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Enhance Your Credibility; Grow Your Career

Every administrative job has two components—a leadership role and a management role. In some organizations, two people perform these roles: an executive assistant handles leadership and strategic matters, while an administrative assistant handles in-depth management matters—financial, legal, marketing, or whatever issues concern the executive most.

However, for the vast majority of top managers, a single assistant handles both the leadership and management roles. If you want to grow your career, you should work consciously to shift the balance of your current activities in the direction of leadership.

Here are some tips to help you increase your credibility and influence (and your value to your boss and the organization), from AMA’s seminar Stepping Up to Leadership: A Course for Administrative Professionals.

20 Tips for Enhancing Your Credibility with Senior Management
These suggestions will help you boost your credibility with senior management, other managers, and your peers as well. Some will seem obvious to you, and you’re probably already using many of them. But these tips can still serve as a helpful checklist:

1. Give a definite assignment from senior management top priority and keep the respective manager informed of your progress.
2. Build up senior management. Never embarrass or ridicule.
3. Be supportive, not competitive. Your goal should be to demonstrate that you’re a team player, and that you want to further senior management’s goals.
4. Be predictable. Don’t shift your position from day to day. Senior management wants to know where its employees stand.
5. Keep your word. This means you have to be careful about the promises you make. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
6. Get your paperwork done on time. It’s one of the things by which your efficiency is measured.
7. Protect senior management from surprises. Be sure senior management has all the necessary information.
8. Tell senior management when you make a mistake. You don’t want to let senior management learn about it from another source.
9. Don’t offer alibis or thin excuses for errors; don’t lay the blame on your people; don’t try to lay the blame on senior management, even if senior management approved the action in advance. You’ll only cause hard feelings.
10. Get to know what senior management wants; this will let you carry out wishes without detailed explanation.
11. Show respect for senior management’s time. Visit often if you need to, but visit briefly.
12. Recognize senior management’s humanity. Senior management is vulnerable to fear, confusion, anxiety, and paranoia just like everybody else. Empathize.
13. Tolerate some bad moods. We all have to agree to get along.
14. Never deliberately go over senior management’s head. You cannot afford the resulting animosity.
15. Constantly suggest improvements, but don’t sulk if senior management takes credit for them. It’s your job to make senior management look good.
16. Let senior management know how they’ve helped you to develop. Show your appreciation by making every reasonable effort to further senior management’s plans.
17. Remember how important body language is. Folded arms and raised eyebrows send loud messages.
18. Look like a professional.
19. Never underrate senior management.
20. Maintain your sense of humor.

Strengthen Your Internal Network
Another strategy that will help enhance your reputation and influence is to grow your internal network. Determine the strength of your internal network with the following short assessment.

Instructions: Answer “Yes” or “No” to the questions below:
1. Do you know people at all levels of the organization? Do they know your name and what you do?
2. Do you know all of the people whose work intersects yours in any way?
3. Do you take every opportunity to meet face-to-face to define and discuss complex problems, shifting priorities, or areas of responsibility?
4. When you see a problem that involves people from various areas, do you take the initiative to bring people together to solve it?
5. Do you know and talk with others about trends that will affect your job in the future and the tools to get the job done today?
6. Are you involved in any cross-functional efforts or interdepartmental activities (temporary assignments, committees, task forces, special projects, volunteer activities)?
7. Do you know people who have jobs you might like to have someday?
8. Are you plugged into the grapevine? Do you find out quickly what's up?
9. Do you know effective internal channels through which to send information?
10. Do you drop by to see people—even when you don't need anything?

(Excerpted from Make Your Contacts Count. Copyright 2002, Anne Baber and Lynn Wayman with permission of the publisher, AMACOM, a division of American Management Association. All rights

The following exercise will help you grow your internal network:
1. List those people at work with whom you regularly interact.
2. List those people with whom you think you should interact. That is, who else do you want to know in order to get things done? (If you don’t know the person’s name, list his/her title.)
3. Place + next to those with whom you have a positive relationship.
4. Place – next to those with whom you have a negative, unproductive, or unpleasant relationship.
5. Place 0 next to those with whom you have no relationship or a neutral one.
6. Start with the + people. Consider steps you can take to confirm your relationships.
7. Next, look at the 0 people. Choose someone on the list and find a reason to get together.
8. Ask yourself about the—people. Consider why a relationship went wrong and what you can do to improve it going forward.

Calvin Coolidge once said, “We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”  Every change begins with one small step. If you dream of career advancement, start by adopting one or more of the strategies outlined here. The sky’s the limit!

About the Author(s)

Shari Lifland is Editorial Communications Manager for American Management Association.  She is editor of the eNewsletters "Moving Ahead," "Management Update," and "Administrative Excellence," and manages content for the Members-only section of AMA's Website.