Read, learn, and share these articles that I have written and those of other experts who I respect and admire. We’ve got a very complicated workplace and only getting more so. This blog is my way of navigating these complications. Feedback welcome!

Building the Ultimate Executive / Assistant Partnership with Guest Monique Helstrom | Ep 30

Building the Ultimate Executive / Assistant Partnership


In this podcast, Monique Helstrom, former Chief of Simon Sinek, joins Bonnie to talk through what it takes to build a powerful partnership between executives and assistants. We discuss the good, the bad, and why this partnership should operate with the same fluidity and comfort as Kirk and Spock’s partnership does. ( R/T 30:57).

After listening to this Podcast, go check out Bonnie and Monique’s Breakfast Summit for both Executives and their Assistants happening in New York City at Hudson Yards on October 24, 2019. Finally. These two groups together. Together at last.

Seats are limited.

Details Here for Building the Ultimate Executive / Assistant Partnership in NYC, October 24, 2019.


Ultimate Executive / Assistant Partnerships Bonnie Low-Kramen, 25-year Personal Assistant to Olympia Dukakis Monique Helstrom, Former Chief of Simon Sinek


Bonnie Low-Kramen and Monique Helstrom
Bonnie Low-Kramen and Monique Helstrom


Related Links:
Read Forbes cover story about Bonnie Low-Kramen & Ultimate Training, May 2019


Bonnie Low-Kramen | 
Monique Helstrom |


FORBES COVER STORY The Ultimate Assistant Academy: Inside the Elite Training Program for America’s Top Executive Assistants

Bonnie Low Kramen for Forbes Cover

May 31, 2019 | Cover Story by Karsten Strauss | 

Note from Bonnie: My strongest hope is that this Forbes article will help move the needle of awareness about the urgent need for training for assistants and leaders all over America and the world. To that end, this a link for an event for executives and assistants together in NYC on Thurs Oct 24th that will move us forward some more. Check it out and share with your colleagues. It’s big and it’s time.

The first thing to know, Bonnie Low-Kramen tells a full conference room, is that you are not secretaries. You are executive assistants or administrative business partners. The second thing: The people you work for are not bosses. They are managers. She’s holding court during a sold-out day of lectures, lessons and discussions at the Sofitel Hotel in New York—part of a two-day workshop she conducts around the country called Be The Ultimate Assistant.

“What’s your superpower?” she asks the 30 women and one man in the room (around 95% of executive assistants are female). A smiling admin at a municipal agency says she excels at PowerPoint and public safety. The assistant to the president of a private college says she specializes in office secrets and booking travel. “You don’t have to be an expert at everything,” Low-Kramen tells them, “but you do have to know who the experts are to go to.”

Combining tips of the trade, tech pointers and Tony Robbins-type affirmations, she seeks to boost both the know-how and spirits of her students, who include top-level assistants, administrative staffers for companies and government, and household managers for super-wealthy families whose identities they’ve sworn to conceal. Each has shelled out $1,500 for the two days from her own pocket or her company’s funds.

Low-Kramen, 61, who herself spent almost 25 years as the personal assistant to actress Olympia Dukakis, also holds workshops at companies like CNN and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and she speaks before outfits like Merck, Freddie Mac and the Young Presidents Organization at $10,000 a shot.

“I empower them to understand that they do know better,” says Low-Kramen. “To see themselves in a different way, as a very powerful and influential set of eyes and ears.”

Here are some of the things she can teach you: You have to know your manager’s spouse, children’s and pet’s names, and their birthdays. You must keep a list of everyone your manager is willing to interrupt a meeting or a phone call for. Always have on hand the name of his or her doctor, pharmacy and tax accountant. Always have a scan and a printout of everything in his or her wallet.

But beyond tips and tricks, Low-Kramen works to build up her students’ self-appreciation—their most valuable asset—and the conviction that they’re sometimes more astute than their managers. “I empower them to understand that they do know better.” she says. “To see themselves in a different way, as a very powerful and influential set of eyes and ears.”

“Bonnie sits on my shoulder every day when I’m at work,” says Brenda Rogers, 55, the assistant to Norman Abdallah, the CEO of Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, a $50 million organization. Rogers first met Low-Kramen in 2011 for a one-on-one training session, and she returned for a Dallas workshop two years later. “I wanted to do the job better,” she says. “As a CEO’s assistant you just need to be better.” Each time she came away with improved confidence. “One of the things you learn is to speak up for yourself, that you are worthy,” she says. “I thought, ‘Well, I guess I am.’” Six months after she told her manager that she hoped to be named chief of staff, she was promoted all the way to vice president of administration and given a 20% salary increase.

