Author: Bonnie Low-Kramen

The Training Executives Really Need to Succeed

Bonnie Low-Kramen Office Life Support

By Bonnie Low-Kramen | SmartCEO Magazine | January 2017

This column gives me the golden opportunity to share burning workplace issues with CEOs and leaders. I get to pull the curtain back on what your support staff is thinking and needing. This piece is about the need to train new managers on how to utilize an Executive Assistant. Why? Because most don’t know. This is important information that is not taught in business school or anywhere.

Imagine this. You are a new driver and one day you go outside to find a brand new car with the keys hanging on the window with a note that reads “Good luck!” The car is filled with gadgets and shiny buttons but there is no physical manual and no one to tell you what to do.

Here’s the problem. You want to drive the car NOW. So you struggle to understand how to unlock the driver’s door and finally figure out to turn the car on. You find the online manual but you keep bumping into buttons and symbols that you don’t understand which ends up being frustrating almost on a daily basis. The annoying and energy-consuming learning curve continues for several weeks and months.

Unless an executive brings their EA with him/her to the new company, this is how it feels for a new executive to be given a new Executive Assistant.

Assistants around the world report that they feel underutilized and poorly managed. Why? Because there is no training for the executives about how to use assistants.

Assistants believe that what is strongly needed is a 2-3 hour training class about what an Executive Assistant does and how to best utilize her/him. This training would be an integral piece of the onboarding process. It would include a conversation on what is and is not appropriate to ask of the assistant. In coordination and cooperation with the HR team, this training would be delivered by a high level Executive Assistant and take place during the first week of employment.

The advantages of doing this training for newly hired executives are;

  1. Instant Comfort Level. Executives get to hit the ground running by having the answers to FAQ right from the beginning.
  2. Expert Knowledge. No one knows the way the company really works better than the Executive Assistants.
  3. Save time and angst. This information sets up the executive and the assistant for success by clarifying processes and expectations. The training also allows for red flags and potential problems to be revealed and handled immediately.

As the workplace gets more and more complicated, the need for training is becoming more urgent and pressing. The role of Executive Assistants is evolving and many are taking on the role of a strategic business partner to their executives. Some discussion is called for because every company is different regarding how they handle onboarding and the assignment of staff. Assistants are often acting on behalf of their executives, writing their emails, and sitting in on meetings. For both the executives and the assistants, to do all this seamlessly takes time and training.

The time that is taken for training during the first week will have long-term positive pay-offs for everyone.

Link to original article:


Connecting the Dots: A Key Attribute of the World’s Top EAs with Guest: Debbie Gross, CEA at Cisco | Ep. 21


Bonnie, Debbie, & Vickie
From left: Bonnie, Debbie Gross, & Vickie at Executive Secretary LIVE Dubai, Nov 2016
John Chambers & Debbie Gross
Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers presenting Debbie with the Colleen Barrett Award in 2015.

Debbie Gross is respected as one of the top assistants in America. She has been working as an administrative professional for 40 years and for the past 25 years, as the Chief Executive Assistant to John Chambers, former CEO, now Executive Chairman of Cisco in California. Read more

Listen Up! Bonnie interviews Lucy Brazier at Exec Sec LIVE Dubai (21 min)



Do you want to know more about Lucy Brazier, the visionary leader behind the Executive Secretary LIVE conferences and Executive Secretary Magazine? We did! Bonnie Low-Kramen interviewed Lucy from the stage at Exec Sec LIVE in Dubai on Nov 17th. Introduced by Vickie Sokol Evans, listen for 21 minutes and get to know Lucy’s big plans for assistants all over the world.

The “R” Word

respectBy Bonnie Low-Kramen for Executive Secretary Magazine | July, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T- Find out what it means to me…” Aretha Franklin’s 1967 smash hit anthem is considered to be one of the best songs of all time. Why? The word hits a nerve.

Note: Since 95% of all admins are women, the pronoun “she” will be used in this piece. To all the male admins, I sincerely hope that this article resonates with you as well.

Definition of Respect – Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability.

Definition of Appreciation – The act of estimating the qualities of people and giving them their proper value, clear perception or recognition.

Read more

6 Ways to Build a Culture That Doesn’t Chase Good People Away

Bonnie Low-Kramen Office Life SupportBy Bonnie Low-Kramen for SmartCEO Magazine | October 24, 2016

You’ve probably read some of the many articles written about the perks that help retain good employees — free lunches, on-site gyms, deskside massage therapy and concierge services, to name just a few. But is that really what your employees want the most?

