Joan Burge had a great post this week about thinking like a manager. It’s part of her series on “Becoming an Administrative Superstar”. Her post got me thinking about my own experiences as an Executive Assistant and most especially my first Executive Assistant position.
When you work as a direct admin for your boss, whether it’s as an Administrative or Executive Assistant, you should look at everything that crosses your desk through your boss’s eyes.
I remember my first job as an Executive Assistant. I gave him his signature folder one morning with some employee reviews and purchase orders for his signature. After he looked at the paperwork, he called me into his office.
My job, he told me, was to make sure that everything that came to his desk was resolved of problems before he saw it. He pointed out a questionable employee review and a purchase order that had issues. Essentially, my boss was teaching me to think like a manager.
I have to admit that the first few times I sent paperwork back to a Director for corrections or explanations, it was with trepidation. In my experience so far in my career, secretaries just didn’t do that. And I did get push back from a couple of Directors.
I explained to all of them that Dave had delegated authority to me in these matters. It was my job to review their paperwork to make sure it met his standards before I gave it to him to sign. After a while it was just understood that I had that authority. Eventually the Directors sought out my advice on these matters. They came to me with questions instead of bothering my boss.
If you want to be a truly effective assistant, you must be able to wield delegated authority, and you must be able to wield it with confidence. When you have direct reports to your boss confronting you on your delegated authority, you must be able to look them in the eye and defend your status. You must defend your authority.
If you cannot confidently wield authority, no one will respect you. If you cannot confront your boss’s direct reports as your boss, they will not accept that you have authority for anything. They will work around you, bypass you, and undermine you. At this point, you will have lost all effectiveness as an assistant.
What are your challenges as an Administrative or Executive Assistant? Does your boss give you delegated authority to make decisions? How do you wield that authority? Leave a comment and share your experiences with us.