Getting a raise is another thing Low-Kramen teaches. Record your achievements, documenting where you saved the company money. Find out what you’re really worth using tools like Glassdoor. That got Debbie Furlano, executive assistant to the CEO of a $120 million construction company, a 13% raise when she first broached the subject with her boss. But then, Furlano says, “I told him that it put me in the midrange for our industry. He replied that he wanted me in the top range and provided me with a significant bonus to get me there.” Later that year the CEO had to take several months off to deal with a family crisis and had Furlano do his job for him. Low-Kramen, she says, was a constant lifeline. “She was my sounding board for sure during that time.”

Money is an inescapable issue for Low-Kramen’s students and people like them. “Every single female executive assistant I’ve met is underpaid,” says Al-Husein Madhany, 43, a former top assistant to Facebook’s then-CIO Tim Campos, who now works as an executive assistant search consultant, coach and salary negotiator. He says that in cities like San Francisco and New York annual total compensation for experienced assistants can reach $500,000, but most are in the high five figures and undervalued for their hours and work. People assume their employer will take care of them, and they’re wrong, Madhany explains. “They’re directly impacting the bottom line, and they’re not asking for things to compensate them for that.”

(Left to right:) Lucy Brazier, Melba Duncan and Al-Husein Madhany are in the business of educating ambitious executive assistants on how to be better at what they do and encouraging them to seek higher compensation.

Forbes image Lucy Brazier Melba Duncan Al Husein Madhany
(Left to right:) Lucy Brazier, Melba Duncan and Al-Husein Madhany are in the business of educating ambitious executive assistants on how to be better at what they do and encouraging them to seek higher compensation

How do you know what you’re worth? Lucy Brazier feels a four-tier measure of status should be developed, with low-level admins at one and top-tier chiefs of staff at four. “When they say, ‘I’m a level-four assistant,’ everybody understands what that means.” Brazier, 50, is another self-made expert on executive assistants. Last year she spoke at 183 events in 41 countries, charging up to $10,000 a day. It all began when she found herself with the job of turning an unprofitable British newsletter called Executive Secretary into an instructional magazine. “I could see that assistants weren’t getting training, and I figured if there was a really cost-effective option it would get into the hands of the people who needed it.”

Before long she was invited to speak about secretarial work at a conference. The requests kept coming. In 2015, at Buckingham Palace, she addressed the royal personal assistant staff. Like Low-Kramen, she also does two-day training programs, 30 of them a year for groups of an average of 30 assistants at up to $1,000 a head. (That comes to several hundred thousand dollars altogether.) She also runs a touring show of executive assistant gurus, Executive Secretary LIVE, that sells out 150-seat halls at $1,600 a person from London to Atlanta to South Africa and beyond. Her speakers have included Reggie Love, former personal aide to Barak Obama; Zelda La Grange (Nelson Mandela); and Lauren Jiloty (Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton). Low-Kramen is a regular on Brazier’s tour.

“Contribute beyond what is expected,” Ann Hiatt advises. “At my level, that’s a common thread. Nobody asks us to do it. We just do it, and we do it so well that they’re going to ask us to do it again.”

Brazier says she wants to get assistants to think bigger—to become uber-assistants, strategic partners to their CEOs. “These are not people who are sitting there doing tea and typing,” she points out.

Ann Hiatt, who has been an executive assistant to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Google’s Eric Schmidt, has appeared on Brazier’s tour multiple times. Supporting executives at that level means mirroring them and knowing how to manage them. “How to get one step ahead,” she says, “and anticipate their needs, think like they do, know what they’d like and really become that body double, that brain double that executives can go to for quick options or gut-checks.”

As his assistant, Hiatt developed a curriculum to teach Eric Schmidt about artificial intelligence and helped negotiate with NBC for YouTube’s use of Olympics footage. “Contribute beyond what is expected,” she advises. “At my level, that’s a common thread. Nobody asks us to do it. We just do it, and we do it so well that they’re going to ask us to do it again.”

