You and Your Executive / Guide to Building a Strategic Business Partnership with your Executive / Working with your Executive

Chapter Three →

Chapter Two

Working with your Executive

We take a deep dive into the working relationship between Assistants and their Executives. We look at the tactics Assistants must employ to make the relationship with their Executive work.

At the centre of the Assistant role is their working relationship with their Executive.

The relationship has to be effective and intentional for the Assistant to thrive in the role and the Executive to drive the organisation forward. For Assistants to move into a strategic partnership role, the working relationship with their Executive must be solid, with both sides of the partnership aware of what they need to bring to the table.

The role of the Personal and Executive Assistant has changed so much over the years. It is no longer the case that Assistants complete the tasks given to them by their Executive. Instead, the role is much more reactive, with Assistants taking part in many projects, crafting their roles and taking on their strategic work.

Nevertheless, the relationship with their Executive is at the heart of the role. The Assistant will always ensure their Executive succeeds, drives the business’s vision forward, and achieves its goals and objectives. For Assistants to thrive as strategic partners, the partnership must be reciprocal and dynamic.

In this chapter, we will look at how Assistants, working with their Executives, can ensure an effective partnership built on trust, open communication, and efficiency.

Let’s have a look at what we are going to cover in this chapter:

Creating an effective relationship with your Executive

As Assistants, we spend a vast amount of time with our managers. If the relationship turns sour, it is almost impossible for us to do our jobs effectively, and it devastates our work.

So how do we ensure this does not happen?

Here are some tips on maintaining a good relationship with your manager. This is the first step towards working as a strategic partner with your Executive.

Respect and trust

As with any relationship, the one you have with your manager should be built on respect and trust. Of course, this is a two-way street, but for an assistant, your manager needs to trust you explicitly.

So to guarantee their confidence meet deadlines, deliver work when you say you are going to, keep confidential matters top secret and don’t be seen as the office gossip.

They are human too

Talking to your manager about what you do outside of the office may seem daunting or even a complete waste of time, but I think it helps maintain good rapport.

Always ask them how their evening/weekend was, and look genuinely interested when they answer. You may find that you have things in common, and even if they do not reciprocate the question, you have gained at least a small insight into how their mood will be that day.

Also, if you focus on the positive traits of your manager, it will help you understand what motivates them to succeed.


Regularly and face to face!

Again this is a two-way thing and should be consistent throughout your work with your manager. Then, naturally, set up regular meetings to discuss workloads and diaries and be there for them when they need to talk about something.

Check-in with them throughout the day, even if it is to say where you are going. If you communicate with them effectively, you won’t be blindsided by unexpected problems.

Have a sense of humour

One of the most effective ways to manage my relationships is not to take them too seriously. This may sound controversial but let me explain. I’m not talking about the work itself, this is important and should be treated as such, but the relationship itself can be handled with a lighter touch.

If you appear happy and can have a good time at work, it enhances your relationships with colleagues, including your manager. So let them in on the joke occasionally and include them in the conversation.

For Assistants, the most important thing to get right is the relationship with your Executive. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, it is your job to make your Executive as successful in their role as possible and to do this you will need to work with them very closely, it is much easier if you have a good relationship. Secondly, and this is particularly true if you are a 1-2-1 assistant, the only person that can appraise, reward or promote you is your Executive.

So, all in all, it makes it much easier if you do have a good working relationship with your boss. If you think you could improve your relationship with your boss, here are a few tips.

How was your weekend?

Invest time in getting to know your Executive. To do this, you should find out what their life is like outside of work and try to appreciate their sense of humour (even if you have to force yourself!)

Build rapport with your Executive

Talking to your manager about the things you do outside of the office may seem a bit daunting or even a complete waste of time, but it does help build rapport and a good understanding of how and why you are both doing what you do.

Always ask them how their evening/weekend was, and they look genuinely interested when they answer. You may find that you have things in common, and even if they do not reciprocate the question, you have gained at least a small insight into how their mood will be that day. Also, if you focus on the positive traits of your manager, it will help you understand what motivates them to succeed.

If you are in the early stages of improving your relationship with your Executive, check out our video on how Assistants can build rapport with their Executive.

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What do they need to focus on?

You should ask them this question each week.

Find out what their issues are or have a specific problem to solve and then try to help. This could merely be clearing their schedule to concentrate on the issue at hand or helping them directly with the problem. Always ask your boss what you can do to help.

Make sure they know you are on their side

Executives have so much going on that quite often. As a result, they can drop the ball on certain things.

