I was chatting with a friend of a friend the other night and was asked that all-important question ‘what do you do?’ I went with my usual response of ‘I’m an Executive Assistant’ only to be slightly more probed with the follow-up question ‘Oh right… What do Executive Assistants do exactly?’ As I had a few drinks and wasn’t really in the mood to talk through my CV and current skill-set, my off the cuff response was ‘I make my boss incredibly successful’. Thinking about it now, isn’t that exactly what we do or at least should be striving for as assistants? We are employed to make our boss’s job easier, to take away unnecessary work and allow them to focus on running the company but how do you make your boss successful? Here are a few pointers that I think help us achieve that goal.
How do you make your boss successful?
Understand the rhythm of your manager’s day
It is essential to know at what point during the day your manager is at their peak. Are they are a morning or afternoon person, do they take a while to get going in the morning or start to flag in the afternoon? A good way of finding this out is by monitoring when they need caffeine! Once you have this information, you will know when is the best time to schedule meetings for them, when to leave time free for them to get stuck into their emails or write reports. As we know minimising interruptions is a vital part of the service assistants provide but even more important is actually knowing when it is appropriate and how you go about interrupting them.
Information is king
Ultimately your manager needs to know what they are talking about, whether it is with the CEO, clients, the board or members of staff your manager needs to have the correct information to communicate what they know and what they can offer. To help them succeed in this assistants should provide information in the right quantity and format that works best for the manager. Simple right? Well no not really – how do we know what information they need, surely we would be doing their job if we had that kind of knowledge. Well, this is precisely my point we should have knowledge of their job and the business to be able to provide them with the information they need to succeed. How do we do this? Start by attending meetings with your manager, take notes and have that information readily available if you need to remind them or refer back to what was discussed. Know what is going on elsewhere in the business and feed this information back. Get to grips with the office structure and how it relates to your boss – who does he need to see and who needs to see him? If your manager knows that they can rely on you to be a centre of knowledge, then it will free up space in their brain to concentrate on something else.
Keep on top of tasks
So you have a to-do list right? Sure you do but do you have a to-do list for your manager? Do you know what they need to achieve by the end of the day, week or month? It is such a good idea to have access to their task list (MS outlook is excellent for this) so that you can keep an accurate record of what they need to do and remind them of any outstanding work. A vital characteristic of a successful person is that the outward appearance of being on top of things and meeting deadlines. If you know, they have something urgent you can schedule time for them, rearrange meetings or simple stop anyone interrupting them until that task has a tick next to it. Also if you have access to their task list, it is easier to do the small things that they shouldn’t be doing anyway!
From the moment you start working with your manager, you should be figuring out what they are terrible at. I know this sounds slightly negative, and a bit mean but seriously knowing what they are rubbish at means you know what to focus on being good at! Are they untidy, do they lose things all the time, are they unorganised or continuously late for meetings – do they completely forget they are supposed to be in a meeting!? If this is the case, they will have a reputation in the office for having this weakness, and it won’t reflect well on them. Whatever issue they have work on the basis that you will excel at propping up their weaker side and this should make them so much better at their job and therefore more successful. It will also improve their reputation at work, and again this will ultimately add to their success.
Are you a new Assistant?
Our eBook, Starting out as a New Assistant, is designed to help you navigate the first few months of your new role. Here you will find everything you need for the initial first meeting with your Executive. You will also find articles on how to navigate the tricky world of working with the Executive Team, building rapport with your new Executive and advice on how you can work effectively with a boss who has never had an Assistant before.