How can you land a job like that? You might start by approaching The Duncan Group, a New York-based search firm that places top-level assistants with CEOs and wealthy families, charging 30% of a first-year’s salary that averages between $125,000 and $150,000. CEO Melba Duncan, former executive assistant to Lehman Brothers chairman Peter G. Peterson, says she first learns all about the executive in need, and “once I understand the personality, the temperament, the behavior and the expectation, I then match that person with our candidate database.”

Landing a place on that database is no easy task. “If you send me a résumé that has typographical mistakes, misspelled words and, we get this all the time, somebody who doesn’t know the difference between principle and principal, I’m not interested,” she says with a wave of her hand. “That is so foundational to what you do as an assistant.” Then, if you make it to an interview, of which there are several, everything you say “means something. … It may give me a sense of, ‘Hmm, I’m not sure this person is smart enough.’”

She also runs the Duncan Leadership Institute that offers, among other things, $2,400-a-person two-day boot camps and a “premier” six-day course designed by Columbia University professors for 10 to 12 lucky students at up to $10,000 apiece. The students who take that course are mostly working assistants looking to up their game. They’re schooled on how business organizations work—tricks like adopting various social styles to be persuasive and strengths like the ability to say no to a CEO’s face.

Duncan likes to think of her students and the assistants she places as “executive life managers.” Whether they reach the top or not, they’ll never have it easy, she admits. “Nobody is going to say you did a great job. You just don’t get told how wonderful and great you are. You have to tell yourself that.”

Burning Money: Breaking the Silence About the Last Taboo

By Bonnie Low-Kramen

Bonnie Low-Kramen Teaching in NYC Equal Pay Day of 2019 hit me harder than in other years. It is because the data shows that the economic situation for women just got one penny worse compared to last year. How can that be and more importantly, what do we do to move us in the direction of closing the wage gap rather than widening it?

In the 14 countries where I have traveled to speak and teach, I know that many women are severely underpaid throughout the world. While the reasons for this are complicated, one of the most glaring is that the subject of money is considered secret and forbidden and taboo to discuss.

Yet, it is one of the most burning topics in my teaching. I will ask this question: On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most, how much stress does the subject of money cause you? Without hesitation, my students shout back, “10!” “12!” and a rare few shout numbers lower than 6. This is how I know what a big problem we have.

This secrecy and silence is hurting women. In general, women feel alone and ill-equipped to negotiate compensation on their own behalf. I meet too many women who have a hard time making ends meet, and yet feel desperate to solve the problem.

Contrary to common beliefs, the wage gap is not a women’s problem. It is a human problem that is impacting families globally.

When we break the silence to actually talk about realistic way to approach negotiation, the stress levels automatically come down. Strategies, such as creating a written proposal outlining your current situation and justifying the changes using data and metrics, actually work. The documents do the talking for you before you ever have to have the verbal conversation which many women are loathe to have.

Here’s a true story. One of my students has a strong relationship with her executive who is the owner of the company. She did her research and found out what her salary should be in her geographic market given her responsibilities and experience. She created a document sharing the data and outlining her value to the company. When her executive read the document, he was mortified and embarrassed. He said he had no idea how grossly underpaid she was. The executive set the wheels in motion to adjust her compensation and thanked her for bringing it to his attention. This decision not only resulted in a $20K increase but a plan for some retroactive compensation and future increases.

The assistant’s life is now changed for the better. The silence is broken. She is now determined to help others make the money they deserve.

The bottom line is: You don’t get if you don’t ask When we ask in the right way, we get.

If we truly want to turn this ship around, we must find mentors and training to teach women how to negotiate and to advocate for themselves with confidence. This is a new skill for many women and step number one is to break the silence around the issues of money. It’s time to shine a light on money and to keep the conversation open and honest between leaders, HR, and staff until the wage gap is closed.

Managing Travel for High-Level Executives: Key Differences You Need to Know

Private plane for executiveBy Sarah Rickerd for Savoya | April 2019

Supporting the needs of travelers at any level requires precision, attention to detail, an awareness of safety and grace under fire. There is, however, a level at which expectations begin to shift into an even higher gear.

A Global 2000 executive, for example, may require a very different type of travel experience than a salesperson at a regional company. These same requirements may extend to other types of discerning power travelers — including high net worth individuals and those served by family offices — as well as to executives at organizations of any size whose service or security requirements are higher than those commonly available through conventional commercial travel.

