For 25 years, Bonnie Low-Kramen worked as the Personal Assistant to a celebrity couple, actors Olympia Dukakis and Louis Zorich.
We talk about:
Bonnie bridges the gaps between executives and assistants, to build the ultimate workplace.
Seeing there were so few resources for assistants, Bonnie authored the bestselling book, Be the Ultimate Assistant, and designed the ground-breaking training workshop in 2011 with the same name. She did not do these things to break new ground.
She did them out of sheer frustration.
The workshop was named one of the Top 7 Conferences to Attend in 2019. With her colleague Vickie Sokol Evans, she teaches the workshops together and hosts the Be the Ultimate Assistant Podcast series.
As a writer and an influencer, her articles on workplace issues are widely published all over the world, and Bonnie is often asked for comments about workplace bullying, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination.
To find out more about Guy Bloom and his award winning work in Team Coaching, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching click below.
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Welcome to leadership bites with myself, your host, guy bloom. This is a leadership podcast where I have conversations with colleagues, I chat with guests, and sometimes they'll be just me talking. You can connect with me at livingbrave.com and when you enjoy the episode, subscribe and please tell everyone. I do watch movies, but probably I have a I have a wide selection. Netflix and Amazon Prime have been my......
Saving grace, right?
Guy Bloom 00:28
They really have. I've and and I've, I've become just. I've started to look at series that have got when I see um. Nine series, yeah, I go, right. I don't really. And if I'm not attracted to it, I go, but it's gone nine. It's been going for that long, right. So I watch it and 99 times out of 100 it's brilliant. So it's almost like a product on Amazon if it's got 5000 reviews that are positive but it's own, but it's dead cheap, I go, well, it can't be that bad, you know, and then and then I get it. It's brilliant. So I've started to started.
Bonnie Low Krammen 01:04
To think that's cool.
Guy Bloom 01:05
Well, I'm following the wisdom of the crowd. That's what I'm doing. So listen, lovely to have you on this episode of Leadership Bites. I always start these things off with getting an introduction because I know who you are. So just Bonnie, introduce yourself to the.
Bonnie Low Krammen 01:20
Audience Guy, thanks for having me. I'm Bonnie Low Kramen, and I wrote a book called Be The Ultimate assistant off of my experience working for 25 years with the actress and Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis. So I train high level executive and personal assistants. All over the world, and the leaders they support, the assistance of the world, are mostly women. So I spend my life in rooms of women who are working very hard to support CEOs and entrepreneurs and celebrities and, you know, just executives of every level. It's a lot of work i found this, yeah, exactly. And I find this really interesting because I focus as a career, as, as a trainer, as a coach, as a developer of leaders. And I just suddenly you came across my LinkedIn stream somehow as as these things do. And I thought, well, that's that's the obvious person to speak to, isn't it? You know, somebody who's, you know, who's actually, you know, spent her. You know her. Career and also works with people who are supporting, might be the wrong word but are working side by side with people at the highest level. And and I wanted to kind of lift the curtain a little bit. So we were talking about it earlier, which is you had an article published in the Harvard Business Review, which is is executive assistant the right job for you and I reckon that's a great place to start with just starting to. Understand maybe the caricature or the from looking through the window but not really knowing the job, what it is that people might think it is it to the reality of actually operating in that kind.
Bonnie Low Krammen 03:13
Of, you know, mass media doesn't do the role of assistance any favours, you know, because when so many people think of the executive assistant relationship as something like what happens in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, you know, they picture the abusive. Executive and the but and the you know bedraggled and you know abused assistant and in the majority. I mean that does happen of course in the world. But the majority of assistants out there are resourceful, some of the smartest people you will ever meet. There was a headline back in the early two thousands that read these are the people you want next to you during the apocalypse because. The during the pandemic, they actually were among the best prepared for what happened when the world blew up. Because the way they think guy is they automatically have a plan A, but they need a Plan B and a plan C and a plan. Nd because they're the ones who are going to get the phone call if the flight gets cancelled or the, you know, it's raining and there was going to be, it was going to be an outdoor event. The assistants are the ones on the front lines. Who when? And there are problems to be solved. They are the champion problem solvers. In 2022 they have supreme technology skills coupled with. Extraordinary EQ, emotional intelligence and radar. You know, the people in offices call them the office, Google they they, if they don't have the answer immediately, they know is rarely in their vocabulary. They figure it out. They're the ones to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Now, in the Harvard Business Review article, I point out that the profession is 93 to 97 % females. So while they may be in fact the right arms to their leaders, the the backbone of the company, the eyes, the ears, you know, they hold a very important role. They also are women who are not known to toot their own horns about it. They are not known to go around saying, hey, I'm awesome. So a large majority of leaders and even HR don't really have an. Accurate picture of what they truly do. That's the truth.
