5 Principles for Maximizing Your Executive Assistant
You can get more done in less time.
Your to-do list is overflowing, you can’t find the agenda for your meeting, and you are already running five minutes late. It doesn’t matter how late you stay in the office or how much you cut back your sleep; there is never enough time in the day to get everything done. Does this sound familiar?
Business owners often have so much on their plate that they don’t have time to focus on what is important in their company; they tend to take on more responsibilities than they have time for, and they rarely ask for help even when they have an assistant. This type of work mentality only leads to burnout and job dissatisfaction, but hiring and maximizing your assistant can remedy that.
Assistants are there to make your life easier. They take care of the tasks you hate doing or don’t have time for, but you could inadvertently impede their success. It’s time to get out of your assistant’s way and let them support you by doing what they do best. So, here’s how to maximize your most valuable resource:
Use self-awareness when hiring
When it’s time to hire an assistant, you can’t just look at a set of skills on a resume and expect to find the perfect fit. Instead, before you even start hiring, take some time to do some self-reflection. Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and hire an assistant that complements them. Your assistant cannot strengthen your weaknesses if they are just like you.
Commit to communication
Communicating with your assistant may seem like common sense, but the workplace is always busy, and sometimes communication gets neglected. Unfortunately, it can be detrimental to the executive and assistant working relationship if it is neglected too long.
When you give your assistant the power to handle tasks you typically take care of, you may find yourself struggling with letting it go completely. This fear of not being hands-on can lead to more stress and micromanagement. Leaning into communication can help prevent this. Help prevent micromanagement by:
- Schedule a quick five to ten minute debriefing session at the start of each day.
- Have a weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one with your assistant to discuss projects, problems, and other work-related tasks.
- Set clear expectations for your assistant.
- Give constructive feedback to your assistant and ask for feedback in return.
Empower your assistant
Your assistant is a caretaker at heart, and their ultimate goal is to help you with the tasks you don’t have time for, but sometimes leaders can get in the way of that. Instead of needing to be involved with every task, empower your assistant to take on roles outside of your expectations and to make small decisions on your behalf. With that grace, there is also a chance that mistakes will happen, so it is important to give your assistant the space for mistakes and a chance to solve the problem. Even with the possibility of mistakes, empowerment is so important because It helps your assistant grow into their role and to better anticipate your needs.
If you have given your assistant a list of tasks to complete, but you still feel like you have too much to do, you may not be letting your assistant into your world. While it is important to set professional boundaries with other members of your team, you have to flip those expectations when it comes to your assistant. To have a healthy and productive relationship with your assistant, you have to let them in by sharing your struggles.
On the other hand, your assistant will set firm boundaries with you, and it’s important for you to adhere to them. Without those boundaries, the working relationship can change, and you may see your assistant as a friend instead of a source of support. Over time, you will find yourself caring for them and quit asking for their help. Eventually, resentment will build, and it may lead to a termination since the things you hired your assistant for are no longer getting done.
Even though giving feedback is a familiar concept to leaders, it can be a little more difficult to provide to your assistant. This person is deeply involved in your professional and even personal life, so sometimes it’s easier to just let something that bothers you slip by. And for some tasks, that may be true, but you should know that assistants thrive on feedback. They want to support you the best way they possibly can, and they will never know for sure if you don’t share the things they are excelling in and the things they could be doing better for you.
Set the expectation early on that you will be coaching your assistant with quick feedback. This doesn’t have to be long, drawn-out meetings; instead, call your assistant into your office and ask them to fix the problem. As humans, we tend to quit asking for help on a project or task once it is completed the first time. But this train of thought leads to future mistakes or more work on your plate. Once your assistant knows what went wrong, they will fix it and make sure the work meets your standards in the future.