At some point in your career, you are going to be working for someone who has never had an assistant before. One of the toughest, but most rewarding, jobs an Administrative or Executive Assistant can have is helping a young executive learn how to partner with an assistant.
In my experience, new executives have two hurdles to cross. First, they are used to doing everything themselves. I’ve had several tell me that they didn’t really need an assistant, but their boss insisted they have one. They are used to managing their own e-mail, making their own travel arrangements, and setting up their own appointments. If they need a database, they create one themselves.
The key to dealing with these young executives is to help them understand that its not an issue of them not being able to handle those duties, it’s just that they no longer have time to handle everything themselves. It usually doesn’t take long for them to realize the truth of that statement. Many don’t realize that in going from front line management to managing managers, their time becomes a premium. They will be juggling more projects than they ever thought possible. After a month or two in the position, though, they generally begin to understand the need to delegate tasks. This brings us to the other hurdle for new executives.
It takes time for new executives to learn to trust the abilities of their assistants. Many new executives who have never had an assistant before have a picture in their mind of someone who answers the phone, types, and files. They always need an adjustment period to realize just how much expertise we have as Administrative and Executive Assistants.
We know a wide variety of software for many different functions. We know how to set and monitor a department budget, take meeting minutes, research topics and write reports, and that’s just for starters. We can monitor industry publications for items of importance, give feedback on personnel matters, monitor social media for company mentions, and update the department website. The days when Administrative and Executive Assistants just handle phones and filing are long gone. In today’s business world, we are valued partners of our executives, and the earlier this is learned by a young executive, the more successful he or she will be.
As Administrative and Executive Assistants, it is our role to help gently, and sometimes not so gently, educate our executives on our role and how we can best provide support. As I said before, it’s a difficult job, but probably one of the most rewarding ones in our career.