It may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an imperative part of day-to-day work that will help you excel in your current role. Vanessa Vallely offers insight into how PAs can manage their managers more effectively.
1. BE PREPARED
If you are invited to join a meeting with your boss, always turn up fully prepared. Be on time, look the part and have everything you need. If you are meeting external companies, always carry some business cards for your manager. About five minutes before the meeting, collect your boss and walk to the meeting together, so you both have time to discuss the plan of action.
2. ACT AS A CONFIDANTE
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and invariably there will be individuals in peer groups who have their own agendas. Build trust with your boss and become their sounding board. He or she should be able to tell you things (without compromising confidentiality), safe in the knowledge that what is discussed will stay within your circle of trust. Trust is something that comes with time, but it’s useful to let your boss know you have their back. Being seen to shun idle gossip will increase the relationship between the two of you.
3. THINK LIKE THE BOSS
If you are preparing a document for your boss, put yourself in their shoes before handing the completed work back. Does it tell a story? Would it be better if you added something else to complete the picture? If you are left asking a question, no doubt someone else will too. You could create a copy and add what you believe the document needs and then show them both to your boss – this demonstrates initiative.
4. MANAGE YOUR TO-DO LIST AND THEIRS
Always have an eye on what your boss needs to do. One-to-one meetings are a must and a good way to ensure that you are kept informed. You should not only turn up to meetings with your to-do list, but ensure there is a process whereby you discuss your manager’s key tasks. What are their top three priorities? What is keeping them awake at night? Once you find out, offer help where you think you could add value. Verbally remind your boss of things he or she needs to do. Be careful here as you could come across as overly managing them – ensure you offer to help in a way that gives them a choice as to whether or not they take you up on your offer.
5. BRING THEM SOLUTIONS NOT PROBLEMS
Ideally you should have explored every opportunity to solve a problem before bringing it to your boss’s attention. However, don’t delay if it’s urgent. The last thing any boss wants is to be unprepared, as it makes them look like they are not communicating with their team. When you bring a problem to their attention, explain the avenues you have explored and, moreover, what you believe needs to be done to solve the problem. Don’t just turn up and tell them something is broken.
Vanessa Vallely is founder of WeAreTheCity.com, the little black book for the female workforce in London, and has more than 20 years’ experience in financial services. Her autobiography, Heels of Steel, will be published in September, unveiling the hard truths and dispelling the frustrating myths of what it’s really like climbing your way up the corporate ladder in a male-dominated industry.