3 months ago, I had a bit of an epiphany while watching an interview with Gail King and multi-billionaire and ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg about the perception of him running for the Presidency.
King told Bloomberg about the perception out there of him trying to buy the election and the theory of, "Here we go again...another old, rich, White man running for President." As you can imagine, Bloomberg got a little indignant and uncharacteristically loud in his response. Though he wasn't very elegant while answering the question (he was irritated and came a bit unglued...remind you of anyone?) he did manage to say something pretty interesting. To me at least. He said that he actually appreciated that this was the most diverse field in history that's ever run for the Presidency. And that he (essentially) shouldn't be prohibited from running just because he's wealthy and White. Everyone, regardless of color, has an equal opportunity to run. King corroborated his statement by saying something to the extent of "You've got to be in it to win it."
My kneejerk reaction was to get a little pissed and immediately dive into the privilege debate and start quoting every fact and figure about opportunity, old money, access, etc. but my devil's advocate side stepped in and checked me. And I remembered a quote I believe came from a Gary Vaynerchuk speech awhile back: "Nobody owes you shit."
It's one of those phrases that once you allow yourself to really unpack it will absolutely change your life. In fact, it's one of the secrets to my growing success as an ex-career-Executive Assistant-turned-entrepreneur.
I've noticed that within the Executive Assistant community (which I know quite well thankyouverymuch) there is this belief that Executives owe Assistants all of these wonderful things: Time. Attention. Education. Opportunity for advancement. Tutelage. Compensation increases. And I believe there once was a time when this was true. But as business has evolved and Executives' roles have become more fraught with expectation, accountability, and overwhelm, they've become less and less willing/able to focus on anything that isn't central to achieving their objectives in the shortest time possible and cheaply. Where Execs of old may have been more interested in advancing their Assistants' careers (to an extent) today's overtaxed Execs are truly only looking for that one constant in their lives: ASSISTANCE. The pervasive issue is that the constancy they need most now is some of the most rudimentary, task-heavy, personal management on offer. You know, the stuff seasoned Executive Assistants did as Junior Admins at the very beginning of their careers. Not the juicy, research-heavy, needle-moving stuff a majority of seasoned Executive Assistants not only have the aptitude to smash but are craving more than ever.
I've seen Executive Assistants who could easily become future leaders within the organization bitch, moan, and skulk themselves down the rabbit hole of disappointment because their Exec "doesn't recognize my worth" or "reneged on his promises" or "should be helping me more to grow in my role." Newsflash, kids. They don't owe you anything except a desk, a computer, and a paycheck with enough communication to get you up and running. Beyond that, it's up to you to FITFO and perform below, at, or above the expectations of your role. If you get those aforementioned things, GREAT. But chances are you will need to be proactive in procuring each of them, being okay (vs. disappointed) when you don't, and figuring out a way around or through in order to achieve your own objectives in support of theirs. That's the new game.
It's a new day. Business is a completely different animal. Darwinism is straight-up holding court in the Thunderdome. The only way to truly thrive in business is to wise up, boss up, and wait for nothing. Take nothing for granted. Expect nothing on your behalf from your superiors. (And be genuinely surprised when they do come through.) And most of all, keep your expectations of other people LOWEST. As sad and defeatist as that may look on paper I promise you it will help you build the mindset, confidence and that sprinkle of guile needed to truly be successful within the walls of business today.
Waiting, in today's business climate, is a fool's proposition. People are way too busy and focus is way too divided to be solely interested and actively invested in someone else's success. Especially Executive Assistants who are STILL looked at as calendar "doers," and "silent leaders," and "secret weapons."
I have to admit nothing annoys me more lately than this bullshit narrative that EAs are "behind" the greatest leaders and are the "secret weapons" top Execs depend on. Um, excuse me! If the conspicuous success of an Executive is what makes him/her relevant in the eyes of their peers, then why TF should EXECUTIVE Assistants be relegated to the shadows when they're often masterminding the very success Executives swim laps in and accept ALL the accolades for? Remove the administrative component and the plethora of daily miracles "in the shadows" that Executive Assistants perform and you have the very definition of the word CHAOS. Imagine a CEO with a completely jacked up calendar, self-botched travel arrangements, VISAs not getting procured in time, zero intel on or respect of their Leadership Team, torpedoed company morale, insane attrition and poaching, vendors running amok, important family events being missed or forgotten, company events not being staffed and coordinated, Board meetings with insufficient/inaccurate data, critical external meetings and calls not being scheduled, constant networking for important introductions, etc. These are all things top Executive Assistants handle in their sleep and with one arm tied behind their backs. The aggregate WIN all of these important functions created for the eyes of the public should be something celebrated and conspicuously attributed to the people who actually manifest them. Not be tucked into the card deck near the bottom as part of the aggregate win.
