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An exciting journey with a Professional Development Group

An exciting journey with a Professional Development Group

March 18, 2015: Seven Executive Assistants gather at Företagsuniversitetet in Stockholm, somewhat hesitant, but full of expectations, and the conversation is shallow and polite.

November 30, 2015: The same seven Executive Assistants meet at SWECO’s offices in Stockholm, happy to see each other - hugging and kissing cheeks, speaking all at once and the sound level is high.

How did we get there?

For me it started with the following sentences:

”Do you feel lonely in your role as Executive Assistant?”
“Do you miss colleagues on the same level and with the same areas of responsibility?”
“Would you like to meet, exchange experiences and get support from other Executive Assistants?”

Those were the questions that caught my eye when I received the invitation from Företagsuniversitetet to participate in Professional Development Groups for Executive Assistants. In the invitation it said that the groups will work as a manager’s network, guided by a facilitator with a professional career as a manager.

This happened the week after I had my development dialogue with my boss, when we – among other things – discussed some kind of mentorship programme, or extended professional networking, for me. The timing couldn’t be better!!!

After this first get-to-know-each-other meeting at Företagsuniversitetet we have had a fantastic journey. As I mentioned, the group consisted of seven Executive Assistants from different areas such as the union Ledarna, PostNord, ICA, SWECO, Alfa Laval, PWC and Boliden, and the mix of experiences and personalities was perfect. The group was facilitated by Meg Tivéus, who has extensive experience from Board work and MD positions.

The originally planned six half-day meetings became seven, and each time one of the participants hosted the group, made a company presentation and we also got the opportunity to meet her manager. The rest of the time was spent discussing different topics connected to our profession. We had the freedom to set the agenda and discussion topics ourselves and Meg was an invaluable support in this.

Already at our first meeting we agreed that confidentiality is vital! If we were not able to trust that everything we said would stay between us, we could not be open during our discussions. We never signed any confidentiality agreement, but this was at the back of our minds all the time.

What kind of topics did we discuss, then? It could be anything from salaries to where we would like to be in 3 or 10 years. During one meeting we gave each other tips on administrative tools and discussed how to develop our roles and our competence. Another time we learnt more about mindfulness and how to be more focused and relaxed, and under less stress. We discussed the complexity of our role, when it comes to influence and authority. For our last meeting we had all made our individual Top 10 lists of things we would like to change – as a first step of our change work – which we shared with each other and discussed. This was very rewarding!

On November 30, we met for the last time within the Professional Development Group programme and after the meeting Meg invited us all to her home, where she took care of us with great hospitality, fantastic food and wines.

We all feel we have made a fantastic journey and that we have become friends for life. Meg has said that she will forever be available as our support and advisor, we have created a LinkedIn group where we continue to discuss and share experiences and those of us who are available meet for lunch once a month in Stockholm. And we also have far-reaching plans to meet in the near future for a reunion and follow-up of our Top 10 lists which we created at our last meeting.

Last, but not least. This journey would never have happened without our fantastic facilitator Meg Tivéus! She has been there for us all the time, encouraging us and sharing her experience. I asked Meg what she got out from participating in this journey together with us and she spontaneously answered that being facilitator for this group was one of the most fun and stimulating things she has done in life! She was impressed by all the mutual issues that came up, pieces of advice that were given and discussed, and the importance of the interaction with our managers in order to facilitate his/her work.

“Another reflection is how much that happened during the year,” Meg continues, “both when it comes to the work situation for the participants and also privately. Then I believe that, having access to this group, contributed a lot to giving another approach and seeing things from new angles”.

And I agree!

Eva Borg