When I first shared the idea to start a coaching business for assistants with my friend John Ruhlin (Author of the book Giftology) he said, “Have you heard of Bonnie Low-Kramen?”
I had not, so I looked her up and was so encouraged that I wasn’t the only one who had the idea to help assistants be leaders!
Since that day in 2016, I’ve followed Bonnie’s work, and admired her from afar. It wasn’t until early 2019 that I had the pleasure of speaking with her. I was so encouraged and felt so supported, so once I started the podcast, I knew I had to have her on the show.
When I first heard about Bonnie, I never imagined I would one day interview her on my own assistant podcast. The day is finally here and I couldn’t be more excited to share our conversation with you, so I hope you enjoy it!
We talk about bullying, speaking up, being a celebrity’s assistant, being sexually attracted to your executive, and much more.
It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.
Bonnie Low-Kramen is the Founder of Ultimate Assistant Training and is one of the most respected leaders in the administrative profession. For 25 years, Bonnie worked as the Personal Assistant to Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis and now travels the world speaking, teaching and consulting. Be the Ultimate Assistant workshop that she teaches with technology expert Vickie Sokol Evans was named one of the Top 7 Conferences to Attend in 2019 and Bonnie was named 2015 Educator of the Year by DEMA, the Domestic Estate Managers Association.
The bestselling author of Be the Ultimate Assistant, Bonnie is known for her passionate commitment to closing the wage gap for women and to ending workplace bullying.
Clients include Starbucks, Amazon, Four Seasons Resort Maui, Dell, and MasterCard.
She is on the Editorial Board and a columnist for Executive Secretary Magazine and is a contributing writer to many other international publications. With trademark honesty and humor, Bonnie empowers and inspires assistants to succeed at the very highest levels.
Bonnie lives in Florida with her partner Robert Sanders and is the proud mother of Adam and grandmother to Madison.
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Bonnie Low-Kramen 0:00
Hello, I’m Bonnie Low-Kramen. My leadership quote for today is by Martin Luther King Jr. Our lives begin to end the day we stay silent about the things that matter.
Podcast Intro 0:16
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become irreplaceable, Game Changing leader assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 0:28
Thank you for listening to The Leader Assistant Podcast. Welcome to Episode 19. Thank you so much for tuning into The Leader Assistant Podcast. I’m very excited for this episode with Bonnie Lowe-Kramen. She’s author of the best selling book be the ultimate assistant. She also worked as a personal assistant to Oscar award winning actress Olympia Dukakis for 25 years. She’s now traveling the world speaking and teaching assistants and executives. She’s an outspoken advocate for closing the wage gap and for ending workplace bullying. And some of Bonnie’s clients include Starbucks, Amazon, Four Seasons, Dell and MasterCard. So before we jump in, I just want to remind everyone to check out the leader assistant Facebook group at Facebook.leaderassistant.com. That’s where I will share bonus content, do some Facebook live chats, answer your questions, engage with other assistants from around the world on episode topics. And I also love to hear your topic suggestions, and hear your questions so that I can then ask those questions to my guests, and then answer some of them myself. So thanks again for tuning in. Facebook.leaderassistant.com is how you can join us on the Facebook group. And now let’s jump into my interview with Bonnie. Hey, everyone. Thanks so much for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. I’m very excited today to have Bonnie Low-Kramen with me on the show. Bonnie, thanks so much for joining me.
Bonnie Low-Kramen 2:04
Oh, thank you, Jeremy. I’m excited about your podcast. I think it’s terrific.
