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Guest blog: Tomorrow’s assistant – the changemaker

Tomorrow's assistant will take on a leadership role

What does the future look like for assistants? How will the role adapt to the ever-changing business world? Nick Fewings, Creator of the Team DyNamics© model and expert trainer – who spoke at our June PA Life Training Day – discusses his view on tomorrow’s assistant in a two-part series.

I believe there is a shift in the tectonic plates of industry occurring and I believe this change will provide significant opportunities for those in the assistant community who are prepared to grasp it.

Please allow me to share my thoughts with you.

As a former senior leader with many years’ experience in various leadership roles and now an individual/team development facilitator and conference speaker, I’ve had – and continue to have – the opportunity to work regularly with many assistants, as well as leaders across various industries in the public, private, charity and not-for-profit sectors in the UK and other countries throughout the world. This has given me a great insight into what is happening in both the world of leaders and assistants. Below are my thoughts on what I believe will happen in the future, and in some instances has already begun to happen and importantly, needs to continue.

Leaders will seek out assistants who, behaviourally, are markedly different from themselves.
As a senior leader, one of the most – if not the most – important position on my team that I needed to fill was that of my assistant.

I didn’t want a “yes” person, I wanted a “what if” person. I wanted them on a daily basis to challenge my perspective and thought processes, to ensure I had a rounded view and made the best decisions I could, to support the leadership objectives that I had been set.

I wanted a person who, in my absence and with my authority, I could trust to make decisions and take action on my behalf with others, being aware that this was within their remit. Whilst this individual needed to know me, my job role and leadership style, to understand and anticipate what actions I was likely to take, I’d have total faith in this person to make the right decision if they were unable to talk things through with me. I’d trust them to do the right thing and if it went wrong, I would take the wrap.

That is why I recruited an assistant with a different behavioural style to myself; an individual that would provide a different perspective on people and situations and complement my leadership style.

I believe that the leader/assistant partnerships, where they have differing styles, provides positive and value-adding benefits to both individuals, their team and their organisations.

Assistants will be an integral part of the leadership team of those whom they support.
In the past, and still occurring in some instances today, assistants are often on the periphery of the teams of the leaders they support – a hinterland, where they are not part of the leadership team and often struggle to understand which team they belong in. Often, their strongest allegiance is to the internal assistant network, or other networks they belong to, as opposed to the team of the leader that they support.

My assistant was a key member of my leadership team, and their job description clearly identified this. Why? Quite simple really; because they were a filter to all the communication I received and also involved in all the leadership meetings, they more often than not had a more complete picture of what was going on than the other leaders within my team. It would have been, in my opinion, a foolish leader who ignored the insights that such an assistant had and I hope you agree.

I believe that the assistants of leaders will have a role that, organisationally, will be structured as part of the leadership team, given them a stronger voice, from a position of equality with other leaders in that team.

In conclusion, I believe that the seeds have been sown, that change is happening and that momentum must continue, with assistants finding their voice, speaking up and being tomorrow’s changemakers, not only for themselves, but for their colleagues and the assistant community as a whole.

In my next article, I will be sharing, what I believe to be the most important skills and attributes that will be required by assistants if they are to be “Tomorrow’s Changemakers”.

Tomorrow always brings opportunities to those that spot them and take action.

If you have found this article of value, share it with your colleagues, others in the assistant community that you know and importantly those who you support.

Nick Fewings is former Change Director of Barclays PLC and a behavioural psychologist. He founded and is CEO of Ngagementworks, a learning and development company that helps many well-known brands succeed through developing their greatest asset, their people. He is also an award-winning conference speaker on behaviours, leadership, team effectiveness/engagement and creator of the Team DyNAmics© model of team engagement.

You can contact Nick direct to discuss how he may be able to support your individual/team development objectives or about a conference that he may be able to help by speaking at via nick@ngagementworks.com.

Nick is also on Twitter @NgageingNick and more articles on personal, leadership and team development can be found via yoursbehaviourally.com.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.