Don’t you hate it when you write up what you are sure is a fabulous blog post, then forget to post it for 4 weeks? Yeah, so much for being super-organized. After much delay, here is what I experienced at the IAAP Summit in New Orleans:
The IAAP tagline is “Connect, Learn, Lead & Excel.” I’ll cover the trip on each of these points.
Connect – This is the easy one. I saw more evidence of my theory that admins bond quicker and more strongly than people in any other profession. I made several new connections and caught up with plenty of my established ones. There are 2 of them from Atlanta that are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO easy to amuse. My wife had them clutching their sides as well. Outside of conference time, my wife wanted to go to the casino. I wanted a drink. Perfect combo. We went to a French Market after the casino so I could get some Oysters Rockefeller, and we went to Café Du Monde to get beignets, which I believe is required by law when you go to New Orleans. (TIP: If you want to go there, go in the evening. All the tourists know this is the place to get the beignet, and everyone goes in the morning. Go at 8:30 at night like we did, and there’s hardly any line. Oh, and take your cash. They don’t accept credit cards.) One of these Atlanta friends was on a Hurricane Challenge – drink 1 hurricane each day from a different establishment. She pulled it off. At lunch on the last day of the conference, a bunch of us went to a burger joint close to the hotel. I sat at a table with 2 IAAP vets and someone who was a member in the past and had just rejoined. We explained the recent structure change to the association and why it was beneficial, even though some long-time members despised it. She felt much better about things afterward. Once again, I was amazed at the ease and speed at which perfect strangers walked away from a 1-hour lunch as good friends.
Learn – As much as I emphasize the fun – and the beverages – the real reason we all go to this conference is for the learning. I took a workshop on the art, science & strategy of managing up. The instructor was Dr. Veronica Cochran, who has presented at this conference a number of times. I’ve been to this conference 9 times, plus countless other seminars and training classes in my career. I told her afterward, and also said on Facebook, that when I’m 100 years old sitting in a rocking chair with Cream of Wheat on the edges of my mouth, there will be 4 or 5 instructors that I will still be talking about. She will be one of them. This workshop drove home the point that our profession is vital, no matter where we sit on the org chart, and we should take ownership of that. Managing up is highlighting your accomplishments without coming across as a narcissistic horn-blower. It requires you to do your job well, staying within established protocols, and focus on the performance, not on being personal. It was part instruction and part pep rally. It was one of the most energizing workshops I have attended.
In a workshop titled “It’s Not You, It’s Me: There is No Such Thing As Difficult People,” I was introduced to the 10-80-10 principle. We’re familiar with 80/20 (80% of the work is done by 20% of the people), but this carries things to the next level. It was illustrated in an example where a leader has to motivate a team to accomplish something. The people in the group will fall into 1 of 3 areas – 10% will be champions. They will be all-in and fully motivated to reach the goal. There will also be 10% that no matter how you prepare, how inspirationally you lead, or display you competence that the group will succeed, they will not be on board. They will offer little assistance but complain consistently about others. The remaining 80% will be in the middle, likely willing to do everything assigned to them but not much beyond that. Which of these 3 groups should you focus on? The answer is the first 10%. The last 10% are likely to resist your efforts, already assuming failure and more intent on fighting change than using it to their advantage. So focus on the 10% that are your champions. In the beginning, this highly-motivated group will accomplish much, and will likely bring a big chunk of the 80% in the middle into the more active group.
Lead – I saw this in an unusual way. It was the IAAP certification program. Some of you may be surprised to know that the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designation is really a thing. There are thousands of professional certifications out there. At my company, we have a place in our internal web portal where you can build a profile, much like you would on job search sites like Monster or CareerBuilder. You can add professional certifications by choosing them from a drop-down menu. Naturally, the CAP is not one of them. I can’t be too mad at them. After all, I didn’t know that Certified Drinking Water Tester was a thing until I looked at that list. I’m going to contact HR to get the CAP added next spring. Why wait until then? Because that is when IAAP expects an accreditation organization to recognize the CAP. With it being an accredited credential, no business will be able to dismiss the CAP as some cute little secretary’s paper. It will be on par with the PE, PMP, CPA and all the other top certifications out there.
For those that are tempted to dismiss the CAP as illegitimate because you have never heard of it or you think any untrained monkey can be an admin, let me share this tale. I go to church with several CPAs. Two of them and I were talking one day, and one of them said, with quite the chuckle in his voice, that he had seen some very inventive ways that other CPAs had used to get their continuing education credits. He talked of a guy that was sitting in an all-day seminar, but while the seminar was going on, he was on his laptop taking several CBTs. When he filed for re-certification, he listed 26 hours of education for that one day. Of course, anyone with a certification can do that. But in the admin professional’s world, we still do a lot of our continuing education in live sessions, although webinars are gaining in popularity. I’m sure some CAP holders have figured this out as well. What I can say is that I’ve never seen it happen personally, most likely because we mostly have live sessions and webinars, and few CBTs, if any. I certainly can’t imagine trying to sit in a class and watch a webinar at the same time; I’d go schizophrenic trying to listen to both instructors at the same time. What I’m saying is that I think the nature of what we do, and the nature of how we do continuing education, makes it a lot harder to take shortcuts (or cheat, if you want to give it that label).
Excel – I’m going to go literally here, as in Microsoft Excel. I took a class on Microsoft productivity tips as well as a class on Excel. I learned some keyboard shortcuts that will keep me from using the mouse. The instructor was blunt – “Every time you take your hand off the keyboard and reach for the mouse, you are wasting time.” If you’re doing nothing but spreadsheets – and there are certain days of the month where that is all I do – those 2-3 seconds add up. Also, if you have a huge sheet, with many rows & columns, you’re better off converting the data to a table. The functionality is greater, sorting and filtering is easier, and you can make it much more esthetically pleasing with just a click or two. The class was in demo mode, so I was practicing on my multi-tabbed personal household budget. I’m one of those weird people that love spreadsheets so much I look for reasons to create them. But hey, I never claimed I wasn’t weird.
Every professional conference allows some free time. We also stayed an extra day to play around a little bit, which is when we hit the casino and the French Quarter. It was me, my wife and my 2 Atlanta buddies, who are also of African descent. At the restaurant where I got my oysters, we walked in on a racial dispute. A black family was leaving, and the wife/mom was reading the staff the riot act at a volume that might have been heard on the other side of town at Tulane. The hubby/dad, who was in a wheelchair, came over to my wife and told her we should go somewhere else, because this place hated people of color AND people with disabilities. We just stood back and waited to be seated. We encountered no such trouble. I suppose something happened that neither side dealt with very well. We talked for a while about how much people need to talk to each other instead of assuming and yelling.
Next year’s Summit will be in Austin TX, the live music capital of the world. Cash flow will force me to go by myself, but the wife has enough connections at this event now that I have no chance of getting away with anything. 🙂 Hopefully, I’ll be several months removed from my weight loss surgery as well as a few dozen pounds lighter, Lord willing. I’ll continue my efforts to advance myself and my chosen profession.