Jeremy Burrows 2:10
Awesome. So I’m going to start off with a couple of simple questions, and then we’ll get into the tough ones. How does that sound?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 2:18
Jeremy Burrows 2:20
How did you end up working for Olympia Dukakis? And pardon me if I pronounce her name wrong? She’s an Oscar winning celebrity. And you were her assistant for many years. Is that right?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 2:32
Yeah. So we ended up working for her for 25 years. And at the beginning, we never ever dared to think it would last any amount of time. Olympia ran a theater a non for profit theater in Montclair, New Jersey called the Whole Theater. She ran it. She was the Producing Artistic Director of the theater for for 19 years. And in 1986, I went to work at the theater as the PR and marketing director. I had my degree in theater and English from Rutgers University in New Jersey. I’m a Jersey girl and started working with her at the theater. And this was 10 months before she shot the movie Moonstruck, which is the film that changed all of our lives. It was the film that she won the Oscar for. But when she and I began working with each other in 1986, Olympia, Dukakis was not a household name. She was not famous. So she and I had a chance to work with each other, like you and I would work with each other Jeremy, you know, every day it was about, you know, how are we going to put bodies in these seats for the shows that she was choosing. And in that 10 months, we had the luxury of, you know, being able to just work with each other as two colleagues. And we really liked each other. And we were I really got her very strong woman I have a history of working with really strong women in my career, and liked her so much. And and then 10 months in, everything changed when she came to me one day and said, well, Bonnie, I’m going to Canada to shoot a movie for a month and you and I have a ton of work to do before I go. And that movie was Moonstruck. So that’s how it really began. It was very simple. When she went away for a month she needed someone she trusted to be communications central back at the theater, she couldn’t have 20 people calling her every day on the set. She wanted to talk to one person who would triage all of that information from the different people on staff. And that person was me. And I didn’t know it at the time that I was functioning as a personal assistant. But that is essentially what it was for that month. And that’s where I learned how to triage information, you know, because I never knew when the call would come or how much time I would get Get with her on the phone. And what assistant on the planet doesn’t relate to that Jeremy, right. Right. And, you know, after she that, that went well, the month up in Canada, it was kind of crazy. And that was for those people on the call who remember life before computers and life before you know, fax machines. I mean, it must miss make me sound like a dinosaur. But many people still working today remember life before all of these devices? And that’s what life was like then. And then after she Olympia got back from Canada, the buzz on Moonstruck was pretty instant. And right after that, you know, when she won it was, you know, then the phone never stopped ringing. And that was how we began. So, yep. And you know, Steel Magnolias came after that. And, you know, there are a lot of big movies. So we it just it we went from one thing right to the other.
Jeremy Burrows 6:04
Wow. Did Did people try to get close to you just to get close to her?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 6:10
Yeah, I would say yes. Yeah. What I came to understand is that everybody has an agenda, whether you work for famous person or not. But the world knew, came to know that getting to me was almost better than getting to Olympia because I held the schedule. People would talk to her and be an ask her logistical things. And she would say, Why are you talking to me talk to Bonnie. And then when I would talk to these people, you know, people answered my call very quickly, when you when you work for a famous person that happens. I did understand, though, that people had an agenda and did understand pretty quickly that some people were being nice to me, because I worked for Olympia Dukakis. One interesting thing that happened, Jeremy is that when I left Olympia after 25 years, that was interesting to see. Okay, who is going to answer my call, then? What was going to happen to me? After I didn’t have assistant to Olympia Dukakis after my name? And that was a revelation, I have to say, some disappointing and some very heartening.
Jeremy Burrows 7:26
Yeah. So I’ve experienced a little bit of the dehumanization, that comes from those kinds of interactions, or the kinds of you know, when I was in transitioning from my prior boss, to my current one, well, really, I had a long break in between, where I took some time off, because I had burned out and just kind of ran too hard. So I hit reset, but I realized pretty quickly that you know, who my real friends were. And you know, these interactions, where it’s like, Oh, hey, how’s your how’s it going? And you’re like, Oh, I’m good. You know, it’s like, well, how’s your boss doing? And then I started realizing, Wait a minute, they, they really are interested in what’s going on with with my executive versus what’s going on with me. And so it’s pretty dehumanizing, or it can be. So I had to, you know, whether this was good or not, I’d say it was partly bad and partly good. I started separating the emotional attachment to these people. And being more professional, and just like, you know, understanding that, listen, this is my role, and kind of comes with it. And I’m just going to be professional, and I’m not going to get too attached to people. But then I found when I left, and when it kind of was in transition, I found that it was then hard for me to attach to people, because I had kind of gotten burned, if you will. So I just curious if you had kind of experienced similar types of situations or have or even just have heard this type of Dehuman humanizing with other assistants?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 9:01
Yeah, of course. That definitely happened. And I, you know, I began with Olympia when I was in my 20s. And with each decade, it felt to me and then I’d say this to my students, I’d be the ultimate assistant. I felt like my skin got an inch thicker with each decade of life, you know, that that I began with really thin skin. And in this work, it’s very important that you protect yourself. I do recall people who would be put off or get kind of nasty because they were dealing with me Olympia’s assistant versus her. And they would say, I don’t want to talk to you. I want to talk to Olympia. And when I would tell her, that’s when she stepped in, and she would talk to the person who had said that to me and say and explain, hey, listen, there’s a reason why Bonnie’s working with me and she I’ve asked her to do this. So that’s a really important point for your listeners, Jeremy is that at some point, we, of course want to handle problems ourselves as assistants. But sometimes we need our executives to step in and to, to assert our authority to assert where we fit in the system. I hear this from corporate assistants all the time, that you know, well, you’re just the assistant, I don’t want to deal with you. You’re, you know, only an assistant just an assistant a minimizing thing. And the smartest executives out there do not permit that they do not and Olympia never did. And that was a really important lesson for me. To to watch her and hear her articulate my value. And of course, that’s very motivating. And, and but the You bet there were a lot of times that I went home and really feeling demoralized and thinking why am I doing this? I? It hurts. It just hurts.
