Hopefully, I convinced you in my last post that you need an assistant. Now you’re probably thinking, “Where in the world do I start?”.
I am asked time and time again by executives for advice on how to get the most out of their EA relationship. Your assistant is scheduling meetings, booking travel, and handling expenses for you, but you might feel like you’re missing something; you’re unsure if you’re “doing it right.” Here are a few things to consider as you get started with your assistant:
- Relationships take time. Your assistant should be a proactive, capable, quick learner who can jump in and start helping with your calendar and travel right away—but it takes time for her/him to learn all of your preferences and nuances so that things feel smooth and easy. It may take 6-8 weeks for your EA to understand your voice and personality enough to draft emails on your behalf, know hierarchies and priorities when scheduling meetings, and know what to do if your preferred seating isn’t available on your next flight. Be patient.
- Prioritize communication. It’s so important that you meet with your assistant on a regular basis. Be sure to prioritize (not skip) your check-in meetings with your EA, and make it a point to respond to questions and offer clarity when needed. Likewise, your EA needs to be able to reach you during the day to ask questions, give updates, and check in on the status of projects. Whether you communicate most via email, Slack, or text, you should prioritize incoming messages from your assistant; she/he is working hard to move tasks forward and provide support.
- Provide context. Your assistant may be able to easily schedule a meeting with Investor A, but unless you share details that Investor B is a higher priority, you may be disappointed with the meetings that show up on your calendar. As much as we would love for them to, assistants cannot read our minds. Trust me on this! (Though some are so good they can sure make it seem like they’re reading minds.)
- Set expectations on response and turnaround times. Every EA/Exec relationship is different. Make sure as you get started, you and your assistant are clear on how quickly you expect her/him to respond to your messages, whether they are available outside of office hours, etc.
- Let go. Sure, it takes time for you and your assistant to trust each other thoroughly—but start that process by delegating something and then letting it go. Allow your assistant to find their own way to solve the problem, to make mistakes, and to learn the best way to get tasks done.
- Share feedback, and ask for it in return. Your relationship will never reach its full potential if you’re not each working to improve and support each other well. Even if some feedback seems too small to share, it may cause bigger problems down the road by going unsaid.
It can be hard to admit that we need help, and even harder to relinquish tasks and responsibilities that we’ve held on to for years. But letting an assistant into your thought processes and priorities will only make you (and him/her) more efficient. Which really is the whole point, right?