In my 8+ years as an executive assistant, I spent most of my time in the weeds. Yes, it was my job to stay in and sort through those weeds. But as I take an honest look at my time in that role, I realize I missed out on a lot. I spent little to no time helping other assistants, honing my skills, or working on creative ways to do more in less time. I was too busy being busy.
Sure, I got a lot of work done (you can ask my former boss and co-workers if you don’t believe me). But I wonder how much more effective I would have been if I’d spent more time learning, leading, and growing — instead of just getting stuff done.
How about you? Are you in the weeds all the time? Do you find yourself going weeks — or months — without taking a step back to examine if you’re working smart, not just hard? Or are you too busy being busy?
When the demands of life and work are so high, it’s extremely difficult to slow down and examine if you’re spending your time wisely. You need help.
“Ok, Jeremy, I get it — I need help. But who’s going to help me? Who knows what I’m going through and actually has time to help?”
I’m glad you asked! Your assistant can help. But first, you have to help them.
4 Ways to Help Your Assistant Help You
Have you created an environment where you rarely take time to work on your work? If so, you likely haven’t given your assistant margin or permission to do the same — which leaves you both stuck in the weeds.
What are some ways to empower your assistant to help you more? How can you promote learning, growing, and leading with the goal of working smarter?
You can start by helping your assistant in the following four ways.
1. Encourage your assistant to connect with and learn from other assistants.
What’s one of the best ways a person can get better at their job? Connect with other people who have the same job to find out what works — and doesn’t work — for them. So, challenge your assistant to find 2-4 assistants to meet with — inside or outside of your organization.
Encourage them to find assistants who are less experienced than they are, and some who are more experienced. Recommend they meet one-on-one, but also set up quarterly meet-ups with the entire group.
Be sure to suggest a list of possible questions to ask the other assistants.
Like these, for example:
- What’s the best software, app, or tool you and your boss use?
- How often do you meet with your boss, and for how long?
- What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
- What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made, and how did your boss handle it?
- How do you handle email management?
One more thing — and this is important — set aside part of your budget to pay for lunch for the group. This will show you value their work, and will help your assistant get other assistants to show up!
2. Give your assistant permission to take an online course, a class at a local university, or attend a conference.
Have you given your assistant enough margin to learn and grow? Are you encouraging and challenging them to work on their skills? If not, they likely don’t feel valued.
Help them find a course or class or conference they could take or attend in the next 3-6 months. Pay for it — or at least a part of it — out of your training or leadership development budget. If you don’t have one, make one. If they need to travel a couple days or miss work to make it happen, don’t make them use their vacation days.
Schedule a meeting with your assistant after they complete the class/course/conference. Ask them what they learned, and ask them how they plan to apply it to their job. Be sure to listen and apply it to your job as well.
3. Buy your assistant some good books.
This one is simple. If you want your assistant to read your mind — which you probably do — then they need to read what you read. Which books have impacted you the most? Buy them for your assistant. Share your kindle highlights and notes too, so they know what specific ideas stood out to you.
If you need some recommendations, here are a few:
4. Ask your assistant for advice.
Your assistant knows you and your responsibilities more than anyone in the world (if they don’t, then we need to talk). I would be shocked if they didn’t have any suggestions on how you could do your job better.
Schedule a meeting to ask them what they think you should do differently. Here’s a list of additional questions to ask if you really want to improve.
The bottom line — does your assistant have permission to push back when you aren’t working smart? If not, give it to them.
Practice What You Preach
Help your assistant in the above four ways, and you’ll soon realize why helping your assistant helps you.
But don’t forget to practice what you preach.
Here’s your version of the above list:
- Connect with other executives in similar positions.
- Take an online course or attend a conference.
- Read good books, and ask other executives for recommendations.
- Ask your peers and board members for honest feedback and advice.
Are you tired of spending all your time in the weeds? Get one-on-one help finding an assistant or developing your assistant, so you gain more time, energy, and success! Learn more about my coaching services.