Executives waste precious time doing jobs that Personal Assistants do better. The most successful leaders are effective delegators. They know their own strengths and they play to them. Then they hire people around them with expertise in a certain area to do the rest and most of the time they do their part better than you ever could.
Time and again we meet Personal Assistants who, when asked why they’re leaving their current role, say “My boss is very self-sufficient, she doesn’t really need me as she does most things herself’’ or “I don’t feel valued, challenged or included in my role, I can’t be proactive’’.
Were we to meet their bosses, I’m sure they would say something along the lines of “Oh it’s just easier for me to do it’’ or “He/she isn’t qualified to do that task’’ or “They made too many mistakes, so it ended up quicker for me to do it myself”.
For Personal Assistants who have been in their roles a long time, nine times out of ten they stayed because they felt trusted, valued and included by their principals during their period with them. Likewise, when these bosses give references, they can’t emphasise enough how much help their Personal Assistant has been to them during that time.
Unfortunately, and thankfully rarely, we sometimes recruit for the same role over and over again. We try to make the executive aware of what he or she is doing wrong (which isn’t easy!), because it is extremely unlikely that it’s solely the Personal Assistants that are making repeated mistakes. It may be easy to ignore this pattern and blame your support but it’s not effective.
The best relationships built between an Personal Assistant and his/her executive are when both sides spend a good element of their working time on leadership, team-building – including effective gatekeeping where necessary - and establishing how to make important decisions that can’t be made elsewhere.
Working successfully with a Personal Assistant takes an investment of time but the rewards can be endless. It’s all about a change in how you picture the relationship. Instead of thinking that your Personal Assistant just does what you tell them to do, start thinking of your Personal Assistant as your partner, someone with whom you work in collaboration, not merely a subordinate who just works for you. It’s about building trust. They’re not just your ‘helper’; they can and do make working business decisions and use their initiative by having a high level of business understanding created through your communication with them on your priorities and that of your area. They can handle competing demands for your time, leaving you with the space to make decisions. For example of an effect of that, a good Personal Assistant will ensure you only attend meetings that are strictly necessary.
To start building that trust, try giving mutual respect for each other’s talents and expertise – you hired them in the knowledge that they’re better at their role than you and vice versa. Most good relationships develop into a real respect for each other and who they are as people, not just their work. They can sometimes become friends outside of the office environment.
One of the biggest areas we see of failure in a working relationship between Personal Assistants and their bosses is a lack of communication from the executive. Sometimes emails from a Personal Assistant go unopened, questions unanswered, a week goes by without the executive or deal professional checking in... Knowledge is power, the more information your Personal Assistant has, the better their decision making can be, with minimal input.
If executives reading take one thing from this post, then please do this: the first e-mails to get answered and the first calls to be returned must be to your Personal Assistants. If you start taking an active interest in making sure your Personal Assistants have all the information they need to be successful in their role, you might just start seeing a shift in performance. Giving them inbox access is another step that you should take. Personal Assistants can then manage your emails and alert you to the important ones, again, saving you endless amounts of time.
In today’s world, where top talent is in high demand and people don’t just stay in jobs because it’s a job, executives need to develop their relationship skills with their Personal Assistants - or the best will leave to find those who do.