3 Life Lessons 4 IMA @ 45
I was delighted to be invited to put together some thoughts to help IMA celebrate its forty- fifth birthday. Now we are all living till 90 plus you can argue that IMA if an individual entity is scarcely past puberty! And its adolescence has been a rocky ride – as I have witnessed.
From baby to child to grown up, IMA is the third incarnation of this wonderful association. European Association for Professional Secretaries, (EAPS), has evolved into European Management Assistants, (EUMA), to IMA - International Management Assistant to reflect the changes in level of responsibility and reach of the roles in the profession. We have survived recessions, restructuring of businesses and advances of technology. This flexibility is the way successful assistants have survived the world over. The current name marks its worldwide reach – a remarkable achievement.
The speed of change has accelerated over the past decade at an astonishing rate. Everything is getting faster, information and data more quickly accessed. You can identify illness and probable date of demise at the flick of an App – unless your WiFi goes down. Fresh from interviewing finalist PAs for National Awards sponsored by Angela Mortimer under the umbrella of Katie Bard in the Midlands, some stories stayed in my mind.
A student of 22 was brought into a friend’s five-person office for work experience. She was given tasks on Monday to last her the week. She completed all of them by Wednesday. She used her own routes and got there faster. They learned as much from her as she learned from them in this cross-generational informal learning.
Sophisticated clients are introducing new structures. They see the knowledge they need to run their businesses resides in different places and different people than in the past. A multinational client has started running a pool of people to supply services previously provided by secretarially trained administrative staff. In five months it has grown from five to fifty members supplying the needs of the two hundred plus trainee auditors. The recruits have a variety of skill bases, none with formal administrative training. The trained administrators have been promoted to Facilitators and pass on requests to the pool for travel, reservations or documents. They maintain the standard of service with a nine-minute fulfillment of providing a named operator for each task. Partners and Directors alone share dedicated PA/ Administrators. Specialist travel or hotel booking is routed to the pool of experienced operators. Again, cross-generational learning takes place. That and flexi hours help individuals and company operate smoothly.
Technology is now a plaything for children. A five-year age gap makes a 28 year old in awe of the grasp a 21 year old has of technology who in turn is outflanked by the 15-year-old coming up behind. As the present cadre of bosses retire, the new set of self-reliant managers will need a different type of support to be offered. Inevitably there will be a further differentiation of roles. Future jobs will have titles not currently used because the functions are not yet invented.
In our IMA meeting in Montacatini 15 years ago the strap line for the annual meeting was Life Long Learning. This has remained a constant reference for us all in whatever role we occupy but particularly for those in administrative roles, placed as they are in the crucible of technological change. Staying alert to changes and anticipating the impact on your roles can protect and steer your company and yourself into safe waters.
IMA visited Iceland in 2010 and I shared a platform with the amazing Vigdis Finnbogadottir, President of Iceland from 1980 – 1996 and the first woman in the world to be elected Head of State in a national election. She delivered a stunning speech. She spoke of changes in Iceland flowing from their financial meltdown in 2008. Big brand name shops vanished from Reykjavik together with big cars and expensive restaurants. People were forced to return into a simpler life style as the recession bit into the economy.
This made hard listening for all the delegates remembering what had been lost. She spoke of how life was regenerated from the ashes, the rebirth of national traditions lost and forgotten in the glitz and glamour of life before the crisis. The tradition of cake baking was revived for the unexpected guest. Friendly interactions encouraged the speaking of Icelandic and exchange of news and events – no texting. In itself this is important, as the language is vital for maintaining their tales of the past and their history. Iceland has no castles or palaces. They cannot survive the upheaval of this extraordinary part of the world. Its smoking volcanoes and the primeval forces of nature wreak destruction as they form new land. Their past is protected in stories and folklore, the tradition of the spoken word. To save petrol, friends walked and stopped at neighbors houses and talked again. Fabric shops were opened to sell patches to mend children’s trousers and so the making of clothes was revived. No one starved. All worked as a community, good fellowship replaced high living. A survey conducted a few years later showed a greatly increased level of happiness and satisfaction in a life that had previously faded at the peak of their wealth.
Our grandparents lived hard lives with little leisure. They saw the first rocket land on the moon - now so yesterday – and mobile phones replace landlines. We may have a further 30 years expectation of life than our grandparents - a curse or blessing dependent on health and individual attitude to life. Our challenge is to ensure the best years of our life have not yet been lived, whatever our age.
To stay ‘on trend’ and effective in social networking is beneficial to business. A marriage and name change can make an outstanding person vanish in a puff unless provided for by communication. Social media networking or face-to-face interaction keeps us current. Mental health is helped by good, strong relationships that give emotional support. Real life interaction gives genuine social interface, lasting and valuable, away from taint of cyber bullying and superficiality.
As Advisory Council member of IMA for 23 years I have watched conflicts resolved and frustrations diffused with toleration, understanding and kindnesses. Communication, the influencer of good outcomes, has been kept in the mix and assisted the development of each member.
The 3 Lessons I want to share with IMA are:
1. Protect your time and work balance.
2. Embrace the inevitable changes ahead. You cannot change what life throws at you but you can control your attitude toward it.
3. Seek out new learning to stay relevant and vibrant.
Technology brings advantages creating a life potentially less dominated by work. Think of all those 99 year olds in their self-drive cars, freed from the driver insurance problem and smile – with fortune, one of them might be you.
We owe profound thanks to our Founder Sonia Vanular who had the vision to see the need to create IMA. Under her Leadership it has grown into a unique network. She has worked tirelessly to gain recognition of the professional status of the Management Assistant. Her life goal has been achieved through the work of IMA.
Angela Mortimer is the Founder and Director of one of Europe’s most successful recruitment consultancies, Angela Mortimer Plc. Established in 1976, her company currently employs approximately 150 staff in offices across London, New York, Brussels, Paris, Geneva, Lyon, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The company has developed the careers of more than 200,000 individuals, mainly female, since its foundation.
Angela believes passionately in the need to encourage everyone especially women, to achieve their maximum potential. She seeks to inspire confidence and positive thinking by sharing insights developed over 40 years through training, public speaking and her blogs.
In 1995, in recognition of her company’s outstanding contribution to business life, Angela was made a Freeman of the City of London and is a member of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers. Angela is an International Speaker, delivering lectures helping women understand social and employment trends in order to achieve personal objectives. In 1996, she joined the Council of IMA - International Management Assistants (formerly known as EUMA) where she serves on the Affiliate Council advising on employment matters.
For a number of years Angela was a visiting lecturer on the Mountbatten programme in New York and supported graduates in finding placements after their Internship. Angela has made numerous appearances on television, including The British at Work on BBC2, Women in the Workplace, which was aired on television and radio, and produced a short documentary in collaboration with the Telegraph Business Club, highlighting the unique nature of the company she owns.
Angela is a patron and founder sponsor of the National Youth Ballet with an involvement motivated by the desire to foster the themes of women, youth and excellence. For several years Angela worked with the International Centre for Prison Studies counselling prison governors.
For over 12 years Angela served on both the Confederation of British Industries SME Council and The London Council of the Confederation of British Industry. In 2009 Angela was the winner of The First Women Awards for Business Services in association with Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets and supported by the CBI, and, in July 2003, Angela won the European Women of Achievement Awards in the Entrepreneur section. More recently, Angela was recognised by the Staffing Industry Analysts as one of the top 50 in their Global Power 100 – Women in Staffing list 2018.
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