Jeremy Burrows 11:04
Yeah. So what would you say to an assistant listening right now? What would be a quick encouragement to them if they’re experiencing the same situation?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 11:16
Well, it’s important to tell your executives, just factually what happened and see if they like Olympia will back you up. The other thing that happened was when one when one producer was particularly rude to me on the phone, and I shared it with Olympia, because they were currently working with each other. You know, I didn’t run to her with every little thing. But this was pretty serious. And her reaction, Jeremy, I will never forget. She said to me, she didn’t hesitate. She said, Bonnie, you don’t have to take that. You don’t have to take that from anybody. Are you going to handle it? Or my? And that was like, whoa, okay, I’ll handle it. Then, you know, she said, she was giving me the license to not take what was being dished out to me, you know, so then it’s in a professional way to say, excuse me, no one speaks to me like that. Or, I’m sorry, did I just hear you, you know, call me an idiot, or, you know, whatever it is, there are techniques to feed back to a person who’s being abusive, or bullying. And I can certainly confirm that in show business stories that you see all off films like Devil Wears Prada. The bad news is that, that those behaviors do exist in the world, and not just in show business, but in all professions. And one of my main messages to assistants all over the world, is to speak up, you do not have to permit bad behavior, even if it’s coming from your executive, you know, everyone is deserving of respect and respect and, and to be dealt with professionally, in this business that there is, I believe there should be zero tolerance, for bullying, for abuse for demeaning behavior, and certainly for sexual harassment as well.
Jeremy Burrows 13:18
One more follow up question on this topic, because I’ve talked to, I mean, several, even in the last week and a half, I’ve talked to several assistants online and heard from several assistants, that they, those types of things happen. But then either it’s like you said it’s their executive, that’s actually the one doing it. Or, or they, they go to their executive and they don’t get that, that affirmation, they don’t get that license to stand up for themselves or that empowerment. So what what would you say to somebody who, you know, what, they’ve tried to speak up, they’ve, you know, my thing is always okay, well, the environment you’re in is not healthy, and they’re not willing to empower you and invest in you, and let you shine. So you probably should find somebody somewhere else. But is there something else that you would kind of encourage them in?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 14:14
Well, what I what I see, you know, we’re in a profession that’s 95 to 98%, female, and females in general. And trust me, I’ve studied this, I’ve talked with leaders, I’m not only passionate about it, some might say I’m obsessed by the subject. What I know is that in general, women are hard pressed to confront, that is torture, to assert, you know, in a lot of tough situations, but especially being bullied. So there are techniques I am a big fan of the book Taming the Abrasive Manager, which offers a lot of great recourse. The bottom line is to many Any assistants around the world are quitting jobs before they even have one conversation with the person they’re having the issue with. If it’s your executive, you have every right to, you know, if you’re being shot down, and you know, they’re not doing anything about it or not changing. It’s about changing tactics. Some, especially in the #MeToo #TimesUp era, when assistants have been going to HR and using language like I’m, I’m dealing with a hostile work environment, in my office, sometimes just saying those words, you don’t even have to threaten a lawsuit, most assistants will not want to go that far at all. Who would who would want to do that? It’s, it’s so so much stress, it’s so much stress. But that is being effective these days. And I’m happy I live to see the day that there’s so much exposure of that problem now. You know, for an executive to not take this complaint seriously, tells me there’s a real lack of education here. And many assistants are successful when they use a new tactic. And sometimes that means going to HR, sometimes that means putting it in writing, and an email simply to say, you know, I’ve given it a lot of thought, what happened in your office yesterday, when we had this discussion, I feel like it’s important for us to revisit that subject. Because you need to know that it is still very much on my mind. And you that’s the elephant in the room, Jeremy right that to talk about the toughest thing, the thing that is messy and complicated is the elephant in the room. And and I see that this whole issue of speaking up is the is what I see as the number one problem in our workplace. You might assistants may not always be successful in addressing the issue, and then it’s probably as time to leave. The good news is that the job market is very strong right now. And and that if they’re talented and skilled, chances are there will be another position. But here’s the thing. This subject is complicated and messy. And without coaching, without some kind of education to the bullies in our workplace globally, that bully if they get fired, they’re just going to go on to another company and do exactly the same thing to other people. And that’s why I’m delighted to be talking about this on your podcast and to write about these issues. Because to shine a light and to be bringing attention to the problem will help the education process we have work to do we need assistants who are going to speak up to the issue. And we need leaders, HR leaders, recruiters and CEOs and managers to be taking this very seriously, because it’s a very important problem.