Guy Bloom 05:50
So this is a, this is a. Do I love doing podcasts because I and I say it every single time, so I'm just repeating myself, which is with a bottle of wine and the right food, this is a, this is a whole weekend topic. I I, I, I love this, but there's there's an exercise that we do on very often that's done on leadership programmes, but it's it's the spaghetti, it's the spaghetti exercise. And what you do is you get some spaghetti and the teams have to build a tower, a spaghetti tower and generally, you know, what happens is, you know that people want to build it as high as they possibly can. They then they have to put a marshmallow on top and it has to support the marshmallow. So it's hilarious because it either sometimes smaller with a bit of foundation is better than having something very tall. You stick the marshmallow on top. So when you watch it, I think it's the Ted talk on the topic. What you get is a. What you what you get is a. A description of who fares well.
Bonnie Low Krammen 06:54
Guy Bloom 06:55
So you'd expect architects to do quite well exc children do brilliantly. Executives do, usually very poorly, unless you put an era in with them.
Bonnie Low Krammen 07:10
Wait, how many times have you done this exercise? You have to tell me. Hundreds, and that was consistent that you need an E in there.
Guy Bloom 07:20
If you if you put an e a in there, they they moderate the voices they're often listened to. Equal to if not more than a lot of the other people who are trying to hold space, they adjudicate, they navigate people's politic, etcetera, etcetera. So it's just, it's funny that you, you know, when you said, you know, these are the people that next to an apocalypse that absolutely plays out, I think.
Bonnie Low Krammen 07:50
It's never forgotten it because it makes so much sense. You know they're like the MacGyver if you know that TV show.
Guy Bloom 07:56
Bonnie Low Krammen 07:57
Because you know every if you get a group of assistants. Together we could have a, you know, tell your favorite story about when you saved the day. You know, I got a I got a police escort for Olympia once and they didn't know me because she was stuck in traffic and needed to get to a speech with the governor present. And I had to. My job was to communicate credibility on the phone to the state police. Are you kidding me? I mean, to this day I still cringe. And that happened like 30 years ago. I got the police to open up a dry cleaners. For 9:00 at, night because she had. Forgotten we had forgotten let me take some responsibility here for getting her dress out that she was leaving in the morning on a plane to London for the steel magnolias premiere with Lady Diana present and Charles and the whole royal family. So this dress was pretty important. Yeah, I did that.
Guy Bloom 08:56
Well, that's great, isn't it? And and I think that's and and I we were again speaking before and in in my space somebody can say ohh your team of trainers and I'll go, well yeah they are trainers, but really they're facilitators and they're part council and they're part mentor and they're they're many, many things. So I guess I'm I'm really interested in that sort of the jigsaw pieces I guess of. What a good eight is, and that would be good to maybe here if somebody said to you, you know, maybe not so much. What do I need to work on? But what does it take? What are the components of a good era?
Bonnie Low Krammen 09:40
The good, the best eras out there, the top EAS that I have in my mind, they are super smart, they are highly organised and at an organization is not the same for every assistant. It's it's whatever's. Right for you. You know, I've got the five minute rule that I teach can the the top assistants can find and it doesn't matter where they are. They could be in a movie theater, they could be in a restaurant, they could be in the bathroom. It does. They have their phone with them. It doesn't matter what folder, what phone number, what file, what piece of information. You can get it in 5 minutes or less. That's the five minute rule. They are cool in a crisis. They are the people who when everybody is flipping out. Around you. It's the assistant who is, you know, calmly. Thinking to herself or himself. Alright, what do we do? What's our plan? What do we do now? Had car didn't show up? What do we do? Plan is cancelled. What do we do? They that's how their brains work. They are super tech savvy. The top assistants may or may not have a college degree. In the HBR article, I talk about how in the great resignation, the new trend is it used to be that that somebody put in a bullet on job descriptions that had a college degree was. You know, demand, it was, you know, a expectation.
