How Can Executive Assistants Be Like Zappos?

tony hsieh desk close upThis title might seem strange to you: How can executive assistants be like Zappos. Hear me out.

In case you have not heard of this cutting-edge company, Zappos has 1,600+ employees who produce in excess of $2 billion in revenues annually. Zappos sells online shoes and clothing for men, women, and children. Tony Hsieh, 41-year old CEO, is a simple man. Although worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Hsieh does not need a big, elaborate, fancy office (photos of Hsieh’s workspace) and he chooses to live in a trailer park in Las Vegas instead of a mansion.

Zappos is also well-known for their “fun” work environment and culture while they deliver “WOW” to their customers, which it has done so in spades, serving millions of customers across the globe.

Tony Hsieh's desk
Tony Hsieh’s desk

The Office Dynamics team spent two hours in early December touring the Las-Vegas based corporate campus. We learned a great deal in those 2 hours which we can now apply to our own roles and business.

But what does this have to do with executive and administrative assistants? Starting in 2014, Zappos went from a traditional organization structure to Holacracy, a self-governing operating system where there are no job titles and no managers. My immediate thought was this new structure is all about self-leadership and accountability. Every employee is responsible for managing their work, their attitude, and their success (or lack of success). Imagine… employees can no longer complain about a “bad boss.”

You do not have to work for Zappos to practice self-leadership. Jasmine Freeman and I presented a 2-day workshop a couple years ago called Mastering Exceptional Self-Leadership. We covered more than 8 topic areas where an assistant can self-lead such as:

  • The 5 Pillars of Living a BIG Life (Career, Family, Financial, Spiritual, Wellness)
  • Self-Management vs. Stress-Management
  • Leading Boldly… Shining Brightly
  • Creating Transformative Strategic Partnerships
  •  Your Professional Trademark for Business Success
  •  Creating a Career Portfolio and Demonstrating Your Worth

The great news about leading yourself is you have control. Even when an event occurs at work that was not your “fault,” you can decide how you want to respond to it. You get to decide the level of quality of work you want to produce. You get to decide the attitude you want to embrace for today. As 2016 approaches, prepare yourself to mentally come back to work with an attitude of leading yourself. This also includes setting goals for your career and professional development.

Our staff chose to visit Zappos because we have challenged ourselves to be revolutionary; disrupting the status quo, in tandem with our theme for our 23rd Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence, The Revolutionary Assistant. We have all accepted the challenge, including myself, to demonstrate being revolutionary over the next year. To disrupt the status quo, a person has to explore new and fresh territory to stimulate their thinking and not get into a rut. We were definitely stimulated when we visited Zappos! Everyone on our team learned something that we can apply to our business.

Joan Burge


How will you disrupt the status quo?


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