“What is an Executive PA?” and “What skills and attributes are needed to be an effective and efficient Executive PA?”.  These two questions are posed at many of Lindsay Taylor’s workshops and training courses, along with an  A-Z structure to help organise thinking. 
Lindsay is a former PA and now Director of Executive Coaching & Training organisation Your Excellency Ltd.  Over the years Lindsay has collated a wealth of input from admin professionals worldwide. The resulting “A-Z” list that Lindsay now holds forms the basis for our new ongoing article – A-Z Pearls of Wisdom.  
“The role of the PA is diverse – it differs from organisation to organisation, from sector to sector, from team to team” says Lindsay “For me, that’s what makes the role so exciting.  More and more organisations are realising the worth of their admin professionals.  Executive PAs are increasingly being accepted as one of the management team – with this status comes the need for specific skills and attributes, specific pearls of wisdom -  that will ensure your overall success.  With every new client there comes a new input, a new idea, a new perspective – very often backed up with a relevant and interesting story or experience, hence my extensive list!  I am delighted to be writing this ongoing article for Desk Demon, picking out the top skills and attributes identified by my clients and sharing some A-Z Pearls of Wisdom”. 
A-Z Pearls of Wisdom
A is for...Assertiveness
We’ve all heard of the “fight” or “flight” syndrome - when faced with situations outside of our control our immediate reaction is likely to be one that is either:
Aggressive - where we react with verbal/physical fighting or 
Passive - where we run away physically or mentally (by burying our heads in the sand or ignoring it). 
It’s a primal response that stems way, way back. Imagine yourself now -  way, way back in time – let’s say the Stone Age. You’ve spent the morning kitting your cave out with the top of the range stone accessories (carved by your own fair hands) and you’re looking forward to a relaxing evening watching the sunset. So when an intruder approaches your cave (he’s heard of your talent with carving stone accessories and fancies taking something for himself!) your instinctive reaction is likely to be one of two responses – do you a) pick up the heavy brick club that you keep by your side at all times, wave it high above your head and fight him off or b) take flight out of the back entrance of your cave as fast as your deer-skin-clad little feet will take you (flight)?  That’s what the fight or flight response is.
In the work place the “fight/aggressive” or “flight/passive” responses are ineffective with negative implications to you and your team.  Neither response will win you the respect of you team members or ensure you are considered a valued professional.  Recognising when the primal fight/flight reaction could potentially take hold is crucial for your success. Understanding that you have a choice over your reactions is paramount – as is the knowledge that the best choice available to you is “assertiveness”.  
So what is “assertiveness”? 
For me, it’s about standing up for what you think, for what you believe  in – and at the same time respecting the fact that not everyone will think the same as you do. People have different perspectives on things - everyone “ticks” differently, we are all unique in the way we are made-up.  This is what makes the world such an exciting place to be. This is what makes the world such a challenging place to be.  
So, how do we react and communicate assertively?  
Based on the research of Harvard Professor Albert Mehrabian, communication can be broken down into three areas - 1) the words that we speak 2) the tone that we use and 3) the body language that we use. The words that we speak account for 7% importance in getting our message across, the tone for 38% and the body language for 55%. If we use Mehrabian’s research in terms of responding assertively then it is clear that we need to pay attention to how we deliver our assertive message as well as the actual words and verbage we use.  
I am an advocate of the saying “failing to plan is planning to fail” – so where possible take time to plan your assertive response. You can think about your response in terms of the three Mehrabian’s areas with the following “checklists”:
Assertive Words:
- Be open, honest and to the point
- Use “I” statements – this is about your view
- Share your feelings – take ownership of the fact that we are emotional beings. Say “I feel....” and claim the emotion you are feeling
- Acknowledge your own rights, wants  and needs
- Ask questions of others to find out their wants and needs. Empathise with the other person(s) views and respect the fact that people are different and have different views. 
