How to work effectively with an assistantTarun Mittal
Being a high-level manager or executive is a stressful job. Having to oversee several employees while making sure that your work is being done well and on-time is a very stressful job. People in these roles are often up to their necks in administrative tasks like scheduling meetings, delegating tasks, and following up with their employees that it is quite easy to get overwhelmed by the work-load their jobs entail. It is for this reason that many people in high-level management positions often employ an assistant to, well assist them in their work. Having an assistant allows one to offload their more mundane tasks and focus on the essentials. While finding an assistant with the ideal skill-set to be good at their job is a hard-enough task, working with them can be harder still. Here's a quick guide on how you can work effectively with an assistant:
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When working with assistants, it's important to first decide which tasks can and cannot be delegated to them. This involves defining a clear set of day-to-day responsibilities that need to be handled by the assistant. It's crucial not to over-utilise assistants by making them run personal errands that don't fall under their job description. At the same time, it's also vital that executives don't under-utilise their assistants. You should ease your assistant into the flow of things during their first few days at the job. Let them tag along with you as you go around your day at work and show them first-hand what tasks they're expected to handle and how they'll be helping you improve your productivity.
Give them access
Most people are reluctant to share their work information with anyone else but there's no way for assistants to do their job unless they have access to their employers' information. You should grant your assistant access to your calendars, to-do lists, and email account so that they can view, and modify, anything they may need to. For assistants to function effectively, they need the freedom to take actions without depending on you every time they need to get something done. Give them your work accounts' passwords and office key if that's what's needed for them to be at their best. Of course, you need to have a high level of trust in them to do this. But that is one of the first things you need to look for while hiring an assistant so, hopefully, that isn't a problem you're facing.
Effective communication is key for a successful working relationship, and it's even more important while working with an assistant. Executives should give clear and direct instructions to their assistants if they expect them to be effective. Inform your assistant about the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ you expect them to do. For example, saying something like ‘I can't hold today's meeting with HR. Take care of it.’ is a very vague instruction. Instead tell them, ‘Inform HR that I won't be able to conduct the meeting today because of *reason*. Ask them to schedule it for tomorrow at the same time.’ Your assistant should also be made aware of how they can reach you in case of emergencies and what calls you entrust them to take on their own volition. Also, tell your employees what authority your assistant holds to prevent unnecessary back-and-forth while issuing instructions. Holding a couple of meetings, or even informal conversations, with your assistant each day to discuss important matters is an invaluable practice to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
If you hire an assistant and then carefully track their every move, you're defeating the purpose of hiring an assistant in the first place – saving your time. Not only will you be wasting your own time by micro-managing your assistant, you'll also make it harder for them to do their job. If you've hired an assistant and entrusted them with the responsibility of helping you in your job, you must trust their capability of doing their work with minimum supervision. Giving an assistant, or any employee, independence makes them more responsible and builds their sense of self-worth which only makes them work harder and better.
Provide regular feedback
Assistants are not mind-readers who can gauge your sense of satisfaction with their work. Giving them feedback on their work is important if you want to establish a frictionless working relationship with them. If you don't like the way they're doing something, tell them where they're going wrong and how they can improve. Remember that your assistant is a person whose job is to help you be better at your job. If the only feedback you give them is an endless stream of criticism, they'll soon resent you and will no longer want to work for you. So, don't forget to give some positive feedback along with the negative. They must be doing something right since you're keeping them around, so let them know how helpful they are.
It takes some time to make working with your assistant a seamless practice. But once that happens, it will do wonders by greatly increase your productivity while reducing your stress levels.