This is where you come in. One of the main aspects of the role is to make your boss look good. So to do this, ensure you know the tasks they tend to neglect and make sure you do them.

For example, if they are always late, make sure you build contingency time in their schedule to get to their meetings on time. If they are continually losing things, make sure you keep a copy of all of their paperwork. Once you make them look good, the next step is to let them know you are on their side.

It can be easy for them to neglect you, making sure they are aware of how much you are doing for them.

A simple way to do this is to feedback on all of the work you do at each face to face meeting you have.

What do they value in your colleagues?

It is well worth looking at how your Executive interacts with other employees.

Who do they like, interact with and respond well to? What characteristics and habits do these people have? Can you learn from them or follow some of their practices to ingratiate yourself with your manager?

Communication – when and how

I’ve always said that Assistants must communicate regularly with their Executive, which has to be face to face.

Assistants also have to know when best to communicate with their manager and which communication channels to use. Assistants are not mind readers, and the best way to get answers to these questions is to ask the manager.

They have to see you as an equal

This is important as an Assistant.

Your Executive has to see you as an equal, not as somebody that does everything for them no matter what, or any other negative stereotypes that Assistants often have to face.

The relationship may not be quite that bad, but it could be that your boss doesn’t think that you are as important as their other employees and spends less time investing in you. Either way, you have got to make them see you as an equal in every regard (even if they are the organisation’s CEO).

How do you do this?

Well, firstly, you have to see yourself as their equal. You have to think that you are just as important as them and that you have the right to be heard and the right to speak. You bring a tremendous amount of value to the organisation, and your Executive should respect you for that. You should also respect yourself for that too!

You should see yourself in a partnership with your boss based on a mutual understanding and wanting to achieve the same objectives. Yes, your Executive is more senior to you, and you should undoubtedly show them respect, but you are equally responsible for its success in terms of your partnership.

Respect their time

We save our boss time.

It is the foundation on which our role is built.

More than any other staff member, we should understand how much time our Executive has to dedicate to specific tasks and shouldn’t take more of their time than we need.

For every meeting, come prepared with the correct paperwork. Before the meeting, anticipate the questions they will ask you and find out the right answers. If it helps, set an agenda for each session so that you both know precisely what needs to be achieved by the end of each meeting.

Think about how long you will need; don’t just put an hour in their diary because it is easier for you. Senior Executives will not like time-wasters, so we should do everything we can to respect their time.


This is easier said than done, but you will improve the relationship with your boss if they truly value you as an asset. They are going to appreciate you if you are excellent at your job and over-deliver for them.

How do you over-deliver?

Well, first of all, make sure you have your usual daily tasks under control and then start asking for more work and more projects. The additional work that you take on shouldn’t be detrimental to your basic tasks but will help your reputation at work and, ultimately, your relationship with your boss.

Ask for their advice

Ask for advice, and then act on that advice.

You work for a senior Executive. They will have some good business knowledge to pass down to you, so do ask them to share their experiences with you. Everyone likes to voice an opinion, including your boss.

Do be selective with the type of advice you ask for, obviously don’t ask for advice on something fundamental to your role. You still need to be seen as an expert assistant. Instead, ask them how they dealt with certain situations or think the best course of action is on more complicated tasks.

Asking for advice should encourage your Executive to see themselves as a bit of a mentor, which in turn should help your relationship develop a certain amount of trust.

Don’t wait to be told what to do

And here is my final piece of advice, and it is something that assistants are pretty good at.

Don’t wait to be told what to do. If something is causing your Executive stress or is an unnecessary waste of their time, you should be doing everything you can to fix it for them. An excellent stable working relationship between you and your Executive is achievable if your manager doesn’t feel like they have to manage you.

Don’t get me wrong; they have to be a good manager who supports you professionally through regular catch up meetings and feedback. But on a day to day basis, you should be anticipating their needs and ensuring everything is running smoothly around them.

Making your Executive successful in their role

We are employed to make our boss’s job easier, to remove unnecessary work and allow them to focus on running the company, but how do you make your boss successful?

Here are a few pointers that I think help us achieve that goal.

Understand the rhythm of your manager’s day

It is essential to know at what point during the day your manager is at their peak.

Are they a morning or afternoon people? Do they take a while to get going in the morning or start to flag in the afternoon?

A good way of finding this out is by monitoring when they need caffeine!

Once you have this information, you will know the best time to schedule meetings and when to leave time free to get stuck into their emails or write reports.

As we know, minimising interruption is a vital part of Assistants’ service. However, it is even more important to know when it is appropriate and how you interrupt them.

Information is king

Ultimately, your manager needs to know what they are discussing, whether with the CEO, clients, board, or staff members. Your manager needs to have the correct information to communicate what they know and what they can offer.

To help them succeed, Assistants should provide information in the correct quantity and format that works best for the manager.

Simple right?

Well, no, not really – how do we know what information they need? Indeed we would be doing their job if we had that knowledge.

Well, this is precisely my point we should have knowledge of their job and the business to provide them with the information they need to succeed.

How do we do this?

Start by attending meetings with your manager, taking notes, and having that information readily available if you need to remind them or refer back to what was discussed. Know what is happening elsewhere in the business and feed this information before. Get to grips with the office structure and how it relates to your Executive – who do they need to see and see them?

If your manager knows they can rely on you to be a centre of knowledge, it will free up space in their brains to concentrate on something else.

Keep on top of tasks

So you have a to-do list.

Sure, you do, but do you have a to-do list for your manager? Do you know what they need to achieve by the end of the day, week or month?

It is a good idea to have access to their task list (MS outlook is excellent for this) so that you can keep an accurate record of what they need to do and remind them of any outstanding work.

A vital characteristic of a successful person is the appearance of being on top of things and meeting deadlines. If you know, they have something urgent. You can schedule a time for them, rearrange meetings or stop anyone interrupting them until that task has a tick next to it.

Also, if you can access their task list, it is easier to do the small things they shouldn’t be doing anyway!

Reputation Management

From the moment you start working with your manager, you should be figuring out what they are terrible at. I know this sounds slightly negative, and a bit mean, but knowing what they are rubbish at means you know what to focus on being good at!

Are they untidy, do they lose things all the time, are they unorganised or continuously late for meetings – do they completely forget they are supposed to be in a meeting!?

If this is the case, they will have a reputation in the office for having this weakness, which won’t reflect well on them. So whatever issue they have, work on the basis that you will excel at propping up their weaker side, which should make them much better at their job and, therefore, more successful.

It will also improve their reputation at work, which will add to their success.

Questions Assistants can ask their Executive to build a strategic partnership

I think this approach works particularly well when an Assistnat is in a new job, especially if your manager hasn’t had an assistant before or isn’t sure how to work with you.

If you have been in the role for a while but are struggling to develop your relationship with your manager or a colleague, this approach might also be worth trying. You can ask your Executive a few questions to provoke honest answers, help you understand their needs, and add value.

  • Is there anything you do not want me to go near or change in any way?
  • What is your biggest distraction?
  • What do you dislike in your daily routine?
  • Is there anyone that you don’t want to talk to?
  • Are there any points in the day when I should leave you alone?
  • What personality types do you dislike working with?
  • Are there any aspects of my role you don’t need me to do?
  • What do you least value in an assistant?
  • Are there any forms of communication you dislike?
  • What details bother you? What doesn’t?

If you have been on the job for a while, these questions are still relevant as you will probably gain a different insight into how your manager likes to work.

As we all know, it can be cathartic moaning about your least favourite parts of the day, and I bet your managers get very little chance to do that!

Managing Up for Personal and Executive Assistants

Some people are great at ‘managing up’, but assistants must be fantastic at it!

The central part of our job is to manage our Executive’s time to concentrate on the essential tasks that keep the business going.

But we don’t just stop there. We manage every aspect of their day. From reading their emails and responding with kind words, getting them coffee so that they are awake and alert throughout the day, buying their presents so that they look generous and thoughtful, the list is endless.

There are enormous benefits for staff that are good at managing up.

They are seen, by their Executive, as a helpful resource rather than a hindrance, and they learn very quickly how to get the most out of their manager in a way that will advantage them.

We spend all day managing our executives and evaluating their needs, but do we effectively manage up?

If not, we could miss out on some fantastic benefits.

Know your manager’s limitations

To start managing up, we have to come to terms with the fact that our manager has limitations.

We are in the perfect position as assistants to understand those limitations. We work very closely with our managers and should already be helping them with the work that takes most of their time.

For example, we will know if a big problem for them is their organisational skills or they are not good at delegating. We will likely have first-hand knowledge of this and already be aiding them with their needs, so managing up for us has to be more than just helping with their limitations.

We have to take on the tasks they don’t want to or can’t do, and we have to make that our speciality. Taking on such responsibilities will only help our careers and enable us to learn more in the long run.