- Focus on problem solving, moving forward and thinking about the future.  The ideal outcome for any assertive response is for a win-win situation. Propose a way forward and then “bounce” this back to your  recipient asking them what they think
Assertive Tone: 
- Think about how you say the words
- Speak the meaning, not just the words 
- Think about the timing of your response – put your own view forward and allow others to have their say 
- Ensure your breathing is relaxed and steady 
- Use evenly spaced words 
- Speak at an even pace
- Emphasise key words 
Assertive Body Language
- Ensure your eye contact is direct, relaxed and  gentle
- Deliver your message at the same eye level to your recipient(s) 
- Keep your posture upright and balanced (“plant” your feet firmly on the ground – so you feel truly “grounded”)
- Ensure you are facing the other person and at the same time respecting their personal space 
- Ensure your gestures are balanced and open
- Ensure your facial expression is open and pleasant 
Assertiveness Aura
In addition I believe assertiveness is at its most powerful when you achieve an Assertiveness Aura – a state of being, a presence, an aura that comes from your belief in yourself – the belief that you are entitled to be assertive, that your opinion is valued and deserves the respect of others.  

Our next article covers this in more detail : B is for...Belief.
I very look forward to sharing more A-Z Pearls of Wisdom with you and if you’ve enjoyed reading this article please do feel free to leave your comments below.
About the Author:  
Lindsay Taylor is the Director of Your Excellency Limited, an executive training and coaching organisation in the UK.  Lindsay specialises in delivering training and coaching to PAs, EAs, Secretaries and Administrators across the world and believes that fun, experiential training delivered in a jargon-free down-to-earth manner will ensure a memorable experience and optimise learning. 
Lindsay herself spent 10 years as a PA and Executive Assistant in organisations in the UK and USA, including Transamerica Corporation the innovative financial services and products provider.  
When Lindsay retrained as a Coach and Trainer, gaining practitioner status in Neuro Linguistic Programming, (NLP),  she realised the huge benefit of these skills to PAs in improving and maintaining a great working relationship – with themselves, their boss and the teams they support.   Lindsay is passionate about sharing her knowledge.  She develops and delivers unique programmes that utilise the tools and techniques of NLP in a fun, jargon-free way ensuring the skills are instantly useable by PAs to reach their full potential.  
In the UK Lindsay is renowned for developing and delivering the fun and experiential  workshop “Be a PA with PA – Perfect Awareness”  specifically for PAs, EAs, Secretaries and Administrators.  Lindsay believes the tools and techniques are hugely beneficial to PAs in improving and maintaining a good working relationship, enabling them to work more effectively and efficiently in supporting individuals, teams and the business as a whole.  The workshop receives high acclaim across the UK for providing communication, awareness and rapport-building skills to PAs serious about creating a strong professional identity and ensuring their time is spent as effectively and efficiently as possible.  The training carries the endorsement of The IAM (Institute of Administrative Management).  
Lindsay is an Associate Trainer with Reed Learning and delivers the IAM endorsed PA training programmes across the country and with several high-profile inhouse clients.  Lindsay is also an Associate Trainer with various international training companies and develops and delivers bespoke programmes to administrators worldwide, something she readily admits is her favourite aspect of training! 
Previous delegates and attendees of Lindsay’s training have commented: 
“A must for all PA’s or those working in a ‘team’ environment.  Gives a greater understanding of what makes people tick” – President, Association of Celebrity Assistants (UK)
“Best workshop so far – real advice for real people – totally practical and fun” – PA, National Health Service (UK)
“Thank you very much for a lovely day!  You clearly explained some very interesting concepts, group involvement was really good with lots of encouragement”  PA, Global Travel Company (UK)
“One of the most interesting and informative course I have ever done!” – PA, Legal Firm, London (UK)
 “Lindsay exudes friendly professionalism, teaching instantly useable skills in a down to earth manner” – PA, Private Estate (UK)
“This workshop gave me a great insight into NLP and taught me ways in which to use NLP techniques in my work place – a great course for all – not just PAs” – Events Co-ordinator, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UK)
“This Workshop provides all the tools to improve and develop greater communication” – Project Administrator, London Law Firm (UK)
Lindsay grew up in Hong Kong and has lived in the UK, France and the US.  She adores the experience of working in different cultures and meeting new people.  She thrives on being busy – approaching everything she does with energy, drive and a real zest for life. To contact Lindsay, please click here.