I train and speak with administrative professionals and managers all over the world and no matter what state or country they are in, the feedback is consistent. Staffers are craving and starved for cultures of respect. These are strong words, but intentionally used and very true.

Job seekers may be tempted by a free lunch perk, but leaders need to know that these sophisticated candidates are taking a closer look. They want to make sure that your company has a culture where they can thrive for the long term.

Want happy employees? Demonstrate respect

Here are six things that matter more to job satisfaction than free food, a place to work out, and yes, even compensation. Many of them don’t cost one penny, and they are precisely the things that inspire staff to be loyal and to go above and beyond in the most difficult situations.

  1. Respect. Hands down, the number-one thing employees want is to feel respected and appreciated. Easily said, not so easily done. Here are some very specific ways respect is demonstrated:
  • Managers say “Good morning, Staffer’s First Name” on most if not all days. This acknowledgment is vitally important because otherwise, you run the risk of staffers feeling like a number and merely an invisible chair filler.
  • Names are pronounced and spelled correctly. There is nothing more personal than someone’s name.
  • The words “please” and “thank you” are commonly used. What takes a few extra seconds is the difference between a feeling of partnership and one of dictatorship.
  • Management is transparent and leads “town hall” type meetings to keep the staff updated about the latest news.
  • Fairness about rules and policies. Your staff sees and hears everything, especially news of unfair treatment. If you doubt this, ask them.
  • Staffers need regular feedback about their performance. Ask questions such as, “What can I do to better support you in your work?” It is not a matter of if but when problems and conflicts are going to arise. Regularly scheduled one-on-ones are the surest way to solve problems right away before they escalate.
  • Birthdays and work anniversaries are acknowledged and celebrated in some way which communicates “you matter.”
  1. A voice in our own destiny. Staff has a say in what projects they work on. One of the most powerful questions leaders can ask is, “What do you think?”
  2. Flexibility. On a recent Virgin Airlines flight, I asked the flight attendant about working at Virgin. He shared that it was the flexibility of schedule and routes that motivates him to not seek employment elsewhere — even though Virgin pays less than other airlines.
  3. Belief in the company’s values and mission. I asked the same Virgin flight attendant, “What is the number one reason you are so loyal to Virgin?” He didn’t hesitate. He stood up taller and said, “Pride. I love what our company stands for. This is my home and these people are my family.” Wow. You cannot force anyone to feel like that.
  4. Zero tolerance for workplace bullying. Workplace bullying is an epidemic problem around the world, and tolerating it is the fastest way to chase good people away in droves. It is easier for demoralized staff to quit than to confront a yeller or a manager who leads by intimidation and uses public humiliation as a management strategy. Fear has created a suffering-in-silence mentality, so when a staffer quits, they will rarely say the true reasons why at their exit interview.

I have lost count of the staffers who essentially report, “The executives at our company either have no clue what is going on or they look the other way because it is too difficult to take the bully on.” Companies with strong cultures of respect set a clear expectation that destructive and toxic behaviors will not be tolerated, and that swift action will be taken by management if such behaviors emerge. For example, Campbell Soup has all staffers sign and re-commit to a “Code of Ethics” on an annual basis, which is a key component to the company’s “Culture of Respect.” Bullies cannot survive in an authentic culture of respect.

  1. Company culture.Is your company culture advertised on the company’s website, job descriptions, employee manual, advertising, office walls, and all hiring materials? Go on Glassdoor to read anonymous reviews from your own employees to see what they are saying about what it means to work at the company. Leaders who proudly announce their values are critical for employee morale. At the Facebook offices, one sign on the wall encourages staffers with, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Companies with strong cultures of respect that are backed up with consistent and clear action have the highest employee retention and, not surprisingly, are also the most profitable. The bottom line is that prospective employees will explore what your company stands for before they ever submit an application, and it all begins with you, the CEO.

Where Oh Where to Find Your New Ultimate Assistant?

By Bonnie Low-Kramen for Executive Secretary Magazine | August 2016
Remember as you climb the ladder of success, there is always someone behind you keeping it steady.”    Jacob M. Braude

Help Wanted

  • Are you an executive who has never had an assistant but now things are falling through the cracks and you know you need help NOW (as in yesterday)?!
  • Are you an assistant who needs to hire a #2 and your CEO tells you to “make it happen”?
  • Are you a recruiter who is having trouble finding just the right candidate who not only possesses stellar office skills but also speaks fluent Japanese? Got one of those, Bonnie?