For example, your Executive doesn’t like filing (to be fair, who does)? If we take that job on, we have access to relevant documents that we should read to understand better what is happening in the business. Another example is if your boss doesn’t like dealing with difficult staff members, act as a go-between so that you can enhance your people skills.

Again, if you ever manage teams, this training will be helpful. You are increasing your skills while managing your boss’s limitations.

Be honest

As an Assistant, we are in a fortunate position in that we often get to tell our boss what to do. So, for example, when they have to be in meetings, they can take their lunch, what they have to read, and which emails they must answer first.

Again, not many of our colleagues have this type of relationship with the boss, so we can use it to our advantage when managing up.

We can be honest; we don’t have to be ‘yes men/women’.

We can be a breath of fresh air, be asked our opinion and give advice, and most importantly, be trusted. This leads to respect, which is necessary for an assistant to progress in the workplace.

Take responsibility for the relationship

The relationship with your manager is a two-way street; we should not rely on them always to know what is required to make the relationship work. Instead, we should control the relationship by understanding their style, how they like to communicate, and when best to approach them.

Assistants should have consistent meetings with their managers. Use this time wisely – come prepared for every meeting and make sure you have enough information for your boss to make any decisions you want during the meeting.

We are already managing their time effectively, but managing up will mean that we get what we want out of the time we spend with them as much as they do.

Proactivity is always going to be key

In everything we do, proactivity is a required skill.

This is undoubtedly the case when it comes to managing up. It would be best to be on top of everything you do so your manager doesn’t have to worry about managing you. A good way of appearing proactive is keeping a record (either physically or mentally) of the status of each task that your manager has given you. Then, if you can reel off updates whenever asked, you will look in complete control.

Also, you know, be proactive. If something is broken, fix it and keep everything ticking over nicely so your manager doesn’t have to be concerned with the general office issues. Let them know you are proactive, though I don’t think your work speaks for itself.

As an Assistant, it rarely gets noticed.

So, be indispensable to your manager, but let them know you are too!

20 ways to impress your Executive

We have a great cheat sheet to help Assistants build a strategic partnership with their Executives. The cheat sheet is full of fantastic tips and tricks that Assistants can quickly implement to build rapport, manage expectations, and communicate effectively with their Executives.

20 ways to impress your Executive

20 Ways to Impress Your Executive

The worksheet gives you 20 ideas to elevate you in the Assistant role.

Meeting Agenda for Assistants and Executives

1:1 Meeting Template

The template you need to maximise the time spent with your Executive.

Effective Communication between an Assistant and their Executive

Communication between an Assistant and their Executive is everything! It is so vital that you communicate regularly and face to face! Again this is a two-way thing and should be consistent throughout your work with your manager. So, naturally, set up regular meetings to discuss workloads and diaries and be there for them when they need to talk about something.

Check-in with them throughout the day, even if it is to say where you are going. If you communicate with them effectively, you won’t be blindsided by unexpected problems.

A continual dialogue is so important

Don’t make the mistake that you and your manager are on the same page! It’s hard enough being on the same page with your friends and family, let alone your work colleagues!

The only way to ensure you understand what your boss wants from you is to continuously communicate with them and have an open and honest dialogue. Understanding their priorities and aligning your goals with theirs is in your best interest.

Communication – when and how

Understanding when and how to communicate is also essential. You have to communicate effectively and strategically to get the most out of every interaction.

Before attempting any communication, think about what you are trying to convey. Organise this in your mind and stick to the key points. If you need to, write these key points down so that you can refer back if the topic runs away from you. This should be used in any form of communication, from emailing someone to meeting them face-to-face.

Remember that communication is a two-way street.

Don’t let your manager get away with vague instructions.

This is so important because it is so easy for them to do. You are there to support them, so they may spend less time explaining what they need from you than they would with your colleagues. Always define the specifics to your manager (either with a follow-up email or during the initial project conversation). With long-term tasks, such as a diary or email management, do the same thing, define exactly how they want you to manage their correspondence and calendar.

Again have this conversation immediately if you haven’t already – how else do you know if you are meeting their expectations?

If you have been working with your manager for a while, it is always worth having a review meeting to suggest new working methods and any best practices you have picked up from colleagues or previous roles. Suggest this to your manager and work in ways to ask precisely what their expectations are!

Managing Expectations

In this video, Nicky Christmas, the Founder and Editor of Practically Perfect PA, explains how important it is for Assistants to manage expectations and communicate openly and honestly with their Executives.

