I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into an organization to teach time management skills to leaders and I learn that top executives do not have an executive assistant assigned to support them. This role is critical for a leader’s success and time efficiency.
Do you have an executive assistant (EA) that helps you to maximize your productivity? Not being able to “afford” one in your budget is not an excuse. Look around you and find someone with talent and potential who is open to mentoring and advancement and see if they are willing to learn some new skills. You can always find someone who is hungry to learn more and be of greater service to an organization, even if this doesn’t include a raise. Many employees know on the job training is worth it for their future career advancement. Not having the money to hire a professional isn’t an excuse. Step number 1: Go find talent!
If you have an EA, great, but are you maximizing their potential and your productivity with them?
Ask yourself the following:
- Think like a surgeon. Do you focus on the tasks that only you can do based on your experience and skill set? Are you delegating down the rest?
- Does your EA proactively manage your calendar building in reserved time each week for accomplishing projects while also allowing blocks of time reserved for ASAP needs and last-minute priorities? Never book yourself fully each week! You need the flexibility in your schedule to pivot and take advantage of opportunities.
- Is your EA tech savvy? Do they maximize technology using Outlook folders, email rules, automated workflow etc.?
- Does your EA anticipate your physical needs to keep your energy up (meals/hydration/breaks)? Are they bringing you lunch when they see you are booked solid, or telling you to go take a 5 min walk because they know you have been sitting for 5 hours straight?
- Is your EA anticipating what you will need for your meetings and preparing that list and/or gathering those items for you in advance? Are there reminder notes in the meeting invite so you can recall why you asked for various meetings?
- Is your EA anticipating your workflow needs from patterns in the day, week and month? Are they applying their critical thinking to your world and offering suggestions for efficiency and easy of your day? Ex: schedule in travel time, prep time, follow-up time, etc.
- Is your EA staying flexible to the changing priorities of your world day to day and hour by hour or do they put up resistance and annoyance at having to do “extra” work to reschedule your day? EA need to stay nimble.
- Does your EA or someone you work with offer you unconditional support and show you grace on hard days and stressful days? Do they have your back and flex with your ups and downs, understanding the pressures of your role?
Top executives and CEO’s make common mistakes with their executive assistants, unintentionally sabotaging their productivity. What are you guilty of?
- Have you ever calculated your own hourly earnings? If you do, you will probably rethink the self-talk “it’s easier and quicker if I just do it myself”. Most likely doing things yourself will cost you a great deal more than you might realize. Over time this adds up to wasted dollars, your decreased energy, and your decreased effectiveness as a leader in your organization.
- Do you have a professional EA or did you hire someone on the cheap because you don’t value this role. Regardless if you are mentoring someone who’s hungry to learn more or paying a salary for this role, you need to work with a talented individual. This role is the number one thing you can do to make yourself as effective as possible. Ideally you will invest in hiring a professional who allows you to rely on them more and actually use them as the role is designed. Pay for top talent.
- Do you explain to your EA why you want things a certain way and the implication of what happens when they don’t do it that way? They can’t understand the big picture unless you tell them. They will be more likely to do things “correctly” when they understand why something is important.
- Do you hold onto power and control of your menial tasks such as scheduling, email, messages, coordination, etc.? Get outside your box and see how others use their EA for ideas on how to maximize your time.
- Do you let your EA into your world so they understand the stressors, highs, and lows of your day? When your EA understands what’s going on around you, they can be of greater support and think proactively on your behalf.
- Do you invest in your EA training? Often executives set aside training dollars for themselves and other leaders in the organization but neglect to invest in improving their EA skills. This is actually money you are investing in yourself.
- Do you expect your EA to read your mind and know when they are doing a good job or under-performing in a given area? Error on the side of sharing. You can’t communicate enough.
- Do you expect too much or too little from your EA? Often leaders don’t push hard enough, or they push too hard and expect the impossible. Where do you fall?