If you’re new to executive travel management or to serving a high-level executive in this capacity, you’ll be expected to seamlessly execute travel to these standards — whether or not you’re ever given formal training on what those expectations are.

While every executive is different, there are some common themes you can use to help you navigate the needs of a high-level traveler. Check out the following key differences you’ll want to be aware of when managing their travel plans.

Travel Priorities Change

Private air is a great example of the way travel priorities can shift. For high-level executives, business aviation isn’t only about comfort. Besides the need to ensure safety at every stage of the journey, choosing private aviation about three things: efficiency, productivity and privacy.


You know the drill with commercial airfare. You arrive at the airport hours in advance and wait to board your plane. If you’re lucky, your flight will land within a reasonable distance of your destination; if not, you’ll be stuck transferring to a car for the remainder of the travel time. Airport backups, missed connections and other delays add further complications, hindering a traveler’s ability to use his or her time effectively.

Now, contrast that experience with the one provided by private air. Rather than spending hours waiting, your executive can simply arrive at the fixed-base operator (FBO) and depart shortly after. Perhaps even more importantly, they can fly directly to areas that may not be served by major airlines — which is especially important in the case of businesses with offices or facilities in smaller markets or rural areas.


A private jet setting can also be more conducive to getting work done while in transit. Depending on their size, private jets can typically be configured into different work-oriented layouts in order to maximize productivity, while amenities like conference rooms, and enhanced communications create a true mobile office, further increasing on-the-go effectiveness.

Compare that to trying to get anything done in the cramped quarters of a commercial flight, with the space limitations and potentially intrusive seating partners they often entail.


Business aviation can also offer much-needed privacy for traveling executives.

Imagine that your company is in discussions for a potential merger or acquisition, or is registering for a public offering or other transaction. Executives simply can’t be overheard discussing corporate business, or risk setting off speculation, undesirable publicity or — at worst — violations of federal securities laws.

Particularly if your executive will be traveling with a group of colleagues, private flights — typically arranged through your company’s corporate flight department, or through a fractional ownership or membership program — may be preferable for the confidentiality they can provide.

Measuring Travel by ROI

Most business travelers are subject to clear allowances for travel expenses. But as you look at more senior levels of an organization, rules often change so leaders can have the flexibility they need to get the job done.

That isn’t to say that cost isn’t a factor for traveling executives. There are simply other factors that are more important in the grand scheme of things than booking arrangements at the lowest possible cost.

For instance, although you already know you can save money by booking air and hotel reservations weeks or months in advance — as well as by booking non-refundable tickets — the restrictive nature of these arrangements doesn’t always mesh with the reality of high-level executive travel.

Senior executives often won’t have the visibility or certainty around their schedules to allow for these options. Things move quickly in the world of business, and the company that’s nimble enough to capitalize on new circumstances first often wins. That makes it easier to justify last-minute bookings and frequent schedule changes — despite their cost.

You’ll often hear executives use the term, “ROI,” or “return on investment.” Travel expenses are actually a great example of measuring ROI: what matters most isn’t usually the absolute cost of a trip, but the return they might achieve from investing in that way. Will spending money now allow them to make more of it later? Spending $2,000 on a last-minute commercial flight – or even $10,000 on a seven-passenger Learjet 31 from New York to Washington D.C. – makes great financial sense if it allows your executive to close a million-dollar deal.

Real Safety Threats Exist

Most high-level executives think of themselves as normal people, but the public profile of their position may put them at a higher risk of both opportunistic and targeted crime.

Public knowledge of their schedules may result in premeditated incidents, such as the pie in the face received by Qantas’ CEO at a speaking engagement. Status symbols — such as expensive clothing or luggage, or even the deferential treatment they receive from travel companions — may tip off bad actors to their importance (and, therefore, their desirability as a target for opportunistic crime, such as a pick-pocketing or kidnapping).

By most accounts, executive kidnapping is severely underreported — by as much as 90%, according to AIG. Understandably, no company wants to shake investor confidence by reporting a compromising position into which their executive has been placed. But because it’s so underreported, executive assistants working at this level may be unaware of the importance of protecting not just their executive’s comfort and productivity, but their safety as well.

