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Building Professional Excellence

By Odette Sachidanand, Executive Assistant to the Head of School
Nijika Bhardwaj, Executive Assistant to the Primary Principal 
Rachel Antony, IB Secretary, 
and Sangeetha Singh, Executive to the Business Manager

Intense work scenarios for Executive Assistants frequently stem from impractical expectations and objectives.  With immense demands placed upon us, we must consider what we aspire to achieve. We began this educational journey with open minds and curiosity, exploring "Turning Personal Strengths into Professional Excellence.

The facilitator aimed to provide an environment conducive to structured personal and professional development contemplation. Groups of four, drawing inspiration from the ethos of the Google Bard – "No screens shall glow. No devices hum. Just pens and pads, Where thoughts are spun," commenced their reflection sessions in a designated 'NO DEVICE ZONE.'  Surprisingly, we managed to navigate through these sessions without our laptops, a fact that initially seemed incredulous but ultimately proved enlightening. Armed with perforated sheets, scissors, glue sticks, and small notepads, we created our reflective journals, which emerged as the most valuable takeaway from the workshop.

Day 1 began with Reflection & System Thinking - What does professional excellence mean to each of us?  How would we define our professional identity statement?  

The Onion Framework was an excellent method to uncover the levels of change.  The objective was to analyse each layer and delve deeper into the core qualities of an individual.

The outer Layer (Behavioral Change) is the circle of concern and represents the most superficial aspect of change, focusing on observable behaviours. It includes actions, habits, routines, and practices that can be easily seen and measured.  

The middle layer is the circle of influence and involves changes in attitudes, thoughts, and perceptions. It encompasses shifts in mindset, understanding, and interpretation of situations or information. 

The innermost layer (Values and Beliefs) or the circle of control represents the core values, beliefs, and identity of an individual or organisation.  While the core is the most resistant to change and often requires significant effort and time, merely focusing on behavioural change without considering underlying beliefs or emotions may lead to superficial or short-lived transformations.  By peeling back each layer systematically, individuals and organisations can achieve more profound and sustainable change. 

We were also introduced to other systems-thinking frameworks along with the onion model.

Karpman's Triangle delineates unhealthy interpersonal dynamics involving three roles: the victim, the persecutor, and the rescuer. When we find ourselves trapped in these roles, it's too easy to slip into extreme states that benefit no one, ourselves, or those we interact with.

The reflection prompted us to recognise our assigned roles and whether they entangle us in the Drama Triangle. Furthermore, it encouraged us to find ways to shift away from the triangle's edges and towards the centre, where a healthier and more balanced dynamic exists.

The Ladder of Inference elucidates the often unconscious thinking process we undergo to move from facts to decisions or actions. The reflection urged us to practise step-by-step reasoning grounded in reality to yield better outcomes, averting unnecessary errors and conflicts.

The Four Stages of Competence delineates a learning model encompassing various psychological stages encountered when acquiring a new skill: unconscious incompetence (ignorance), conscious incompetence (awareness), conscious competence (learning), and unconscious competence (mastery).

Day 2 focused on applying Technology & Productivity to enhance our competency after analysing the core. We briefly explored technologies such as Chat GPT, Notion, Padlet, and Pomofocus and received guidance on employing prompt engineering tips to optimise output.

The culminating session of the workshop introduced excellent productivity systems.

  1. The 5 phases of GTD (Getting Things Done), a work-life management system

  2. The Eisenhower Matrix - a productivity, prioritisation, and time-management framework

  3. The PARA method is a simple, comprehensive, yet highly flexible system for organising any type of digital information across any platform

By the end of the workshop, we could retrospect our strengths, identify our core values, and redefine our professional identity statement. 

This workshop has provided invaluable insights into holistic systems thinking, encompassing a complete 360-degree perspective. It underscores the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries across various dimensions, including physical, emotional, workload management, time allocation, and communication. Moreover, it highlights the significance of recognizing our learning needs and being mindful of how our personal lives may influence our professional endeavours, either positively or negatively. By cultivating a robust personal efficiency system, we can operate efficiently without feeling burdened or sacrificing our well-being. 

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