Joanne Linden has over 30 years of experience as an executive assistant and is currently president and master trainer at AdminUniverse™.
Joanne and I talk about how executives can empower their assistants, what to do if you’re not being respected, tips on gaining confidence, and much more. Enjoy our conversation!
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True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.
– Sheri L. Dew
CONNECT WITH JOANNE
Joanne Linden, CPS, CEAP, CWCA is President and Master Trainer at AdminUniverse™.
She has a background that spans more than 30 years as an executive assistant. With the majority of her career in Silicon Valley, she has worked with and been part of both successful start-ups and billion-dollar corporations. Joanne previously held the title of Chief Executive Assistant at Synopsys for over 19 years. She is President and Master Trainer at AdminUniverse™, which provides consulting and training for administrative professionals.
A true activist for professional administrators, Joanne, along with other CEO assistants, developed the first certificate program for administrative professionals with UCSC Extension in Silicon Valley. Joanne served on the advisory board and has been an instructor for that program. Joanne was a member and past Chairperson of Silicon Valley Catalysts Association (SVCA) and past President of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), San Jose and Crossroads Chapters. She is currently Founder and Chairperson for Administrative Center of Excellence™ (ACE-EA).
Joanne was instrumental in bringing the Admin Awards™ to Silicon Valley, and was Chairperson for the first inaugural 2016 event. She is a current board member for the 2019 Silicon Valley Admin Awards.
Joanne, along with Linda McFarland, is the author of the book “Sitting on a File Cabinet, Naked, With a Gun: True Stories of Silicon Valley CEO Assistants.”
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Joanne Linden 0:00
Hi, this is Joanne Linden and today’s leadership quote comes from Sherry do true leaders understand that leadership is not about them, but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves, but about lifting others up.
Podcast Intro 0:21
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants.
Speaker 2 0:29
Thank you for listening to The Leader Assistant Podcast. You’re listening to this episode 61. Here’s your host, my dad.
Jeremy Burrows 0:39
Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to Episode 61. I’m excited to share a brief word about my sponsor for this episode. Life squire is an assistant resource center focused on matching executives with assistants and creating relationships where both sides thrive. They would love to help you find the perfect job or work with you to enhance your skill set. You can check them out at lifesquire.com or call them at 405-889-4430. Again, you can check them out at life squire that’s lifesquire.com lifesquire.com And Assistant resource center that can help you find a job and train you to be a better assistant. All right, let’s jump into today’s interview. Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. Today. I’m very excited to be speaking with Joanne Linden. Joanne, how are you doing?
Joanne Linden 1:45
I’m doing great tonight. How are you?
Jeremy Burrows 1:47
Doing? Well doing well. in you? You are in California. Is that right?
Joanne Linden 1:52
I am. What part? Well, I am from Silicon Valley area San Jose.
Jeremy Burrows 2:00
Awesome. So it’s probably not as humid there as it is here in St. Louis, Missouri right now,
Joanne Linden 2:06
I would guarantee that.
Jeremy Burrows 2:09
So you are the president and master trainer at admin universe. And we’ve connected on LinkedIn a while back. And so I appreciate you joining the show. Before we get into kind of what you’re all up to an admin universe, let’s let’s talk a little bit about you. And maybe what was your very first job? And what skills did you learn in that job do you still use today?
Joanne Linden 2:36
Well, when I was probably about 13, I went to work at my family’s restaurant as the dishwasher. And you would be surprised how much I got out of that experience that any small job that you have is worth doing to the best of your ability. And when I had dishes come back that were dirty. I learned really quickly that that was unacceptable. And you know, I upped my game. And so any any job that you do is worth doing to the best of your ability.
Jeremy Burrows 3:16
That’s great. So when and why did you become an assistant?
Joanne Linden 3:23
I knew I wanted to be an assistant from the time I was probably about nine years old because my mother was a secretary. And she took me into the office one day, and I got to sit and watch everything that she was doing. And I was so impressed. I felt like she owned the company. And I wanted to be just like her. So I took all the required business classes in high school. And from the time I graduated high school, I have been an assistant. So it’s been something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s my passion. And I feel like it’s part of my DNA.
Jeremy Burrows 4:07
So when did your Did your mom ever kind of say no, you don’t want to get into this this career or was she all about it?
Joanne Linden 4:17
She I think she was pretty proud that I wanted to follow in her footsteps never thought that this was something that I shouldn’t be doing or suggest that I do something instead. I think she probably saw in me something that she felt would probably be a good fit.
Jeremy Burrows 4:38
Awesome. Did you ask her for tips? I’m assuming.
Joanne Linden 4:43
You know, I didn’t and I probably I think I regret that a little bit. But I think that she had been out of it for quite a while by the time I was in it into it and running her own business at the rest is run and so I probably got more from watching her and how she dealt with people and her people skills at the restaurant is probably where I got more inspiration for her on how to handle people at the office as well.
Jeremy Burrows 5:16
That’s great. So you’ve been insistent, you’ve had a long career as an Assistant, do you have any interesting or funny or maybe crazy stories of times when you save the day in your career, and that maybe you can that’s appropriate and family friendly to share?
Joanne Linden 5:36
You know, the first thing that comes to my mind was about four years ago, when the Indian consulate changed their, the company that they were using for their visas. And my CEO was scheduled to give this huge speech at a conference, they’re in India. And I didn’t realize that they had made this change. And so I was going about business, as usual, where you send in your application, and you get the visa within a couple of weeks. And I saw somebody in, I think a posting saying something about the Indian visas. So I thought, oh, other, check this out. And I went online, and talk to as many people as I could about what had happened with them. And the problems they were experiencing getting Indian visas, and they were saying it would be up to sometimes three months to get a visa. And he was leaving in like three weeks. And so I panicked and went into survival mode. And because there was no way he could miss this. I mean, he was a featured speaker on all the collateral and everything and we couldn’t withdraw him and he couldn’t miss this. So I ended up going up to San Francisco every day for a week and sitting in the counselor’s office with the application. And they would just keep going through the line until I think on the third day, they finally called my name. And then I had to go back every day after that, until it was processed. And I just was sweating bullets until I got that visa. And I swear, I thought I would have to drive it to him at the airport on the day he was leaving. It’s how close we got to it. But I got it through. And to him. It was like Oh, thanks very much. You hand it to him. Okay, great. No idea what I went through to get that in time.
Jeremy Burrows 7:44
Wow. Yeah, international travel is I haven’t had to do a ton of that for my executives. But anytime we start talking about doing some international travel and like, you sure you want to go I know I got my work cut out
Joanne Linden 8:01
your old information because it changes steadily.
Jeremy Burrows 8:06
So maybe what was the biggest mistake that you made as an assistant? And what did you learn from the experience?
Joanne Linden 8:14
Well, I don’t know why all this is coming right back to travel again. But somehow it is when I first went to work for my CEO. At my last company. I was there probably only about a month and he was doing a a very extensive international trip. And he decided that he was going to go from Taiwan to Hawaii, where the sales conference was. And the timing of it was just perfect. And we can get him from one spot to another. And so he was traveling to Taiwan. And I for some reason, thought he was arriving on Sunday. And I contacted our people in Taiwan, they had like the mayor of Taiwan and all these officials there to greet him at the airport. And they were making a really big deal of it. And everything was in place. I thought everything was great. He came back from his trip. And he said oh, by the way, I didn’t arrive in Taiwan until Monday. And all these people told me that they had been waiting for me at the airport. And so what happened with that? And oh my gosh, I thought I I was only there for a month I thought Well, that’s it. I might as well start packing my bags. I’m out of here. But he was very gracious about it. And I think that’s probably what set the tone for our relationship. I stayed with him for 19 years probably just because of that reason. And what I learned from it is check itineraries over and over again because Every time you make a change, it’s something you never know what else is going to domino from that change? And so I read my itineraries with a fine tooth comb every time like, even if it’s just a minor change, or read the entire itinerary, just to make sure nothing else has happened in instead.
