Celebrate your ‘number four’

Aril is the fourth month of the year and the month when Administrative Appreciation Day is celebrated. This year, National Administrative Professionals’ Day falls on April 24, 2024. That’s a whole lot of fours.  

This made me think about the meaning of the number four. Here’s what Google says: the number four is related to self-expression, loyalty, mental stability, trust, patience, organization and determination. It’s a symbol of harmony and order. Four is in cardinal directions (North, South, East, West), the four elements (earth, water, air, fire) and the four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter). 

The number four is important in our day-to-day lives. You see where I’m going with this. All attributes and qualities of the number four sum up a high-performing administrative professional. This is the year of the executive assistant.

Who is your “True North” administrative professional that helps you navigate your South, East and West? Do you have an administrative professional on your team who helps you with the ins and outs of your daily grind? Is there someone in your office who greets you, sends a note to celebrate even the tiniest wins? Or, more importantly, who is supporting you in your professional winter season with an air of summer to make it more manageable?

I recently had a call with a chief executive officer. As we ended the conversation, I reminded him about April 24, “Don’t forget your admin.” He paused. It was a hush on the phone that you know you’ve made someone stop in their tracks and think. Needless to say, the conversation went more than a few minutes over because he had lots of questions, which I loved because his interest was so sincere.

He went on to share that he had had several admins over the years but never once “celebrated” the day. I was floored. He was floored. And, honestly, he was sheepish that he was unaware. It felt like the ultimate professional faux pas. He couldn’t help but wonder, in hindsight, if his admins believed that he did know and chose not to acknowledge them. I could tell this really gnawed at him. Which, again, I loved because it showed his heart.

It made perfect sense to him that there would be a day carved out of the business calendar to celebrate administrative professionals. I reassured him that you only know what you know. It’s what you do with the information that’s important.

National Administrative Professionals Day is an opportunity to surprise and delight your professional cat herder, calendar Tetris master, chief of moral support and, above all, YOUR biggest fan and cheerleader.

Earlier this year, I held a focus group of administrative professionals and asked them about National Administrative Professionals Day. I really wanted to know, from the gallery, what they thought of the day. What were their expectations? What had they received before and, quite frankly, what do they really want? 

Unsurprisingly, no one in the group had any expectations. In fact, they were taken aback that anyone would expect anything. This really spoke to me about the caliber and quality of administrative professionals. 

Lean in. I’m going to show you my full deck of cards in no particular order that say “You matter. You’re seen. I appreciate you. And, I’m sorry for all the crazy I cause you!”

A massage

Nail salon appointment 

Lunch or dinner reservation

A floral arrangement with gourmet chocolates 

Pre-arranged self care day

A basket of their favorite snack(s)

Meal delivery subscription 

What would you add to this list?

    You know what mattered most, though—and it wasn’t just one or two assistants who brought it up. What mattered most is the desire for a deeper 1:1 connection with their executive. One shared that she was given a fixed dollar budget to purchase anything that she wanted on the corporate credit card. She bought a travel bag because she wanted to be practical with the company money. When you think of your assistant, does that surprise you? Remember, stellar admins are service-hearted, selfless and humble.

During the course of the conversations, everyone said they’d prefer lunch with their executive or a simple, handwritten thank you card. Really take note here: There is no greater gift than the gift of your time and attention. Time from you and time from the team. 

Time and attention should be part of your regular practice to build, and strengthen, rapport with your admin. For National Administrative Professionals Days, I challenge you to think outside the box, get creative and make an effort to really demonstrate your appreciation. 

This year, plan to set the standard and the bar high. Be an example to your team and your sphere of influence. Treat your executive assistant. Go out of your way to make them feel special. Be expressive and vulnerable. You’d be surprised how good it will make you feel, too, when you see their eyes beam with gratitude and a warm smile sweeps across their face because of your unexpected generosity. 

Joelle Paban is a former executive assistant. She stepped out on her own and created Joelle Paban & Associates, a niche recruiting firm, in 2014. Joelle Paban & Associates offers immediate, permanent placement of well-qualified, highly coveted, executive/administrative candidates. You can reach Paban at joelle@joellepaban.

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