Have you ever heard an executive raving about his or her assistant and wondered what that person does that garners such praise? Would you like to be that person? As an administrative professional turned entrepreneur, my perspective has shifted from how to become the admin my executives couldn’t live without, to finding admins I can trust and rely on completely. It has been an eye opening journey that has led me to some important insights I want to share so you can become the admin your executives rave about, too.
Let me share a little background first. Throughout my administrative career, I’ve supported supervisors, managers, vice presidents, and presidents in companies with 5 to 2,500 employees. Some had previous experience in working with an administrative professional, others didn’t. There were challenges associated with both.
The executives who were used to outstanding administrative support were typically the easiest for me, as long as they didn’t expect me to be exactly like the person who had been supporting them before I arrived. The executives who had never had an admin – or worse yet, had a bad admin – were typically the most challenging. But with a careful assessment of each situation, listening for clues, watching for opportunities, and learning as much as I could about their previous experiences and their current expectations, I was almost always able to win them over.
I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment and undeniable pride in my profession when I converted an executive over to thinking they couldn’t do their job as effectively without my support. To get them to this point, it was my job to continually train and educate them over time on the immense value a super competent, actively engaged administrative professional could add to their life.
Now the tables have turned, and I’ve become the executive. I have started building a team of my own. I can tell you it’s the most amazing experience of my professional career. It’s not that I can’t do for myself the things they are assisting me with; it’s the simple fact that there are hundreds of things that need to be done every week. I only have so much time. They only have so much time. So we divide and conquer. I need their help to keep me on track and fill in the gaps as we move forward.
In some cases, they are much better at or have more training on the given assignment, so they are much more efficient than I could ever hope to be. As a result, I am learning to delegate as many things as I can to my team. This has required patience from my team as I learn to adapt to having administrative support and utilizing their skills and talents wisely. Your executive is likely in a similar place, no matter how long they’ve had administrative support.
Now, I’d like to share what I need and expect from my administrative team as they support me in my executive role. Most likely, it’s what your executive needs and expects from you, too.
- I need my team to politely remind, nudge, and occasionally nag me to follow up on some things. It’s just the nature of the beast.
- I need my team to tell me when they see me doing something that they could be doing for me instead. They train me to delegate.
- I need my team to send me information and resources they find related to the projects we’re working on. This can be key to the decisions we are making.
- I need my team to identify new technologies or systems that we should look at to make our projects and business run more smoothly.
- I need my team to fast track my learning curve by sharing what they’ve learned about various software, social media, or technology based tools. This helps me and the rest of the team stay current.
- I need my team to point out when they see me doing something inefficiently because I’m simply stuck in the rut of ‘this is how I’ve always done it’.
- I need my team to be power users of the respective software specialties they each have.
- I need my team to be willing to learn new things.
- I need my team to dig in and figure things out on their own when we don’t have an established project plan or precedent to follow. Show initiative and create one.
- I need my team to question me on things they don’t understand or procedures that don’t make any sense. It may be an opportunity to make things work better.
- I need my team to share their ideas and brainstorms with me even if we aren’t able to implement each and every idea they present. This openly collaborative environment creates sparks that ignite our projects.
- I need my team to tell me if one of the tasks or projects they are working on is something they absolutely hate doing. I want every member of my team working in their areas of strength the majority of the time so I get their best effort every time they touch my projects.
- I need my team to be fully aware of who I am – my strengths, my personality type, my communication styles, my passions, my interests – so they fully understand how and why I work and communicate the way I do.
- I need my team to share who they are with me also – their personality types, interests, strengths – so I can fully appreciate who they are and how best to work with them.
- I need my team to educate me on their communication styles and preferences so we communicate as effectively as possible.
- I need my team to be problem solvers.
- I need my team to take the initiative to fix things that they see need fixing. I need them to get comfortable knowing when to ask and when they should just take care of it.
- I need my team to hold me accountable for doing what I say I’m going to do.
- I need my team to share their professional goals with me so I can support them on their career journey just as they support me on mine.
- I need my team to capture the ‘to do list’ items as we talk through things and then track them to make sure we get them done.
- I need my team to initiate the follow up calls and emails on the ‘to dos’ we are working on so I don’t have to remember yet another series of details.
- I need my team to understand how businesses run so they fully understand and participate in what we are doing each and every day.
- I need my team to professionally represent me and my company in all they do.
- I need my team to be patient with me… because just like everyone else, I’m still a work in progress.
This may seem like a lot. It is. But running a department, managing a team, and leading a company is a lot – a lot of details, a lot of moving parts, a lot of responsibility. That’s why successful executives need outstanding administrative professionals supporting them.
I can’t think of a single executive I’ve supported that didn’t need these same things, even though most of them never articulated it to me in these exact words. Like anything, developing this type of working relationship with your executive takes time. You must keep putting forth the effort to educate them on how you can support them at an even deeper level than you have in the past. Even if you’ve worked with your executive for several years, look for additional ways you can build upon the foundation you’ve laid and continually improve the working relationship. When you do, there’s no doubt you’ll become the admin your executive can’t imagine their corporate life without!