I don't buy into the "service heart" narrative anymore. Sorry. It's a trap. Sure, Executive Assistants are born with a degree of empathy and "service heart" that most mortals could only aspire to, but this can no longer be their North Star. Top Executive Assistants need to realize the only way to thrive in today's business climate is to completely flip the script and change the way they approach the role. (I've said this ad nauseam...peep any of the 100+ articles I've written on this platform.) What's even more important now is looking beyond the role and preparing for the next rung up the ladder (and beyond) while they're in their current role. Huh?
Think about it. Executive Assistants and, actually, 95% of all employees focus solely on being the best at their current role. Cool. But being really aspirational about your career and shooting beyond the pail is what forces you into a higher gear. It makes you hungrier for something more and manifests the mindset that it's actually attainable. It makes you want to do the homework it takes to master your current and the next level. It breeds confidence and allows you to command the necessary attention and consideration vs. asking for it or expecting it. It changes your perspective and your walk and allows you to operate as a peer to the people who, coincidentally, sign your paychecks. And it creates the kind of personal groundswell that will eventually smack you upside the head and let you know when it's time to move on, be it to another role or even into a business of your own. Especially since you would definitely have amassed everything it takes to do so.
I honestly believe I've cracked "the wealth code." In fact, I'm testing my theory the whole of 2020. If I hit my markers and hit my financial goals by the end of the year I'll know I've cracked it. And, trust, I will definitely be writing a book about my journey. But let me hip you to one of the secrets to wealth and success. In two words: Attitude and Action. Once you align both the world is your oyster. The attitude portion is difficult for most people to master because it forces you to often think or behave in a way that doesn't feel innate and goes against all those teachings pounded into you throughout your growing years. If you're not supremely confident, a little (or a lot) competitive, and self-assured you won't succeed at those levels. Simple as that. Multi-millionaires and billionaires have a low-key attitude of invincibility. They have to. And that often manifests in hyperfocus on their objectives, and little attention being paid to many of those pleasantries and courtesies the rest of us get hung up on and often excoriate those who appear to trample on them. Instead, their attitude and focus is on the win and hitting their markers, making connections, validating and testing their theories, and building upon each success until they ultimately achieve exactly what they are after...and more.
I've yet to see a multi-millionaire complain about someone not liking them or a (perceived) snide comment in an email. I've yet to see a billionaire give two f*cks about an inconsequential, human mistake to the degree that 90% of Executive Assistants do. I've yet to see a CEO get thrown into a tailspin from a gaff or misunderstanding that could have simply been remedied by a quick phone call or office pop-by. Those who do don't survive. The business road is littered with their corpses.
Successful people focus on the goal, often to the detriment of perceived humanity or civility. Those two things have very different meanings to everyone. The reason I always say, "IT'S ABOUT THE BUSINESS" is to kinda toughen you kids up and get you to understand that BUSINESS prevails within the walls of business. Not culture. Not diversity and inclusion. Not your dope-ass free snacks and treats. Sure, they are important for company morale. Don't be basic. But they are and always will be mere facets in the ultimate diamond of BUSINESS. Not saying it's right. Just telling it like it is.
So, if you truly want to be successful in BUSINESS, it's important to align your perspective, attitude, and actions with the BUSINESS you're in and the leaders in it. Most importantly, do it in a way that is empowered, researched, goal-oriented, and unabashedly YOU. Know your end game, map your individual strategy, and identify/rally the individuals who can help you get there. When things get stagnant or don't go as planned, revisit your strategy, trade out the faulty pieces (and people) and hit it again. You'll quickly find that all that waiting, disappointment, and inaction are a bunch of ropes needlessly mooring you to the dock. There's nothing concrete or substantive in any of them and certainly nothing that will propel you to higher heights. They only serve to invite emotion to the party and completely throw off your end game strategy.
Wait for nothing. Step out of the shadows and into a spotlight of your creation and that's just your size. And for the love of Gawd, stop falling victim to this servitude mentality and the narrative of leading in secret or from behind anyone. True leaders LEAD LOUDLY. And they still eat last. Get that. Once you figure that out and apply it to your own career your confidence, opportunities, intuition, and compensation will skyrocket. Stop handing over the reins of your career to people with full hands. Stop expecting people to do right by you when you're not actually doing what's necessary to do right for yourself. Unless your name is on the building, the front door, the corner office, or the top box of the org chart, know that you're owed nothing except a paycheck for the work you do and an opportunity to show the company and your superiors what you're made of. Operate with the same entrepreneurial spirit as the person in the top box of the org chart and construct your career in a way that will eventually get you there. Waiting for anything in today's business climate is foolish and will lead to far more disappointment than spoils. GET YOURS. And stop trippin' about the little shit and the people complaining about not getting THEIRS when they're doing nothing to actually help themselves. That's not how it works. Did then. Doesn't now.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.