Wednesday, April 26, is Secretaries Day, and April 24-28 is Secretaries Week. Some thoughts about that. . .
Last year, most people spoke of the new millennium with doubt, fear, anxiety, caution, and downright doom and gloom, while others felt it would be characterized by challenges, promise, excitement and adventure. Now that it is here, most of us think of it as nothing more than another year of challenges, political rankling and deception. The state of our government, the economy, the churches, the youth and the homeless lead us to the conclusion that there are no easy answers to the things we face here in the Virgin Islands. And, whether you are directly involved or not, the stress created by society bears down on all of us like a ton of bricks.
Secretaries must be commended for the part they play giving service and in some cases direction to the institutions or governmental departments in which they work. In our society, most secretaries are women. I am sure you will agree with me that 1990s can be named the "Decade of the Professional Woman." Women have asserted themselves as never before to bring about positive changes in the lives of many of us. One large corporation turned around its entire image – – and increased its profitability — by catering more toward the promotion of business attire for professional women.
Secretaries: You have run the home. You have raised the kids. You have run the government. More television commercials are geared toward women than ever before, because you are doers; you respond to the challenges of life as no man can. And so I am here today to encourage you on your path of buoyancy.
I believe that, regardless of your position in life, every once in a while you need someone to remind you or to refocus you on those things you should do to continue your path of success in this new decade, this new millennium. The big questions: Are you ready for the challenges of this new decade, this 21st Century, as individuals, as secretaries, as professionals? And then: Is your manager ready? Is our government ready? Is this territory ready? I cannot adequately treat all of this in this one session, but I will give you some food for thought.
Let me begin with individual readiness. Are you prepared for the technological advances of this century? Are you equipped with the skills to adapt to the new things in our daily lives? Are you on-line? On-line does not necessarily mean being connected to the Internet or having an e-mail address. Are you connected spiritually? Are you connected to your family? Are you connected with your work and your work environment?
Our lives must be in order for us to produce at optimum levels. As a secretary today, you will have to take on more responsibility, and therefore must acquire a sense of purpose within the institution in which you work. To be effective, you must keep abreast of changing technology that will make your work more professional. You must up-grade your skills. You must create a positive lifestyle. You must get on-line.
In my new book "There Are No Mistakes, Only Lessons," I wrote about the pitfalls of life I encountered when I was off-line. I also wrote about the success I enjoyed when I got on-line. Back in the 1970s we had no e-mail, we had no Internet as we know it, but there was a line I failed to connect to. Let me share with you a few words from the line I speak of: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law he doth meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters that bringeth forth fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
I was working hard back in the '60s and '70s, but I really began to prosper when I recognized the importance of the real connection. When I got connected, I found a series of models from which I have patterned my life. I will share those models with you, because unless you have a fulfilled life, you, your office and your family will not realize the joys of your full potential.
1. Be honest with yourself and the people whose lives are connected to yours. Beware of what you become in your pursuit of what you want.
2. Search out your strengths, and work each day to improve on them.
3. Write out a mission statement for you and your family stating those things you would like to accomplish in the next year, the next five years and by your retirement.
4. Place yourself in a position of to learn continually. Read quality books, watch quality television. Engage your spouse or significant other in insightful conversations, and stay away from negative people.
5. Set goals, and write them down. Make sure they are big goals. Small goals lead to small results; big goals lead to big results. Do not type them; write them by hand.
6. Take full responsibility for the situation you are in. You are there because of what you have done or failed to do.
7. Develop a zest for life. Live with enthusiasm; laugh even if you laugh at yourself. Laughter is good for the soul and it prolongs your life.
8. Do not live in the past. Use the mistakes of the past as your lessons for the future. Unless you as an individual are prepared, you will miss the opportunities for a life of joy that exist in the workplace.
Like life itself, the workplace has a positive side, which I have just discussed, and a negative side. In his book "The Nine Spiritual Principles For Getting Everything You Want," Wayne Dyer points out the obstacles to successful living. You may want to get a copy.
Let me now look at management readiness. In order for secretaries to be successful, management must lead — and lead from the front, not standing in the back and pushing people. Management must provide clear directions that generate energy in people to cope in this unpredictable, technological and changing world. Management must seek to include people at all levels of the work environment so that they will have a clear understanding of the mission of the office, business or department.
Information is a critical source of that energy, because it helps people understand what is needed and how they can take effective action. Management must empower secretaries with the confidence that they truly make a difference. Management must recognize that today's secretary is better informed and is in touch with other secretaries throughout the world. Management must understand that what were good practices in the '80s and '90s are not necessarily acceptable today. The secretary need modern, fast equipment, in some cases with all the colors and flowers.
Finally: Is our government ready? I must pause and remind even myself that "we are the government." We are the ones who, through our votes, set the tone for those whom we elect to do for us. We have the chance every two years and every four years to make sure our government is ready. We have the freedom to choose those who will float us or sink us.
Lately, the news has not been good. But whom can we blame? Whom should we blame? These are questions to be answered by all of us who have the right to elect those whom we place in charge. You and I have a role to play in helping ourselves and our government make the choices that will benefit the most, if not all. We can help with our votes and our prayers. And finally, we can help by showing our appreciation for what the locals can provide instead of looking to the north for everything we eat, drink or hear.
Editor's note: Christopher E. Brathwaite is the owner of C.E. Brathwaite and Associates and served in 1995 as president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce.