Problems. Ugh! Despite our best efforts as administrative assistants, problems pepper our work week. They are simply part of the mix. It’s what we do when we encounter problems, and how we respond to a problem, that separates administrative assistants and executive assistants to a sphere of outstanding performance.

Problem solving is about what happens in your brain and heart – it’s a mixture of experience, creative thinking, and the external environment: your work network, available resources, and time.

  1. Consider the issue: what is the problem? Define it in a single sentence.
  2. Remain calm – getting upset won’t solve anything. 
  3. Be focused –creative responses require focus and calm.
  4. Isolate issues – write them down on a paper to A) clearly see the separate parts and B) to get the swirling thoughts in your head to slow down.
  5. Avoid blame – that really isn’t going to help solve the problem, tempting though it might be to do!
  6. Communicate – who can you discuss this issue with? Who is a great resource or problem solver? They may have insight or resources to provide.
  7. Prioritize – put the isolated issues into priority so you can plan your attack. 
  8. Be informed – don’t just throw up your hands, wait for someone to rescue you from the situation or do nothing. Be informed about what can be done for the first priority.
  9. Who do you know? This is a time to figure who within your sphere of influence might be able to help. This is also when your emotional intelligence, networking and soft skills come into play. All the work relationships and colleagues you have built up over the years could now be a valuable asset in problem solving. 
  10. Gain concurrence – communicate with your manager or leader succinctly about what is the problem, the priority response and what you plan to do. They may have additional helpful comments or information.
  11. Take appropriate action – it’s time to move out. 
  12. Keep telling yourself that turning the ship around may not be easy but it can be done. 
  13. Monitor progress and look out for rocks or other unknown issues to arise when the motion to solution begins. 
  14. Keep leadership apprised. Own the situation and its solution. 
  15. Lessons learned – create a lessons learned file so you can share what you learned to help other assistants grow their problem solving skills. 

Nobody likes problems; but inside of every problem there is opportunity. Leverage the opportunity and remain positive and collected in your thoughts. Administrators have marvelous opportunities each day to showcase their talents, skills, learning and resources to make the office an amazing place of synergy and success. 

Albert Einstein may have said it best, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.


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