Guy Bloom 11:09
Bonnie Low Krammen 11:10
Prerequisite, sorry, thank you for the word. And now it's being called preferred. College degree preferred, so all education doesn't go to waste. But a college degree that was gotten 20 years ago does not matter as much as a workshop that was taken last month or last year in Microsoft Office. You know, ways to speed people up the top EAS. See themselves as strategic business partners who are by their executive sides in meetings and they have a voice. They have opinions that are being sought after and and a respected which is very different from decades ago and the image that that many have. But this is how the role has evolved, mainly because of the of how the workplace has gone. It used to be a very hierarchical relationship and now it's more pure like and mainly because we all only get 24 hours in a day. So the question becomes, what are we doing with that time? And the top e a save their executives time and time is money as you know. I mean that isn't hard to imagine. So they. How do they do that? They do that by being having access to their email inbox and being able to handle certain emails that don't need to be handled by their executive. Some EAS actually sit in on meetings in place of their executives. And, you know, as Olympia used to tell people, you know, why are you talking to me? Why do you want me in that meeting? You want Bonnie in that meeting because she knows better about my schedule and, you know these things than I do. You know, so um. And then in one of my students supporting her CEO executive in an emergency situation that he had with his family, he decided to name her the acting CEO of the company. And that happened. And she still with the company many years later. And it lasted for six months. The leadership team questioned him. You know why? You're executive assistant and essentially the CEO said, I trust Debbie and I know that she will implement the things that I am tasking her to do. So these are people who are proactive, take initiative and are pretty fearless about the unknown because my goodness they are. You know, every single day could be something very different. And last thing, every era I've ever met who's who treats this as a career and not a job. Loves that everyday is not the same. They love that no day is ever the same. They love the variety of it. They love the unpredictability of it. These are not your 9 to fivers for sure.
Guy Bloom 14:12
It's a great description and I love that idea of an era being. Stepping into that CEO role during a person because who knows more.
Bonnie Low Krammen 14:24
Guy Bloom 14:25
Who knows more about the right absolute overview oversight more maybe than anybody in a vertical? And who knows the politic and the personalities and who has to navigate the egos more?
Bonnie Low Krammen 14:39
Right you know, I know your audience are a lot of leaders and so let me just say that in front of assistance, I'll, I'll ask them, I'll say, is it true that you see and hear everything? And they absolutely they big nodding heads and then I asked them is it true that people will say things to you that they would never say to your executive and that is a big fat yes. So leaders need to know that that people are the instinct is to is to not be the messenger to the person in charge, right. So who do they talk to? They talk to the person below the person in charge and and that makes that person more valuable the A so for leaders. Who weren't quite aware that people were talking to your assistant. It's important that you know that and and access your assistant in that way. That just makes gives you more leverage, actually hmm i wonder if they'll ever. It's it's. And I don't know why it's jumped into my head. What's that? It's it's it's even a silly question, really, because I just wonder if they'll ever, you know we have the C-Suite don't we? That's kind of the CEO, the CFO, whatever. The CIO. I wonder if they'll ever be a CIA ohh well,
Guy Bloom 15:56
You know, you know, I said. I said I am, I am the e a to the with the board and I'm on that level of that level that's an interesting point. And in many companies they call that person chief of Staff or chief administrative officer. So that role does exist, but but guy, your instinct is right, it's not as common as I think it should be and frankly in this post pandemic environment we're in. With no leader having been prepared for a workforce that's partly in the office and partly at home and you know hybrid and not ever having everybody in the same place at the same time, you know, physically that is I believe what I see happening is a trend towards the need for that person, a person who who's paying attention to the connection of the of. The entire staff. And so in many companies they choose to call that chief of staff.