Totally agree. And, you know, just thank you for your passion for that. This topic and for empowering assistants and for opening the eyes of assistants and executives to this issue.
Yeah, well, the good news is that it’s working. I get you know, you had the conversation a week and a half ago, I get emails weekly, and also and speak with assistants all over the world. And they are sharing their success stories of saying what’s really going on? Yeah, because forever we’ve known that assistants, see and hear everything right. We know that the time has come for assistants now to say what they’re seeing and hearing because what they’re seeing and hearing is a lot and it matters, and it’s and it’s either helping companies or it’s hurting companies. The silence is hurting us. It’s hurting all of us.
Jeremy Burrows 19:22
Yeah. So let’s transition a little bit into we started talking about gender a little bit. So I you know, I’m a male assistant, and I rarely meet other men who are assistants. Why? Why do you think there aren’t more men in this profession?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 19:44
Well, that’s that would take an hour, but you don’t have that. It all started World War Two, you know, when men went off to war and women were running offices, and that that socialization, that reality was so powerful, it got so ingrained in our society that it has been sustained through the decades, even when our men came back from war and started, you know, being in offices again. And so, traditionally, historically, since the war, it’s been a female profession. Prior to that. It was, you know, a male profession, you know, sec, think of Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury, you know, the secretaries were men. Oh, a long, long time ago. So okay, so bring us up to today, where we have this very female dominated profession, and it’s there was secretary’s day and, and now it’s Administrative Professionals day, the world has changed, we know that since 2008, with the financial meltdown, there was that was the event that seemed to create such volatility in the workplace, where there was all this downsizing and layoffs and all of this movement in the workplace. And it really shook things up, like throwing the whole workplace up into the air, like a deck of cards. We’re still feeling it 11 years later. And, and now what we have is a very strong job market, we have a time when salaries have never been higher than they are right now. But we also have, so it’s a great time to be an assistant. But it’s also a really complicated time to be an assistant. Technology is exploding. And I know you’re very involved in AI and all the digital assistants. And so assistants need to be skilled in so many areas, there’s their you know, their resumes have to be very, very deep, that’s creating a situation where men could really thrive in this business. You know, we it’s the data shows that men have an affinity for science and math. And you know, technology has a lot of those aspects going on with it. It’s, it’s, and we also know that to have a more diverse population in any business is a stronger one. So I’m a big advocate of men, being in this profession, there’s really no other profession other than child care, that is so dominated by females. And for me, I, there’s no way I could teach this material without focusing on these gender issues, because I think it has very much to do with how we behave with each other. And how we’re operating in the workplace, it certainly I think, has created the environment where sexual harassment has been viewed as okay. And that that’s just the way it’s been. Well, not anymore. And to have more men in this workplace in the profession would be a great thing on many, many levels, not the least of which it would increase salaries, because the data clearly shows that that men are offered more money than women. It’s just the way it is the wage gap is shameful. We have so many women in the profession who I meet all over the world who are severely underpaid. And I think more men in the profession would help that. So I think there are a few things we can do about it. I wonder, what do you think?
Jeremy Burrows 23:44
I kind of fell into the role. To be honest, I never really thought like, Oh, I’m going to be an assistant, whatever I was, I was a musician at a church. And I was self taught musician. I didn’t start until I was 17. And I just kind of, you know, just taught myself and figured it out.
Bonnie Low-Kramen 24:04
Wait, did you sing or play?
Jeremy Burrows 24:06
I played guitar and I sang.