If any of these situations sound familiar, welcome to my world! These are the kinds of real-life phone calls and emails I receive from all over the world asking for my help sourcing just the right person for their open assistant positions. By the way, these inquiries are more often than not coming from people I don’t know. This is why I am writing this article. I am keenly aware that more information is needed. Read more

Building an External Assistant Network in Your City – Guests: Ike Saunders & Julie Kavanaugh | Ep 20 (Part 2 of 2)


In our complicated workplace, external assistant networks are trending all over the world as a way for Executive and Personal Assistants to find the answers they need – fast.

Bonnie and Vickie continue the conversation with Ike Saunders, EA to Christopher Kennedy and Founder of REACH in Chicago and Julie Kavanaugh, EA to Craig Bouchard and member of the REACH leadership team. REACH stands for the Regional Executive Assistant Cocktail Hour.

In Part 2 of 2, Ike and Julie explain how they are able to keep REACH free of charge to the members by working with vendors who generously and enthusiastically supply the meeting space, food, drinks, raffle prizes and goody bags in some of the coolest venues in Chicago! Find out how REACH has made a name for itself without a website and how people find out about this powerful network. Ike and Julie tell us exactly how they did it and how you can do it too!

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.”~ Napoleon Hill

Read more

A CEO’s take on building company cultures with staying power

A CEO’s take on building company cultures with staying power

By Bonnie Low-Kramen for Smart CEO 

Don Ochsenreiter
CEO Don Ochsenreiter

In my quest to find leaders who are committed to building authentically positive and profitable company cultures that actively support the administrative staff, I interviewed Don Ochsenreiter, president and CEO of Dollamur Sports Surfaces. A former management consultant for McKinsey, Accenture and others, Don has a strong point of view on company culture and its impact on staff.

In April 2016, Don attended the Administrative Awards ceremony in Fort Worth, TX after he nominated Dollamur’s office manager Donna Hinze as a stellar member of the company’s administrative team. Although Donna didn’t win the award (an assistant who had been at her company for 52 years won), Don had an eye-opening experience at the event attended by more than 500 people.

“Our administrative staff is the glue at Dollamur. They make everything happen and in general are tremendously under-recognized, in my view,” he says. “They think ahead and are committed to excellence. When you find a great assistant, my strategy is to pay them competitively and to enthusiastically invest in their professional development.”

Below, Don shares his thoughts on how you can foster a better company culture. Read more

Building an External Assistant Network in Your City with Guests: Ike Saunders & Julie Kavanaugh | Ep 19: (Part 1 of 2)


An Executive Assistant or Personal Assistant is only as good as their resources and their network. Any assistant who is serious about their profession needs to be involved in at least one networking group, especially one that is local. If one does not already exist in your city, you can create one yourself. But how do you do that?  In a two-part conversation, Bonnie and Vickie interview two experts on this subject. Ike Saunders, EA to Christopher Kennedy and Founder of REACH in Chicago and his colleague Julie Kavanaugh, EA to Craig Bouchard and member of the REACH leadership team will spill the beans and share the secrets of their amazing success building one of the most successful external assistant networks in America. REACH stands for the Regional Executive Assistant Cocktail Hour.

In Part One, find out what inspired Ike and Julie and a core group of committed colleagues to grow the network from fewer than ten people over drinks to over 200 in less than three years. They reveal the many benefits of joining and participating in a network like REACH which include not only having access to talented colleagues and high quality resources, but great service and lower prices on top of all that. Executives and leaders will quickly see why it makes so much sense to support assistants to get involved in an external network.

Read more

Why I Love My Job by Bonnie Low-Kramen

office pro cover 200As seen in Officepro Magazine | July 2016

By Bonnie Low-Kramen, IAAP Member since 2009, author of “Be the Ultimate Assistant”

My why? Since 95-98% of the world’s assistants are female, my why is to empower women all over the world.

It’s been twelve years since my employer Olympia Dukakis (Oscar winner for Moonstruck) and I were honored to grace the cover of officePRO magazine. We were the first assistant/employer partnership to ever make the front cover. It was a very proud moment for both of us. About our relationship, Olympia was fond of saying, “we earned each other.”

For 25 years, I worked with Olympia as her Personal Executive Assistant. In 1988, we went through the Academy Awards, the presidential campaign of her first cousin Michael Dukakis and the birth of my son Adam – all without a computer or the Internet. The truth is we winged it every single day. Read more

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