Guy Bloom 17:08
So I think the caricature of um. Somebody in that role? That I hear when it's, you know, like in any role can have a charger. So it's and the one here might be it's a secretary with a big title. That might be a caricature basically, or a PA with a title. And of course people can fulfill the, caricature can't they they? Can not be that good at their job, can be operating at that level. So I have trainers that I know that want to be considered facilitators, but really they are just trainers, right? It's PowerPoint and present, but they like they like the big title, but they're not really fulfilling the role. So people I understand that where these things you know can can flow from, but there is there is something about seeing it as a career, as having it as a vocation, so not a job. I mean we can all fall into a job, but there's something about the person that is heading for the C-Suite that is heading for. I'd like to be on the board maybe as a. It's an IT director, what I'd like to be at board level as an e a and and i wonder if somebody had that aspiration, if somebody was 18 and was like, right, how do I get there? Which is a question anybody could be asked. How do you get to be on the board? How did you get to be at that level? You know, some of it might be education, some of it might be just gonna have to get out there and do it. But if somebody said, look, I know it's an impossible question, Bonnie, but if I wanted to be at that level in. 18 years from now, or whatever it is, how would I run at it? What would you?
Bonnie Low Krammen 18:53
It's about mentorship and surrounding yourself with people who are doing it and who have made it. And so for 11 years I've been teaching my three day workshop called be the Ultimate assistant and this class attracts the highest level assistance in the world. And so I love it when I get 20 somethings in this class. Who are ambitious because, as I already said, the profession is mostly women and women in general are not socialised to have huge ambitions. You know, we can have medium ambitions, and I'm talking in generalised social lized messages that we receive and. And so for young women to get a fire lit under them for ambitious goals, I delighted that, and I think the secret is. Finding people, you know, trainers, coaches like me and other many great people in the business who are who are teaching classes about going to the top level. Not mediocre, not you. There are of course many levels in most companies, entry level is at the receptionist level and that's considered administrative role. And then there can be a progression. But in most roles there are progression wins. Of of growth in in the role, you know, and of course many assistants aspire to be the assistant to the CEO and have that seat at the table. But not all do. You know, not everyone is ambitious and wants to have that level of responsibility that's on call twenty four. Seven, and you know, it's heavy duty hours and you wake up in a cold sweat at two in the morning because like, ohh my gosh, that email wasn't sent. Not every assistant wants that. Level of responsibility. But the ones who do need classes to sharpen their saw constantly. It does mean a commitment to on to to lifelong learning, and it does mean connecting on LinkedIn and and really connecting with the people who are who are in the Echelon that you want to be in. And learning from them.
Guy Bloom 21:23
I can I can see how that that makes sense. I've I've got a question it again it's just when we do this we don't plan out the questions and something just jumped into my mind which is I imagine that what might surprise people is how much an era a top flight EA not you know the highest paid one in the world. I'm not talking about that you know but generally speaking top flight e a because I again I wouldn't say top flight CEOs what can they and they can earn millions. But generally, to work as an executive at ac, suite you could imagine that they earned this. Bonnie what? What's the? You know, listen, if you're at the top upper quartile and you're in a. You know, you got a senior role in a. Largest organisation, and e a could expect to earn in that kind of.
Bonnie Low Krammen 22:14
Bracket if it's a bit what what what?
Bonnie Low Krammen 22:17
Are we saying big corporation and you're supporting a CEO or ac suite executive? It is not uncommon, especially in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, the bigger markets, the bigger geographic markets to be making 100 to a hundred and twenty five thousand u s. Dollars if a person has. And that's like 10 plus years experience if someone has and this is based on my experience and based on my what my students tell me and my comment and my communications with recruiters. If a person has five to 10 years experience and they're in a medium sized company and so it's not as large a responsibility that's going to be between 80 and one hundred thousand dollars and then someone with less experience could be between 60 and 80, you know, the the. Historically, the role has been underpaid in general because women are not great at negotiating. And, you know, I'm a woman and I am, you know, guilty of that my myself. And so I learned the hard way. So I train assistance to negotiate. Men are much better at it. The assistants, though, in the C-Suite who have responsibility for direct reports, that's what they call them. You know, people who are reporting to them, they have supervisory responsibility that's a special skill that not everybody has that skill, and those skills demand that that salary would be between one twenty five and one fifty. And the more experience, more responsibility if the person travels, if they have responsibility for the family as well, you know, and that's called an e. A p a and by the way, in the UK where you are e a s in the in America are referred to as PAS over there and my, my. Information about the UK is that the salaries are not as high in the UK as they are in the United States and in the United States. In smaller markets. The numbers, the dollar figures I just named are lower and they shouldn't be because in my view job description equals money. So it really shouldn't matter whether you're in New York City supporting a c e, o and a large company or in, you know, Minneapolis. It should be, in my view, the same amount of money. And there are some. Critters who are looking to make that move and then, you know, assistants go up from there there. There are assistants out there making 200,000 thousand plus some of the top assistants to, you know, very, you know, billionaire people type. Types are could be making 300,000 thousand plus. And they are most definitely viewed as part of the ELT, the executive leadership.
