Building a strong relationship is key between an executive and assistant, reveals Adam Fidler. Here he shares his thoughts on the importance of forming a long-term partnership
There is an old saying that a first-class assistant can make an average executive look good, but an average assistant can make a first-class executive look very bad indeed. This is true, and it suggests most forcibly the essence of success in the relationship between the two.
Too many bosses and PAs don’t seem to understand the importance of taking the time and steps to build a long-term partnership, and still fall back on technology as the answer to everything. Now, I am certainly one for technology – artificial intelligence and automation is a fact we have to face – but we have to remember that if assistants don’t take the steps to showcase their biggest strength, which is their own emotional intelligence, then the assumption made is that their role is replaceable.
I teach all of my students that they must not sit and wait for their executives to enquire as to how they add value, they must show them at every opportunity that they both constitute a team of their own, which is just as much an integral part of the management department as the status and duties of the executive on their own.
We should not expect executives to know how to use an assistant, especially with younger bosses who often come through the ranks without ever having had one before.
In a technological world, it’s now paramount that the PA leads on the partnership and shows their readiness to support their executive and make him or her more successful.
“Too many bosses and PAs don’t seem to understand the importance of taking the time and steps to build a long-term partnership, and still fall back on technology as the answer.”
Employers don’t automatically have confidence in every aspect of the work of their assistant and we know through gender intelligence (yes, that’s another piece of research) that executives trust their assistants by seeing results, execution and delivery on promises that are made.
We also know that the prime purpose of any PA is to allow their executive to have the time to carry out his or her essential function. The assistant’s main duty, therefore, must be to know what is and what is not the bosses work, and devise new methods of working so that the executive is relieved of any unnecessary detail.
If PAs get this right they show their employer that the foundation is set for them to do more. With today’s modern leadership styles of executives, we cannot take it for granted that the executive knows the role of the PA.
However, we must take it for granted that the PA does know the role and will take small steps, along a time-consuming journey, to develop a partnership based on reciprocity, alliance and a complementary style of working. This is reverse-mentoring at its most powerful, and something every assistant can play a part in.