How does one become a truly indispensible assistant? The answer is simple… keep your manager happy! If they’re happy, you’re happy – and so is everyone else in the organisation! In this respect, the role of an assistant is key to the whole business operation.

How, then, does one keep the boss happy and contribute to all-round better workplace? Here are some of the things I’ve picked up over the years…

Make their life easier

When people ask me what my job as an EA entails, I tell them I’m there to make my boss’s life easier – whatever it takes. There is a way of resolving every situation.

In my day job, I work in the sports and media industry. Recently I had 48 hours to get a tournament trophy from Australia to the UK. It’s enormous and really, really heavy – too heavy for the hold of an aircraft. Freight companies were extortionate. It had to go “incognito” – no stopping for selfies with intrigued passengers. Nobody would take it. The most cost effective solution was to take it out of its heavy box, keep it well-wrapped and covered up, book it a seat and try to obtain a boarding pass for it (an inanimate object with no passport).

It all worked out and the trophy turned up next to my boss for his important event that week. My problem to sort – and every problem has a solution!

On a day-to-day basis, an assistant will ensure their boss is operating as effectively as possible. The easiest way to establish what they need is to ask them on a regular basis.

Communicate every day

I’ve said this before… but communication is KEY. Have regular catch-ups with your boss, whether this is in person or over the phone. My boss lives at the other end of the country to me, but we speak throughout the day so we each know what the other is doing and working on and can agree our daily priorities. Also, it just helps you to get to know them better. If they don’t make time for you – schedule time in their calendar. Make time.

Manage the relationship

The impetus is 100% on you to address any issue in your relationship. You need to adapt to them – they won’t change their behaviours. Like any relationship, it’s never going to be perfect. It’s very difficult to reform a boss to adapt to how you would like them to work. Work together to establish some basic practices, for example:

  • Do they rely on their electronic calendar to plot the day ahead, or do they prefer a printed itinerary?
  • Do they need files preparing for each day, or will they view papers online?
  • Do they want a catch-up first thing, or a round up meeting at the end of the day?

“Keep the back gate closed”

One of my old bosses used this phrase regularly. What he was essentially asking was that I covered his back, kept him informed, never missed an email and thought of the things that he was likely to forget. It’s an assistant’s role to have their boss’s back and protect them so they are not exposed. This builds trust, which is so vital in this relationship.

What are their priorities?

Find out what is important to them, work wise and generally, and focus on this first and foremost. A boss will be impressed if you are accomplishing things that he/she cares about.

Shout about your progress!

If you’re working on what is important to them, then tell them your progress! Make sure they know what you have achieved. Do you have measureable goals and have you achieved them? Keep your boss informed at your catch-ups.

Stay positive!

How we get on in our career, and in life in general, depends so much on attitude. Companies love a “can-do” attitude. It’s incredibly draining to listen to someone that complains all day. Nobody wants to hang out with “Negative Ned”!

Sure if something is bothering you, say something, resolve it and move on. Hopefully you will all have some form of performance review in the diary to provide formal feedback on how things are going.

Ultimately, the better a company’s opinion of you, the more you are likely to progress in your career and the more secure your job will be.

Manage expectations

This one is very important. When planning your workload with your boss, make sure it is realistic and actually achievable. Don’t overload yourself and end up letting anyone down. Make sure that they understand what can be expected of you.

Establish some common ground

At the end of the day, we are all human. We have homes, families and lives outside of work. I’ve always endeavoured to ask my boss about their family and show an interest in anything they’re passionate about. Do you have any personal interests in common? Do you share any similar views on anything? Get chatting to them!