Bonnie Low-Kramen | Founder
Bonnie Low-Kramen is one of the most respected advisers in the administrative profession. The author of the bestselling Be the Ultimate Assistant, she is known for her passionate commitment to professional assistants and leaders and affecting positive change in the global workplace. She is an international speaker, contributor to magazines and blogs, teacher and corporate trainer. Low-Kramen is one of the only workplace/career coaches who offers in-depth and comprehensive professional training for both executive and personal assistants. She is a New Jersey native with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers University and was the personal assistant to Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis for 25 years.
Learn more at www.betheultimateassitant.com
“When is the tall one going to talk?” ~ Olympia Dukakis
Olympia Dukakis was a powerful mentor and friend who taught me the power of speaking up. However, like so many women of all ages, when I started working for her as a 20–something, I lacked confidence, and my way of dealing with a difficult situation was to stay quiet. “When is the tall one going to talk?,” she often would quip.
Her reaction to me made it safe for me to speak my mind. In fact, she insisted on that. Olympia believed in honest communication, and she emphasized that the only way to resolve any conflict is to discuss it in a professional and straightforward way. I grew to understand that staffers have a responsibility and an obligation to say what they know, see, and hear. This is an important part of why an assistant is paid.
Still, many assistants perceive that their leaders are “oblivious” to what is happening around them, and no one will tell them. At the same time, leaders and managers say they want and need to know — just like Olympia. She taught me the importance of “speaking truth to power.” When I encountered bullies at work, Olympia lent me support and mentored me to assert myself, supported me to find my voice. In one instance I remember, a vendor with whom she dealt verbally abused me during a phone call. Her response, “Bonnie, you don’t have to take that. Are you going to handle it or shall I?,” allowed me to speak my mind.
A note: I’m not a fan of the word “boss,” a word that is derived from the Dutch word for “master.” I do not believe it should be used in the workplace. Olympia was my employer, my manager, my executive, my colleague, and my friend. When she introduced me, she would say, “Bonnie works with me” as opposed to “Bonnie works for me.” The respectful distinction was always apparent. My loud and urgent voice grew from a low whisper. It was hard and important work. In fact, it was one of the most difficult accomplishments I have ever achieved — and today that achievement helps me to help others in the workplace.