In a world that is constantly fighting for our attention, being an effective EA means avoiding the trap of interaction autopilot, says Anthony Laye.
When I started my first business at the age of 21, I was enthusiastic, driven and I had big goals. Within a few years I built a successful joinery company with seven employees on the team, two apprentices in training and I was looking to grow the business further. My personal life was also flourishing; I had great friends, bought my first house and was engaged to my long-term partner.
In 2003 the business took some devastating blows that started a rapid downward spiral of not only the business, but also my mental health. Witnessing the business I had built start to crumble around me manifested a very bitter and negative feeling and I started thinking the entire world was against me. I went from being ultra positive and driven to outwardly negative and feeling like a prisoner in my own life. I lost everything that I had built both in business and my personal life.
One night after a few drinks (a regular occurrence in an effort to try and drown the pain of reality), a friend delivered the following words that were the catalyst for a sudden change in mindset: “You are a really nice guy Anthony, but you are so negative no one wants to be around you.”
Those words hit me so hard that they penetrated my core. In that moment it was like a switch had been flicked, shining a spotlight on my behaviour that I had been completely unaware of. I had been letting life and my situation control how I was interacting with the world—I was on autopilot. The next morning I awoke a completely different person. I took control and I decided that the only way I could move forward was to be conscious, and decide how I was going to interact with each day.
As an EA you are the critical link between an executive and the rest of the world. You’re under pressure from all angles, you have to deal with a vast array of different personalities and be ready to adapt and change at any moment in time. One minute you may find yourself head down, frantically searching for a document to suddenly being in the boardroom for a 10am meeting.
Despite all this pressure and the constant tsunami of demands, you are expected to remain fresh faced, calm and controlled. To be a high performing EA you must ensure that you don’t fall victim to interaction autopilot, you need to make sure you don’t take the self destructive path, and allow situations and events to control your actions. You need to adopt a ‘Conscious Mindset’.
Introducing The Conscious Mindset
Having a conscious mindset is about checking in with yourself consistently throughout the day; taking a moment to identify what stress, tension and emotions you are holding on to, then releasing them and making a conscious decision as to how you are going to act and behave as you move forward. It’s a simple moment in time that takes a few seconds—I encourage you to follow along as you read.
Step one: Identify and Release
Take a deep breath in—focusing on expanding the body, not just filling the chest—exhale fully and allow your entire body to relax and notice how it feels. Observe where you are holding tension (shoulders and face is common) and consciously release. Repeat if needed.
Step two: Set Intention
As you re-inhale, consciously decide what energy you need to bring to your next activity or task, who you need to be and how you need to be turning up.
Step three: Move Forward
As you exhale, move forward by acting and being your set intention.
This is a simple yet powerful tool, use it whenever you go from one activity, task or conversation to another. It’s time to stop reacting to the world on autopilot and become conscious; you will radically improve all your interactions and relationships in life, but most importantly you will improve the relationship you have with yourself. S
Anthony Laye works with entrepreneurs, professionals and executives who want to amplify their speaking and communication skills, so they can stand out, win trust and influence.