“Take the trip in your mind before you send me on a trip.” This is a comment I often hear from executives who travel and feel their executive assistant is not thinking through all the details of their trips. While the trip itinerary may “look good” to the executive assistant or even the executive before the trip, there are hiccups along the way as an executive travels.
Unless you have traveled extensively, which most executive assistants do not get to do, it is hard to comprehend what might happen. And even though your executive may tell you about the problems they encountered on a trip, you still may not catch everything to make the next trip smoother.
I can appreciate both sides of the desk. When I was an executive assistant for 20 years, I thought I did a good job of planning my executives’ travel, even the ones who traveled internationally. But I had not realized all the little intricacies and things that drive a traveler crazy until I started traveling on a regular basis. You may look at your executives and think how lucky they are to travel all over the country or the world or how glamorous.
But when you are the one traveling all the time, dealing with flight delays, bad weather, cancelled flights, sitting in airports for hours on end, sitting on the taxiway for hours because of a rain storm, running from gate to gate, killing yourself to catch a flight because your flight was late only to have the airlines close the doors on you as you watch your aircraft pull out, can you truly appreciate the stress and burdens of traveling.
It is your job as an executive assistant to do the very best you can at making travel smooth for your executive. You should learn from each trip what worked well and what could have gone better. Each trip is unique. I wish every executive assistant could go on at least one complicated business trip with his or her executive.
Whether you have planned 5 trips or 500 trips for your executive, you should have a detailed, extensive check list. I recently helped an executive assistant create a more comprehensive checklist for her executive who was the president of a global organization. I thought she had a thorough itinerary mapped out but her executive was unhappy after 7 years of her doing this. I needed to get behind the scenes with her and dig deep – what questions to ask, items to add to the checklist for pre-prep, a list of what her executive should be sure to pack and questions to ask post trip.
Travel planning may seem like a basic skill every administrative assistant or executive assistant has but it is much more than a skill; it is an art; it is a science. It takes a combination of: critical thinking skills, connecting the dots in your mind, forecasting, anticipating (what could go wrong or what your executive might need), organizing, having a back-up plan, excellent communication, logical thinking, seeing the big picture, and much more. I challenge you to find your gaps and encourage your executive to tell you about the little things that drive them crazy when they travel because sometimes they will just not mention it but they are thinking it.
Do you have any great tips you can share with our readers? Are their any templates you use for ensuring quality? Do you have any favorite web sites you can recommend?