Brooke Wiseman had a vision: As executive associate to Daiichi Sankyo’s president and CEO in Parsippany, NJ, she wanted to utilize the administrative professionals in her company in a more productive way. She knew that a change was needed to help meet new business demands created by both the company’s expansion of its corporate and regional offices and a growing sales force. She explains: “While all members of the administrative staff had the same title, it was clear to me that there were wide variations in their roles, responsibilities, and effectiveness. I decided to explore ways to clarify expectations regarding the role, and to provide administrative assistants with the tools to become more highly productive and valued team members.”
Brooke succeeded in her mission and is the deserving winner of AMA's 2008 Innovation Award for Administrative Professionals. Her winning entry, “The Administrative Development Initiative,” is comprised of two training programs, the “Power of Partnerships Program” and “Monthly Roundtables.” Following is a brief description of each:
- Power of Partnerships Program focuses on enhancing the partnership of the executive and his or her assistant, applying a team-oriented approach that identifies the administrative professional as a key contributor. To begin, both the manager and assistant take the Myers Briggs Assessment (MBTI). Each assistant participates in six one-on-one sessions with a coach over a five-month period. Participants also engage in three customized training sessions dealing with topics based on their input. Fifteen administrative assistants and their managers participated in the five-month program.
Brooke fills in the details: “Throughout the Program I drafted numerous communications to be sent to the managers and assistants, managed the consultant and conducted periodic surveys with the participants. At the end of the five-month period, I gathered the participants for a closing evaluation session where I gave a presentation detailing feedback and results. Our CEO and I participated in the 2007 Program and greatly enhanced our partnership and communication skills.”
- Monthly Roundtables
Brooke initiated monthly Roundtables to allow the assistants to work cross-functionally—sharing company information and best practices, clarifying roles, responsibilities, and administrative processes, and creating opportunities for continuous personal and professional development.
“My vision for the Roundtables was to hold a structured event led by a different assistant each month,” says Brooke. “I attended three days of facilitation training, then, through coaching and mentoring, I gradually transferred leadership and facilitation of the meetings to other administrative professionals.”
As with any worthwhile accomplishment, the Administrative Development Initiative presented some formidable challenges. First, Brooke had to overcome resistance from executives, convincing them to allocate funding to the program. She explains: “The challenge was to provide the executives and assistants with the information in a way that would help them easily understand the design and goals of the program. I wrote a white paper titled ‘The Power of Partnerships: How to Form a High-Impact Partnership with Your Assistant,’ as a ‘how-to’ guide. It was based on my own experience and expertise through working with executives, along with the research I had conducted earlier.”
Brooke also had to deal with resistance from the assistants. “Some of our administrative staff had some hesitation about the program because it was new, involved change, and they weren’t sure how it would affect them,” says Brooke. “Participation and positive results allowed them both to believe in and fully support the program.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge, however, involved creating and implementing the Initiative while managing her regular workload, providing support to the company’s president and CEO. To reach her goal, for two years, Brooke regularly worked long hours, late into the evenings and on weekends while juggling family responsibilities,
Benefits to the Organization
In their Program assessments, the participating managers and assistants agreed that the programs had achieved their stated goals and made significant impacts on the organization. Specifically, Brooke’s Innovation Award-winning programs have resulted in enhanced skills and productivity for Daiichi Sankyo’s administrative professionals as well as improved partnerships between the executives and their assistants, including:
- More interaction
- More confident discussions
- The ability of the assistant to take on some of the manager’s responsibilities
- New recognition of the importance of communication
About AMA’s Innovation Award for Administrative Professionals
AMA’s Innovation Award celebrates outstanding examples of creative problem solving and innovation in administrative support. The primary purpose of the award, now in its tenth year, is to serve as an inspiration to administrative professionals as they advance in their professional development and seek new knowledge and skills. AMA presented the Award at the 2008 Administrative Professionals Conference, October 5–8 in San Antonio, Texas.
To be eligible for the award, the innovation must have been developed and implemented by administrative professionals and involve a fresh approach to a problem of significance in office or support operations. The innovation also must have been implemented for at least six months prior to the application deadline and have documented positive results.
It’s not too early to think about the 2009 AMA Innovation Award. For information, send an e-mail to [email protected]