Back in May I wrote a blog post on improving your relationship with your boss. At the time I wrote that the most important relationship assistants have at work is with their Executive. I stand by this statement so much so that I think it is worth giving a few more tips to help improve your relationship with your boss.

They have to see you as an equal

This is really important as an assistant. Your boss has to see you as an equal not as their servant or dog’s body or any other negative stereotypes that assistants often have to face. The relationship may not be quite that bad but it could be that your boss doesn’t think that you are as important as their other employees and spends less time investing in you. Either way you have got to make them see you as an equal in every regarding (even if they are the CEO of the organisation). How do you do this? Well, firstly you have to see yourself as their equal. You have to think that you just as important as them and that you have the right to be heard and the right to speak. You bring a huge amount of value to the organisation and your Executive should respect you for that, you should also respect yourself for that too! You should see yourself in a partnership with your boss based on a mutual understanding and wanting to achieve the same objectives. Yes your Executive is more senior to you and you should certainly show them respect but in terms of your partnership you are equally responsible for its success.

Respect their time

We save our boss time. It is the foundation on which our role is built. We, more than any other member of staff should understand how much time our Executive has to dedicate to certain tasks and shouldn’t take more of their time than we need. For every meeting come prepared with the correct paperwork, prior to the meeting anticipate the questions they are going to ask you and find out the right answers. If it helps, set an agenda for each meeting so that you both know exactly what needs to be achieved by the end of each meeting. Think about how long you are actually going to need, don’t just put an hour in their diary because it is easier for you.  Senior Executives are not going to like time-wasters so we should do everything we can to respect their time.

Over deliver

This is easier said than done but you will improve the relationship with your boss if they truly value you as an asset. They are going to value you if you are excellent at your job and over-deliver for them. How do you over-deliver? Well first of all make sure you have your usual daily tasks under control and then start asking for more work and more projects. The additional work that you take on shouldn’t be at a detriment to your basic tasks but will help your reputation at work and ultimately your relationship with your boss.

Ask for their advice

Ask for advice and then act on that advice. You work for a senior Executive, they will have some good business knowledge that they can pass down to you so do ask them to share their experiences with you. Everyone likes to voice an opinion, including your boss. Do be selective with the type of advice you ask for, obviously don’t ask advice on something that is fundamental to your role. You still need to be seen as an expert assistant. Instead ask them how they dealt with certain situations or what they think the best course of action is on more difficult tasks. Asking for advice should encourage your Executive to see themselves as a bit of a mentor which in turn should help your relationship develop a certain amount of trust.

Don’t wait to be told what to do

And here is my final piece of advice and it is something that assistants are pretty good at. Don’t wait to be told what to do. If something is causing your Executive stress or is an unnecessary waste of their time you should be doing everything you can to fix it for them. A good solid working relationship between an you and your Executive is achievable if your manager doesn’t feel like they have to manage you. Don’t get me wrong, they have to be a good manager who supports you professionally through regular catch up meetings and feedback. But on a day to day basis you should be anticipating their needs and ensuring everything is running smoothly around them. Not only is that going to improve the relationship with your boss it is going to make you one hell of an assistant!

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One comment

  • Deborah Zotian August 1, 2014   Reply →

    I have several comments on this post:

    “They have to see you as an equal” But you are not – they are the CEO or Principal or high level Executive in an organization, you are their assistant. That term – assistant – means you are NOT an equal in terms of the organization. By promoting ‘you are an equal’ in the office, you could burn bridges needed with other staff members.

    “Respect their time” Yes, you should. However, THEY also need to respect mine. To call me to their office for something which could have been said over the phone is a waste of my time. I could be doing their work in the time it takes me to walk to their office and then back to my desk and find the item needed. My time is valuable to me, to the organization, and mostly to my boss.

    “Over deliver” Perhaps where you are, this is the norm. However, by over delivering, it doesn’t show initiative. It shows that you can do more than you’re already doing, and then that becomes the norm. To continue the trend, you need to constantly take on more work, at the expense of the original work to be done. I’m not saying don’t ever do more than required, but that should not be a requirement. I have assisted other groups when they need help, taken on projects when there is a time crunch. I don’t mind the extra work. I mind when it is assumed I will do it automatically because I did it once.

    “Ask for their advice” A double-edged sword. Asking for advice can be seen as looking for assistance or not knowing what to do in a situation. This will depend on the boss, and his or her mood at the time.

    “Don’t wait to be told what to do” If you know your job, and you know your boss, you don’t have to wait. I have been called “Radar” because I can usually get my boss the files he needs before he asks for them. I know when he’s going on a trip, I need to have his itinerary, luggage labels and a spreadsheet for expenses ready and in process. If, after 6 months with someone, you still need to be told what to do for daily tasks, this is not the job for you.

    I don’t want to sound like sour grapes. There are many things in your post which make sense. However, there are times when ‘doing everything we should for our executive’ causes nothing but burn out. It becomes expected and, when there is little appreciation for the effort, self-esteem goes down and job performance follows.

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