Dalya Bernstein explains the five golden rules of being a “Platinum PA”
I have been fortunate in my role as Executive Assistant, to take up public speaking. Having been invited to many conferences and events to speak to Assistants about my role and pass on helpful hints and tips, in 2015, it was time for my boss and I to collaborate. This allowed me the opportunity to hear first-hand from him, just how important it is to have an Assistant. I for one, found this information invaluable:
The Swan Philosophy
Our roles as Assistants are so incredibly busy. Believe it or not, a good employer knows how chaotic and manic our working lives are, they just need to know that we have it under control. It is important to exude calmness and confidence on the surface, no matter how crazy things may be underneath the water! Our bosses do not want to know every little intricate detail about what is going wrong, just that you have it under control. It is, however, still important not to ignore any major issues. These should of course be flagged up and it is our duty to recognise items to be flagged up versus those we can handle ourselves. So how do we avoid our boss forming the opinion that everything is running so smoothly that we are not busy at all? That we don’t have 1000 things to do, with everything on the task list priority number 1? Communicate your workload to your boss. Your boss will know how busy you are but if you are working to absolute maximum capacity, simply let your boss know. You can explain that you may perhaps need to switch your phone off for an hour whilst you work solidly on a project which has an immediate deadline. Or you may switch off emails so that the emails coming in every second, flashing in front of your eyes on Outlook, do not disturb you and divert your attention away from the important tasks at hand. Proving your worth by performing well, will instil confidence and trust into a good employer, which will prove invaluable when communicating.
The 21st Century Assistant is an extremely versatile position. No longer are we just typing, filing and making tea and coffee. We are pivotal to the success of business and can be pulled from pillar to post assisting with Marketing, HR, Social Media and generally assisting the CEO with making crucial business decisions. Being so versatile in one position stands us in good stead for any movement within the business – businesses may change depending on, for example, government legislation which may perhaps change the business model. The smartest Assistants have the best scalable skills which are transferable from industry to industry. If you know how to transfer them, you will always be of great value to any organisation; the fundamentals are the same. As Assistants, we are lucky to be able to learn a plethora of different skills which are all transferable from one business to the next. It is important not to portray the ethos of ‘that is not what I was hired to do’. Your boss’s life is YOUR business, so embrace any changes or new challenges that come your way. If your job role changes, do ensure you keep your job description up to date and add those new transferrable skills that you have learned. If I think back to when I was originally hired for my current role back in 2010, my job role has changed quite significantly. I am undertaking tasks I never thought I would be as an Assistant and I am extremely grateful for all the new skills this role has led me to become somewhat of an expert at.
The Blame Game
It is easy to blame someone else to increase our own worth, but CEOs always think with the team hat on. It can be so obvious and embarrassing when an individual is trying to inflate their own self-worth. Your boss knows how good you are at your job. So, spend time bringing others contributions to the forefront. Your boss will appreciate your honesty, as you are the information transfer mechanism within the business. Make time to praise efforts of others around you if they have performed well. I personally always ensure I let my boss know when someone has gone over and above the call of duty. Or if, quite frankly, I could not have completed the task without them. Don’t be afraid to flag these things up. We are only human at the end of the day and it is not always possible to do everything alone. It also highlights just how trustworthy you are in the organisation. If something is going wrong and you highlight this, they will know you are doing it for the good of the business and not simply to inflate your own ego. My motto is, give your boss some TLC; be trustworthy, loyal and conscientious.
The personal relationship is critical from both an emotional and technical perspective. Getting to the point where you can literally read each other’s minds and know each other’s thought processes, is the art of being extremely productive during the working day. This can also be the mark of a true genius relationship. To reach this point in your relationship may mean spending more time with your boss. Equilibrium can take some time to build, but a small amount of frustration on the phone or a bad word said, can set your personal relationship back. Suggest that you perhaps attend some external meetings with your boss. Spending more time with your boss will give you the opportunity to see how they work and allow you to get to know their personality. Not only is this beneficial for your relationship but you will also gain an insight into the business, which can then allow you to offer suggestions to make changes or improvements. I appreciate this can be difficult when working for multiple bosses. You need to get to know each boss’s personality individually. So, ask if you can attend as many meetings with them personally as possible by perhaps rotating the time spent each week. You may also have to change your personality to suit each of your bosses, which is an art in itself. Treat this as another scalable and very transferable skill.
Your Character, Presence & Professionalism
Your CEO will play the part in any public or private engagement, so you must look the part and be the part. It is important to always be well presented, make an effort and converse in a professional manner. Humility is also key. So, think about the way you are being perceived, even when you are not at work. Always be mindful of your views and the content of your posts on social media. Try to think of yourself as an extension of your boss or company and its core values, particularly where these are of a sensitive or controversial nature. Content you are posting publically on line, could have a negative effect on them, or the business. You are your own brand and the company brand, so ensure you portray a positive image.
Have ambition! Don’t just be content in your role. Move out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself, it is good for character building. Employers like to see you technically progressing and moving forward. They will view you as an asset and employers invest in assets which increase in value.
Networking with your peers is key. There are so many fantastic Assistant networks in every corner of the globe. Networking is one of the most important steps I took and I have met a significant number of incredible Assistants, all of whom are willing to offer a helping hand when needed.
All of this gives us skills we would never have received had we not moved out of our comfort zone, so be creative and experiment!
‘It is nice to be important, but far more important to be nice’ Sufyan Gulam Ismail. www.sufyanismail.com