A considerable part of an Executive’s job is to lead their staff, motivate and encourage them. However, this isn’t always the case. There are many Executive’s who are too busy, or under too much pressure in their roles to manage their staff effectively. There are also Executive’s who are very good at what they do but don’t have the interpersonal skills to lead or motivate the team around them. This lack of leadership can have a real impact on the office culture and morale of the staff. Assistants, of course, will also be affected by this lack of leadership and interpersonal skills, we need to be managed as much as any other member of staff. But, this is a problem in the office that we can help to solve. We can add value when working with an Executive who struggles to manage their team. Here is why. Part of our role is to represent the best interests of our Executive to make them successful. We can see the areas that they find challenging, be it time management, organisation or, in this case, people management and we can support them with these issues. Let’s look at how Assistants can bridge the interpersonal gap between staff and a busy boss.
Bridging the interpersonal gap between staff and a busy boss
The first point that is worth making is that this is not a comfortable place to find yourself in as an Assistant. Working with an Executive who doesn’t manage very well is tough. You need to work out why they are not great at motivating or managing. Are they too busy, are they under pressure, are they lacking in interpersonal skills, do they struggle connecting with people? Whatever it happens to be, once you work out the reason you need to ask yourself if you can still work with this Executive. They also need to open up to you and trust you enough to help them manage their staff. If they are happy to delegate this responsibility so that they can concentrate on their objectives, great! This makes your role here much more manageable. If they don’t see their lack of leadership as a problem, well, that is a problem, and you need to consider your position. Okay, so let’s assume they want you to help bridge the gap. Where do you start? Here are a few strategies you can put into place that will help your Executive manage their team effectively and make your team much happier in the workplace.
Communication: Lack of communication from management has to be the number one reason people get frustrated in their roles and lack motivation. How can you feel empowered when you don’t know what is going on? Assistants can add value here. Sending out a weekly communication to the team about your Executive’s activities will keep everyone up to date and in the loop. Ask each of your Executive’s direct reports to send a similar email to you so that you can put that into a report for your Executive to read over on a Friday afternoon. A word of warning, you need to be very involved in your Executive’s day, so you know what you can communicate and what is confidential.
1-2-1 meetings: Ensure your Executive has a 1-2-1 session with their direct reports at least once per month. These 1-2-1 meetings must stay in the diary, so try hard not to move them. Before the meeting, make sure the direct report submits an agenda that they can work through together. This is essential because you don’t want your Executive to feel like the meeting was a waste of time and cancels the meetings.
Office culture: When working with an Executive who struggles to motivate their team, you can be sure this will affect the office culture, and it will have a knock-on effect throughout the business. Depending on how much scope you are given to oversee the management of staff, you can turn the office culture around. There are a few questions you can ask yourself that will start this process:
- How can we make the team feel valued?
- How can the team give feedback?
- What are the goals, values and mission statement of the organisation and how does this affect our team?
- What can we do to make work fun?
- How do we show gratitude for their hard work?
Social events: There should be a social aspect in every organisation. Your team should be able to bond in a less formal environment and get to know each other on a personal level. It will be up to you to organise social events for your team. Make sure your Executive gives you a budget each month for team drinks or team-bonding activities. If this is not possible, organise something cheap and cheerful each month for your team to pay for themselves.
Making your team feel comfortable: In the past, I’ve worked with Executive’s who are incredibly formidable and can be completely unapproachable. I’ve worked for Executive’s who never leave their office and sit scowling at their screen all day. I’ve sat outside their office and watched as members of their team have to build up the courage to go into the office and speak to them. It is horrible to see, and no one should have to work like that, but it happens every day in offices throughout the world. If you are working with a tough Executive, be the happy, approachable person that your colleagues see before they go in to speak with your Executive. Make them feel at ease, let them know what mood your Executive is in and give them a head’s up if specific topics aren’t going to fly today.
Inspiring trust – Assistants must gain their Executive’s confidence. It is even more critical when working with an Executive who struggles to motivate their team. They will rely so heavily on you that the only way for the relationship to work is if they can trust you with their team. You also have to inspire trust in your colleagues; you are the bridge between the top level, Executive’s and the rest of the employees, so they have to trust that you know what you are doing. If they don’t, you will find they go straight to the Executive rather than coming to you first. This can cause no end of headaches for you. So, inspiring trust both in terms of keeping confidence but also inspiring others to trust your skills. Getting this right will make your job a whole lot easier.