[This article was originally posted at Executive Secretary Magazine.]
There is no greater relationship in the workplace than that of an executive and an Assistant. I can honestly say that because of my experience in the administrative profession for 20 years in a variety of organizations. During my administrative career, I was fortunate to work with three outstanding executives who truly saw me as their strategic partner.
I had other relationships that weren’t so rewarding and I did not stay very long at those jobs. Then there were other situations where the executive was nice and we got along, but there wasn’t real synergy.
As founder and CEO of Office Dynamics International, I have been on the “other side of the desk” for 25 years. I have had some good Assistants and one bad Assistant. I’ve been fortunate to have Jasmine Freeman as my Chief Executive Assistant for seven years. Jasmine was promoted to Vice President about two years ago.
A third dimension I can add to the validation of a good partnership is that I have personally coached more than 150 administrative/executive teams – both one-on-one and in groups. So what I am about to share with you is based on more than 42 years of experience in building executive/Assistant partnerships.
The world is a much different place today
Rather than dig into the past (which is of no use to you), I am starting with where we are today. Our world is a much different place than it was when I began my career and the stakes are high! Every person in every industry is expected to operate at the top of their game and the same is true for executive and Assistant teams.
- Our world is moving at Mach speed. Regardless of your industry or the size of your business, everyone feels the pressure of rapidity.
- We are bombarded with information. While technology and the Internet is amazingly wonderful, we are flooded with information.
- Executives are working from multiple devices. Not all Assistants have the same devices or as many devices as their executives.
- Information is floating in the “cloud”. Assistants do not have access to all the information that they need to do their jobs well. Executives do not share necessary information with their Assistants and do not always include their Assistant in their email communications.
- Employees feel time-compressed. Management and administrative support professionals, as all employees, feel like they don’t have enough hours in the day to complete their work.
- Executives are independent and tech savvy. Between email, virtual Assistants, palm pilots, high speed Internet connections and a host of other technological marvels, executives mistakenly believe they are more independent than ever – making their own travel plans, faxing their own letters and scheduling their own meetings. In reality, these so-called independent executives have lost sight of the one asset that can truly impact the company’s bottom line: an empowered administrative office professional.
- Assistants are supporting more than one executive. This makes it more difficult to sufficiently assist an executive at the highest level possible. Plus, the downside is that executives and managers have to share delegating their workload to the Assistant thus keeping projects or basic tasks on their plate.
- Executives and Assistants cannot keep up with the emails that flood their Inbox on a 24/7 basis. The average number of emails Assistants manage between their email and their executive’s email is 225 per day to upwards of 400 per day!
- Assistants are being underutilized. Executives are wasting precious time and money by doing things an Assistant should be handling. The cost to companies can be huge.
Executive and Assistants are struggling!
Put simply: executives and Assistants are struggling. The way they’re working just isn’t working. There’s frustration on both sides of the desk. Everyone is looking for a simple, straightforward guide to help resolve the issues that plague these partnerships.
For decades, Executives have quietly complained of frustrations such as:
“I inherited this Assistant and we’re just not on the same page.”
“I’m not comfortable giving my Assistant honest feedback.”
“I don’t have time to teach my Assistant how to do her job.”
At the same time, Assistants have struggled with their own frustrations such as:
“I don’t know what my Executive wants from me.”
“I feel like my Executive doesn’t know how to utilize me.”
“I know I could be more useful; I just don’t know how to make it happen.”
“Isn’t there some kind of instruction manual that outlines exactly how to create a great working partnership between administrative professionals and the people they support?” This is a question I have been asked for years. I am pleased to say, “Yes! There is a Guide defining how executives and Assistants should operate on a daily basis.” Executives and Assistants Working in Partnership: The Definitive Guide (by Joan Burge with Chrissy Scivicque) will be released early October 2015.
For now, I want to share with you the singular, most important piece of advice for building a strong foundation to any executive/Assistant partnership or any entrepreneur/Assistant partnership. It falls under the bigger umbrella of communication.
Clarifying perceptions and expectations
Understanding perceptions and defining expectations form and strengthen the foundation to build the partnership between you and your leader. Often, when executives and administrative professionals begin to work together, they do not begin by taking the time to discuss what they expect and their views of each other’s roles, beyond a written job description. As a result, the pairing may spend months struggling, wasting time and misunderstanding each other, rather than building a stabilized partnership with a strong momentum that grows daily.
Perceptions have to do with roles (yours and your executive’s), the team relationship and the quality of work performed by the Assistant.
Expectations are tied to tasks. What tasks do you believe you should perform? What tasks does your leader believe you should perform? When expectations are not clearly stated or understood by work partners, job frustration, anger and resentment, and lack of motivation will result.
[Read this article in it’s entirety at ExecutiveSecretary.com]