I was on a call with one of my mentors (yes, I have more than one mentor) and she talked about a luncheon she attended in which a member of an organization was recognized with a woman-of-the-year type of award. She talked about the powerful, well-known women at the luncheon and their theme of paying it forward (they recognize that no one gets to the top or succeeds by themself alone, and they make sure to support others). After our call, I kept thinking about women paying it forward, and especially about paying it forward to other women. And that thought led me to administrative staff, and women admin staff in particular.
What is it about women (some women anyway; you know who you are) that makes them not congratulate other women, not cheer on other women, or not offer to help another women rise to the top or to meet a milestone in their career? Does it stem from their lack of confidence, lack of self-identity? Are they so petty-minded (mean, bitchy, narrow-minded, jealous) that they can’t (won’t) find the time to say a little something to the admin who deserves the praise, the recognition, or a push in the right direction?
I don’t recall consciously deciding to make a change and pay it forward, but since that call with my mentor, it made me reflect on being a champion for others (and administrators in particular; because you know, I’m an admin junkie at heart), aka paying it forward.
Nominate them for awards
I have pushed for (and sometimes took it all on myself) to nominate other administrators for various awards (from within their firm, or within their industry). If I needed to, I would go direct to their manager, “She deserves to be nominated for this award. I think you should nominate her, and I can help you get the nomination submitted.” Do they win the award? Not always, but that’s just the way it goes (there’s always the next year, or the year after that). So do what you can and push for admins to be nominated for awards. And when the admin does win an award (no matter the type or level of award), make a point to congratulate them. It could be as simple as sending them an e-mail saying “You rock!” The point is, you need to make the time to give them the recognition, no matter what form that recognition is in. They should be able to bask in the glory that is rightfully theirs. If you don’t do this for others, please start doing it—it makes their day and it takes such a small effort on your part.
By the way, I use to be notorious for handwritten notes—mailing my own handmade cards with my own photographs affixed to the card. In one 10-month period or so, I sent out 300 handwritten notes! Yes, I started keeping track of who I sent cards to; can you believe that? But I had to; especially after one person told me she received two cards from me, both recognizing her for the same thing. I still send cards; I just sent off a personal note to the woman who won the woman-of-the-year type of award. But, I no longer keep my “sent cards to….” tracking sheet.
Help them share knowledge
Since writing comes fairly easy to me, I tend to think other admins can write articles just as easy, or that they would enjoy putting their words on paper. I really should stop presuming that; wishful thinking, I guess, because of all the many admins I’ve known over the years, most of them groan when they are asked to write an article. So for those admins that you know are going to groan, be gentle, be encouraging, and be persistent. Help them share their knowledge, whether they put keyboard to computer, or pen to paper, or they stand up and give a presentation. Help them start small if they need to, such as a brown-bag presentation with other admins, which can usually be considered a safe haven for practicing their presentation skills (everyone is on the same playing level). Be flexible and inventive: I tried my gentleness, encouragement, and persistence tactic on one admin, asking her to turn her presentation into a written article for a newsletter—she would not budge. I told her I would take her PowerPoint bullets and turn them into an article, and all she had to do was proof it to make sure I captured her intent. When I offered to do that, she budged. What did she get out of it? Her knowledge-sharing reached a wider audience than just those attending her presentation; she was featured in a newsletter and the newsletter had a wide distribution list.
I am on a mission to get admins to share their knowledge outside of their usual one-on-one or small group, “Here, let me show you a better way to do that” setting. I want them to be thrilled and show off their byline. I want them to be thrilled when they get the positive feedback from their presentation. I want them to no longer be afraid when asked to write an article or make a presentation. I just want them to be able to savor the fame (however fleeting that may be) that is rightfully theirs.
Pay it forward, big or small
I don’t know why some administrators are so hesitant to pat themselves on the back, or tell their manager/supervisor of the kudos they received. If the admin doesn’t self-promote, who is going to do it for her? No one. Unless the admin has a mentor or a champion in her circle. Or a really cool HR person in the office.
Paying it forward (becoming a champion for others) doesn’t have to be big, or profound, or extremely significant. What matters is whether you—we—take the time to pay.
So, can you pay it forward, big or small? And if so, how are you going to do that?