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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

Make Your Assistant's Life Easier—and Yours, Too

As a manager, one of the most important resources you have is an executive or administrative assistant. He or she can keep your office in order, your schedule on track, and take some of the day-to-day duties off of your plate.

But, her effectiveness has a lot to do with you—how well you train her, share your expectations with her, and give her feedback. It takes thought and planning to create an environment in which an assistant can do his or her job well (especially for those of us who are used to doing everything ourselves!).

So, whether you’re new to management or not, here are some good reminders on how to make the most of this valuable resource.

1. Arm Him or Her for Success

Your administrative assistant is there to make your life easier—but she won’t be able to do that unless she knows how, exactly, she can help. From the get-go, make sure you give her enough time, training, and resources for her to excel. Provide instruction as to what you need and when you need it, along with concrete examples of what you're looking for. This is especially true if your assistant is new—but recognize that even if she’s a veteran, you might want things done differently than her last boss did. Being clear and providing the basics sets both of you up for efficiency and success.

2. Build a Trusting Relationship

Plan to meet regularly with your assistant to discuss current projects and status updates. Letting her know what's happening at other levels of the company will help her to understand how her work fits into the bigger picture. And when she can appreciate more about what you're doing, she’ll be able to identify additional ways to assist you in meeting your goals.

3. Give (and Take) Feedback

If your assistant does something doesn't meet your expectations, don’t just get frustrated—point out where you were dissatisfied and offer suggestions on how it should be handled differently in the future.

What’s equally important, though, is being open to her feedback. The company is a different place from her point of view, so allowing her to openly share her thoughts and suggestions can give you valuable insights. Plus, you may have bad habits you don’t realize—giving contradictory verbal and written instructions, for example, or not giving enough notice when you want a large conference room booked—that you can amend to make both of your lives much easier.

4. Show Your Gratitude

A great assistant eases your workload and makes you look good, so be generous with praise when it’s due. A staff meeting or office event is a great place to publicly show your appreciation, but also never overlook an opportunity to show your gratitude with a simple, verbal “great job.” You can also treat him or her to the occasional cappuccino or pair of movie tickets. A good employer knows that happy employees make their bosses lives much easier!

5. Keep it Professional

Unless it was spelled out during the job interview, anything you ask an administrative assistant to do should be directly relevant to the corporate mission. While having her offer coffee to a client or pick up office supplies on the way back from lunch is not an atypical request, to-do items like booking your next dental appointment or ordering the upcoming read for your book club is your responsibility, not hers. She’s been hired to help you out in the professional realm—so keep it that way.

Remember, the more you help your assistant do her job well, the easier it will be for her to assist you with yours. Be the best manager you can be, and you’ll set both of you up for success.

Photo of woman working courtesy of Shutterstock.