Bonnie Low-Kramen 24:08
Jeremy Burrows 24:09
so it’s been a while ever since I’ve had kids. It’s kind of hadn’t done much of it. But yeah, I used to do it all the time. And one thing that I that I was struggling with in that moment, I was, let’s see, I was probably early 20s. And there were all these young musicians coming into our organization as we grew, and they were just so talented. Like, they were like, you know, just they’ve been playing since they were three years old. You know, released a couple albums, they were just so talented. And I was just like, Okay, I think my sometimes your talent is never going to be outgrown by the company or in or by the organization. But sometimes your talent is going to get outgrown. And so, my, my musical abilities quickly became subpar if you will for, for the environment. So I was like, Okay, if this is if this is how it’s going to be, I started thinking, what are the things that I can do better than others around me. And I pretty quickly realized that I was the only one that could show up on time meet a deadline, organize a spreadsheet, all these organizational skills, I was just like me, and why Why is everybody so terrible at these skills? Yeah. And, and I thought, Well, maybe it’s not necessarily Well, it was that they were terrible at it. But maybe it’s not just that they’re terrible. Maybe it’s just that I’m, I’m very good at it. And so I ended up long story short, I was, I was an assistant while I was playing music, so I kind of got a taste of it. Then I was a project manager for a while, and then I got married, and I came back and was like, you know, this project manager job, it’s, it’s kind of boring, I need something that’s a little bit more challenging. And so I ended up getting getting the EA job to the founding pastor, and he’s, he’s a, he was an author, chaplain to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, on the board of some global nonprofit organizations. So it was it was, you know, it’s interesting, when you hear oh, pastors’ assistant of a small, you know, pastor or a small church in the middle of Kansas, you know, he doesn’t know what it’s like to be an EA in the corporate world. Well, this, this was a little bit different. And so anyway, so I got it, I jumped in. And that’s, again, I kind of fell into it out of necessity, like, Oh, I could actually make a living and be the best at this type of work in our organization. And so I jumped into it. And I did meet a couple of male assistants early on, and one of them asked me an interesting question. He said, do you see your job as an assistant as a stepping stone? Or do you see it as a career? And I was like, wow, that’s really interesting. I guess I never really thought about it. One, just that question in general, but but to the fact that this is this could be a career. And so I said, I said, yeah, that’s, I think I could see myself doing this as a career. And his his point was basically, like, if you don’t see this, if you do see this job as a stepping stone, then you’re going to use your, your executive, to kind of get what you’re trying to get to get to the next place. And you’re not really going to be able to serve and support them and the way that you need to, to really excel in the role. So anyways, so all that to say, I kind of fell into it, and then transitioned to fast forward a few years to Currently I’m in a startup company, in software, artificial intelligence, corporate world, went from a nonprofit to a for profit world. And I started realizing I need to reach out to assistants and network and meet other assistants. And every everything I’d go to I was the only guy. And now I’m, you know, in teaching other assistants, and doing webinars and workshops, and I got to go to Germany and I spoke at the European Central Bank, and there was like, 85 assistants there, the only other guy in the room was the photographer. So
Bonnie Low-Kramen 28:33
Is uncomfortable for you?
Jeremy Burrows 28:34
No, it not for me, it’s not that it’s uncomfortable. It’s just like, okay, it just makes me think like, Alright, is there something that’s stopping men from wanting to take this, this job or this career?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 28:48
Jeremy Burrows 28:49
and the only thing that I’ve really come up with is just a silly example. But there was a holiday party for the Young Presidents Organization in St. Louis, for their, for the admins for this. And it was like an ornament exchange or something like that. And, you know, nothing against ornament exchanges, but, you know, the, when I see these types of assistant events, or assistant parties, or whatever, and they’re very, all the activities tend to be very female, focused, or, you know, whether we’re that stereotype, whatever, but like, that could be part of it, you know, like this whole world of assistants may not be appealing to some men, because the activities that they do and everything, it’s so feminine. So anyway, that’s the only thing that kind of been able to see like, wow, this is kind of interesting. Like, I don’t really want to go to that party. One because I’m an introvert, but two because it doesn’t really sound that fun to do an ornament exchange.
Bonnie Low-Kramen 29:52
Well, I think that that’s a contributing factor. For sure. I think that that Men don’t, they don’t feel like they’re being seen or acknowledged. But by the same token, there are so few of you that it’s easy to kind of overlook the one man in 300. So I think we have some work to do here. But I think you would agree that we can’t, if we want more men in the profession, we can’t allow this to continue, where it’s just haphazard, and like, you might or might not fall into it. So I really do think that if companies see the value here, they could do a much better job on company websites, you know, on the careers tab, in the photography, and in the language to help recruit men to make it seem like the cool profession, that it really, really is. And you know, how a lot of company websites will feature videos and actual interviews with current assistants. And that will be valuable. I, you know, I went ahead and prep for this podcast, I went ahead and communicated with a few of my male students, one happened to be in Johannesburg, South Africa, and another one in in Seattle. And they both were, were talking about a multi pronged attack to this problem, that we need men to mentor other men and to actively recruit them to mentor and, and talk them through the issues that come up, this is not going to be a simple thing. And it’s going to take time, certainly. But we could do a better job in business business schools to reveal this profession for what it is because my goodness, you know, this profession is paying six figures in the Bay Area. And in New York City and in Chicago. Oh, and in some other cities, you know, if you’re in the C suite, doesn’t happen immediately, another assistant was talking about tapping into veterans who are back from their term of service, and that that’s a good pool of talented, skilled males, who could be very good in this role. So there are a lot of things that we could do if we were, you know, putting some time and energy and money into it. And I certainly hope we will, I hope in this next five to 10 years that we see a real influx of men. And I happen to think that this podcast that you’re doing, Jeremy will inspire men to perhaps dip their toe in the water and take a leap. Because one of my favorite sayings is you can’t be it, if you can’t see it. And so to hear you talk through it, then they get to see what’s possible. And that’s the beginning.