Safe travel planning for high-level executives takes a number of different forms, potentially including:

  • Coordinating your executive’s itineraries with your company’s security department so that they can make necessary advance preparations
  • Sharing only the relevant parts of your executive’s itinerary to external (and sometimes internal) travel partners and providers
  • Booking hotel arrangements with security in mind (for instance, by requesting a room on floors 3-5 or one without a connected, adjoining room)
  • Choosing travel partners that offer necessary safety features (such as the obscuring of your executive’s contact information when executing reservations)
  • Equipping your executive with safety-minded items — such as a keychain flashlight — before they travel

Of course, this list is far from comprehensive — what’s necessary for one executive may not matter to another. If your executive isn’t forthcoming about their expectations, reach out to others in your company (ideally, your company’s security department, if one exists) for insight into your executive’s particular security needs.

Your Executive’s Productivity Is Your Responsibility

Finally, keep in mind that the schedules of high-level executives are often booked in 5-minute intervals — and few have the luxury of relaxing their schedules while traveling. That means it’s up to you to defend their productivity with the same pleasant, yet ruthless approach you rely on when they’re in the office.

For example, you may need to:

  • Closely monitor the progress of their meetings to ensure everything is running according to schedule — even if you’re on the other side of the world
  • Reschedule meetings or reservations if your executive’s schedule deviates from their itinerary in any way
  • Help rearrange their schedules and deliver necessary supplies in case they have a medical situation while traveling
  • Choose travel options that allow them to maximize their productivity during every minute of the trip (such as private aviation or a car service that provides in-vehicle amenities that are conducive to work)
  • Choose hotels with options such as in-room refrigerators and on-site fitness facilities that help them uphold some semblance of a routine, healthy lifestyle on-the-road

You’ll learn your executive’s unique rhythms and requests as you go. But if you need to get up-to-speed quickly, or if you need a quick refresher for inspiration, check out “The Power Assistant’s Guide to Executive Travel Management” from Savoya. In addition to providing a complete step-by-step walkthrough of the travel planning process for high-level executives, this free resource offers in-the-trenches tips for every stage of your executive’s journey.

Travel management is your chance to shine as an executive assistant — to prove you can be your executive’s strategic partner, rather than a glorified version of Travelocity. Step up to the plate with these and other tips for high-level executive travel management. That’s what being a power assistant is truly about.

Sarah Rickerd
Sarah Rickerd serves as the Content & Communications Director at Savoya, the industry’s leading provider of secure executive ground solutions. In this role, she supports travelers and their teams with valuable education resources intended to facilitate smoother, more effective ground travel experiences.




ELSx Free Webinar Replay: Establishing the Ultimate EA & Executive Partnership


Establishing the Ultimate EA & Executive Partnership
CEO Gary Rabine and his Executive Assistant Deb Furlano of the Rabine Group, Illinois

Bonnie Low-Kramen, thought leader and author of Be the Ultimate Assistant, interviews CEO Gary Rabine and his Executive Assistant Deb Furlano in a refreshingly honest conversation about how this partnership really works. You will hear Gary’s take on Deb’s impact to his bottom line profits from her involvement in his company for the past 7 years.







The ELSx Webinar series is sponsored by Program Director Emily Burley and the Executive Leadership Support Forum.

Please share this recording with your colleagues and leaders.

Establishing the Ultimate EA & Executive Partnership

(R/T 1:02:17)

Making a Difference One Person at a Time with Guest Teri Wells | Ep 29

Recorded live at the Executive Secretary LIVE conference in San Jose, California on November 17, 2018. R/T 30:51

Our guest is Teri Wells who has worked as an Executive Assistant in Johannesburg, South Africa for 29 years. In 2015, she had coffee with fellow EA and speaker Anel Martin which is when “Isipho” was born. Isipho translates to “the gift” which in this case means the gift of education. It started as Teri’s and Anel’s way of paying it forward in a profession that has given them both so much.

They collaborated with Executive Secretary Magazine Founder Lucy Brazier and together, they set out to change lives and wow, did they ever. They raised money to send promising young adults to a vocational school that would train them to work as administrative professionals. The tuition for the ten month program is approximately $1,200 USD/per candidate. Teri and Anel also determined to provide mentors and ongoing support for these students who otherwise, would have no chance to attain this training.

Listen to Teri’s moving stories of Lerato and Iris, two girls who graduated from the program. Learn what you, your manager or your assistant network can do to make a difference one person at a time. Teri inspires us to understand to our core what is possible when we decide to make it happen.

Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Note: At this writing, through the generosity of our attendees and their employers, four students were fully funded at the LIVE conference in San Jose.

  • One full scholarship was donated by an Assistant in the audience
  • A 2nd scholarship was donated by one of the speakers
  • A 3rd scholarship was sponsored by an assistant’s executive (by phone)
  • And the final scholarship was sponsored by the money raised during the conference from the attendees. 

Related Links: 

From left: Lucy Brazier, Anel Martin, & Teri Wells
Bonnie with Isipho students in Joburg, 2016

Women: Turning Off the Default

Bonnie-Low-Kramen Speed Mentoring

Bonnie Low-Kramen for Executive Secretary Magazine | September 2018

It’s time to shine a light on the invisible default button.

This article is about how women behave with one another. After all, the assistants of the world are 95-98% female. For the men reading this piece, I hope you find the following insights useful; knowing them can help us all collaborate better.

Imagine a workplace where women enthusiastically and happily support each other. A workplace without manipulation and victimization, without passive aggressive behaviors, where bullying is practically nonexistent. Sound good? If yes, then why is it so hard to make it happen?

I can imagine this new normal. What it will require is an awareness of the invisible default button that is deep inside all women. And it will depend on our commitment to shut it off.

I will explain.

What is the default and what does it look like?

The messages women get loud and clear when we are young girls are steady, and strong, and they stay. As in forever. The default can also be referred to as our autopilot behaviors and unconscious bias.

These are some of the messages young girls receive from families and society alike:

  • Know your place & don’t veer too far from it.
  • Don’t step on toes, don’t make waves, or trouble.
  • Be seen, not heard. And, sometimes, be invisible.
  • Be pretty, be quiet, and be perfect – at least in how you look. We are trained to compete with one another for the approval of men. These messages have exploded with conflict in light of the issues with sexual harassment and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
  • Don’t come across as too smart or a know-it-all. Don’t brag or toot your own horn – you might be viewed as conceited or full of yourself.
  • View other women as competition, especially for the approval of men
  • Smooth everything over – even if it means apologizing for things that are not your fault.
  • When receiving feedback from another woman, the default behavior is to be defensive and suspicious of motivation.
  • Be grateful for any job and don’t question the money you are being paid.


Other examples of the default: when we judge ourselves harshly for pretty much everything and feel we don’t deserve the raise or the attention or the promotion. Or when we feel badly about taking credit for something great that we totally did. We judge our female colleagues harshly when we see their success and we feel envious and say things like, “I did a better job last year and nobody noticed me.” Or when we allow our male executive’s bullying behavior slide and excuse it with statements like, “Well, that’s just the way George is.” If we’re honest, we would say that we would never allow “Georgette” to get away with a fraction of what we allow “George” to get away with.

Every assistant knows that she has a responsibility, an obligation, to speak up. Yet many stay silent. Fear wins. I am shocked by the volume of stories of “mean girl” junior high behaviors in billion-dollar workplaces. My first thought when I hear them is: the default is stronger and louder and winning. Women need awareness and we need leadership to show another way.

Our default button tells us to take things personally and to take offense. If that’s true for you, I urge you to resist and reject that first impulse, that automatic behavior to be suspicious of the motivations of other women.

Given the complexity of our global workplace, women need to become wide awake to exactly what is going on and to speak up about what we know. We can now understand how we get trapped in the default. Old habits are hard to break. What I see all over the world is that these behaviors are slowing us down and stopping some of us dead in our tracks from fulfilling our goals and dreams. And many are quitting their jobs over it or even landing in the hospital from stress.

Our children are watching and seeing everything. Unless we turn off the default, the cycle begins again.

The data shows that women apologize 10 times more than men and for things that are not anything to apologize for. However, women don’t forgive as easily, and we never forget a misstep, especially with other women. We forgive men much more easily. The hard truth is that when women don’t get what we want from men, we take it out on other women. It’s time to become aware and to stop. Time’s up for the default and time’s in for new choices!

Why do I care so much about the default? I care because I see too many women who are at the end of their ropes and living every day with stress levels of 6 (on a 1-10 scale). I know that workplace bullying is a global epidemic and too many are filled with fear to address it. Who gets trained to do that? We don’t. Women are the primary targets of bullying and sexual harassment and we are paying a very high price for the trauma. We tolerate bullying and sometimes don’t even know that’s what it is because it has become so normalized and part of our daily experience. That’s the default in full play.