Jeremy Burrows 10:23
Yeah. Wow. Well, it’s it’s funny, too, that you found out about it after you got back?
Joanne Linden 10:30
Oh, yes. Yeah, like nothing ever happened.
Jeremy Burrows 10:35
So what maybe, as you’ve done, Assistant, you’ve been assistant for a long time and how you’ve trained assistants. What’s the number one struggle that you believe assistants have?
Joanne Linden 10:49
I hear over and over again. Whether it’s just during networking, or in the training that I do is that the assistants don’t get the response that they need to perform their job, because the executives carve out the time to give them the answers, whether it’s an email form or one on ones, or just, you know, in passing, to get all the information that they need. And they don’t realize I don’t think that the assistants can’t do their jobs without this information. Or if they choose to maybe make executive decisions that maybe without the background that they need from the executive, they might be making an error in the decisions that they make. So it’s so important to have that communication open at all times and be responsible or responsive, I should say,
Jeremy Burrows 11:52
yeah. Yeah, I hear that a lot as well from the system say, I don’t even meet with my executive, I don’t even get to meet with him and or her. And it’s like, What, seriously? Exactly? How do you how do you lead? How do you How are you strategic? How do you even you know, just do simple things if you don’t get some time with them? What do you think executives should look for in an assistant?
Joanne Linden 12:22
Well, you mentioned the word strategic. And I think what’s so important is that they need to look for somebody who can think two or three steps ahead and not wait too, for the instruction as they need to be able to see the big picture and know what affects what and how one thing fits into another and make suggestions on how to maximize an executives time. So somebody who can really see every aspect of the business and understand how they all fit together.
Jeremy Burrows 13:01
Okay, what about a tip for executives to help them empower their assistants,
Joanne Linden 13:11
I would say let them actually take responsibility for some of the things that the executive would normally do, give it up, let them take some of their responsibilities and run with it. And give them the authority to make some decisions on their own and over communicate what their priorities are, what their objectives are, so that the assistant can do those things. Without running back to them every few hours to get answers or next steps. They can do those things without them because they know how the executive would have responded.
Jeremy Burrows 13:56
So if an assistant called you tomorrow, which I’m sure you’ve had assistants, ping you about this many times. But if assistant called you tomorrow and said they were not respected in their current role, how would you encourage them and what would you say to them?
Joanne Linden 14:16
I think the first thing I would say is you’ve got to give respect to get respect. And I think we all think we give our executives respect. But there are times when you don’t really respect your manager because maybe you don’t agree with their principles, or how they’re doing things. And I think that kind of comes through in your attitude without you really realizing it. So you have to be very conscious of giving that respect first to get it back. Now if you’re already doing that, and you’re still not getting the respect. I believe that it is something that you is inherent with some executives that they just don’t respect assistants. And I hate saying that. Because it just is something I think my pet peeve that we aren’t respected the way we should. And sometimes you just can’t turn in an executive around to understand that that’s something that we all should expect. And if that’s the case, I advise assistants to find somebody who does, who understands and just find a new executive, because life is too short to put up with that.
Jeremy Burrows 15:37
Yeah. Yeah, I agree. So what’s, what’s one of the things you really loved about the role of an assistant and maybe you said that your executive was awesome. And that’s one of the reasons you stayed for so long with that one executive. But what’s something you love about the role of being an assistant
Joanne Linden 15:58
I love seeing how the company runs and being behind the scenes, and watching how all those pieces fit together. And it’s like, a finely tuned orchestra, you know, how every piece has its own meaning and and just its own. Let me think what what I’m trying to say it, you can’t have an orchestra without all the pieces fitting together. And and I feel like I’m kind of the maestro a little bit, and and fitting all those pieces together for my executive, so that he can just do what he does, and not think about it. And I just love that part of it.
Jeremy Burrows 16:51
So if you could snap your fingers and instantly give all assistance more of something, what would it be?
Joanne Linden 16:58
Hands down confidence?
Jeremy Burrows 17:00
Yeah. Awesome. What’s a what’s a tip that you would have on how to gain confidence?