Guy Bloom 25:08
Team yes. I can't. I've decided to retrain.
Bonnie Low Krammen 25:14
A new career guy?
Guy Bloom 25:18
Do you know what and I love. I love that I love that that there's a a sense of you know do you know how much a good e a can have you know I think that's you know and and actually or do you know how much you should be earning right. You know or you know I think that's another thing I have come across people that I have said you know I don't and I can I can spot this in. It could be in any any role. You know you've outgrown where you are because you know our while I get paid. Well yeah. But the age you are and where you could be I mean if you love where you are then that's a beautiful thing. But actually, I don't know if you're aware that in this local area that you are, but go here, go there. That's where you could play if you're as good as I think you are. And I think that's exciting that people could actually go because those are decent.
Bonnie Low Krammen 26:04
Sized that requires guy is a mindset of confidence and leadership, and I train my my students to be the CEO of themselves, that they're in charge of their own careers as opposed to being victims of it. Because the uniqueness about being an assistant is that the definition of the role is dependent on the person they're supporting. And my goodness, that is not one size fits all that the person who's supporting you is. It's going to be a whole different set of preferences and responsibilities compared to supporting somebody else. And there are many top assistants who are supporting multiple executives. And, you know, I know you're into psychology. Imagine what an assistant needs to do to recalibrate her or himself for five different executives, for their personalities, for their styles, for their communication styles. If you, if you can put yourselves in that those shoes for a moment, that's an extraordinary set of ability to be able to straddle all of those different personalities. That's a that's not easy. I supported Olympia. And her husband Louis Zorich, so I had two very different personalities, set of preferences and Olympia would acknowledge she was definitely the more high maintenance of the two. But you know, I did it with two. There are some amazing assistants out there doing it with three, five and even more.
Guy Bloom 27:42
I think that, um, navigating the ego and the politic and just the context of people's. You know the fears and you know, people can have a brave, they can have a brave face when it comes to the vertical that they're in charge of. But I, I sometimes think that the A was often going to be Privy to the knowing that you're being held to account by your CEO in a manner that you're maybe not showing everybody else you know you. I know that you've just been in a conversation where you've had a strip taken off you because of poor performance or poor behaviour. And I know, you know, I know yeah, there's a there's lots of things to navigate people's bruised egos and peoples all.
Bonnie Low Krammen 28:29
Guy Bloom 28:29
Things I imagine it's.
Bonnie Low Krammen 28:31
Just who supports CEOs. That's a very lonely job. That can be a very lonely job. So even even though she's a she or he is an e. A they're not the same as the other A because the A to a CEO knows everything. And you're so right. It's about just because you do know doesn't mean you need to say what you know. And so you know, we talk about how EU's get asked inappropriate questions all the time and how do they respond to that? Because discretion and confidentiality means so much in this role. And those are the kinds of things I teach assistants and talk to leaders. You know in in a way to maximise the this relationship.
Guy Bloom 29:17
I imagine that when you've got two or three people that you really like and you want to engage with and you want to really help and and and they're asking you, look, you know, I need to know this. Can you tell me? And just, you know, there's no Machiavellian stuff going on here, but it's just, you know, having to again navigate people's needs that wants their fears, their their timelines and it must be again. I think it's one of those things that. When I worked with A and I'm just planning to get a group of execs in a room to do a diagnostic, one of the things I say is I can only begin to imagine the complexity of trying to get these six buggers in the same place at the same time. And you see, they look at me and they go, you've got no idea the level of negotiation that's going to be required. And understanding that when they say, well, I've got to do this and that, my ability to go, I understand. But let me tell you that on your agenda, this is actually a level one thing and I need you to put that. To a level 2, so they're holding these people to account the the pulling them up on what they don't want to do and saying listen you, you're going to have to attend them, you know? And it's it's a fascinating role I think of.
Bonnie Low Krammen 30:28
Getting more interesting, I'm.
