assistants working in tandems with their executive

Working in Tandem with Your Leader

One of the most common struggles amongst administrative professionals and their executives is a disconnect. Over the last 30 years, we have heard every disconnect scenario assistants have experienced: the executive does not touch base; the executive and assistant have different communication styles; the executive is unorganized with his or her thoughts and doesn’t effectively relay details, etc.

Working in tandem is hard enough when you are in the office and things are “business as usual.” Throw chaotic times such as national disasters, economic crises, and massive organizational changes into the mix and disconnects can become efficiency-killers.

So how can you as an assistant avoid further disruption and work in tandem with your leader to achieve goals?

In this Working in Tandem with Your Leader blog, we are going to cover the 3 steps you need to take to be on the same page as your leader, such as:

1. Verbal communication
a.) Daily huddles
b.) Preparing for conversations and leading the next steps.
2. Written communication
a.) Word selections
b.) Email message crafting
3. Communication expectations
a.) Discuss and agree on a process
b.) Prioritization
c.) Staying visible/demonstrating your value

At the end of this blog, there is a helpful video that goes into detail on each of the steps above. If you are ready to better yourself and your career as an Assistant, read on. 

1. Verbal communication with your executive 

You must get your executive to realize the importance of dedicating time to verbally communicate ongoing details with you. You do this by sharing the many benefits he or she will gain. 

We all know that during chaotic times, things are moving quickly. Decisions are made on the spot, and they are changed on the spot as well. Information is rapidly gathered and needs to get passed on. Emotions are high and they can impact actions and decisions. Do you see the complexity of this? 

Texting, IM’ing, or sending emails is not good enough. When we text, usually we are in a hurry. It does not feel the same to type on our phone as it does when we sit at a keyboard. Often text messages are incomplete and can be left to interpretation.  

However, when you can sit face to face or even video chat, it helps efficiency tremendously. Instead of wondering what your leader is asking of you, the context of their tone and if they are getting frustrated over miscommunications, you, the assistant can drive the conversation and get results (more on this below). 

For years, Joan has talked about executives and assistants having daily huddles. They are a strategic way of maximizing your executive’s availability and allowing you to move forward with projects rather than waiting for the green light. Joan shares an example from an assistant and her advice in the article above. Before each huddle, you will want to make sure you:  

  • Prepare for your conversation. Your highest priority items should be discussed first. You do not want to waste your executive’s time as it will be minimal. 
  • Listen deeply. 
  • Repeat what you thought you heard to get clarification.   


2. Written communication with your executive

Normally we feel hurried and therefore might not take the time to think about what we need to say or re-read what we wrote. In doing so, we may misrepresent the subject, cause worry or extra work. To avoid this, below are some guidelines to follow. 

  • Carefully select the words you use. One word could change the entire meaning of something. 
  • Don’t blow something out of proportion and yet do not understate the urgency of something. 

Our 5 Ways Better Writing Can Boost Your Credibility at Work blog gives a few examples and solutions. 

Additionally, before writing your message, think about the goal of sending the communication. Do you need to get your executive’s immediate attention? Are you confirming something with your executive? Is it time-sensitive information?

To effectively achieve each goal above, I recommend you use the words below to start the subject. 

    • URGENT 
    • FYI

Just make sure your executive is aware and agrees to the process so there are no unintentionally rude tones picked up. 

3. Defining executive expectations

As an assistant, what do you expect from your executive to be able to function at your optimum during unique situations? Give this area a lot of thought as it will lay the foundation for the following step: communicating your expectations to your executive.

When you communicate your expectations, it opens the discussion for processes and efficiencies. This is the time to:

  • Evaluate which processes you need to keep in place, such as your daily huddle.
  • Determine which processes or habits can be dropped (for now). 
  • Create new processes to meet current needs.
  • Streamline existing processes. 

After you have discussed the above it is time to prioritize. There are many moving pieces and they may be coming at you faster than you can tolerate. You might feel like you want to give up; you might feel overwhelmed, uncertain, and fearful. This is natural. By asking your executive which projects are most urgent to him or her, you can begin to number them accordingly and your days will feel more manageable. 

That leads us to our next area – staying visible to your executive and demonstrating your value. During one of our past webinars, an assistant mentioned a concern she has is “staying in the mind of her executive” so they don’t forget her. 

When you have reached a point of self-sufficiency, this is understandable. Here are 3 ways to stay in sight, so to speak, and in the mind of your executive:

  • Send your executive a daily update or even just a hello.
  • Add value by forwarding any pertinent information you read or see that impacts your industry.
  • Look for areas of your work where you can streamline processes.

Unpredictable situations that dramatically impact the workplace, affect productivity, and communication will occur. However, the right skills and know-how will provide you with a solid game plan for continuously working in tandem with your leader.

Our Executive Support Series™ was designed to help you gain a better understanding of strategic partnerships and how to develop one with your leader.

It looks at the whole assistant and delivers the key insights and training you need to advance in your career. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just joined the profession or are a seasoned vet.

This solution allows you to learn at your own pace, access a plethora of resources from anywhere, and experience the kind of transformational education for which Office Dynamics is known. 

Start by Seeing how you measure up

Download The Micro Executive Support Effectiveness Assessment

There are hundreds of nuances to being a rock star assistant. This 5-page assessment is a measurement tool designed to see how well you complement business objectives and executive support. Review it with your executive to gain their perspective and a 360-degree view of how you can grow.


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1 thought on “Working in Tandem with Your Leader”

  1. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I am going to try the following when I have my 1x1s with my manager:
    Thanks for the information.

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