It’s not Magic. It’s Hard Work.
Every Executive I have worked with at some point has referred to me as “magical” a “wizard” or a “little superstar”. I remember one Executive used to regularly say “oh Ann-Marie, can you wave your magic wand and just make it happen”. And of course, I did. I know that every single time these words and phrases were meant as a compliment. I also understand some of what we PA/EAs do may seem mystical because much of what we do goes on in the background and our Execs and teams don’t know a fraction of the detail and planning that goes in our role. I have also leaned into these compliments, enjoying them and even previously labelled myself as a “Miracle Maker”.
There have been countless blogs, webinars and LinkedIn posts about changing the perception of the EA/PA role in order to be seen and valued as a strategic partner. However, I am not convinced this can happen if we continue to allow ourselves to be referred to as some kind of mythical creature. I am not a unicorn. I am hard working, dedicated professional!
This was only recently highlighted to me during a conversation with an EA colleague who told me that she had pulled her Exec up on using this magical language and questioned whether they would describe any members of their Leadership Team as “Magical Wizards”? The answer was no they wouldn’t describe others in this way. She told me that she felt that this was the kind of language that you would use to pacify a child, “oooh you little magical, super star”. So, if we are to be seen as part of the Leadership Team, we need be described and praised using the same terminology as other members so that our contribution is seen as being equally valuable. So rather than, “Alex can work her magic and make the impossible happen”, our Execs should be saying "Alex has previously done a great job at seeing the bigger picture and pulling various elements together to make it happen. I will leave it in her capable hands to resolve”.
There is also the argument that by using this fantastical language to describe our contribution we are being set up as something different that no one else can do, because they don’t “possess our magical powers”, which can make us indispensable and highly prized. My concern in using this language is the outward perception it gives to others. I have always felt highly valued by each Executive that I have worked with, and they know that having an EA is a privilege. However, the PA/EA perception problem often lies with those who have not directly experienced the value that a PA/EA can bring and so by outwardly using this language are we allowing our Exec’s to unintentionally belittle our role?
So, in summary, words have meaning, and what PA/EAs do is not magic. It is hard work that needs to not only be recognised privately, but also within the presence of our wider teams to foster a wider appreciation of our profession.
With thanks to the very inspiring Rachel Smith, who has been my incredible “Brickmate Buddy” at The LEGO Group. I love our conversations, often coming away feeling inspired and thinking about things in a slightly different way.