In The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker wrote “The executive is, first of all, expected to get the right things done”. Long before Drucker uttered those famous words, generations of astute executives were working in trusted partnerships with assistants who constantly asked “What needs to be done and how do I make it happen?”
High-performing executive assistants ask this question because they know an assistant’s fundamental responsibility is to relieve their executive of tasks that waste their time. Incessantly looking for ways to make their executive’s life easier, assistants keep away minutiae that will hinder the executive’s productivity. Always one step ahead, they anticipate their executive’s needs and clearly understand their executive’s vision. Assistants serve as the executive’s “eyes and ears”, offering insights to rival anything gleaned from big data. Exceptional assistants understand their executive so thoroughly, they function as a seamless extension of the executive – a virtual second self.
“To be effective, a CEO must have an expert deputy at their side.”
I spent 20 years as an international executive assistant to successful businesspeople. Working by their side, I developed business acumen, judgment, expertise and confidence. I learned to deliver what every executive wants – certainty that as their deputy and face to the world, their assistant could be trusted to make sound decisions, would never embarrass them, or let them down. Dave Ramsey, CEO of Ramsey Solutions commented about his assistant, “I know beyond a shadow of doubt that my assistant has complete competency to make the right decision every single time.”
To be effective, a CEO must have an expert deputy at their side. Here are some ways to develop a thriving relationship with your assistant.
Stop micromanaging: If you have an exceptional assistant, get out of their way. As Donald Trump commented in my book, “I like people who can work independently. I’m too busy to get in their way and executives should find a better use of their time.”
Be accessible: Make time for your assistant. Communicate what matters to you. Richard Branson’s assistant told me “Richard included me in everything.” Develop rapport, engender trust. Branson remarked “There needs to be complete trust”, something Dave Ramsey echoed, “Show me two people who trust one another and I’ll show you an effective work relationship.”
Provide the tools they need: Be sensitive to their workload and give them the tools they need to get the job done.
Show confidence in them: Allow them to take on projects that will stretch their abilities and make the job interesting. Encourage initiative. It will build confidence and they’ll develop expert decision-making skills that serve you well.
Be respectful: Show your assistant consideration and courtesy. This is the person who constantly protects your interests.
Express gratitude: Management guru Ken Blanchard told me “Assistants give you the capacity to do so much more.” Once in a while, take time to acknowledge what your assistant does for you.
These simple habits are key to a productive relationship with your assistant that will keep them functioning seamlessly as your second self.