As you may have gathered from my previous posts, I'm on a bit of a personal and professional empowerment kick. I believe that we all need to audit our actions, motivations and most importantly, our internal and external language in order to speak into fruition the things we want to achieve.

Lately, I've taken issue with the term "boss," especially the way it's used. I often experience young kids in customer service situations addressing me with the term.

"What can I get you, boss?"

It's clear they may have picked this up from friends or associates as an acceptable, friendly, non-threatening way of addressing a male customer of a certain age. However, the origin of addressing someone in that way comes directly from the prison system. It's how inmates subordinate and show respect when addressing guards and superiors. And, it creates this strange and immediate hierarchy in our conversation that doesn't sit well with me.

Then, I started thinking. Aren't we just as guilty of this faux pas when we continually refer to our supervisors as our "boss?" Does this not create the same hierarchy in a conversation by pointing out that we willingly subordinate to the person who supervises OUR WORK?

As an advocate for Executive Assistants worldwide evolving the role and the perception of the role into the business partnership that it has now become, it's important to really examine how we use our words in casual conversation, especially with regard to hierarchies. My mantra is, "I am the CEO of ME." Meaning, I'm the omnipotent ruler of all things Phoenix Normand. It's empowering and laden with responsibility. It confirms how I approach my job. It confirms that I am a separate entity (read: entrepreneurship) within the company that I've chosen to work and within the business relationship with my "boss." I am completely aware of the hierarchies within the company and where I fit into them. However, I don't subscribe to someone being the "boss of me." That's a title I'll never relinquish to anyone. In the history of ever.

I approach my role as an empowered, informed, business partner with the responsibility of providing unparalleled assistance to my CEO and his team. Everything I do I assume to be under the microscope with the same accountability as a top vendor being paid millions. Mistakes drop your stock. Bad customer service, the same. Consistently meeting and exceeding expectations solidifies your position as a trusted resource. So, to get bogged down in boss/subordinate speak feels like an unnecessary distraction from the true, business partnership that exists.

So, I call my boss, "my CEO" or "my Exec." It's more empowering and accurate. He's "mine" vs. I'm "his." I'm proud to be a member of my CEO's team as well as the company. I have an incredible amount of respect and regard for how quickly he's built an empire that continues to grow and do good in the world. To be a part of that is something I take tremendous pride in and I do everything I can to help make him, his team and the company successful. So I include myself in the hierarchy as a partner in building this success. My CEO has empowered me to do just that.

This may seem like semantics to some and not worthy of a post on LinkedIn, but I'll challenge you there with a gut check. How do you view Administrative Assistants in the grand hierarchy of your company? Do you see them as empowered, autonomous business partners making a tangible impact on the company's bottom line? Or do you see them as a necessary headcount tasked with keeping things running smoothly, shelves stocked, coffee replenished and not much more?

Sadly, a majority of my fellow Admins see themselves as the latter. A necessary evil. They wallow in subordination because the money's decent and enough of their career goals are being met without ruffling any feathers. Their speech isn't empowered. They seek permission far more than running with the ball. They shy away from confrontation, which actually isn't confrontation at all. It's opportunity for negotiation. And I believe this can all be traced back to the simple use of the word, "boss" and how they view their place within the hierarchy of their company an in the relationship with their supervisor. 

So, for my Executive Admin audience, I issue a challenge and a little homework:

First, stop calling your boss, your "boss." Call him or her your CEO or your Exec instead. And be diligent and self-correcting about this every time you address him or her in conversation.

Secondly, examine your own beliefs about where you fit into the hierarchy at your company. Do you feel empowered in your role or are you just a necessary evil? If you don't feel empowered, is that your Exec's fault or is it actually yours? Are you kicking ass in position or are you doing just enough to be comfy, not take on too much or rock the boat too hard?

To become what I deem a "MEGA Assistant" you must get clear with who you are, what you contribute, how you show up and the perception you've fostered and continue to manage in the eyes of your supervisor(s).

"How you're being treated is how you're being perceived."

This starts with you. And, I dare say, it starts with the language you use internally and externally when referring to your "boss." Are you "the CEO of YOU" or are you being "bossed?" Being able to answer that question honestly will allow you to take necessary steps toward becoming a MEGA or, if you choose, continuing to be competent, comfy, decently paid, yet largely unchallenged and underutilized. It's time for a revolution.

Start with your language. Be the boss of YOU. And make "your Exec" take note. 


Phoenix Normand