communicating with manager

Communicating With Your Manager

The Importance of Daily Huddles

When I was an executive assistant, one of the best success strategies my favorite executive taught me, at a young age, was to have daily huddles with him. Now, this came from an executive who traveled around the world, would work until 2:00 a.m., come in on Saturdays, and had 10 Directors reporting to him. So, if that executive could make time for me, anyone can do this.

This is a vital topic I cover in my Star Achievement Series®, World Class Assistant™ Certificate program, and one-on-one coaching. This is the best advice you will ever receive on how to build a strategic partnership with your executive, manage their day, and stay on top of the volumes of tasks and projects you have to handle.

Because of the multiple daily activities in the office, it is important for the executive and assistant partnership to establish a scheduled time to meet without interruption or at least by conversing on the telephone. The best time to do this is in the morning. If you wait until the end of the day, it may never happen as things tend to build as the day progresses.

Another benefit of having a daily huddle in the morning is that your executive can share what happened the night before (after you left work). Most executives still “work” after 5:00 p.m. and often into the late night. With the use of technology and the ability to work offsite independently, there are numerous things that take place long after the administrative partner has left the office. And, many of these executives are starting their workday very early, well before arriving at the office. If the executive and assistant partnership meet in the morning or at minimum converses on the telephone, they will work in tandem, ensuring the day’s top five priorities are agreed upon, be proactive on any new issues that might have arisen, and much more.

If you support multiple executives, the daily huddle would be with your primary executive. It would be almost impossible to meet with every person you support. You may want to have weekly or monthly one-on-one time with some of the key executives you support.

WHAT WOULD WE TALK ABOUT?

Daily Calendars

Technology is not perfect and neither are humans. It is easy to place the wrong time or wrong date on a calendar. Or because so many executives are independent, they place events on their own calendars and forget to inform their administrative partner.

Accuracy in scheduling is extremely important. Executives are TOO BUSY to have hiccups in their schedules. Plus it is embarrassing to the executive or the administrative person who set the schedule.

It’s always best to review the day’s events together. Many administrators are now handling their executive’s pre-read meeting materials by printing, reviewing, and flagging them as appropriate. Many administrative professionals are doing research, preparing outgoing pre-reads, and filtering e-mail note strings for their executive in preparation for a meeting. (Gone are the days when administrators simply reserved a conference room and readied it for the meeting!)

Discuss E-mail Communications

When it comes to e-mail management, there are various approaches. Some executives want their administrative partner to read all their e-mails and take action on those e-mails. Another approach is the executive who wants to manage all his or her own e-mails and forward a specific e-mail to their administrative partner as appropriate.

Your daily huddles are the time for executives and the administrative partner to update each other on e-mail communications, whether it is a status update or clarifying new actions to be taken.

Visitors

Discuss any events that external visitors will attend and anticipate actions to be taken before and during their visit. Does your executive have the insight they need to share with you? Get the detailed information you need to help you prepare for such events.

Department Issues

This is a good time to discuss any departmental problems that need your executive’s attention. Administrative professionals are often privy to information within the department or are aware of potential personnel issues. These should be brought to the attention of their executive before a situation escalates.

Status Updates

Provide your executive with updates on projects, meetings, items you are working on, and any other pertinent information. Executives do not like to have to ask the status of projects and tasks. (Nor do they have the time.) A Star-achieving assistant initiates status updates.

Upcoming Travel

Find out about upcoming trips so you can anticipate schedules and prepare necessary travel materials. At least bi-weekly, you and your executive should review the calendar for upcoming events as far as three months out.

Follow-up Items

Bring to your executive’s attention information requested from staff that you have not yet received. You can also let your executive know whose work you have received.

executives and assistants working in partnershipTraining & Development

Development happens when we take conscious action to improve. It is not a “check the box” aspect of your career. You must be intentional about it. Discuss your training and development requirements with your executive. Tell your executive about upcoming seminars and workshops you would like to attend and why. Be prepared to show your executive the information about the workshop, the objectives of the program, how the topics tie in with your job responsibilities and the benefits of attending.

If you recently attended a seminar or training session, share the ideas you learned with your executive. Explain how you intend to incorporate the ideas you learned and if and how your executive can participate in the change. Demonstrate that this has added value to you and your executive. A hand-written thank you note for your executive’s support would be a nice touch, too.

Special Projects

Find out what special projects your executive is working on or has coming up in the next few weeks. Ask if there are any portions of the project you can work on. Is there any research that needs to be done? Will information necessary for the project be coming from others inside or outside the company? If so, can you start assembling that information? Are presentations, graphs or charts required? If so, how many?

TIME: INVESTMENT OR EXPENSE?

