How to Set Goals For Your Executive Assistant
There is no question that a great executive assistant can make all the difference to your success as an executive. Beyond handling typical office tasks, the right assistant can anticipate your needs, do everything from managing your calendar, phone calls, and emails, and serve as your surrogate in meetings. This post will focus on goals for your executive assistant and complement our blog around How to Hire an Executive Assistant.
Once the hiring process has ended, what should be your goals for an executive assistant? How do you make sure that both you and your assistant get the most from your relationship? Here are some tips.
Establish Ground Rules and Processes
You have an amazing assistant and shouldn’t have to micromanage. If you establish processes for more common, day-to-day tasks, you won’t need to waste your valuable time hashing out the same types of things over and over again.
Have regularly scheduled meetings and follow-up systems in place to keep things running smoothly. Make sure to come up with ground rules, and be willing to adjust those rules as time goes on and you learn more about what works best for the two of you.
If your assistant is shared by two or more managers, establish a chain of command. There should never be a question as to whose work or what type of work takes priority. Once they have been with you for a while, your assistant will learn to navigate the waters when it comes to what to do when, but make sure that you give them solid ground to start from. This will help you and the other managers set clear goals for your executive assistant that don’t conflict, and will also help him or her to meet those benchmarks.
First things first – your calendar, travel planning, business phone line, and email management should fall entirely under the purview of your assistant. Of course, right after hiring, it may take a short while to hand all of these things over, but make it a goal for your executive assistant to be managing these as soon as possible.
When it comes to other tasks you need to delegate, Carey-Ann Oestreicher, CEO of executive coaching and leadership development firm Potential Unlimited, recommends that you, “write down a list of the things you need to accomplish today. Now delegate 60 percent of that to your team members and Executive Assistant.” One of your goals for your executive assistant is that they should make your job easier, so it’s important that you delegate everything you can to them and the rest of your team.
Over time, many tasks will then automatically fall to your assistant.
One key goal for an executive assistant is that they be able to act as your surrogate when you’re not there. You can’t be everywhere at once, and your assistant should be familiar enough with everything you do and your opinions to not only sit in on meetings, but also make certain decisions in your absence. Make sure you make it clear what kind of decisions you are comfortable delegating in your absence.
Take the Time to Build a Personal Relationship
One goal for your executive assistant is that you and she/he establish a bond and learn to work very well together. As already established, your executive assistant will be acting on your behalf on a daily basis. You want them to be able to anticipate your needs, and a personal relationship will make this possible.
To help you both meet this goal, make sure to carve out time early on to really get to know your executive assistant. You should be familiar with one another on both a personal and professional level. The more your assistant knows about your life, the more they will be able to truly understand how to balance everything that is going on.
Oestreicher notes that, “of course you don’t need to fill your days listening to each other’s problems, but the more you know about each other, the more connected your relationship will become…It becomes a unique relationship filled with mutual respect.”
Communicate Consistently to Help Your Executive Assistant Achieve Their Goals
This might seem obvious, but sometimes both of your schedules will get so crazy that it’s easy to slack on communication. But how can your executive assistant fulfill his or her goals if you’re not giving them feedback and direction, and listening to their own feedback about the job?
When meeting, make sure to always provide the “why” behind the “what, where and when.” This will make meetings more productive and efficient and allow your assistant to be proactive.
As mentioned earlier, communicate both about your professional and personal life, so your assistant understands everything that is going on with you and can prioritize well.
In addition to communicating about what needs to be done, provide consistent feedback and encourage them to talk to you. If the way something is being done isn’t working for one or both of you, voice that as soon as possible. There is no reason to let problems fester. Open communication is the ONLY way this relationship will work.
Another great idea is to have quarterly strategic meetings so you can ensure you’re on the same page regarding completed, ongoing, and future projects; and re-establish priorities. These meetings are a good way to review your goals for your executive assistant together, and identify any sticking points and how they can be overcome. Segregate meetings regarding day-to-day tasks from more overarching meetings, so you make sure to cover both fully.
Treat Them As a Partner
Ana Dutro, CEO and President of The Executives’ Club of Chicago, and former CEO of Korn/Ferry Business Consulting, notes that “executives need to see them (executive assistants) not just as support, but as real business partners.”
Invite them to sit in and/or participate in high-level meetings. The more they know about what’s going on, the better they’re able to help you and prioritize what information ends up filtering to you.
Allow them to be a part of the management team up to whatever level you deem appropriate – good executive assistants often have insight into all levels of the company and can provide a unique perspective. You intentionally hired someone with a wide array of skills, and you should remember to allow them to use them. A relationship of mutual respect will benefit everyone involved.
Give Them the Resources They Need to Get the Job Done
As busy as you are, your executive assistant is right there with you. Provide whatever they need to do their job as efficiently as possible. You may need to hire additional staff, either to help them or to carry out other tasks. Sheila W. Wellington, clinical professor of management and organizations at New York University’s Stern School of Business, advises, “Anything that can be delegated so that the executive assistant can focus on the CEO’s needs saves the CEO time.”
Depending on the size of your firm and the number of responsibilities that fall to your assistant, it may make sense to hire additional administrative assistants to help with more secretarial tasks. Many CEOs have two executive assistants. Sometimes one is more of a personal assistant, sometimes one is more senior than the other and sometimes both are equal but provide coverage different hours of the day or in different time zones.
Keep your Executive Assistant’s Own Goals In Mind
Remember that outside of your personal goals for your executive assistant, your assistant has goals, too. Invest in continuing education courses when appropriate / desired. Support your assistant in becoming even better at their job, and growing in a multitude of ways.
Also, remember that your assistant does have a personal life. You may think about work 24/7, but it’s important to allow your assistant to have a life outside of work. The last thing you want is to train the perfect executive assistant, establish an amazing bond, and then lose them because you weren’t considerate of their need for work/life balance.
Appreciate One Another
Last but not least, you and your executive assistant will spend more time with one another, or at least dealing with one another, than you will with almost anyone in your life. Remember to not only communicate when something is going wrong, but also when things are going right. Appreciation and gratitude are key. Constructive feedback provided regularly is important.
Finding Your Perfect Executive Assistant
Finding the right assistant can make your life easier in a multitude of ways. It’s one of the most important hires you can make, and you should pay close attention to the hiring process, giving significant thought and an appropriate budget to allow you to hire the best person. If you want to bring in a professional staffing agency to help find the best talent, contact us and we’ll help you find the perfect executive assistant.
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