Earlier this week, I found myself listing how many different people I’d worked for during my time as an Executive Assistant to one of my colleagues. During my time at my current workplace, I’d had four different bosses as different Chairmen and CEOs had come and gone over the years. Two I would refer to as “high dependency cases”! The other two very self-sufficient. All challenging in different ways and each one provided excellent learning experiences.
Some bosses we choose, some we just inherit as people move on. Some of us are luckier than others! And we have to form a pretty good relationship with all of them and learn to work with different personalities. It’s true that you don’t really know someone until you have to work with them day in, day out – whether that’s in the office or on a virtual basis.
A successful assistant has to have bags of patience, empathy and the ability to adapt to new personalities and management styles.
Here are my top tips for managing this process:
- Communication – Take the lead on building the relationship with your manager. Ask them about themselves and their background and get to know them. Some may not even have worked with an assistant before. Regular communication is KEY here. You may need to give them some guidance on good working systems, set regular catch ups, establish any specific travel preferences they have. Work out whatever works best for you both. Equally they may have particular ways of doing things. In my experience, every single person has worked differently and I’ve had to adapt accordingly.
- Diary and inbox management – Some managers require you to manage their emails for them, respond to them, remind them to reply to things, whereas some prefer to keep their emails private. You have to respect whatever they choose. For tips on inbox management, check out my How To Guide on my website. Equally, establishing good diary practices is absolutely key for a boss/assistant relationship. Some need super detailed calendars, some don’t even use online calendars and need you to produce a paper diary.
- Induction – If your manager is new to the role and the organisation, they may need some help settling in. You can share information about the business, culture, procedures and who is who. Equally, they may have been brought in to bring about change in the organisation, so it’s important to listen to what they need from you and be flexible in your working style to suit them.
- Manage expectations – If someone is expecting too much of you, it’s important to communicate this to them calmly yet assertively. Perhaps you are working out of hours, or the workload is just unreasonable. Ask for a meeting with them, explain the situation and try to offer a solution.
- Acceptance – Nobody is perfect – everybody has annoying habits – even you! If your manager has some limitations (they’re impatient, disorganised, IT inept), sit down with them and work out what they are and how you can assist.
- Ideas – Most managers are open to hearing new ideas and approaches. You could offer your ideas on how to improve your role, your relationship, new processes or the work environment in general. Test the water with some smaller ideas and see how they respond.
- Recognise “off days” – There are those days when your manager is particularly stressed or distracted. Know when to leave them to it and not antagonise them with little jobs that can wait.
A successful working relationship with your manager helps ensure your days are productive and your workplace a more enjoyable place to be!