I say that we need to shut off the default and create a new normal. At the same time, women will find their voices to confidently support leaders to design new policies that work and can be sustained.

So, what’s the long-term fix? First, we need to shine a light on this invisible default button buried deep inside. Second, women and men can have conversations about what the default looks like for each one of us because it’s not necessarily the same. Third, we can make new choices every day about cutting ourselves a break, being more understanding when women make mistakes and frankly, taking a fresh look at our relationships with men – whoever they are – to see how the default is in play.

The impact on the community is profound when women reject the default and choose to see other women as collaborators, allies, and partners. The movement to this awareness cannot be underestimated because of the pull of the socialization. We know, for example, that women make excellent leaders, but they are too few. When women feel sincerely supported by other women, they lose the fear to be ambitious and seek leadership positions. However, as Sheryl Sandberg points out in her groundbreaking book “Lean In”, many female leaders leave before they have to because of the loneliness at the top – or even part way to the top. And it is because of the default.

The critical idea that women globally can embrace is the absolute need to generously support other women to not only achieve leadership but to stay in their leadership positions. Even when they make mistakes and even when they fail. There is a serious double standard in the world about how women view one another and how women view men. Women hold one another to a higher standard and once we are onto it, the world will change for the better. When we stop tearing one another down and choose to build one another up, families will benefit, and companies will benefit.

What I know is that women can create a new normal for ourselves that is based on respect and the freedom to give feedback without fear of retaliation. We as women need to do a better job at setting expectations with one another. To set a standard that makes it safe to speak more directly and honestly with each other and to elevate one another. Men can help by being onto the default too.

I fight hard every day to shut off my default button and to make sure it stays off. We can’t underestimate the pull of the socialization but if we really can get onto it, we can break the vicious cycle. What I see is when we work together, the world will be one where workplace bullying ends as will sexual harassment and we will close the wage gap so that women finally make the money they deserve, not to mention our daughters and our granddaughters. That’s what will happen when we shut off our default buttons once and for all.

We didn’t get here in a minute so it’s going to take a while to get us out of the status quo. I know we are up to the challenge and when we turn off the default, the world will be a better place for all of us.


This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must-read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount on an individual subscription when you subscribe through us. Email and tell them we sent you. 

Link to original article

The State of Assistant Training: The Art of the Ask | Ep 28 (Part 3 of 3)

The State of Assistant Training: The Art of the Ask | Ep 28 (Part 3 of 3)

The Art of the Ask

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You don’t get if you don’t ask. This saying is true about many things but it is especially true when it comes down to asking for training dollars. In our complicated workplace, professional development is not an option or a “nice to do.” Training for assistants is an absolute necessity to keep staffers sharp and relevant and to support companies to keep their competitive edge.

But how to ask? In this 3rd of a 3-part series, Bonnie and Vickie answer this question in detail. Did you know that your company may actually have a training budget but it just may not be advertised? If you are looking for a new job, an important question to ask is: How much is the annual training budget for assistants?

Learn how to build your business case that will result in an enthusiastic “Yes.” You will be providing the ROI (return on investment) to justify the training to your leaders. There is simply too much at stake not to do this. But…if your leaders still say no, learn what absolutely free resources are out there. The most important thing is for you to get the training you know you need. You are worth the investment.
R/T 23:32

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi


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Webinar: Creating Name Badges with Vickie Sokol Evans

Tricks of the Trade for Assistants with Bonnie & Vickie


What would YOU do if you were CEO for one day?

Ultimate Assistants are today's CEO's strategic business partners Bonnie Low-Kramen for Executive Secretary Magazine | July 2018

How would you make your workplace a better one?

To celebrate Administrative Professionals’ Week this year, I was inspired by our amazing global community. These women and men continue to impress me with their depth of knowledge, their resourcefulness, their creativity, their intelligence, and their IDEAS that make so much sense.

I decided to pose a question on social media and wow, did the answers pour in from all over the world. I made it a contest and the winner received a full scholarship to
the Be the Ultimate Assistant (BTUA) workshop of her/ his choice in 2018.

The question: If you were CEO for one day, what change would you make to make your workplace a better one?

What follows are just some of their responses.

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