Building a powerful PA brand is essential for your future career success but how many of us have considered how we impact our boss’s brand and vice versa.
No brand exists in isolation; you only have to think about recent company scandals or prominent sports people who are embroiled in controversy to find an example of how adversely these kinds of situations can impact a brand. It is amazing how quickly corporate sponsors pull out when their brand is associated with someone who is in the limelight for the wrong reasons.
We too need to be aware that we can have a great impact on our boss’s “brand” by how we operate within the company and that the partnership between us and our managers also create an independent, overlapping brand.
Imagine the scenario:
You report to the Chief of Finance of your company. Your laptop is not working and you log a request with your IT department. You also call up and ensure that they understand that you work for someone very important and you expect someone to come to your office immediately to attend to the problem otherwise you will escalate the technician to their executive. When the technician arrives you continue to put them under pressure and you are demanding and rude.
What does the technician tell others when he gets back to his own workstation? Does this reflect only on you or have your brought your boss and your office into disrepute?
This is just one example of how our brands overlap and we can enhance or taint this shared brand:
Another scenario would be that your boss is always late and when he is late he blames you. He says you provided him with the wrong address or scheduled the meeting incorrectly (and it’s not true). This is the other side of the coin. This can create lasting damage to your brand within the company and could potentially even limit your ability to find another job.
Looking after your own brand is essential but you also have a massive responsibility to your boss. What you do and how you do it reflects on them due to your proximity and the complex relationship between PA and manager.
So, let’s get practical!
How do you enhance your boss’s brand?
- You arrive on time and ensure that the day is mapped out and preparations are in place
Being prepared and professional projects an image of competence about you, your boss and your office. We all know that one PA who is chronically in panic and last-minute mode. It creates a very poor impression of him/her but also of their boss’ management style for allowing this (or sometimes even creating this). On the other side of the spectrum, when you have everything set up and well prepared they look good and you look good.
- You look the part
As much as you would be embarrassed if your boss arrived in flip flops for an important Monday morning management meeting, you also need to be aware that if you are wearing something inappropriate it is once again “The CFO’s PA” that is being referred to. The saying goes “dress as you would like to be addressed”. Sadly the world does judge a book by its cover, so make sure you are presenting yourself well and by association your manager. I am not advocating that you rush out and buy a glamourous wardrobe that you can’t afford… no, no! I am simply saying that you should ensure that your clothing is work appropriate, you are well groomed and that you dress for your figure and your work environment.
- You treat others with respect
It actually happened to me a few years ago, I started working with an executive and people in the company approached me to tell me how aloof, stuck up and arrogant my new boss was. Strangely I had never experienced any of this behavior from the exec in question and it puzzled me. I worked for her for a few months and the same individuals came back to me to say how much she had changed since I started working for her. Now I was truly stunned! I had seen absolutely no change in this individual; she had been consistently kind and professional at all times.
Then I started asking about the previous PA and getting some input on her behavior. On closer analysis I realized that all the behaviours that were attributed to the boss were actually impressions created by what the previous PA said and did. This was an exceptionally powerful lightbulb moment for me. Always treat people with respect, do not use your manager’s positional power to get things done and be decent to those around you.
- You take a real interest in people and the business
By taking an interest in your colleagues and customers you bring warmth to your shared brand, authenticity and depth. It is important for personal assistants to be the heart of their teams and companies. Our bosses spend so much time behind closed doors and in meetings that they sometimes miss what is happening with their teams, so you have great value to add from this perspective.
We don’t always realise it but our bosses want to feel proud of us. They want us to be the go to person in times of crisis, the person who can fix anything and make problems disappear. So when you are able to sort out complex problems calmly with your knowledge of the business, its processes and network, this makes you look like a professional. And when this happens publicly your boss will definitely feel good to have you in their corner (and others may actually feel a bit jealous).
We are also in a position to feed them information about the wellbeing of the team so that your boss is aware and can support the person appropriately (making them look more caring), be there for the team in their absence and flag up issues. In this way we take up a complementary role to their own.
They also need us to understand the business and the core job of our team. If we can do this we present to the world as competent and intelligent. These are very valuable traits for an assistant to have and reflect well on your boss too.
- You ensure that you keep developing
Upgrading yourself on a regular basis makes you a valued asset and your boss looks like they have made the right selection when they hired you. Being constantly aware of the need to grow and change also enhances how other teams and internal stakeholders view you. No one wants to be that PA whose skillset is stuck in the 60s. It is our job to keep moving with the times and stretch ourselves to ensure our own brand value and keep our office on-trend and relevant.
- You speak well of them or you stay silent
Not all of us are lucky enough to work for wonderful bosses. If your boss isn’t good to you or behaves badly take this up with them or the powers that be, but do not discuss them with their teams and colleagues. This will never reflect well on you and it will also damage their brand. Let them expose themselves through their own bad behavior. Keep your hands clean. If you can say something good about them then do so but if not, try not to get drawn into these kinds of discussion. Always protect them in public (even if they don’t deserve it) this is more about looking after your own brand than theirs.
- You always, always back them in public
When disagreements arise, try to resolve them privately. If you don’t agree take the discussion offline. Always present a united front to the rest of the team and the company. Being openly confrontational in public does not serve either of you.
- You keep your word and help them keep theirs
One of the most essential cornerstones of a strong personal brand is being truthful and keeping your word. This is where assistants can add great value to management. What do I mean? Well, if your boss has promised to take someone to lunch, remind them and schedule. If the boss has said that they will give input into a project, ensure that they abide by the set deadlines. Our executives are exceptionally busy and can’t always remember everything; it is our job to assist in this regard.
How do you limit damage to your own brand when the boss is not behaving well?
Sadly I have no sage advice on this matter except that I truly believe in karma and have seen it in action many times. I have seen the boss who bullies and publicly humiliates his assistant, months later being named and shamed on the front page of the newspaper.
The boss who blames his PA for everything that goes wrong, being asked to leave the company when his incompetence was found out.
When your boss is damaging your brand I urge you to just keep doing the best that you can. Don’t focus on them. They will expose themselves in the long run. Focus on what you do control and manage your own brand like a pro!