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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

June 2016

NIEHS celebrates administrative professionals

Administrative Professionals Day was celebrated with a special program April 27, to thank these often unsung heroes.

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.

Opening up

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.)


Jeanne Oliver speaking at workshop

Oliver concluded by offering practical advice from Cuddy on implementing empowerment strategies — “Fake it ‘til you make it [and become it].”   (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Turning lemons into lemonade

Oliver quoted minister, educator, and personal empowerment guru Charles “Chuck” Swindoll, to make an important point about attitude — “[I am convinced that] life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.”

During a small group exercise on failure and lessons learned, one participant recalled how she used the thinking agility strategies Oliver was discussing to cope with an especially difficult workplace disappointment.

Rather than giving in to bitterness and frustration when she wasn’t selected for a permanent position after performing the job for some time in an acting capacity, this participant decided to apply again when the job was later re-advertised. This time she was successful.

This example strengthened Oliver’s message about taking control of the situation. “At the end of the day, we have to empower ourselves,” she said.

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