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Your assistant is an extension of yourself. Your success is their success, and equally, their success is your success. When one of you is off, the other one is left picking up the pieces. You greatly depend on each other to hit targeted work goals and achieve the shared outcomes that you want.
Regular maintenance on three key pieces of this relationship can create important opportunities for leadership growth and increase your team’s productivity.
Increase The Sense Of Loyalty
An assistant who feels loyal to their executive will demonstrate an “I can do anything” attitude. Whatever you send their way, they will be eager to take it on and show you what they can do. They will be more creative in their problem solving and need less direction, allowing you to pay your focus where it is needed elsewhere.
Conversely, an assistant who feels disloyal or out of sync with their executive will require more motivation and micromanagement to produce items on time. They will report more "problems" and ultimately try to hand unwanted tasks back to you.
Here are a few ways to increase this sense of loyalty:
1. Show them that you have a genuine interest in both hearing and helping them reach their own career goals. Spend at least 10 minutes a day focusing your attention on their life (do not be on the phone while doing this). They spend 480 on yours — at least! Ask questions to understand what they want out of their work life. Perhaps it's access to professional training, flexibility in their schedule, mentorship or to start specializing in a certain kind of task. By providing as many of these opportunities as you can, you are building trust and delivering the important message that the support they provide you is not a one-way street.
2. Provide specific, positive feedback daily. You may think that they know how you perceive their work, but chances are, they don't. Verbalize what is working for you so that they can understand and continue in that direction. Everyone has a need to be seen in their efforts, and often, in this type of relationship, you are the only one who sees their work closely. They rely on you to provide the feel-good feedback that keeps them engaged.
3. Approach criticism with curiosity. Instead of assuming that they have “done it wrong” when you see something that doesn’t match your standard, instead, inquire with questions like, “What is the status of this?" "How long is this task going to take?" "Do you need anything from me to get this done?” Attacks break trust and ruin loyalty. Inquiries build.
Increase Opportunities For Upward Feedback
Your assistant is an objective observer of your entire work life. They have insights into your patterns, your weaknesses, and your strengths, and you can bet they have an opinion on how things could be done better. Make opportunities for them to share feedback either daily or weekly. Let it go longer than that and you will be missing out on valuable and specific information that you can use to grow. If you are not already in this practice, it might take time to establish that this is a safe place for them to share. Over time, they will be able to see your genuine interest in growth and be on the lookout for obstacles that you could be getting through more easily.
When handing over a task, delineate which parts need to be submitted to you for review and which parts your assistant has full creative control over. It's important to be clear and not to critique the areas where you have given them control. By encouraging them to stretch their creative muscles, you are developing a more effective, self-directed team member who will grow into taking more and more tasks off your plate.
Your job satisfaction is intrinsically linked to that of your assistant's. Value that relationship by incorporating these short, relationship-building practices into your day and you will find yourself with a more loyal, capable assistant who is willing and wanting to do the work for the long term.