Having low self-esteem or confidence issues can be a real challenge in life, particularly in the office and particularly for assistants. We have a difficult job and if we are unable to stand up for ourselves this makes the role a lot harder. It can lead to feeling unchallenged, unappreciated and more importantly managed ineffectively by your Executive.
Although not all of us are blessed with unwavering self-confidence (I certainly am not!) There are areas within the role that every assistant should feel comfortable with and have confidence in their own abilities. Here are my top three:
The skills that you have developed over the years are unique to you and make you stand out within the role and within your organisation. These are the things that you are really good! Confidence comes from knowing what you are really good at. It could be, for example, that you are super organised, you are calm under pressure. It could be that you get on well with people and build rapport easily. It could be related to your IT skills or your ability to speak more than one language. Whatever it is – you must be proud and confident in the skills that you have developed over the years. These skills make you a fantastic assistant.
There are certain tasks that assistants need to be confident in executing – it kinda goes without saying. From my experience I had to know how to manage diaries and emails, organise travel, work with Microsoft Office and be a strong gatekeeper for my Executive. I just had to be confident in these tasks and know that I could do them well. Otherwise I would not be good at my job. I think this is the same for every assistant. If you are unsure of your abilities in these areas it can lead to problems with your Executive. For example if you are not 100% confident that you can move meetings and reschedule their diary without asking them first (even if they have told you they are happy for you to manage their diary) they will start to doubt your abilities and will start to move their own meetings around and cancelling things – trust me, this leads to chaos!
Communicating with senior members of staff
This is a tricky one. It can be really daunting speaking to senior members of staff but if your Executive is a board level Director they will and therefore you will have to work and communicate with other senior Executives practically everyday. You may find these Executives difficult to talk to, they may be really unapproachable and they may be (quite frankly) hard going. But, it is vital that you have the confidence to deal with them on behalf of your Executive. You will have to be able to speak to them about meetings, deadlines, important information and you will have to make small talk with them – especially when they are hanging around outside your Executive’s office! If you don’t feel confident in dealing with these types at the moment you will have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. If it is urgent, rather than waiting to speak to their assistant, pick up the phone and dial them directly. If it helps, plan what you will say first (write it down if that gives you a bit of a safety blanket). Once you have pushed yourself to speak over the phone, take a trip to their office. It is much easier communicating with senior Execs if they know who you are and you have built a little rapport with them.
How do you gain confidence?
If you feel unconfident in any skills or tasks that are essential within the assistant role it is well worth identify these and attending a training course or learning online. Have a real think about the areas where you do lack confidence and if it is affecting your performance. You may be really good at covering up any confidence issues – which is fine in the short term but in the long term it is much easier if you spend a little time building your knowledge in these areas, pushing yourself to step outside your comfort zone and increasing your confidence.