Updated: Oct 26, 2022
A good Assistant is a Lifeline -Ethan M.Rasiel- The McKinsey Way
For many people, having an assistant is a sign that you have ‘arrived’; – that you have finally succeeded and come to a place where you get to have an assistant. Imagine having a full-time employee dedicated to helping you succeed. Huh? Who wouldn't be honored to have someone like that?
Unlike in the past though, assistants are becoming scarce, in part because technology has rendered many of us self-sufficient. In a Harvard Business Review article, Melba J. Duncan maintains that the role of an Executive Assistant is now typically reserved for senior management and she shares interesting insights on how to get more from your assistant here;
This means, if you find yourself with an assistant, it is probably because;
Your Job is very high level and it comes with an assistant or
You have a lot of work, therefore, you need day-to-day help to handle it or
You are seeking to expand, and additional support is necessary to free up some space for you
You've made your money and need to take a vacation for a year in the Maldives!
I am an Executive Assistant and I have been at it for the last 10 years. There are pros and cons to having this Job, but more importantly, my leaders and I have experienced the advantages of a CEO-Assistant partnership that works. So, if you are considering hiring an assistant, do not take the assignment lightly. As such, let us first explore who you do not need given the investment it takes;
You do not need someone you will constantly tell what to do
You do not need someone whose work you’ll constantly monitor
You do not need someone you’ll have to think for
“Indispensable linchpins are not waiting for instructions, but instead, figuring out what to do next. If you have a job where someone tells you what to do next, you’ve just given up the chance to create value.” Seth Godin: Linchpin - Are You Indispensable?
If you do not hire the right fit, you’ll not only have created more work for yourself, but you’ll also have completely lost the point of having an assistant. I remember early in my career, I came running to one of my leaders ranting to him that people were saying I push them too hard for results. He said to me …"work on it but if I have to push you to push them for results, then we will have missed the point". You see, it was essential that I ensured the results got to him on time so he didn't have to follow up or push for them. It is good that the person you hire lessens your burden significantly.
So, before you go ahead and hire an assistant, check yourself on these 5 things;
Why do you want an Executive Assistant? Is there a strong business need or is it a role you think you should have?
Which tasks and responsibilities are you willing to let go of? As an organization, are there solid tasks you want the Administrative or Executive Assistant to handle? It is possible that the existing work can be distributed within existing roles. If they can, then you don’t have to hire for it.
How much are you willing to invest? If you decide to hire this professional, are you able to honor them and pay appropriately and are you willing to invest in their training to set them up for success? Every role you have should meet an important and strategic business need, and that goes with a good measure of investment.
As an Executive, are you willing to delegate pieces of your workload to the assistant? This is important. If you say you need help, you should be able to let go of certain things; certain important things if you want your business to grow.
Is the person you are considering open to learning and agile? Your candidate’s ability and willingness to stretch beyond their comfort zone to assume new responsibilities is essential. The role requires a high degree of flexibility and it is important that the person you consider is agile and quick to adapt.
Brenda Abeja is an Organizational Psychologist and Executive Coach with Eaglelite Associates
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