Now is a very good time to write down everything that you do, within your job description and outside of it. Include all of the skills, both soft and hard skills, that are utilised in your organisation and those skills that you have but are not used to the extent that you would like.
This is for two reasons. Having a document like that will give you confidence and what you can offer and also clarity in where you can add value.
Times have changed and will continue to change so some of the tasks and skills you had before Covid may not be as important as other skills you have.
I have some questions that I want you to answer that will help with this exercise:
- What are the new priorities for your organisation?
- For your Executive and yourself?
It is important to remember that your scope might have changed because of your current living situation. For example, my scope has changed enormously since Covid because my children are at home with me. What I can achieve and what has to be prioritised is completely different now. I have to acknowledge that and make changes to how I run Practically Perfect PA. It will be the same for everyone, that is why this exercise is important for you as well as your Executive and your organisation.
- What tasks have been dropped, and what will replace them?
- Where can you re-skill?
My example here is travelling planning. For many Assistants, this was a huge part of the role. Although travel is making a comeback, it certainly won’t be as much as pre-Covid so Assistants who used to organise a lot of travel will have the capacity for other tasks. What is going to replace travel, for example, probably conference calling and online events – so where can you upskill here?
When your Executive travels again, how can you help them feel safe and prepared? Using this time to prepare as much as you can for the new normal will add a lot of value.
We’ve talked about re-skilling in terms of video technology, but I’m sure there are lots of other areas you can find that will benefit from you up-skilling.
Lastly, but really importantly
- What soft skills are more essential in your role?
- How do you display them in your day to day work?
Certain soft skills are really going to help the workforce during this time, and luckily Assistants have these skills in abundance, here are a few:
- Leadership skills
- Relationship building
- Creativity and problem-solving.
- Emotional intelligence
- Curiosity and a willingness to learn
- And lastly, calm under pressure.
Think about these skills, and how you can use them in your workplace, how they will make you more visible and where you can be seen to add value.
I want to touch on something that Assistants spend a lot of time doing, and that is scheduling and diary management. For many of you, this is the cornerstone of your role. Not just planning meetings, but managing your executive’s day and where they place their focus and their energy.
This is also the task that helps many of you stay in the loop. You schedule the meetings, but you also have access to all of the supporting documents, you understand why these meetings are taking place, the relevance and where they sit in the broader picture of things.
Managing meetings that are all taking place online is a new ball game, and there are new rules. But firstly it is worth saying that your involvement is more important than ever. And here is why.
- High standards of output are returning.
I think at the start of the pandemic, understandably work was not a priority for many of us as we tried to understand what this new reality looked like. For many of us, this grace period is still very much in place because there are so many factors in play at the moment, kids aren’t back at school, the virus hasn’t disappeared, and many people are still sick and suffering the loss of loved ones. It is a devastating time. But, we also know that we those running businesses are under a lot of pressure to ensure the organisation survives now and whatever is coming next. High standards of output are returning, and there will be a lot of pressure on your Executive’s time.
How you manage their schedule remotely is going to be incredibly important, and you have to work together to get it right.
- No one wants more meetings, but…
It is important to over-communicate while working remotely. It is important to Schedule regular touchpoints with your Executive and your team and other departments. I’m going to talk about this in more detail, but you have to over-communicate and work collaboratively with those in your organisation.
- Give your Executive more time.
This could be attending meetings in their place or ensuring that everyone joining the meeting is extra prepared so that the meeting is effective. Where can you reduce the pressure on their schedules? Where are their pain points during the day, and what can you do to alleviate that?
- Getting personal with their schedule.
Now that we are all working from home, we have other priorities that we did not have at the office. Managing your Executive’s time now must include an understanding of their personal lives and pressures. They might be working with partners, parents and children in the house. They will certainly have more personal pressures that they didn’t have in the office so again, how can you arrange their schedule to ensure they have enough balance in their life to show up in the different areas that they need to?
- Fragmented vs focused time.
If you thought it was bad pre-Covid, the time spent in meetings has increased dramatically since Covid-19. This means that the time between meetings is where most people are getting their work done. As we know, using the time in between meetings is bad news. Using this fragmented time, as it is called, makes it really hard to get anything done. It is not productive.
So again, it would be best if you worked with your Executive to find time in their schedule in which they can really focus. That could be using time blocking techniques or understanding where their energy is during the day and planning accordingly (for example, if they are a morning person can they get up before the rest of the house, so they have a quiet hour or two to spend on strategy and focused reading?)
However you set it up they need to have time to focus when not in meetings, and it shouldn’t be in between another meeting.
And this brings me on to my last point.
Along with time management, it is equally important that Assistants manage their Executive’s energy.
Check-in with them, now that they have been working remotely for a few months and ask when they have the most energy and plan their time and activities around that energy.
Here are two great articles to get you started on energy management:
Manage your energy not your time
Energy Management – An Introduction