Joanne Linden 17:10
Well, I think you have to become very knowledgeable in what you do, and know that you do it really well. And understand that you are the expert at what you do, just as whoever you’re dealing with is an expert at what they do. And if you understand that, I think you go in with much more confidence when you speak in a meeting or speaking with executives, or anybody else. If you have that feeling inside of you that what I say matters. I think that changes everything.
Jeremy Burrows 17:45
Yeah. So you transitioned, at some point to training assistants and educating other assistants. With admin universe, can you share a bit about the story of kind of when and why you decided to launch admin universe?
Joanne Linden 18:03
Sure. So I have had admin universe for about eight years. And it was my side hustle as part of my company, what I was doing in my company, because when I was at my company, as I said, I was there for a very long time. I’ve been a CEO assistant for even longer than that. And I went to my CEO and said, I feel like there’s something more that I could be doing or should be doing. But I don’t know what that is. And I don’t know where to find that. Because I’ve gone to all these trainings. And I haven’t been able to find anything that’s teaching me something new. But I want to look for that there must be something out there. And then I want to bring it into the company and have that training brought in because if I’m feeling that way, then more than likely the assistants in the company are feeling the same way. So he gave me the approval to go out find the training, which I did. And to do a small plug. I found Joan Berge online. And I feel like she’s the pioneer of assistant training. And I brought her program into my company. And once all my assistants had been trained in that program, I wasn’t I felt like I wasn’t done training. I wanted to continue, but I had nobody left to train. And so I convinced Joan to license me to teach outside of my company. And at that time, we were the only ones who were licensed to do that. And I think we still are everybody else is licensed within their company to teach. And so I was able to start holding public classes at that time. And then two years ago, I left my company to do it full time.
Jeremy Burrows 19:56
Awesome. What’s been kind of the biggest challenge for you as it relates to admin training?
Joanne Linden 20:05
Well, the biggest one is, there’s two. One is that companies don’t invest in their assistants. And it’s very frustrating when somebody is really interested in the training, but they say, I can’t get the approval to get the training. The second obstacle is that the assistant won’t invest in themselves, because this is training that they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives, not just at the company that’s paying for it. So if the company doesn’t pay for it, they should negotiate to say, Well, how about if I pay half and you pay half, or pay for it themselves entirely. And the third one, is that some assistants think that they have all the training that they possibly need, they’ve been doing it forever, there’s nothing else that they need to learn. And I was an admin for over 25 years, when I went out searching for something more, that there was something more that I could be doing, or something better that I could be doing. And I learned every day something new about how I do things. So people who think that they’ve got all the training that they need, or all the experience they need, I just think are unaware of how much more there is out there.
Jeremy Burrows 21:30
So what would you say there’s there’s a lot of assistance, training, events, or online, you know, certifications, or programs, etc. What’s something that makes admin universe in the training that you do unique?
Joanne Linden 21:46
Well, I feel that having been in the position and understanding on a daily basis, what admins do, and what they’ve gone through, has given me an edge that I can, I’ve been there, I know what they’re talking about. I’ve been to trainings where there’s people up at the front of the room training, trying to train me on how to be an assistant who’s never been in the role before, and telling me how it should be I can’t relate to them. So I come in with examples of what I’ve done either successfully are where I failed. And these are real life examples that I think my students can relate to. And when I get my feedback on my evaluation forms, they always mentioned having those relevant stories help them really put into perspective what I was trying to train.
Jeremy Burrows 22:46
That’s great. So do you have any tips for networking with other assistants?
Joanne Linden 22:54
I absolutely do. I think that is such an imperative thing for assistants do whether it’s in their companies, or outside their companies, there’s always possibilities. And you should always keep your networks close to you and not wait until you need them. And then people wonder, Oh, she’s just contacting me because she needs something. But if you keep that, that network open, and keep reaching out to people just to say hi, how are you? I think it’s so important to do that. So that when you actually do need them, they’re willing to help you not thinking, oh, what does she want now? So keep up with your LinkedIn contacts. Go to as many functions as you can, that include admins start a networking thing at your office where you get together for maybe a lunch and learn or just invite somebody that you don’t normally see on a daily basis to go to lunch or coffee. I have had heard so many avenues saying we work in the same company. I’ve never met them.