It might initially appear as though these meetings might involve a tremendous amount of time, but they don’t when you meet on a regular basis because things don’t have a chance to build up. In fact, it keeps everything flowing smoothly, reduces chances of missed details or tasks falling through the cracks, eliminates chaos, and reduces last-minute crunches. Whether you view time spent as an investment or an expense can often be based on the filter with which you view time in general.

BENEFITS OF ONE-ON-ONE MEETINGS

• Reduces stress
• Diminishes last-minute chaos
• Opens lines of communication
• Decreases paperwork buildup
• Clarifies expectations for both parties
• Both parties understand the day’s priorities
• Flags issues or situations that might arise
• Makes working together more enjoyable
• Provides the executive with status updates
• Helps the executive get organized for the day
• Right-hand knows what the left hand is doing
• Assistant will more effectively complete work assignments

Getting Started

Changing behaviors and habits that have been with us for a long time is never easy. You may notice that after you have tried to have daily huddles for a few days that you or your executive stop. The reason this usually occurs is because it is uncomfortable. Your executive may feel like it takes too much time or interrupts her eagerness to get started on her workday as soon as she arrives at the office.

I want to encourage you to stay with the process. Eventually, you and your executive will see the tremendous benefits of these meetings and will make them a part of your work routine. I have actually heard executives say they miss these daily huddles with their administrative partner once they engage in the process and miss a day or few days. They realize these communication opportunities are critical.

  1. Discuss this process and its benefits with your executive.
  2. Teach your executive how to prepare for their meeting with you. Keep in mind that if you have a telephone huddle while they drive into the office or on their way to the airport, it is a bit different. You won’t be passing hard copy information to each other.
  3. Start with meeting one morning a week. You might start with Monday or Friday to discuss the upcoming week.
  4. Gradually increase meetings to two days and then three days, and so on. Your goal is to have a daily huddle with each other whether in person or on the telephone. Of course, sometimes this is just not possible if your executive is in a location with a different time zone, especially going into an early meeting or conference. Then defer to the Star Essentials tip below. (I am certain you will text back and forth or leave voicemails for each other.)
  5. Location for a meeting: most often the administrative partner goes into the executive’s office for the meeting. There are times when the executive may just stand at the administrative partner’s desk for five minutes while they confer together. Where is never as important as that you do meet.
  6. When you hold these meetings on a regular basis, they will not consume a great deal of time because you keep the communication about things/information moving between you. Meetings will take more time when you or your executive has been out of the office for several days.

(Note: There are some instances where an executive will not want to make this change.)

“I found the topic of scheduling daily/weekly meetings with my supervisor discussed in Part 1 of the World Class Assistant training has improved our communication. I have received great constructive feedback on my work.” – Katie, CWCA Certified (Intermountain Healthcare)

Are you communicating with your manager through daily huddles? Please comment below and tell us what your top tips for sharing this practice are?

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4 thoughts on “Communicating With Your Manager”

  1. After reading this article and the reply from Jasmine, all I can say is that a daily huddle is an “uber important” necessity in a great Admin and Executive relationship and it does not have to happen in person. When I first started working for my Executive, he would occasionally call me in the mornings on his way to the office to advise of his arrival time or to ask if I could transfer him to another Executive. These calls eventually grew to occur daily and in importance so that I was reminding him of his appointments (business and personal), travel plans, setting up new meetings requested before he arrived, or even just a check up of what was happening on my desk. Although he usually would call me, I would call him if I determined the urgency of the matter needed an immediate response. I have come to enjoy these conversations because they are a benefit to both of us. Also if I can get a chuckle out of him during these conversations, I know that a small amount of his stress has been released even if just for a minute. I keep a special page where I put all the items that need to be discussed with him so that I know how to respond to his questions or concerns. When we don’t huddle for a few days due to his travel schedule, I do ask him for an appointment so that we can get back on the same page.

  2. My boss (CEO) travels about 90% of the time. Daily or weekly huddles are not possible as sometimes he is not in the office for weeks. I know that we need to ‘huddle’, as some things are not communicated to me because of his busy schedule. Our source of keeping in touch is emails. Any other suggestions??

    1. Alice, one thing that Joan and I do when she’s traveling extensively is a daily or weekly recap. If she’s so busy she can’t check daily I’ll just hold it for a Friday update. I basically keep a running document of important project updates, key numbers or other important data that’s is worth noting for the week. I bullet point the list for her and if it’s long I might even break into sections of importance (need your reply, fyi, to read, to contact, etc.) Then I’ll send that daily update to her at the end of my day. When traveling she usually is looking at email at night or early in the AM before I arrive to the office. I then get my reply from her and any necessary updates for that day in an email. She also tries to call and touch base once a day during her travels but we don’t usually get much time to speak to each other during those calls so the email is the most effective. It’s best to work with bullet points rather than long paragraphs of information in this case. Also, don’t let this take the place of your face-to-face huddles when they are in town – these are invaluable!

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