To be a successful assistant you have to be willing, able, flexible and proactive. Think ahead and plan, carry out tasks before they are required, anticipate problems and try to solve them. Use quieter periods to pre-empt requests. Be organised and prepared in advance (including updating and organizing paperwork and files). A successful assistant deals with as much as possible to prevent it landing on the boss’s desk, and endeavors to always exceed expectations.
‘Whenever a VIP programme was under way, it was almost a rule
that you expected something unexpected. To avoid problems I
would organise as much as possible in advance and provide for
every possible contingency, by having IT staff on standby and so
on. Then when something unexpected cropped up I could deal
with it calmly and effectively.’
‘Eighty per cent of your boss’s headaches come from 20 per cent
of activities and everything else runs along smoothly, so get rid
of that bottom 20 per cent and you will be perceived as a super
secretary and your boss will be a lot happier. Give solutions not
problems – answers not questions.’
To generalize somewhat, male bosses often prefer to focus on one solution at a time rather than having to choose between a range of options. Female bosses, on the other hand, may prefer to be given several options to choose from, as most females are able to cope with five or six issues at any one time – generally speaking!
Know your capabilities and don’t promise anything you cannot deliver. It is especially important to be proactive when you are working for more than one boss and if you are working to a deadline. You should inform your boss(es), without having to be chased for information, and report back if you think you are not going to make deadlines they give you (but try to get help from colleagues first). Let your bosses know in good time as they may be able to extend the deadline, and being forewarned enables them to do something about a problem. Try to make your boss look good and never show disrespect for him or her in front of anyone. Produce high-quality documents and presentations, and meet deadlines. Make sure you return calls as promised, and remind your boss of what s/he has to do on a timely basis. If you have any problems that need solving, address them. Contribute new ideas and suggestions.
To help you to be prepared you should check the diary for the coming week and month, making sure that you have prepared all the necessary papers for each meeting. You should also prepare maps if required and diarise time for any preparation work, as well as organizing any travel that is required (arranging hotel bookings, visas and foreign currency, making sure passports are up to date and so on). When booking travel, make sure you know any preferences your boss has. You should also note any allergies that your boss may have when booking restaurants and meals in hotels, and know what type of accommodation is preferred.
Being proactive is also about grasping opportunities when they arise, such as volunteering to take responsibility for projects that you realize can save your boss some time as well as giving yourself a challenge and a chance to increase your skill set. You should take ownership of your work and projects and add value to your boss and your company. By assuming more responsibility for tasks, projects and processes, you will become an increasingly valuable asset in the relationship between you and your boss.
‘Read everything that comes across your desk, ask questions, and
keep on learning. Become involved, and be pushy about getting
answers if necessary. Bosses love to tell you about their work
– they are just often too busy or don’t realise the secretary cares
to learn about it.’
Janita C Sullivan
If you want to shine in your role, take a look at the training courses we offer at Bingo Traders. Designed specifically for EAs, PAs, Admins, Office Managers,… , these learning opportunities provide the skills and knowledge you’ll need to excel.
Sue France / Photo on Unsplash