Guy Bloom 30:30
Actually, I think yeah and why do you think that is? What, what's what's the catalyst for that?
Bonnie Low Krammen 30:38
The catalyst for getting more interesting is is because most assistants. Well, the statistic is that by the end of 2020 two 25 % of all the workforce in the United States are going to be fully remote. That's a huge number of people who are now all of a sudden, well, not all of a sudden, but in two years time. Almost three years time. Going working exclusively out of a Home Office. So these eras are still. Being the backbone of the company, they still are the right arms to their executives. But now many of them are doing it partly from home. Most Tobias are coming in. They're saying that a two three combination seems to be a great one. You know, two days in the Office, 3 days at home or three days at home and two days in the office. So a hybrid situation it is. There are new rules about the workplace now that didn't exist pre pandemic which is. Even the most experienced assistants are having to take a fresh look at how they're doing their work. Travel is being handled differently, event planning is happening differently. You know, vaccination requirements masking requirements, who you know who has new needs because they are living in long COVID, you know, like they're the ramifications of what just happened. I don't think we can underestimate. And as usual, it's the executive assistants who need to know these details. And and and so it's making the work very interesting. It's also making them even more valuable to the organization and the leaders they support.
Guy Bloom 32:32
So talk to me about. It's a phrase round talking truth to power. And I love this idea that when I think I'm quoting you correctly, saying the quiet parts out loud, if I've said that, got that right. And I think I'd just like you to bring to life what that means. And potentially.
Bonnie Low Krammen 32:53
What you entails as I've been writing and researching my new book called Staff Matters, which will be coming out at the end of 2022 I am. Very aware, keenly aware, that part of a major part of the problem in our workplace. When problems exist, it's because the constituencies of the workplace are not talking to each other. That there's the silos exist, that people are, that staff are not talking to leaders, they don't want to be the messenger, they're talking to assistants. So assistants have a key role as a constituent. There's the HR department. Which in many companies is in chaos right now because of the demands of this workplace. They were already burdened pre pandemic and now they have to be infectious disease experts and they have to be developing plans for active shooters and bullying and my goodness, the list goes on and on and then you've got recruiters out there who are trying to place people in companies. And I'm aware that there's not enough talking going on to one another, and there's a lot that's going unsaid now, so that's why I think that we need to. Get the courage to say the quiet parts out loud. In February, I did a TEDx talk called the real reasons People quit and the real reasons are because of poor management and toxic work environments. You know, staff who are being bullied. But staff who are being discriminated against. Sexually harassed, not paid properly. Those are the real reasons people are quitting. But when they go for an exit interview, when they write their letter of resignation guy, they're not necessarily. Saying the truth about why they're leaving. Many of them will say, well, I found a better opportunity. This is not a fit anymore. It'll be jargon around it. And of course you understand that because they need a letter of recommendation. They wanted another job. I get it. But at the same time, the silence. Is not helping us move forward in this workplace. We're just going to keep repeating the cycle of abuse if we don't address it out loud and shining a light on it. Has this great resignation have shown us that people are leaving companies in droves and we hear from employers? Perhaps you talk to leaders who are wrestling with a talent shortage and, you know, services that cannot be fulfilled because there aren't enough people to do those jobs. You know, this is a complex problem. But in essentially, I I think we we can all do a better job at saying the quiet parts out loud. They think.
Guy Bloom 36:07
Yeah, on the something then it well, I think that's that's really interesting and I think there's something about in that role it's almost the EA is very often. The the junction point, the crossroads, the where all the roads come together. Yeah at that point. So so they are in some respects the cultural pulse taker. They they they probably have a on a diagonal cut throughout the business you know who speaks to everybody and and sees everybody. I imagine that that that is a place of. Up capacity duty is an interesting word, perhaps, but having the bravery to, yeah, bring the truth into the room and to be able to say either when asked or to offer it, well, here's my observation and here's what I.
Guy Bloom 37:01
Had and I trained assistance to ask their leaders. I saw something in the meeting. May I tell you what I think? Can I tell you what I saw, hmm, and I urge them to get the buy in of their executives, to give them the license to say it and to set that up from the beginning, because historically, historically, leaders are not. They don't know. Assistants may see and hear they they they do see and hear everything. The challenge for them is to start saying what they're seeing and hearing and that's where I come in.
