by Ann Yaggie
The Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled “The Case for Executive Assistants” that shed some light on the way that business structure has shifted with regard to executive assistants. The days of secretaries-a-plenty are gone. Today, as a result of cost-cutting and modern communication tools, executive assistants are “typically reserved for senior management.” However, it is a mistake to adopt the impression that assistants no longer have a role in the structure of modern business. Modern business has not eradicated the need for executive support. What’s changed is simply the way that the two parties interact. It is crucial that we shift our focus to improving the way that the assistant and execute interact in order to make the partnership as fruitful as possible.
Why the Assistant/Executive Relationship Matters
According to the Harvard Business Review, an executive assistant, at very senior levels, need only “make the executive 8% more productive than he or she would be working solo.” This quantifies to roughly five hours of saved time in a 60-hour workweek. I think it goes without saying that most assistants undoubtedly save their execs much more time than this as they aid in coordination, preparation, and implementation during their day-to-day work.
How to Improve the Partnership
How do you make the most of this collaborative partnership? In the end, it all comes down to collaboration, communication, and reciprocal faith and flexibility. An executive must be willing to delegate part of their workload to their assistant. This requires ample consideration as to the parts of an executive’s project that can be completed by their assistant. This action also requires that the executive recognize their assistant’s strengths and have faith in their assistant’s competency.
The second key factor in strengthening the relationship between exec and assistant is the assistant’s willingness to take on new and unfamiliar tasks that may cause them to stretch and learn. In order to aid in the productivity of an executive, an assistant must be prepared to learn new skills, try new things, and ask questions. For this relationship to work, communication must be open and mutually supportive. When the right balance is discovered, the result is a less stressful, more productive, and shorter work week.
SOCIAL STYLE and the Executive/Assistant Relationship
Most of us would agree that there is always room for improvement. And the room for improvement in your SOCIAL STYLE is found in the “growth action” of each style. The growth action is what each style “tends to overlook, ignore, or avoid in his or her interactions with others.”
Imagine a work situation where the Executive has a Driving style and the Assistant has an Amiable style. The growth action for the Driving style is to listen. The growth action for the Amiable style is to initiate. Can you see that these two Styles are polar opposites?
Tips for a Driving-style Executive working with an Amiable-style Assistant:
- Remember that personal security is important to your Amiable Assistant and that the relationship with you could be just as important to this person as the task.
- Slow down your pace.
- Allow for some level of informality in the interaction.
- Allow this person to share their feelings.
Tips for an Amiable-style Assistant working with a Driving-style Executive:
- Pick up the pace when interacting with your Executive.
- Be task-oriented.
- De-emphasize feelings.
- Be clear about goals and plans.
- Use less small talk and get to the point.
Ann Yaggie is the president of DRAY Consulting, a TRACOM Authorized reseller and certified professional coach. This article is taken with permission from her Home by 5 blog and from TRACOM’s Improving Personal Effectiveness Guide. Visit http://home-by-5.com for more information or to reach Ann.