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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

June 2019

Administrative professionals gain tips for sustained effectiveness

On Administrative Professionals Day, NIEHS offered a workshop on ways to spend more time on fulfilling tasks and less on frustrating ones.

Dozens of NIEHS staff gathered April 24 for the institute’s annual recognition of Administrative Professionals Day. This year’s workshop highlighted strategic thinking as a way to maximize success and fulfillment.

“When we spend more time working on the things we find fulfilling, we’re using our strengths,” said noted speaker and author Eric Papp, who led the seminar. “This makes us a lot more valuable to those we serve, be they our colleagues in the workplace or our families at home.”

Eric Papp speaking in front of workshop attendees Papp began the morning by asking everyone in attendance to turn over their name tags. He then went around the room and named every individual from memory, demonstrating the power of building connections. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Papp is the founder of Agape Leadership, LLC, which is an intellectual capital firm that focuses on leadership for business productivity. He is also the author of two books, “Leadership By Choice” and “3 Values of Being an Effective Person.”

Sustained effectiveness lies in the details

To kick off his presentation, Papp asked attendees to make a list of the tasks they perform each week, then classify those tasks into three categories: frustrating, fine, and fulfilling.

“By putting these things down on paper, we’re better able to wrap our heads around what needs to be done,” Papp said. “From there, we can develop ways to minimize the tasks we find frustrating and streamline those we’re fine with. This frees us up to devote more of our time to the tasks we enjoy, which ultimately makes us more effective.”

Papp listed several ways in which employees could achieve this. First among them was the ability to prioritize. “Protecting your time is priceless,” Papp said. “Every day, tasks will be thrown at you that aren’t necessarily important. When we stop what we’re doing to address these issues, we sidetrack our progress toward the major goals, which often leads to feelings of frustration.”

Papp cited a familiar example to illustrate this point. “When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late 1990s, the company was invested in more than three hundred projects,” Papp said. “Jobs cut that to ten, and in the years since, Apple has risen to become one of the top brands in the world.”

Attendees chatting with each other Attendees broke into groups for exercises such as brainstorming ideas for enhancing effectiveness. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

The fallacy of doing more

Another key takeaway from Papp’s presentation was the notion that less can be more when it comes to nurturing effectiveness.

“Investing more time and energy into a project doesn’t always net results,” Papp said. “For most of us, there comes a time when we’ve hit our ceiling, and no amount of added effort or work hours will change that. When we push forward anyway, all we succeed at doing is spinning our wheels and making ourselves even more rattled.”

The antidote, Papp said, is measurable progress. “At the end of every day, I write down three things I won at since waking up in the morning,” Papp said. “These could be major victories like giving a homerun talk to clients or small victories like catching up on email. Regardless, these things serve as tangible proof to myself and my supervisor that I was valuable that day.”

Director, Linda Birnbaum, during the event Birnbaum said that of all the training events NIEHS offers through the year, the Administrative Professionals event is always one of her favorites. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A day of celebration

While much of the morning centered on education, attendees were reminded from the outset that celebration was also among the day’s themes.

“Administrative professionals play a vital role at NIEHS. In many ways, you are the engine behind the research,” said NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., who gave the opening remarks. “The work you do paves the way for our scientists to do theirs.”

(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)


Attendee, Nicole Popovich, laughing during the training Much of Papp’s presentation used humor to drive home his message, an aspect that resonated with participants such as Nicole Popovich, from the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Speaker, Eric Papp, sits down at the table to chat with attendees “As administrators, we’re regularly pulled in a thousand different directions because of the litany of tasks we’re asked to perform on the fly,” said Papp, right. “If we’re not mindful of the progress we’re making, it’s easy to get discouraged. That stifles our effectiveness.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Attendee listening during the training session Some participants cited Papp’s easy-to-use strategies for enhancing effectiveness as the highlight of the session. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Eric Papp Since 2010, Papp and his company have trained thousands of clients, ranging from the National Institutes of Health to Lockheed Martin and Nationwide Insurance. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
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