Jeremy Burrows 32:50
Honestly, that was one of my reasons for starting. It was like, you know, what, what if there are other men out there that you know, and they hear an assistant podcast that’s, that’s led by a man and who is an EA, and who is a career EA. And, you know, one of the things I will say too, though, is that I didn’t realize until I got into it, honestly, it’s it’s better than an MBA at a university when it comes to running a business. And so any entrepreneurial type, men or women out there that are looking for a career to absorb and soak up as much information about running a business as possible. This is this is definitely the career for that.
Bonnie Low-Kramen 33:31
Oh my gosh, I mean, for me, I had a front row seat, watching, you know, a movie star become, you know, a mega star. It’s an amazing front row seat for all kinds of businesses. You had that I had that and you know, assistants, especially in 2019, are taking their seat at the table as executive business partners to their executives, and, and having a voice, which is super cool. If that’s what you want to do. If you really want to be involved at that level. The opportunities are great.
Jeremy Burrows 34:08
So let’s let’s talk a little bit about the EA, advocate, EA trainer world. You were the you were the first person that I had even heard of that was doing such a thing as coaching and teaching assistants. And it really inspired me. We have a mutual friend, John Rulon who is in St. Louis, and I was talking to him about my idea to start a start a business, start a blog, start a coaching, side hustle to help assistants and help executives get more or less Oh, and he’s like, Oh, have you heard of Bonnie Low-Kramen? And I’m like, No. And so he’s like, You should look her up. She’s great. And what I was like, I looked it up and I was like, wow, this is a thing. Like somebody’s actually doing this. And it’s actually like there’s a need for it. Yeah. So anyway, I over All I found the world of EA trainers and advocates very kind to be very kind and generous to me. But I have experienced a little bit of hostility, a little bit of competition. But when I reached out to you, you know, for the first time, and subsequently, you were just so kind and then supportive. So I just wanted to ask first say thank you for being so supportive and so generous with your time. But I also just want to ask, what would you say to those in the in this industry that feel threatened or might even get hostile when they hear about and here’s another EA advocate, making a name for themselves or trying to help the EA world?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 35:42
Right. Well, first of all, thank you for your kind comments. I appreciate them very much. This business is really small, still really, really small. There are tons of people out there hundreds, maybe 1000s of people training leaders in the world. There are not that many of us training the assistants of the world, that this group of people is enormous. There are 10 million assistants in the United States. And there has been pitifully small amount of training available for this group of people, which always struck me as crazy. And you know, and I believe it’s directly associated with the fact that it’s dominated by females. Because the females of this business, Jeremy, as I travel the world, and I was one of them. Our attitude is that we’re just going to be heads down, do the job, do whatever it takes, don’t complain, you know, that old socialization kicks in. And women in general will complain to each other, but not to leaders. And so I really believe that’s been a contributing factor that’s led us to this place. But as when it comes to the training world. The divisiveness and negativity and envy, are destructive to the profession. And therefore. And I think I learned this from Olympia Dukakis, as you know, she was functioning and one of the most competitive businesses out there showbusiness right, and competing with other actresses for roles. And what I saw in her and on my front row seat, in my front row seat, was a woman and a professional who was so generous to her colleagues, to people who were attempting to do excellent work. Because here’s the thing, Jeremy. I’m the only Bonnie Low-Kramen and there is. So I get to bring whatever it is I’m going to bring to a student’s experience and you’re Jeremy Burrows. Only you can be Jeremy, each trainer, each assistant brings our unique selves to the room, the competitiveness, the pettiness, I, I’m, I have very little tolerance for it. Because I see that it distracts. And it’s destructive to the profession as a whole. And we’re still vulnerable. I mean, again, if I can point to 2008, it’s only been 11 years since this new normal, this new normal that we’re trying to function in. And we have 10 million people in the United States, and 250 million assistants in the world who are struggling right now. They are drowning in work. They’re in this complicated environment that’s 24/7, nonstop, we have this proliferation of technology. And they’re not necessarily trained to advocate for themselves. So many assistants feel siloed so when you when you add all of that up, you have a situation that’s, that’s right for stress and burnout among the assistants, but also among the trainers. I have tried very hard to keep the big picture in my brain as I’ve moved forward, and you know, when I see I saw what you were doing, for example, and listen to the podcast and and read the writing that you were putting out I thought well, you know, my effort is to support any one and everyone who is working to make a positive difference in this profession. And I’m I’ve meant it from the beginning and I mean it now and I’m going to meet it in the future.
