How To Create An Administrative Community – and Then Become Its #1 Cheerleader!
Let me ask a question (raise your hand virtually if your answer is yes. Oh go on, no one’s looking!): How often in your Administrative career have you arrived at a new job, full of excitement and chomping at the bit to help your executive(s) conquer the world, and equally eager and excited to team mightily with all those extraordinary assistants already there – only to find you (and your executives) were pretty much on your own?
And how many of you hate this sinking realization as much as I always have?
I’ve been with Avaya since December 2000, and until April 2008 this was pretty much my (and every other Avaya Assistant’s) reality. Then in 2008 Avaya (a business communications and collaboration solutions company, with offices spanning the globe) began tearing down its internal business “silo” structures. Simultaneously, I teamed with other like-minded Avaya assistants to tear down assistant siloing within Avaya. Together we formed AWAN – Avaya’s Worldwide Assistant Network – pronounced “A-1”, because we ARE Avaya’s A-1 team!
Our motto is simple: Assistants Helping Assistants to Succeed!
We hold once monthly web meetings, we have a SharePoint website that is communally owned and operated by each of us, we hold global training events (on both internal and external applications/systems), our membership, enthusiasm, and participation have grown steadily … and I have happily become AWAN’s #1 Cheerleader!
Did we know what we were doing when we started? Nope, not a clue! Did we know that we could not or (maybe even) should not? Again – not a clue! And that turned out to be extreme good fortune for everyone: AWAN, our executives, Avaya, and I dare say even Avaya’s customers!
So what do I think were some of the most important decisions we made early on, contributing to our initial (and ongoing) success? Hmmm, let’s see…
- First and foremost, our motto! And then being vigilant about sticking to it and not getting sidetracked!
- Recognizing that our titles neither define nor separate us: whether EA or clerk we are all ultimately in the same boat and with the same goal: to help our Executives and our departments/divisions excel!
- That our survival as a community is identical to Avaya’s 3-pronged survival as a company: we must focus on our client’s needs (not our needs), we must collaborate together effectively, productively and efficiently, and we must be willing to continually grow and learn no matter the economic hurdles (if funding is not available, and it usually is not for Avaya Assistants, then we simply train each other or utilize free training resources such as Joan’s videos!)
- That AWAN is not about telling assistants how to do their jobs. We need to be a valuable resource for assistants so they want to participate and contribute. Membership in AWAN is always 100% voluntary.
- That networking is vital, but even more important is learning to network professionally and productively!
- That no one person or committee can or should lead AWAN. It’s just too big and quite honestly, no one has time! We are one cooperative, collaborative, cohesive community – with me as its de facto cheerleader!
- That if we are to enjoy longevity then adaptability and flexibility must become the bywords by which we are known! And lastly …
- That we need ongoing support from and name recognition with Avaya’s top leadership. This is crucial! AWAN simply will not go far nor last long without it. I’m happy to report that support and recognition is gaining more and more traction every day!
So bottom line: Do I feel a united assistant community is integral in helping a company achieve success? You bet! Is there one blueprint for creating a successful assistant community? One that fits every company? Nope! Just as each company’s structure is different, each assistant community must also be different.