How To Really Be on Top of Things as an Administrative Assistant

By | Nov 23, 2009

What’s the chief characteristic of being a great Administrative or Executive Assistant?  It’s knowing everything, or at least seeming like you do.  The best assistants are those that can aptly handle managing the boss’s calendar, sorting his mail and screening her calls without having to always stop and ask for information or permissions.  But how do you get to that miraculous place where you know all?

Daily Meetings – Not Just Recommended, But Required

Daily meetings between the boss and the assistant are absolutely required.  Well, maybe not every day.  When the boss is home sick or on vacation, you can let him be if it isn’t an emergency.  But most days vitally need at least five minutes of face to face time with the boss (phone time if she’s traveling).

You can’t be the person in the know, the person who saves your boss so much time and effort, if you don’t know what’s going on and what’s important.  Without that vital information, your boss may as well have a robot sitting at the desk doing things by rote.  The heart of an administrative assistant is her intelligence and discretion, and mostly of all, her knowledge.

What Should We Discuss in Those Daily Meetings

At first, you may think there’s not enough to discuss for daily meetings.  But once you get the hang of it, you’ll have trouble squeezing everything into those few minutes.  Here’s a list of basics to discuss:

  • Review the boss’s calendar.  That day, the coming week, and once a week or so go over the coming month.  Let her know what new meetings you’ve accepted and what they’re about and any information you have that you think is pertinent.
  • Going over the calendar for the day, make sure the boss has all the files he needs.  Review the next day and find out if he needs anything special for those meetings.
  • Discuss her priorities for the day and week ahead.  Who he’s expecting to call or stop by.  What issues may be emerging of which you should be aware.
  • Any particular duties for you that take priority that day.

As you and your boss become more comfortable with the daily face-to-face meetings, you’ll both start thinking of more to be discussed.  One boss I worked for was the Director of Human Resources for a university.  Part of my duties for him was to review industry magazines and websites for pertinent information (especially legal decisions) he needed to know.  That was part of our daily discussions.  What you discuss every day will depend on your industry, your boss’s position, and your boss’s personality and work style.

Tell Us About Your Meetings

Do you have daily meetings with your boss?  If not, how often do you meet?  What do you discuss in your meetings?  Leave a comment and share with all of us, so we can all learn from each other.

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5 Comments so far
  1. jeannine (2 comments) February 16, 2010 1:39 pm

    I am an assistant to a busy workman’s comp attorney. Instead of meetings, we communicate through email all day long even if he is just in the other office. I have easy access for questions and to update him on all new appointments or remind him of pending appointments. I update his paper calendar every morning when I arrive and I send him emails about phone calls or correspondence which i need approval on. Even when he is not in the office, thanks to a great cell phone, we keep in touch. I feel like the office runs very smooth this way and we are always on the same page(so to speak).

  2. Jodith (189 comments) February 20, 2010 8:40 am

    Thanks for the comment, Jeannine. It sounds like you and your boss have a solid communication plan in place. That’s the way to really keep things running smoothly. Congratulations!

  3. Lily (3 comments) June 28, 2010 9:28 am

    I just stumbled upon your blog, and am enjoying it immensely so far, I have to say.

    My (somewhat) new boss – I’ve been here for roughly 8 months, and am nearing wits’ end. While we get along well on a personal level, I have to say he is the most disorganized person I’ve ever worked for. I never know when he’s going to be in the office, or when he’s decided to work from home, or when he’s scheduled meetings without a word to anyone else. He keeps his own calendar, which I’ve never dealt with before. His schedule seems to be so up in the air that even meetings between he and I that we’ve set happen maybe 50% of the time.

    I’m largely having to be self-sufficient, which is fine, but the lack of availability on his part makes me wonder if I’m completely on the wrong track. Whenever I ask, he assures me I’m doing fine, but I can’t help but think there’s more I could be doing, if he would just let me in on what it is HE’S doing.

  4. Jodith (189 comments) July 2, 2010 9:43 am

    Hi, Lily. Thanks for commenting. Is your boss using Outlook for his appointment? It would be a lot easier if he’d use something you can access to, just so you know when and where he’s supposed to be. If he isn’t, maybe that is something to suggest to him. It would make his life easier as well, since it will be easier for you to assist him if you know what’s on his plate.

  5. Jennifer (2 comments) August 16, 2012 6:47 am

    In similar fashion to another poster, I do not meet with my Supervisor face to face on a regular basis. Simply put – she doesn’t have time to meet with me. I snag a minute here or there through out the day, but ultimately we organize a “hand off” email – any item which is not “urgent” will go onto an email for her review. This has taught me how to ask direct, concise questions and how to organize my questions in a way that they can answer very specifically so I can take action without the need for follow-up. I send the email right before I head out the door at the end of the day, and when I return in the morning, I have all my responses waiting for me.

    You have to be careful at being wordy, though. The name of the game is to squeeze the most information possible into the fewest number of words possible. Also, I will seperated “Information” from “Questions” as best I can. I also highlight or bold the questions to draw attention to them.

    We joke that we are “pen pals”, but it works very well – she can get to me in the evening when she is working through her task list items. I don’t have to stay late to get the answers I need, and I have the items completed by the time she comes in the morning.

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