Guy Bloom 37:41
And that's interesting. Is it because they're seeing and hearing isn't necessarily a judgment it's an observation. The capacity to offer data context is different to then, well, what's your opinion? Well, my opinions are completely different thing that definitely happened. Now if you want my opinion, then you can ask me that, but that's a second question.
Bonnie Low Krammen 38:03
May I? May I tell you what I think Olympia Dukakis would say to me? Bonnie yeah. This was very much towards the beginning of our work together, she would say. You know, I may not always do what you say, and I may not always agree with you, but I always want to know what you think. And that guy was freeing to me because I'll never forget it and it and it gave me the license. Every time that I thought my radar went up and I saw something that she ought to know, then she may not always like it, that I was telling her, no, we really can't go to that hotel. The production company is saying it's too much money or whatever, but I had the permission, the license the, runway to do it, she told me. You know, she said. She came right out and said, I always want to know you think so I work with an assistant 20 hours a week and. I tell her the same exact thing and she does. And I, I think leaders need to hear that because women especially need to hear that in an overt way. You know, I really want to know your opinion. There's not going to be a price to pay if you tell me the truth. And I don't know if you have found this, the difference between men and women, but I have found with women you really need to be overt about encouraging them to say what they're seeing and hearing because they may not always trust that, ooh, is it really going to be safe to do that?
Guy Bloom 39:38
I think there's a group of men, you know, that tip of the spear kind of alpha personality that doesn't require permissions probably to do anything. You know, they'll just crack on and take the repercussions, you know, even if they're wrong. And then there's the group below them that I think are very much in that similar space. So I I think when we say all men are better at I go, no, that's like saying all people from France.
Bonnie Low Krammen 40:02
Guy Bloom 40:04
But there is a percentage, there are 100 % like that they they'll ask for a pay rise. Even if they're not worth it, they'll, they'll they'll they'll make a suggestion that feathers their own nest, etcetera, etcetera. But the majority. You know, of the people I deal with, say to me, have you met my boss or, you know, I don't know if I've. I don't know if I'd really want to say that or not. There's obviously there's always a few lunatics that don't care enough. They go, but the majority sit with doubt and uncertainty and they don't have the permission or they don't want to rock the boat. Or so I think the majority I see in that space. But I am intrigued by the difference between offering an observation and offering an opinion, because you may have. Opinion, which is why you're offering the observation. But the reality is to it's to be able to say, I'd like to talk to you about what I saw. I'd like to, you know, would you be interested in seeing that is not to be confused with. This is what I think about it, but I think I may have seen something that you didn't, and I want you to know it and then you'll do with it as you see it. Well, what do you think about it? What I think about is a completely different, completely different.
Bonnie Low Krammen 41:17
This guide requires some bravery, and it also requires an understanding who you're talking to. And there needs to be a trust that's built up. You know, Olympia and I were together 25 years. So the more I was right, you know, when you build up the capital of being correct about saying, you know, I got a sense that so and so was kind of upset over what just happened and when I turned out to be right, then that creates even more trust for the next time. And it's like, So what do you think? Bonds, what do you think? And that's how these relationships are built. So it's like everything.
Guy Bloom 41:52
I I like that I think there is something that says as you coming up the ladder you you have to calibrate your own radar as well. So if you want to have a calibrated radar you have to put yourself at risk of having feedback that says, well actually I don't know if you're right and This is why or Blimey you are or will soon find out, but by you have to put it out there to have some success or failures with your own observations. And then as you say to to learn, I did offer that. And on reflection, hmm, mental note to self. So you've got to learn to calibrate it to get good at you know, to get good at it. And then you know and their.
Bonnie Low Krammen 42:29
Trust computers can, honestly. Understand that the world in general, many people in their orbit may be protecting them from the truth, and I've had occasion to. Then let me just finish that thought. If they if they believe that that's true, then they need to have access to that information. If they're going to run a successful company, they need to have all the information. And if they're aware that people are protecting them, I think it's a leader's obligation to make their people. Psychologically safe to say the truth. And, you know, I've had occasion to speak with leaders face to face, to say, are you aware that staff often feels afraid to come to you to tell you the whole truth about what's happening? And and they seem a little surprised. And I've said, do you want to know? Because they think you don't want to know. Do you want to know? And two, a leader, they say, of course I want to know. I said, well, then my advice to you would be to do something. To let them. Believe you.