Jeremy Burrows 24:03
Yeah, those are great tips. So what’s what’s one book or resource that you would recommend to all assistants?
Joanne Linden 24:12
Actually, the one that I really enjoyed, was the CEOs secret weapon by Jan Jones. I liked it because it was from the perspective of teaching an executive how to use an assistant. And if that’s what the executive is learning how to do, then you better be ready to work in that style or produce that kind of quality work or be ready for that type of those type of requests. So I think it’s really important to understand what the executives are learning. So if there are and what I also suggest to assistants, is if you see your executives bookshelf, ask him what books Do you recommend on that bookshelf that I should read? Or if he asks you, or she asks you to order a book for them, order a book for you and read the same book and then have a discussion with him afterwards?
Jeremy Burrows 25:14
Yeah, I love that I, I say that all the time where I’m just like, you know, don’t just read assistant books or assistant blogs, like read what your executives reading. I really want to read their mind. Read what they’re reading.
Joanne Linden 25:27
Exactly. Awesome. Well,
Jeremy Burrows 25:29
so you co authored a book? I haven’t actually right here in front of me sitting on a file cabinet naked. I am not sitting on a filing cabinet naked. But that’s the title of the book. And do you have any tips for other assistants listening to the show that might want to write a book themselves?
Joanne Linden 25:51
I do, I would say, understand what motivates you to write a book and why you want to do this, because it is hard to do. It takes a long time, it takes discipline. And it’s more than likely, you’re going to have to self publish, because unless you’re somebody really famous, a publisher is not going to take you on. So you have to Self Publish, and it’s not cheap. So you have to understand, what’s your motivation? Is it worth the money that you’re going to invest in it that you may never get back? Is it worth the time that you’re going to put into it? And what is it that you’re trying to get across? What is it that you’re trying to teach people? And check out what other books are out there? Because if there’s other books that are doing the same thing, then maybe you don’t have as much to share as you thought you did? Maybe it’s already done. But if it’s just for self satisfaction to say, Hey, I’ve done it, here it is. It’s tangible. It was a goal of mine, I wanted to do it, absolutely. Go for it.
Jeremy Burrows 26:59
Awesome. So what do you think makes an assistant a leader?
Joanne Linden 27:06
Oh, my goodness? That is a good question. I would say that, you have to be a team player. And you have to encourage the other assistants in your group. And you have to you have to be a leader to your to your manager, you have to take control of them and or your group, you can be a leader in any position in the company that you’re at. And as long as you take that responsibility, and follow through with what you’re going to you’re going to do and what you say you’re going to do, and and be reliable. That’s all it takes is to be a leader to motivate other people to be their best. Just like the quote that I gave in the beginning.
Jeremy Burrows 27:57
Awesome. Well, Julian, that’s, that’s great. Thanks so much for your story and your wisdom and your tips and what you’re doing for the overall Administrative Professional assistant community. Really appreciate you taking time out of your day to be on the show. And where can we find you online? And how can we support what you’re up to?
Speaker 1 28:18
Well, thank you, Jeremy. I appreciate that. I can be reached at adminuniverse.com. And it you can follow me on there. So you get my blogs that I send out occasionally and my postings on LinkedIn. And if you want to contact me on LinkedIn, please reach out and connect with me. And yeah, that’s that would be the best thing is just follow adminuniverse to see any programs that I have coming up.
Jeremy Burrows 28:49
Awesome. Well, thanks again. And I will put all those links in the show notes so people can find you easily. And yeah, have a great one. And we’ll talk soon. Joanne.
Joanne Linden 28:58
Thanks so much, Jeremy. Have a good evening.
Jeremy Burrows 29:01
Thanks again. Joanne. Check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/61. And just as a heads up, my new book comes out June 23. And you can download the first few chapters at leaderassistantbook.com. Talk to you next time.
Unknown Speaker 29:31
Apple podcast goburrows.com.