Imagine the scene – you’ve been asked to lead on a piece of work, for example compiling a report or managing a new project. You have to gather information from a number of colleagues so that you can complete the work you have been given. As the days and weeks go by you have received most of the information you need and most of your colleagues have been really helpful. However, you are still outstanding a few key details from a certain member of staff. No matter how much you have chased for this information the person has yet to deliver and is delaying the completion of the tasks.

Sound familiar? I think we’ve all been in this position before. For assistants it can be difficult – the likelihood of us have any authority over this person is minimal and more often than not they will be more senior if not working at board level alongside our Executive. Depending on how senior this person is it can be inappropriate continually chasing them and the project or task grinds to a halt, making you look incompetent. So what can assistants do when they need to chase colleagues for work who do not report to them? Here are a few tips…

Set up a meeting

Some people are much better at completing tasks if they feel urgency or a pressure to do so. It is easy to say you will do something face to face or via email and forget about it two minutes later. Arranging a meeting with that person is a great way to create a sense of urgency. Another method is arranging time at their desk so that you can sit there while they complete the work. It makes you a pain in the ass but it also ensures the work is completed!

Do they have an assistant?

You know how often colleagues come to you to chase your Executive for information. The same applies to other Execs and their assistants. If the culprit is a senior member of staff with an assistant it is definitely worth speaking to the assistant to firstly find out if the task is on the Execs radar and pushing them to chase on your behalf.

Back the request up with an email

I’m not a big fan of asking somebody to do something and then sending an email to confirm that request. It doesn’t instill much trust does it! But saying that it is useful when you have chased someone a few times and they have told you they will complete the work by a certain date. A follow up email confirming the date will ensure you have a record of that promise and  something to use if they don’t deliver the work on time. For assistants, following up with an email, can also ensure they have a record if their Executive has to chase on their behalf or asks why there project deadlines have not been met.

Can you copy their boss in?

Again, I’m not a big fan of this one. But sometimes (depending on how urgent the work is) copying their boss into a chase email will get the ball rolling. I would suggest you use this as a last straw and perhaps it is actually better to speak to their manager rather than copying them into a chase email.

Use the authority of your Executive’s office

I know that sounds a bit ‘House of Cards‘ and manipulative but it is the easiest way I’ve found to get other members of staff to complete tasks. As most of your work relates back to your Executive any missed deadlines or incomplete work will affect them eventually. Make sure your colleague is aware of this – do they really want to get on the wrong side of your boss… and you for that matter?