I’m sure at some point in your career you will experience an Executive who causes bottlenecks in your organisation (if you haven’t already). It can be really frustrating waiting for colleagues to complete a part of your work, especially if you have a deadline. It is a pretty delicate situation when that colleague is the CEO of your organisation. Assistants will often bare the brunt of their colleague’s frustrations because who moans to an Executive when they can moan to the Executive’s assistant! If you know your manager is causing bottlenecks there are certain things you can do to speed up the flow of work in and out of their office. Firstly work out why they are causing a bottleneck – is it because they are disorganised? Is it because they have too much work? Is it that they are simply forgetful or they prioritise certain tasks over others? Once you have a better understanding of the problem you can help to solve it. Here are a few common bottleneck areas and tips on how to resolve them.
Signing off documents
It is not the most modern of business tasks but Executives still have to physically sign hundreds of documents per year. Imagine the frustration of someone that has worked on a project for months only to be made to wait for one signature. It happens all the time and can cause major delays. A lot of people will try to avoid this scenario by going straight to your Executive and interrupting their day. This is fine if they are only asked to sign one document a week but every couple of hours – that is going to annoy your manager. A great way to control this task is to introduce a signed document folder. Ask all of your colleagues to give you any documents they need your manager to sign and also tell you how urgently the signature is required. You can then judge when best to ask your boss to sign the paperwork, this might be in your daily catch up meeting or during the course of the day if it is urgent.
Reviewing and amending reports
Much of your Executives day will be spent reviewing and amending other people’s work. If they are in meetings all day obviously this task takes longer to complete. If this area is causing your manager to create a bottleneck there are a few things you can do to help. Firstly and subtly bring this issue to their attention. Mention that you have noticed how many reports they are asked to review and let them know you are willing to review the document in the first instance. If they agree, you can check reports for grammatical errors and any formatting issues and make sure the document is in the final draft stage before it goes to your Executive. Secondly you can schedule time specifically in their diary for reading and reviewing reports. Usually they will receive these documents by email so you will know when and how long these time slots need to be.
Do they need to be working on these tasks?
A good question to ask yourself is this – does your Executive actually need to be working on this task? If they are causing a bottleneck because they have other more important priorities it suggests that someone else in your organisation might be better placed to deal with the task. We all know that some people will ask Executives to look over their work because they want instant recognition. As an assistant we need to know who these people are because they are wasting our Executive’s time and costing the organisation money. With all tasks that require a chunk of your Executive’s time your gatekeeping skills will always come into play.
Give them plenty of time
If you have an unorganised or particularly busy boss it is well worth reminding colleagues that they must schedule their time accordingly. If they need your Executive to do something urgently – why did they not plan this earlier or let you know sooner? Your boss’s time is precious and they can’t drop everything to accommodate unorganised people. They have to work around your boss not the other way around. Harsh words but sometimes assistants have to say that to colleagues!
Sometimes the best way to complete a task is for everyone concerned to sit down and work on it face to face. This is particularly effective if your colleague has been going back and forth over email with your manager, or has been asking persistently for an update on where you manager is with a task. If you notice this sometimes it is just best to put an hour in your manager’s diary in the hope that you can resolve everything during that time.
Keep things simple
This is often something that we forget when dealing with Executives. We want to appear knowledgable and aware of everything that is happening when really we should be giving them the bare essentials that enable them to make decisions. The ability to be concise is a great skill for assistants to have and very useful if our Executive’s are holding up our work. Keep all communications simple and to the point. Don’t bombard them with problems, instead try and solve as many issues using your own initiative. If you do need them to make a few decisions – prioritise what they are and discuss each one with your Executive face to face.