Win your boss over!

Asking for money is never easy - especially from the boss! But there's a right way to do it, and a wrong way. We asked senior PA Ann Nuckley to let us in on her secrets of success. After all, she persuaded by employers to fund a university course for her!

By Ann Nuckley

In a business climate which dictates that PAs must, more than ever, be flexible, adaptable and knowledgeable, PA's need to be aware of how they can "grow their own" development to meet the needs of their expanding role and match that with the needs of the employer.

But how can a PA manage new situations and projects if they have not been given adequate training to do so? Bosses employing the "seagull" method of delegation (that is dropping something from a great height and then running!) all too often expect that somehow matters will be taken care of, without regard to how it will be achieved. It is at this point that the consummate PA begins to build a case so that she/he can obtain the knowledge and confidence in order to carry out the proposed tasks.

Firstly, you need to identify your training needs. These may arise from a particular project that your business has entered into, or in my own case, the College Development Plan, which identifies the directions and growth the College will take in the next five years. Next, you need to take a look at what's on offer from the myriad training options on offer, from online learning to part-time study at university.

Take a good look around. And whatever you do, don't plump for the first programme on offer. Identify location, cost, and timelines - very important. No good booking anything to start in March next year when the requirement is imminent. Ask yourself, whether the course would benefit others in your company. Course providers may give a discount for more than one delegate, or come to your place of business to deliver the programme which works out cheaper per head.

Do your homework
When you have decided on your course, go through it with a fine tooth comb so you can answer any question on it, including why you think it's the best option. Look at each module, and ask yourself how it will enhance the organisation or department if you are trained in these topics. Make sure your answers are based on fact, not emotion, and keep linking back to business objectives.

Prepare a short presentation for your manager, to demonstrate the link between how your training will enhance and empower him or her, and your need to support your employer in the best way possible.
Rehearse your presentation! Business cases are not based on waffle - know what you want to say before you go in. Be calm and professional.

Having done your homework, book a specific time with your boss (not just a quick chat in the corridor!). You know your boss, so choose the best time for getting his or her full attention. Lay your case out clearly - and focus on business benefits. Remember, too, to emphasise to your manager that you're offering to take responsibility for certain areas, and adding them to your job description. It's quite an offer!

In my own circumstances, I had been taking on more and more personnel duties and felt I needed a much broader depth of knowledge and understanding in order to gain competency and confidence. I was in the frontline of teacher recruitment and contracts of employment - a legal minefield! So, I outlined to my boss how vulnerable we were in this area, and also that budget spent training me was money saved on calling in experts for every recruitment issue that arose.

Similarly, I explained that our expanding administration department needed management and a structure for their performance management and continual professional development. I needed training myself to administer this correctly. Both my business cases identified gaps in the college's provision, and solutions to those gaps - my training.

Put yourself in their shoes
Think beforehand about key issues such as the time needed out of the office for study, and who will cover for you. Although most of my study time was outside work, I had already lined up a colleague of mine to deputise for me. Put yourself in your manager's position, and think what you would want to know if the roles were reversed.

I made my case to attend the University of Greenwich in order to obtain Personnel qualifications as a mature student. I gained the chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development - graduate status (MCIPD). I studied in the evenings and weekends and was granted time to sit my exams on days by prior arrangement with my College.

They were sufficiently persuaded by my business case and generously paid my University fees. I am pleased to say I use my personnel training each working day, and that my line manager, the Principal of the College, agrees that my newly-acquired expertise is of great value. To me, that sounds like a win-win situation!

Ann Nuckley, chartered MCIPD, is PA to the Principal and Chief Executive of Bacon's College, a City Technology College in the Docklands, London. She is also Administration Manager responsible for 10 administrative/support staff. Ann is a past Chairman of the National Association of Administrative Staff in Schools and Colleges, and a member of the Professional Association of Teachers, and she is committed to promoting the professionalism of support staff within schools and colleges

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