5 Tips to Ensure an Elite Partnership with Your Assistant

If you want to receive the best productivity from your administrative assistant, you must partner with them. It’s that simple. But isn’t the whole job of an administrative or executive assistant to be independent, self-motivated, and capable? Of course! However, an assistant is only as good as the working relationship they have with their manager or leader. It’s as valuable as any partnership a leader has.

Many leaders don’t fully understand the extraordinary value an administrative assistant can provide because they struggle to reach effective alignment with their admin. Below are five successful ways leaders can partner with their assistant to achieve significant results.

1. Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations from the very beginning of a working relationship between an assistant and their manager is imperative. This starts in the interview process. The hiring manager needs to know the degree of responsibilities the business leader is asking their assistant to handle. They also need to know what personality the leader works with best to ensure a solid foundation from the start.

The assistant is responsible for getting to know the leader’s preferences, how they best operate, and their overall priorities. Giving valuable time toward discussing expectations of the role, gaps to fill, the why behind certain tasks, and what you foresee your assistant handling (or not handling) from the start of the interview phase leads to efficiencies in execution right away. The depth of responsibilities will vary depending on the assistant’s prior experience and each leader’s objectives, but aligning on behaviors from the start will ensure a productive working relationship and lead to greater gains from your assistant in the future.

2. Lean Into Your Assistant’s Strengths

Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole is ineffective. Learning new tasks and upskilling business knowledge is principal to professional growth, but so is recognizing and capitalizing upon an individual’s authentic strengths they currently possess.

Assistants have an array of diverse skill sets and can step into a wide range of roles. No two assistants are alike though, so embracing their talents can develop into an exciting and productive partnership. Be open to pivoting and utilizing their efforts in a capacity that may not have been the original vision. A highly accomplished assistant will find ways to expand the job, especially when the responsibilities align with their strengths, and will experience a deeper sense of fulfillment in doing so. A great leader will lean into those strengths.

3. Communication is Key

This may be the hardest trait to do well (both personally and professionally), but when done correctly, the benefits are powerful.

Collaboration, transparency, feedback, loyalty, and trust all come from being a good communicator, and they are all crucial to the success of an effective assistant. Good communication between a leader and their assistant allows for a narrowed focus on tasks that add value. Assistants are astute to important business details oftentimes overlooked. They often only need small communication windows to review crucial information, such as:

  • Pending approvals
  • Key business decisions
  • Meeting requests
  • Board of director obligations
  • Project timelines
  • Agendas
  • Upcoming events
  • Travel itineraries

Establishing a weekly communication cadence with your assistant should allow leaders and managers to flow seamlessly through their week and focus on essential business of the company.

4. Build Trust

An excellent assistant is someone you must trust. High-level assistants oversee confidential information and should possess characteristics such as high character and integrity. The reverse should hold true for the person they support. If one cannot trust the other, the relationship between assistant and manager will be surface level at best, as will the output of work that follows.

Building trust with your assistant involves delegating responsibility and seeing how they follow through. It involves being astute to how they treat and collaborate with others. It’s evaluating how they respect your time and priorities. An assistant should act on behalf of and in the leader’s best interests, and a trustworthy partnership from both ends helps achieve this goal.

Related: 25 Essential Administrative Interview Questions

5. Encourage Development

Assistants are incredibly resourceful in finding ways to get the job done. This can sometimes lead to the assumption that they don’t need additional resources to elevate themselves in their role. There are advantageous tools that can contribute to an assistant’s professional development and improve their effectiveness. These may include:

  • Training and development programs
  • Conferences
  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Networking events
  • Mentorship
  • Books

Some assistants will be more proactive than others in seeking out advancement. When they do ask for these tools and resources, be open-minded and support growth opportunities for them. It benefits the team, the assistant, and the leader.

Assistants can be incredibly valuable when utilized effectively. There are many types of assistants, from entry level to chiefs of staff, but regardless of scope, leaders will attract and keep the best talent if they focus on the five traits described above. Jan Jones, author of The CEO’s Secret Weapon, explains it best: “As with any business partnership, it’s a two-way street. An exceptional assistant can’t perform if the executive [or leader] doesn’t reciprocate.”

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