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How to build trust with your Executive

One of the most common challenges I hear from Assistants who want to push their careers forward is that their Executives do not trust them enough to hand over exciting projects and tasks.

This is generally because the Executive struggles to delegate and likes to control 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 that 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.

First, you must tell yourself that you are in charge of the relationship with your Executive. You are responsible for making the partnership work and making 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.

Many executives feel like they do the work better, want to control everything, and struggle to delegate. It’s not personal.

They don’t think 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 must 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. However, these are the tasks that you should have complete control over. They may be minor things like picking up the post every morning to more significant tasks like managing your Executive’s schedule.

For every task you have complete control over, think to yourself: How can I make every job a complete success? What can I do to ensure the process attached to each task runs smoothly and is working well? Then, list these tasks and spend some time making them more efficient.

You are accountable for these tasks and should take responsibility for their success.

Consistently communicate with your Executive

Communication is so important when building trust.

Ensure your Executive knows 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 consistently ask for work and offer 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 how 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 respect this in Assistants, which is essential when building trust with business leaders.


Keeping your Executive’s confidence is vital for many reasons, not least because you 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 in your organisation.

Trust is built and maintained through everyday actions. If you feel trust is 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 to be trusted to do more challenging work.

What meetings should you have with your Executive?

We all know that communication with your Executive is critical to a successful working relationship. I’ve found that the more access an Assistant has to their Executive, the more they are seen as a vital asset.

But, when you work with a busy Executive, it can be challenging to get time with them. I know how difficult it can be, especially if they travel frequently or work remotely.

However – I want to repeat this. If you have access to your Executive, if they let you into their inner circle, you will be a better Assistant, and in turn, they will be a better Executive and Leader.

It is that simple.

Communication is vital, and meeting and talking regularly is essential for the relationship. How do you do this?

Like anything, you, along with your Executive, must first decide that this is how you will work together and second, you must make it a habit. You have to organise your Executive’s schedule to meet and talk often and stick to the schedule.

Once you start to follow the plan, you will notice that you both (but more importantly, your Executive) rely on this regular communication. So in this post, I want to share how exactly you should plan the meetings with your Executive, including the frequency and what you should cover.

Daily catch up

You should meet or speak for, at the very least, 15 minutes per day. Most Assistants will spend more time with their Executives, so this is the minimum amount of time.

I worked with an incredibly busy Executive who packed her day full of meetings, and for us, 15 minutes at the beginning of the day worked well with a 15-minute catch-up at the end of the day. Sometimes the 15 minutes was a walking/talking conversation, but it gave me enough time to ask those few vital questions and for my Executive to feel my presence during the day.

With Executive’s with a smaller workload, half an hour at their desk every day worked well.

For many executives, these meetings will feel like breathing space. They can re-focus on what they want to achieve and delegate work to help them achieve it – which feels good!

During your daily catch-ups, you should cover the necessary information that you both need to move your day forward.

If your Executive is travelling, you should send a ‘touch-base’ email covering everything you would typically cover in your catch-up meeting.

A weekly catch-up meetings

You need a slightly longer weekly catch-up with your Executive to plan the schedule, deal with the paperwork, and look at where you are with goals and objectives, ongoing projects, and the to-do list.

If your Executive is in the office, Friday afternoon works well. The office tends to be quieter, you can plan the week, and most people are a bit more relaxed on a Friday afternoon so that you can enjoy half an hour together.

During these weekly catch-up meetings, this is the time for Assistants to discover the why behind the what. Why are we doing these tasks? What is the bigger picture here? These meetings motivate us as much as we can move the work along for our Executive.

Monthly goal and objective planning

The monthly goal and objective planning will help you plan out your Executive’s calendar for the month and the tasks you both need to focus on.

These meetings are helpful because they give you the understanding you need to make decisions on your Executive’s behalf.

When colleagues want your Executive’s time or ask you to do things that fit the strategy, these meetings and the knowledge you gain will give you the confidence to say no (or not now) to specific requests. So what should you cover in these meetings?

Treat them as you would any project planning meeting. Follow an agenda, for example:

  • What are the objectives for this month?
  • Update on where we are with goals/objectives
  • What are the roadblocks and risks?
  • What are the deadlines and milestones?

Quarterly strategic reviews

If you want to be seen as a strategic business partner, you must know the strategy! Attend meetings with your Executive that drive the strategy forward, so you don’t have to hear through the grapevine what is happening. Schedule quarterly strategic reviews with your Executive to ensure their time is spent on the right things.