Guy Bloom 43:43
I've coaching somebody at the at the moment and and there's a. Saying in the UK, which is the world the Queen thinks the world smells of paint. Because wherever she goes, there's somebody 3 metres in front of her painting everything. Ohh, it's a fact, you know? So make it look fantastic, right? So that's the.
Bonnie Low Krammen 44:03
Interesting, I've never.
Guy Bloom 44:04
Heard that? The Queen must think the world smells, so it's a UK. You're the queen must think the world smells of paint, right? Because everybody's beautifying everything before she gets there. And, you know, just doing some work with somebody yesterday, the other day, and one of the dynamics was, I think. I think everybody likes working here. I think everybody thinks we're a we're a great management team. I go how many people are there? What was about 500 Well then no. Yeah, well, how do you know? Well, I don't need to know, because you'll have a distribution curve. Some of them will think you're brilliant, some of them will think you're rubbish. And they'll be a group in the middle that you know, they're relatively ambivalent and they probably go from really quite liking it through to well, as long as they're getting what they want. But look, there's going to be a distribution curve why? Well, because. You haven't got 500 people who think you're brilliant. At least ten of them think you're bloody awful, you know. Well, why would they think that? I don't know. But at least ten of them will yeah and and that is that. It's very simple. It's very easy for people in a leadership role. I think you're right. You've hit the nail on the head to. They get paid homage to. People are very careful how they offer things. The vocabulary is tested. And ohh well, he doesn't like, she doesn't like to hear that. So I tend to say this and then over a period of time, you know, can you really trust what you're hearing? So I think that e a very often the HRD S role is to do that as well, but the A is in this beautiful space to say what I hear out there isn't the same as what I'm hearing in here. You know the the the vocabulary you're being offered isn't the same as that I'm hearing when I hear them talk in that space. Do you wanna know that? I think you know the the the value that an e a can bring through not being um. You know, what's the word? Not being an informer, but to offer. You know, to offer the insight and the observation, because you know who you can't see the back of your own head. So it's, it's a it's a fascinating thing. So listen, I'm going to be alert to time because I could. There's a whole load of places I could go to just in conversation, but I think what you've done. Is rather elegantly brought the reality of justice, the weight of the role, the scope of of a role, the value of a role and how, like all things, you know, that's the worst version of everything you know. But then, at the best it can be one of the most valuable roles in an organisation, and I think you're really, really brought that to to life.
Bonnie Low Krammen 46:49
And I love the saying out there that if. To leaders that if you don't have an assistant, you are one. So you know.
Guy Bloom 46:59
Boom, you've finished on a big one there. That's fantastic. If you don't have an assistant are one oh.
Bonnie Low Krammen 47:05
One and that's so true. I mean we all have administrative tasks to do in our lives. It really just because you at Leader knows how to do their own correspondence and calendaring and. Does not necessarily mean it's the best use of their time. And that would be what I would argue that it's time is money. Time is precious. The pandemic taught us that life can change in a heartbeat, man. And better get a handle on this, to do this better.
Guy Bloom 47:35
Honestly, honestly, that's the type of your book. If you don't have an assistant, you are one. This guy's copy of book title.
Bonnie Low Krammen 47:42
Guy Bloom 47:43
Or at least a T-shirt Ohh smoothly, you know you gotta, you need a website with merchandise, something like that.
Bonnie Low Krammen 47:50
Yeah, I can't take credit for it. Cameron herald.
Guy Bloom 47:53
Bonnie Low Krammen 47:53
Doesn't matter. It's a yeah, it's it's really goes right to the heart of what this all is. But I really appreciate the opportunity to talk this through and to reveal to your audience the power of what this partnership could be.
Bonnie Low Krammen 48:12
I love it. So listen from me, from anybody that's listening. This has been an absolute joy. So just stay on the line with me for a few more moments. But from for me, thank you so much. It's been a genuine, absolute joy. Thank you. That's it. So I hope you enjoyed the episode. Please share so others get to hear about us and subscribe so you keep up to date on new episodes. Also visit living brave.com if you want to connect with me and find out more about executive coaching, team effectiveness and changing culture. Ohh, and of course you can buy. My book, living Brave, leadership on Amazon. So on that note, see you soon.