Each spring, NIEHS celebrates its administrative professionals with a special program featuring an outside speaker. It is a way to thank these often unsung heroes for their administrative support, and also help them develop new ways to take charge of their lives and their work.
This year’s Administrative Professionals Day April 27 continued that tradition, with a talk on “Improving Personal Effectiveness” by Jeanne Oliver of Leadership and Life Strategies Inc. The program centered on audience involvement through active learning exercises.
When Acting Associate Director of Management Chris Long introduced Oliver, he promised an exciting morning for the institute’s heavy lifters. “She [Oliver] is a star in her own field,” Long said, “and I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourselves.”
Two hours later, workshop participant Judy Hanson summed up the feelings of just about everyone present. “This was great,” she said enthusiastically, speaking to fellow employees at her table, including event organizer and NIEHS Employee Services program specialist Cynthia Radford.
Like most of previous years’ seminar speakers and workshop leaders, Oliver was an engaging speaker and excellent role model for the personal effectiveness strategies that were the core of the workshop. She was also refreshingly open about her own vulnerabilities. As the workshop progressed, participants became increasingly comfortable sharing their own experiences, both in the workplace and elsewhere.
Beginning with the first exercise — listing one’s accomplishments at NIEHS over the past five years — Oliver integrated specific examples from group lists into her presentation. As the comfort level for participants grew, Oliver’s personal touch and small group experience paid off in a big way for everyone in the room (see text box)
Oliver closed with recommendations for reading the book, “Your Brain at Work,” by David Rock, and viewing a video of a TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy, Ph.D., on how body language can shape who people are. Both expand upon, and reinforce, one of Oliver’s themes, “We have the power to change patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior.”
(Eddy Ball, Ph.D., is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)