Again in these meetings, you should have the schedule open. You should be discussing goals and objectives for the quarter and spend this time getting to grips with what is going on in your Executive’s world. If your Executive is short on time, it might be worth integrating your quarterly strategic review with your team.

This works well because you get an overview of everyone’s objectives for the quarter in the future. You can plan to support your Executive and their direct report’s expectations. The more you know, the better you will operate in your role.

As a quick aside, you might think there is no way you will get this much time with your Executive, and I hear you.

But, you have to plan these meetings, and if you are running the schedule, you have to make your Executive stick to it – like a habit.

Once they understand the value of regular communication with you, your job becomes more manageable, and they are more successful.

Twice-yearly performance reviews

And, of course, you should have twice-yearly performance reviews to know how you perform in your role.

Many Executives mistake the daily and weekly catch-up meetings as a time for the Assistants to talk about their performance.


These meetings are business-critical. Use your performance review time to discuss your performance and your remuneration.

Regular meetings with your Executive’s direct reports

Last but not least, you should schedule regular meetings (over a coffee or something equally informal) with your Executive’s direct reports to get a sense of where the business is going from different points of view.

If your Executive works well with their direct reports and likes and trusts their team, you should ensure you have as much access to them as possible.

These people are making the business happen, and you need to know their goals and objectives too.

6 things to stop doing in your one to one meeting

For Assistants, the time they spend with their Executive in a one-to-one setting is necessary and enables them to get on with all the tasks that require just that little bit of input from their boss.

But, as I’ve heard many times, many of you out there do not get one-to-one time, or you have ad hoc meetings as and when you can squeeze five minutes into a packed schedule.

Or, as I’ve also heard, you don’t get any time with your Executive, and you are left without a clue about specific tasks and how to proceed. So, today I thought I would share the six things to stop doing in your one-to-one meetings with your boss.

  1. Stop calling it a one-to-one. This is my first and crucial point. The one-to-one should update your Executive on work in progress and tasks that require their input. You know how precious their time is, so why call the meeting a one-to-one when it is a meeting about business-critical decisions? Changing the name of the meeting to ‘business update’ will show the importance of the meeting in your Executive’s diary.
  2. Stop making it about you. Once you have changed the name of the meeting, it is time to change the tone of the discussion. This time should not be used to catch up on how you feel about work or your career development (you should have separate quarterly meetings about that). Instead, use this time to work through the urgent matters critical to you and your Executive. The discussion should be structured, professional and thorough.
  3. Stop trying to get through everything on your to-do list. You should have a minimum of half an hour a day with your Executive to go through the essential things on your list. Before going into the meeting, think about the vital messages you need to give to your Executive. What do you need from them? It would be best if you didn’t bombard them with every bit of detail or every task that requires their attention. Some things can wait, and some things are not urgent at that given point in time. Instead, think about the overall objectives for that week and month. What is required to move those forward?
  4. Stop sitting back and letting your Executive control the meeting. This is your meeting, so make sure you participate. What do you want from the meeting? What information do you need to take your tasks forward? You work together in a partnership, so you need decisions and details to progress your work. There will be times when you are a sounding board for your Executive, which is excellent. Make sure you judge each meeting on their own merits.
  5. Stop leaving without any actions. If your Executive is in full flow, giving you more work, it can be hard to stop them and ask for their decision on something. Use your judgement. Sometimes the work that you need isn’t as important. But if it is. Make sure you ask the question. If it is business-critical to you. Ask the question!
  6. Stop taking the meeting out of the diary. My final point. When your Executive already has a packed schedule, taking your meeting out of the diary can be the easiest thing. Do not do this! It devalues the necessary time you need with your Executive and your work. So stop doing it!

In conclusion, Personal and Executive Assistants play a vital role in the success of any organisation. Their relationship with their Executive is of paramount importance. It can either be a positive one that drives the organisation forward or a negative and unproductive one that weighs the progress down. Investing time developing and strengthening this relationship is essential, as it will pay dividends in the long run.

Further, it’s critical to understand that the role has changed over time, making it crucial for Assistants to change their skill sets to become strong strategic business partners. With this in mind, if a Personal or Executive Assistant feels that they would benefit from further understanding about how to make themselves more valuable as a strategic business partner, then take a look at our Strategic Business Partner Online Course


Next Chapter:

Strategic thinking, proactivity and adding value as an Assistant

Chapter Three