders to invest in training as it is one of the strongest motivators in job satisfaction.

Assistants need to take a close-up and personal look at their own skill set and determine where they need updates and improvement. Vickie Evans helps our students to do exactly that.

My advice to our Ultimate Assistant students is to actively seek training, even if they have to pay for all of it or part of it themselves. It is totally worth the investment in themselves. With some employers, it is a process and they will eventually pay for training if it presented in a justified way.

Q3. Tell us what you like to do to recharge YOUR batteries?!

I am a huge movie buff and crazy for stand-up comedy. I love the extremes. Crying my eyes out at a movie (The Green Mile, I Am Sam, and The Way We Were) and laughing until my stomach hurts are two of my favorite things to do (Kathleen Madigan, Louis CK, and John Pinette.)

Also, my idea of a good time is to sit out on my back patio on a gorgeous day with a notepad, a pen, and a bottomless glass of lemonade and write, write, write. OK, sometimes it is my laptop and a glass of cabernet. I let my mind just go and do what Vickie Evans describes as a “mind dump.” And then, of course, go to the Jersey shore – or most any beach for that matter – to listen to the surf. Heaven.

Q4.  What social media platforms do you like to utilize? Any preferences?

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, including 50 Linked In discussion groups. I am intrigued by their power to disseminate information at the speed of light. I am also struck by the idea that whatever we are all putting out there is forever. My personal policy is I do not send out anything that I would not feel comfortable being on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow. Doing this helps me sleep at night.

I think social media is infiltrating every aspect of our lives and that we have seen only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It’s vital to participate but we need to be careful.

Q5. Recently, a media story about a nasty LinkedIn response to a request to connect went viral.  Are you familiar with this story?  How would you advise admins to connect to someone they would like to meet or get mentor assistance from but haven’t met the person?

Brevity and honesty are key. Start short and sweet to begin a relationship with anyone, online or otherwise. Tell the person what caught your eye in their profile. Sincere compliments are good. Use the words “please” and “thank you.” Be clear that you are asking for guidance and if you ask for “10 minutes” on the phone, be sure to respect that promise. Offer help in return.

My own personal pet peeve are the people who contact me asking me for help to find a new job (for example,) and they do not use “please” or “thank you” or give any acknowledgement to the idea that I might be busy with other things. I find all of those things rude and disrespectful. To me, this is Assistant 101 and this behavior tells me they probably would not be an excellent assistant.

There is no excuse for rudeness in any medium, however. In response, I write what I need to say in a professional and polite manner. (See comment above I Q #4 about the New York Times!) After all, I am a teacher. If I don’t tell them, who will?

IYOTSA Series #2 Meet the Amazing Bonnie Low-Kramen – Part One

I had the wonderful opportunity to talk on the phone with Bonnie about her training series when she last visited Washington, D.C.  I had the honor of attending the session that she and Vickie presented at Executive Secretary Live in London last March.  You know that feeling you get when you recognize someone with the same dedication and passion about their career? Well, it struck  like lightening when I finally met Bonnie (and Vickie) face-to-face.  I present the first part of my two-part interview with Bonnie Low-Kramen. ~ Kemetia

Q1. Your experiences of traveling and training administrative leaders gives you a unique perspective. Has there been an ‘a-ha!’ moment when you’ve recognized a repeating pattern of meeting with so many in the field? 

It hasn’t mattered whether we’ve been in Chicago, Dallas, New York City, or London. ALL assistants are dealing with the same issues and have so much more in common than not. I am always struck by their intelligence, openness, and great appetite for knowing more. Our students are assistants at the highest levels and they come because they are hungry to learn more, to test themselves, and to get to know others.

The #1 challenge of assistants globally has to do with speaking up, as in the reluctance, inability, and refusal to speak up when they know they should but they don’t. In our workshops, I teach that assistants often know better about certain things than anyone in their office including their managers, and therefore, have an obligation and responsibility to speak up. By the end of our two days together, our students are leaning in and speaking up. The transformation – every time – is remarkable and visible.

Another very disturbing pattern I see globally is that bullying is epidemic, not only in the US but in the UK and all over the world. There is too much suffering in silence, leading by fear and intimidation, and too much tolerance of inappropriate behavior. We need to break the silence. This poison is damaging to the global workplace and costing millions of dollars. Our leaders (CEOs, HR) need to know what is going on and supported to take action because not only is it smart business, it is the right thing to do.

Q2. Would you say there is one particular skill or tool that experienced admins tend to let slide?

