Laura Golonka, the executive assistant to the president of Combined Insurance in Chicago, says patience and persistence are among the most important qualities she has developed in more than 30 years as an admin.
Golonka has been with Combined Insurance for 10 years, and says she has grown to love the insurance industry. As many admins understand, a big challenge to the job is that her day isn’t always her own. “While you may plan to accomplish several items on your task list, things happen,” she says. “For example, a flight can get canceled and you have to scramble to find alternatives and reschedule other commitments.” Despite the upheaval, she appreciates knowing that no two days are ever alike.
The challenges of the job are her favorite aspect, such as figuring out how to get 20 people together at the same time, developing senior staff meeting agendas and interviewing candidates for assistant positions.
Patience and persistence become especially important traits when there’s an initiative she wants to enact but the timing isn’t right. “You still need to keep it moving forward or at least on the burner,” she says. “You learn when to lob little nuggets to keep it moving, and when the time is right, you can then push.”
A current project she’s working on involves putting together a development program for the company’s executive assistants. “I put together a list of competencies for the assistants and they rated themselves on a scale from 1 to 5, and their executives rated them as well,” she says. “The value in this exercise was that it opened discussions between the executive and the assistant about their performance level with specific areas of focus.”
The assistants then focused on the two lowest-ranking competencies by attending free webinars and setting goals to improve in those areas, she says.
Golonka says despite never knowing what a day might bring, there is one consistent thing about her job, and that’s managing her boss’ time and calendar in a thoughtful way. It requires daily, weekly, monthly and annual planning to maintain productivity and minimize chaos.