The key to a successful relationship between an assistants and their Executive is having a good understanding of how each other operate. Actually let me rephrase that… the assistant should have a good understanding of how the Executive operates and adjust their style accordingly. Most people fall into two camps when it comes to their personality – they are either an introvert or extrovert. Now obviously people come in varying degrees of these types but when it comes to building a successful relationship it is worth noting what side of the personality coin your Executive resides. I will look at the challenges facing assistants working with an extrovert but today let’s have a look at those reserved introverted types.
Communicating with an introvert
In my experience introverts tend to listen more than they speak. In fact it can be quite difficult getting an introvert to say much at all. This can be frustrating for people that are used to talking, bouncing ideas off others and receiving direct instructions. It can also lead to people talking at introverts to cover up silences or any awkward moments. Not good, especially for assistants. So how do you communicate? Well, firstly make sure you listen when they do speak because they will have something important to say! They probably aren’t going to be happy having to repeat themselves so makes sure you remember any instructions they have given. If you do have to clarify anything make sure you are asking specific questions (ideally with yes or no answers). Expect to use email as your main source of communication.
Take the initiative
I find that introverted bosses let their staff take the initiative on projects and indeed their own workload. They don’t tend to micromanage so assistants in particular can really use this to their advantage and take on more work. In terms of feeding back, I would suggest you use an online task list that you can share with your boss, that way you don’t have to constantly let them know when you have actioned requests they can see the evidence for themselves.
Prepare for meetings
Most introverts I know like to have space in their day to prepare for meetings. They like to go into a meeting with an idea of what they are going to say and how the discussion is going to pan out. An assistant can really help with this process by ensuring they have all of the necessary paper work prior to the meeting and that they have time to prepare properly.
Introverts are not going to enjoy unnecessary interruptions and random conversations so make sure you use all of your gatekeeping skills to keep your Executive away from scary Extroverts (especially pushy sales people). Introverts like to regroup and spend time on their own to think through ideas and plan next steps. Make sure you give them plenty of time in their diary for quiet reflection.
Create your own sense of achievement
If things are going well you probably are not going to hear much about it from your introverted Exec. This can be difficult for assistants who want to know if they are doing a good job (and really who doesn’t!) Don’t take it personally just assume that silence is a good thing and give yourself a pat on the back when you know you have achieved something.
Remember that working with an introvert brings its own rewards
Not all leaders need to be extroverts. There is something pretty special about someone who can quietly encourage their workforce to shine. Introverts have amazing qualities and can be fantastic bosses. I love this Ted Talk from Susan Cain called The Power of Introverts. If you do work for an introvert I would highly recommend you watch her talk.