With the advent of cell phones, sophisticated voice messaging systems, scheduling software, and widespread word processing capability, the footprint of administrative assistants (AA’s) in the workplace has shrunk considerably over the last dozen or so years. This has been aided and abetted by the desire to cut every last dime of assailable cost from the corporate budget.
It is rare indeed today for a first or second level manager to have dedicated administrative support. Those at the director and VP level usually find themselves widely sharing AA’s, with personal assistants generally confined to the senior ranks.
The net result? In the main, I would suggest that we have been penny wise and pound foolish. The mere fact that virtually every manager today complains righteously of feeling as if their lips are strapped to an information fire hose is but one sign of the price being paid. But I digress, that is not the point of this piece. Rather, I’d like to focus on the wiser use of AA’s by those who are fortunate enough to have such services available to them.
Not unlike a marriage in one’s personal life, achieving a productive, mutually beneficial relationship with an Administrative Assistant takes time, work, and most of all, trust. Lest there be any doubt, it’s worth it. A dedicated, full-on professional AA can do more to lighten your load, remove impediments, warn you of unseen risks, and advance your career more than anything I can think of.
Here are six things you can and should be doing if you really want to reap the rewards of this very special relationship.
- Hire carefully. Looking for an AA is not quite a search for a soul mate, but it’s close. Find someone who is smart enough to understand the intricacies of your job; whose strengths offset your weaknesses, someone you can confide in, someone who will tell you the truth, and who will be a terrific “front door” to your office. Look for a problem solver with good interpersonal skills – someone who can get things done without pulling out the “evil boss assistant” club.
- Invest considerably in making sure they understand (really understand) the company’s business and your role in it.
- Share your goals and aspirations with one other.
- Spend time with them daily, whether in person or by phone or videoconference. Probably 70% of that time should involve you listening to them.
- Vest considerable responsibility in them. Share output from important meetings (involve them directly if you can), give them control (or at least heavy influence) of your calendar, and seek their input on decisions. Encourage them to let you know when you’re about to ‘step in it’, or already have, and thank them for it.
- Pay them. Fight even harder for their money than you do your own, and come bonus time, don’t forget who helped you earn it.