Jeremy Burrows 39:56
Awesome. Well, it’s definitely a encouraging and and like I said, a supportive attitude to have for the for other newbies such as myself in this world. So I appreciate it.
Bonnie Low-Kramen 40:12
Well, you’re welcome. And I think there’s there’s plenty of business for everybody. There is so much opportunity, I continue to do first time training at companies, it’s the first time that they’ve ever done training for the administrative staff. I suspect I’ll continue to do that. But that can’t stay, it might be the first but it can’t stay the last, because that’s going to hurt companies and leaders are coming around to that idea. There’s plenty of business for everybody. And you know, what I would say, to every trainer out there is focus on what you’re doing, as opposed to focusing on what other people are doing. You know, tell me, tell me the wonderful things that that you’re offering. That’s what I that. That’s what I want to hear, as opposed to, you know, a comparison between people
Jeremy Burrows 41:04
love it. If somebody’s listening right now, and they’ve had the ideas and they’ve, and they felt this itch to kind of put themselves out there and start something similar, whether it’s a blog, or a podcast, or a training or, or a conference or whatever, you know, self promotion can be very intimidating and make you feel vulnerable. I think personally, I think everyone should promote themselves, because we all have something to say. And as you mentioned earlier, we’re all unique, and we have our unique voices. But there’s also a way to self promote, that’s pretty off putting and not not healthy. So how have you dealt with that? self promotion and promoting yourself without coming across as arrogant or all about me, me, me? And how would you encourage somebody that’s just starting out or really wrestling with like, you know what, I want to do something but I don’t want to like, promote myself?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 42:06
Well, I can tell you, I absolutely believe that it’s more difficult for women than it is for men to self promote. Women have been taught from the time were little that to not brag to not toot your own horn that that’s seen as negative. So that’s something that we carry straight into adulthood. And it’s not that men don’t have that. I think it’s important to have wing men and wing women. It’s one of the beauties of of how Vicki Evans and I work together with our be the ultimate assistant workshops, it’s powerful to have other people say nice things about you, that are real, and that are authentic, that’s what’s so great about testimonials, that people will lend their name to and their photograph to and name their company. You know, for those people who are interested in beginning if they feel that they have something to contribute to this profession. To that I say, begin, do something, do take one simple step, write a blog post, offer a class, meaning, you know, take a space at the local library and have five people, you know, it baby steps, it’s this is a process. It took me a long time. And most trainers, I know, it’s taken a number of years to build up, you know, their own unique voice and message about, you know, what is it that they’re bringing to the community? That is certainly true for me. And I think that’s, that would be true for others. I think self promotion. It’s I think social media is useful in this way, especially when feedback comes from the community. And I think assistants could do more of that. I think there are a lot of assistants who are reading LinkedIn and social media and far less of them are commenting and saying what they really think. And I and I was hesitant, I was shy about it at first, you know, all of these developments are pretty new. You know, we haven’t been living in this high tech environment for all that long really. So for a lot of assistants, it’s new stuff. And but what I see is a real need an urgent pressing need to the trainers out there. I say fill the need, and it won’t come across as self promotion. Just say the truth. Speak your truth say what’s real. And you know before I hit Send And my criteria, before I hit Send or post, I asked myself, is this going to help somebody? Could this help somebody out of every workshop that I’m selling on social media? You know, do I want to have people come to our classes? Absolutely. And I do feel like we’re serving a very big need. But out of every, you know, promotion, there are nine other articles of just pure content. You know, my, you know, some, some people think, Oh, well, don’t give it all away on on social media, because then why would they ever come want to hear you teach a class. And add to that, I always remember what Vicki Evans says, you know, think of your favorite comedian. And when you go hear your favorite comedian, you want to hear the same bit again, and again. And again, because it’s your favorite, you know, assistants will want to hear their, the trainers with whom they resonate. Even if they’ve heard the same message in a in a different way, or even then the same exact way. They want it, they need it. This is all so new, pretty new. The the need is pressing and urgent. And and I say the more the better.
