Someone starts every business with a vision. They are the driving force behind the company, and they want to change the world.
You might not work for the person who started the organisation. But, if you work for an Executive who is the creative thinker in your organisation, someone who innovates and drives change in the business – you are working for a visionary manager!
Working as an Assistant with a visionary manager has many advantages and disadvantages! We will look at how to work with a visionary manager, how you can support them, and what it means for your career. Firstly, let’s define a visionary manager.
What does it mean to be a visionary?
Author and speaker Josh Linkner defines a visionary as “willing to dream wildly and think ahead. When your organisation has a senior leader who focuses on what’s possible and breathes reinvention, you have a chance to reach those stellar, dreamed-about heights.”
It sounds incredible.
What an opportunity to work with someone who disrupts the status quo, innovates and drives the growth in the business! Visionary managers expect and often demand their team to create new ideas, think differently and embrace change. It is an exciting place to be, especially for Assistants. Working with a visionary brings so many opportunities because they will not work with their Assistant traditionally. They don’t work with anyone in a conventional way. The possibilities are endless.
But, with endless possibilities can come long hours, constant change, little structure and no strategy. Working in an environment with no clear path or plan of action can be stressful and frustrating. Many visionary leaders can make for bad managers because they are tasked with creating new ideas and thinking ahead rather than focusing on the here and now and dealing with the practical aspects of management. There are advantages and disadvantages when working with a visionary leader. Let’s look at how Assistants can work with and support a visionary.
This is the most critical skill you can bring to the table when working with a visionary. It would be best if you were an executor. The person that gets things done. You must provide the structure to get their ideas and concepts up and running. How do you do this?
Create a schedule that allows them time to brainstorm with their team. They will need time to spitball ideas, develop new strategies and bounce off other creative types. Structure these meetings to have a definite end time, and ensure you are strict with the time. Go to the sessions to take notes and track what has been discussed. If you can’t be there, find a facilitator in the organisation that can help structure the brainstorming sessions.
Giving them this time will also ensure they use the rest of their time to work more structured and strategically.
Understand the business.
You must know what is happening at all points of the day and in the organisation. This means you need to network as you have never networked before. You need to be involved in everything, you need to know what is going on, and everyone in the organisation needs to loop you in. You can only provide structure for your Executive if you are involved.
Remember, if you work for a visionary manager, you must inspire confidence because you will often be the lynchpin between your Executive and the rest of the team. You need to know your job inside out, and you will need everyone else to know that. Confidence does play a key role in how you work with a visionary.
Your Executive has to know that you have their back. You will be there for them and support them through every up and down they face. You have to build an unshakable rapport with them. Please get to know them, be in their life and understand how they think and function. Bethany Burns, EA to the CEO of BrewDog, calls this ‘comfortable intrusion’.
You have to get involved, and your Executive has to let you. It would be best if you also built rapport with everyone your Executive comes into contact with. Visionary leaders will have a strong team around them to execute the vision. Ensure you have a strong relationship with everyone in your Executive’s inner circle.
Your communication skills need to be on point for a few different reasons. Your visionary leader might struggle to communicate what they need from you and their team. You need to adapt to their way of communicating so that you are both on the same page and then you need to help disseminate information to the people around you. Again, having a good understanding of what is happening in the business will help with this. Communicating regularly with other assistants in your industry would be best.
This is a brilliant way to keep in the loop. Working with a visionary leader will mean that you will work at a fast pace. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so communicate with each other and share best practices. Back to communicating with your Executive – they will work at a fast pace, and they will have a lot of ideas that you need to capture.
This is where technology can help.
Find a tool that will help them offload their thoughts to you. This could be WhatsApp, Slack or even email. Use something that helps them get their ideas out of their heads and over to you for action.
Roll with the punches.
Steve Jobs springs to mind many famous cases of visionary leaders not treating their staff well. This isn’t the case for every innovative leader, but for many, the thoughts and feelings of their team are secondary to their vision. If you work for an Executive like this, it can be challenging, and you will need to develop a thick skin and learn to roll with the punches.
This isn’t for everyone; you need to decide your boundaries and how you want to be treated. Depending on the relationship you have with your Executive, you may also have to pull them up on behaviour that is not acceptable. This comes with confidence and practice. Speaking truth to power is not easy.
Just remember that your Executive will always win out at the end of the day. They often misbehave because they can. That is how business works. If they are innovating, making the business a lot of money, and genuinely leading change, their power and abilities will outweigh your feelings. Hopefully, times are changing, but it is slow progress. It would be best if you decided what works for you.
Share the vision.
This is my final point, and it is an important one.
You have to share the vision that your Executive is putting out in the world. If you don’t get on board, you will drown! You have to share their passion, enthusiasm and drive. You don’t have to work the same crazy hours or intensity, but you have to live and breathe the business.
Again, you have to ask yourself if this is truly what you want to do. If you succeed as an Assistant to a visionary leader, you must strap in and enjoy the ride!
As Assistants, it is important for us to form meaningful and successful relationships with our colleagues, no matter what their personality type may be.
By understanding these different personalities, we are better equipped to manage expectations as well as handle any issues that arise in the workplace. Staying collaborative and open-minded when dealing with co-workers’ different beliefs and values is essential. Working together successfully allows everyone to reach their peak potential.
If you want to cultivate more effective relationships in the workplace, consider enrolling in The Assistant Mindset Online Course. Here, you will learn more on how to work with different personality types and establish a healthy working environment that leads up successful collaborations built on trust, respect, and communication. You will be starting your first step towards being empowered as an Assistant!