One of the most common challenges I hear from Assistants who want to push their career forward is that their Executive’s do not trust them enough to hand overexciting projects and tasks. This is generally because the Executive struggles to delegate and likes to be in control of all of their work, or they don’t quite get the Assistant role. It rarely has anything to do with the Assistant not being competent enough to do the job. If you find yourself in this situation, it can be frustrating. But it is something that you can change. It is a long road, and it takes a lot of patience, but you can get your Executive to give you challenging work. Let’s start that journey by looking at how to build trust with your Executive.
How to build trust with your Executive
The first thing you have to tell yourself is that you are in charge of the relationship with your Executive. It is your responsibility to make the partnership work and make them see what you are capable of. You are there to save them time, and in an ideal world, you will be doing all of the work that takes them away from driving the business forward. This is easier said than done. There are a lot of Executives who feel like they do the work better, they want to be in control of everything, and they struggle to delegate. It’s not personal. They don’t think that you are not doing a good job; they want to do everything themselves. I’ve got a lot of experience with this, firstly as an Assistant working with a COO who tried to do everything himself and now as a business owner who struggles to delegate! From experience, trust is the emotion that helps in this scenario. Your Executive has to trust that you will do as good a job as they and trust will relieve their anxiety.
How do you build that trust? Here are a few areas that will help build trust between an Assistant and their Executive.
This is the first step to being trusted. Have a look at all of the day to day tasks that are assigned to you. I bet there are loads. These are the tasks that you should have complete control over. They may be minor things like picking up the post every morning, through to more significant tasks like managing your Executive’s schedule. For every task that you have complete control over, think to yourself – how can I make every task a complete success? What can I do to ensure the process attached to each task runs smoothly and is working well? Make a list of these tasks and spend some time making them more efficient. You are accountable for these tasks, and you should take responsibility for their success.
Consistently Communicate with your Executive
Communication is so important when building trust. Make sure your Executive is aware of everything you do and how well you do. You have to blow your own trumpet so that your Executive knows what you are capable of. If you receive excellent feedback from colleagues, pass it on to your Executive. Champion yourself! You also need to ask the right questions. Make sure you have a one to one meeting with your Executive and during the meeting ask lots of questions about their workload and what you can do to help. Your Executive will know that they need to give you challenging work. It is harder to ignore that fact if you are consistently asking for work and offering to do things.
Consistent in your behaviour
When building trust, you need to be consistent in your behaviour. This can be tough if you are having a shitty day, but you should always try to have a smile on your face. Be willing to do lots of different tasks and act as a positive presence in the workplace. If you are consistent in the way you work with your Executive, they will know what to expect every day, and they can rely on you. Grace under fire is my favourite competency for Assistants because Executives do respect this in Assistants, and it is incredibly important when building trust with business leaders.
Keeping your Executive’s confidence is vital for so many reasons not least because you both need to trust each other explicitly for the partnership to work. Don’t ever drop the ball on this one. If you want your Executive to trust you, you can not gossip or share sensitive information with anyone else in your organisation.
Honesty and authenticity
As an Assistant, we are in a fortunate position in that quite often we get to tell our boss what to do. We tell them when they have to be in meetings when they can take their lunch, what they have to read, which emails they have to answer first. Not many of our colleagues have this type of relationship with the boss so we can use it to our advantage when building trust. We can be honest and authentic; we don’t have to be ‘yes men/women’. We can be a breath of fresh air, we can be asked our opinion and give advice, and most importantly, we can be trusted. Again, it is a little scary, but being transparent and honest in all situations will show your Executive that they can trust you.
Trust is built and maintained through everyday actions. If you feel like there is trust lacking in your relationship with your Executive, you can work on this today and every day going forward. It takes time, but you can make a change so that you are trusted to do more challenging work.