Jeremy Burrows 46:23
Great. Well, let’s, let’s kind of wrap things up with a doozy, if you’re if you’re up for it. I recently posted a comment about affairs between executives and their assistants. And I’ve personally seen this pretty closely in some of my, the places I’ve worked and family members. And you know, it’s just been, it’s been pretty in front of me, I guess. And so I, I may have, you know, more things to say or more thoughts about it, or more concerns about it than others. But I had it is a very interesting, I had a very polarizing comments where it was like half that half the comments were like, Yeah, this is really thoughtful. This is something that nobody talks about. And then half of them were like, that’s, that’s a sexist thing to say. And that doesn’t happen. And that’s, that’s just the, you know, we’re the stats to prove it, and yada, yada. Yeah. So I guess all that to say, in follow up to that I did have a couple of assistants reach out to me, separately, and you know, in privately saying, I really appreciated you sharing that post, I’m actually dealing with something similar in my current job. And I’m curious as how, how to how to work through it, because nobody talks about it. Right. So it kind of validated my reason for wanting to talk about it, because I know it’s out there. So what would you say to an assistant who becomes romantically or sexually attracted to their executive?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 47:59
What I would say is that in my 25 year career with Olympia, Dukakis, and in showbusiness, I certainly saw it numerous times, you know, from just hearing about it from firsthand, from the people involved, I can tell you that what I’ve seen is that the assistant loses, it’s a lose lose situation, typically, because if anybody’s going to get fired, it’s going to be the assistant, the assistant wants to believe that her partner’s going to protect her. And it typically doesn’t work like that. I think that I can think of one or two circumstances where it did work out. But the assistant always ended up not working at the company anymore, because it’s really hard. The the rumors start going, and it’s distracting. And it’s polarizing on the team, and especially if it’s an affair, and people have very strong feelings about that. And then when others are asked to lie, that’s a big problem, too. You know, assistants are proof they see and hear everything. So it’s, it’s not easy to hide any of that, you know, assistants should fool themselves into thinking, Oh, we’re going to keep it a secret because there is no such thing in the workplace. So I think it’s a it’s a lose, lose, however, do I see how it happens? Absolutely. Because we hear the term all the time work wife, you know, that assistants or work wives, you know, Olympia and I used to joke that I spent more time with Olympia than her own husband did. And you know, that’s a sad commentary on what’s going on in America these days. That you know, we’re crazy workaholics here. And so if you’re side by side with someone, you know, 10 12 hours a day you can absolutely easily See how some sexual attraction might happen?
Jeremy Burrows 50:04
Well, one last question is, what do you think makes someone a leader?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 50:11
What I have seen is that what makes someone a good leader is the understanding that every person in the company is there for a reason they’ve been hired for a reason. And that whether no matter how high or how low, they are, on the on the, on the chart on the organizational chart, and there, they are worthy of respect, and a sense of belonging, at every level. That’s leadership. The leaders who are successful are the one to walk the halls and who tried to know everybody’s name. And there is a sense that a leader is walking side by side with the team and that no task is below him or her. That’s what I see as a really effective leader.
Jeremy Burrows 51:10
Great, well, thanks so much, Bonnie, really appreciate it. We could probably talk for another hour or two and have fun and talk about a lot of good stuff. But we’ll we’ll save our listeners. For this episode, at least.
Bonnie Low-Kramen 51:23
Well, I invite your listeners to you know, check, check out my writing on LinkedIn and betheultimateassistant.com. We’re in this thing together. And we have a lot of important work to do. So Rock on, Jeremy, you’re doing great.
Jeremy Burrows 51:40
Thank Bonnie. And I will say everyone should check out your book. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about writing a book. But we can say that for maybe another another show. But check out your book. And again, LinkedIn, like she said, and I’ll post all those links and to her book and her LinkedIn and all that. I’ll post that all in the show notes, so everyone can get to that easily.
Bonnie Low-Kramen 52:04
So you’ll be writing a book, Are you Jeremy?
Jeremy Burrows 52:07
Yes, yes. But who knows when? It’s, it’s Yeah. I guess another way to say another way to answer that would be yes, I’m writing a book every time I write anything for my LinkedIn or my blog, or even the podcast is like I am writing a book. It’s just a matter of when am I going to organize it and publish it?
Bonnie Low-Kramen 52:30
Yeah, it is. It’s a ton of work. But the first step is wanting to do it and having a need a driving need. So I’ll be looking forward to reading that.
Jeremy Burrows 52:41
Bonnie Low-Kramen 52:41
Thanks for having me.
Jeremy Burrows 52:43
Yeah. Thanks again. Well, thank you so much for listening. And thank you again, Bonnie. I really enjoyed our conversation. You can check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/19 that’s leaderassistant.com/19. And we’ll have all the links there. Also check out our Facebook community at Facebook.leaderassistant.com. And lastly, I wanted to invite you to join the 30 day assistant challenge. It’s an email every weekday for 30 days that challenges and encourages you to be a leader, to network with other assistants to take care of yourself instead of just focusing on your executive and it also helps you take care of your executive more efficiently and I hope you can join the assistants from around the world who have taken the challenge so far. Assistantchallenge.com is where you can sign up. Thanks again for listening and we’ll talk to you soon
Podcast Outro 53:56
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