How to Be a Good Boss: Managing Your Own Assistant

— Oct 15, 2014 —

Recently, one of our newsletter readers sent us an email asking about the appropriate ways to manage your own assistant and how to be a good boss when you, yourself, are an assistant.

I enjoy reading the C-Suite Assistants email newsletter.  It’s one of the few administrative professional subscriptions that has truly relevant and modern content for senior assistants.  One topic that I’d love to see discussed in a future newsletter is the role of the assistant to the executive assistant.  As a Senior Executive Assistant, I’m about to hire an assistant that will report to me.  Other than in academia roles, I’ve been unable to find much information about the interaction model and the separation of roles & responsibilities.  I’d be interested in reading how others have successfully made this work.

Thank you, first off, for your kind words about our newsletter.  We strive to provide our readers with content that is relevant, engaging, entertaining, and educational.

Learning how to be a good boss to your own assistant can be a tricky task, especially if you have never been in a supervisory role before.  Of course, every organization is different in the way they operate, and administrative assistant duties vary from organization to organization.  There are no hard and fast rules for managing an assistant.  However, you there are a few simple guidelines we like to follow with regard to interaction and delegation.

Interaction and Authority

Ideally, an assistant and the executive he/she supports interact frequently.  This is not always the case because executives tend to travel often.  When you, the assistant, have an assistant of your own, frequent communication is not only possible, but necessary.  Communication is key to any relationship, and having an assistant of your own means an extra set of eyes and ears on the happenings of not only your boss, but of the office.  Use this to your advantage! You should both take vigorous notes and compare them frequently.  This will allow the most complete, accurate information to be communicated at all times, and streamline the distribution and execution of your numerous administrative assistant duties. 

It’s important for you, the senior executive assistant, to know what you can sign off on without your boss’s approval, and what you absolutely need your boss’s permission to OK.  Setting clear guidelines for your assistant is just as important.  Your assistant will need to know what decisions he/she can make on his/her own, and what must be vetted by you, first.  Delegation is something you must learn to become comfortable with.  The best and most efficient way of delegating tasks is to leave no leaf unturned—give your assistant as much information as possible so as to not have him/her guessing about the details.  Your jobs depend on efficiency and time management.

Roles and Responsibilities

In order to be effective as a Senior Administrator and as a member of your new team (you and your assistant), you must determine what the goals in having your own assistant are, and what the administrative assistant duties will be.  Will the new assistant free up time so that you may take on more complex tasks for the executive you support? Will this new assistant take on new projects, or take over old ones? What are the goals and objectives of this secondary assistant, and what methods would make you each more productive, efficient and effective at your jobs? Give the assistant some specific responsibilities to begin with and then take some time to assess his/her strengths and your comfort level in delegating these responsibilities. As you gain more confidence in them and in each other, sit down frequently and discuss how the delineation of responsibilities is working. Some managers delegate too much without following up and some are reluctant to delegate at all.  Identify your style and be e honest with yourself—would these administrative assistant duties be executed better if they did this, or am I just being a control freak?! Be sure to document your activities, both together and separately, and most of all, learn from one another! It is really important to communicate regularly and to give feedback regularly. You are powerful resources for each other.

Treat Your Assistant As You Would Like to Be Treated

The Golden Rule is critical in any professional relationship, no matter what the hierarchy is, but with administrative professionals, upholding the Golden Rule is of utmost importance. Think about the way you would have liked to have been treated in your earlier years.  Did you have a boss that was particularly unbearable because of his management style? Do the opposite. You have the power to be a better leader than those who have previously led you. Think about why you love administration, and impart that passion and wisdom onto your assistant; pay it forward.

Have you ever had to manage an assistant, or a team of assistants? Do you have any tips on how to be a good boss? What strategies did you use to make your team more effective? Let us know in the comments section below!

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