Tech skills – and for good reason. Most companies spend thousands of dollars on hardware and software but very little money investing in the people behind the keyboard who are operating the applications. Vickie Sokol Evans (www.redcapeco.com) reports that most users are only using 13% of an application’s capabilities! Imagine the increased productivity if the assistants were offered focused training that could bring them up to even 25%.

Vickie is a former assistant and a Microsoft Certified Trainer so our students benefit from the specific tips and tricks that every assistant needs. We have students who literally cry from happiness over the time they are going to save on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Plus, they will look like the superstars they are!

The assistants who want to ensure their continued employment, marketability, and relevance are committing to staying up to date on their tech skills, including social media. They are putting pressure on company management to offer training and allow time off to attend workshops. Assistants are making the justifiable case that the financial investment in training is like spending pennies to make dollars. The pay-off for companies is huge if they invest in the professional development of the assistants. From where I sit, it is not an option anymore for companies that truly want to stay competitive in 2014 and beyond.

Q3.  How did you come to partner up with Vickie Sokol Evans for your ‘Be The Ultimate Assistant’ training programs? Bonnie and Vickie

Vickie and I have known each other for about 10 years through a mutual colleague at New York Celebrity Assistants (NYCA.) As a co-founder and Board member of the organization, I brought Vickie in to present to several NYCA meetings and I saw what a powerful teacher she is. I believe she is the best technology trainer in the world and this is not hyperbole.

My idea was to design the workshop that I wish had existed when I first started my career working for Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis 25 years ago. I knew that it had to have a substantive tech component and my first phone call was to Vickie to discuss it. I know that Ultimate Assistants in today’s workplace need training in both the soft skills and the hard skills. Simply put, assistants will fail if they only have one skill set and not the other.

Vickie and I share a deep passion and commitment to effecting positive change in the work of the assistant. We are philosophically aligned and we have a deep respect for one another. She told me she would love to teach the tech component of the workshop and we agreed to begin with one to see how it would go.

I resigned from my work with Olympia in 2011 and Vickie and I just completed workshop #13 in Toronto!

Q4.  What insight would you share with administrative professionals that feel that their current job is intolerable and plan to leave it without a job offer in place?

I have heard from many assistants who contact me for help to find a new job because they are quitting their job usually due to a bullying situation between themselves and their manager or with a co-worker. The thing that gets me is that most are quitting before they ever even said anything to the person they are having the problem with! The discomfort and pain of confronting the situation is simply impossible for them and it is easier to quit.

Many of my students and assistants I mentor end up regretting doing that.

Before you quit, speak to 2 or 3 trusted colleagues/mentors about possible actionable solutions to save the situation. Do not act impulsively or out of emotion. I know that this is very hard to do and that is why assistants need support and training.

That said, all jobs come to an end and some sooner than later. Use the support of colleagues to help you decide if the end has come for you. In most cases, I advise not leaving before you have a new job but sometimes, it is better to get out of a toxic situation that will save your sanity and your soul.

Most assistants report that after they finally break free of a toxic work situation, that they go onto a much better situation and that they are on a path of improved growth. I love the emails from our students telling me that they spoke up and there was a GREAT result. There are lots of wonderful success stories! And here’s the thing – those success stories build confidence for the NEXT time an assistant needs to speak up.

Q5. If you could have a meeting with the Fortune 100 Human Resource Executive Officers to discuss administrative hiring and professional development- What would your message be?

I would discuss the idea that what staff, especially a predominantly female one, want the most are Respect, Appreciation, Fair Compensation, and a Sense of Value in the Company – in that order. If they want the company to be productive and profitable, they must invest in their people and actually ask them what they need and want in order to do their work.

I would discuss the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and why this is important.

And…I would advise them to give a copy of my book “Be the Ultimate Assistant” to every hire!


Bonnie Low-Kramen – Best-selling author of Be the Ultimate Assistant, A celebrity assistant’s secrets to working with any high-powered employer, Bonnie Low-Kramen worked for 25 years as the Personal Assistant to Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis.

Bonnie Low-Kramen

Her passion is about improving the American workplace through the training of assistants in workshops and presentations in major U.S. cities, Toronto, and London. Bonnie is a co-founder of New York Celebrity Assistants and is a contributing writer to Executive Secretary Magazine and Glassdoor.com, a workplace blog. Bonnie and Vickie Sokol Evans are traveling the world with their “Be the Ultimate Assistant” 2-day workshops, training inside companies, and speaking at global Conferences. Their passion and commitment is to inspire a healthy, productive and mutually respectful workplace through the empowerment and training of the world’s assistants.

Other ways to follow Bonnie: http://www.bonnielowkramen.com   Twitter  @BonnieLowKramen

LinkedIn  BonnieLowKramen   Facebook  Be the Ultimate Assistant page