Vickie Sokol Evans interviews Executive Productivity Consultant, Jennifer Wilmoth

Vickie: Many assistants feel like they don’t have any power to control what comes at them – that they are in a reactive mode simply trying to keep up.

Jennifer: I suspect that you have heard and likely experienced, the only thing you can control in your world is you. What you say, what you do, how you behave, the words you use and the attitude you exude, are all choices that you make. In some situations, other people will contribute to your experience and, in the end, you are in control of how you show up. For many of us, this is good news and bad news. The bad news? We cannot blame others (though I’ve certainly tried!) for the less desirable behaviors we demonstrate. The good news? You can change what you can control! That’s personal power.

If the only thing you can control is you, this implies that your friends, family, peers, clients, politicians, pets and even the weather during your vacation are all out of your control. I suspect however, although you know these things & situations are out of your control, you’ve spent (wasted!) energy trying! And what did you experience when you tried to control someone or something? Perhaps you can relate to what our clients have shared: irritation, frustration, annoyance and stress. And based on personal experience, that happens not only for the person trying to control, but also for the person you’re trying to control.  Clearly this approach is not likely to foster healthy relationships much less an environment for change.

Vickie: Does that mean that what we can control, and therefore have the power to change, is restricted to all or nothing?

Jennifer: Not exactly – as we all have the ability to influence.  To totally over-simplify, I suggest that influencing others is a simple 2-step process: 1) make suggestions & recommendations. 2) Let go of the expectation that person will do what you suggested or recommended. Being influential does not guarantee a change will occur, but many people have shared that it does create a sense of personal power.

Within this context of control, influence and letting go, let’s apply it to fostering a powerful partnership with your manager.

Vickie: What can assistants control to foster a powerful partnership with their manager?

Jennifer: You could ask about your managers’ objectives, manage their time to their goals, schedule & keep your one-on-one meetings, make recommendations for solutions and be powerful.

Vickie: What is in the manager’s control (and therefore out of the assistant’s control)?

Jennifer: Managers must be willing to:

Share their objectives

Validate what you think you know. The clearer you are about their priorities, the better you can: react to meeting conflicts, know what to say “no” to and ensure you’re getting the right things on their calendar so they achieve their objectives.

Give control of the calendar

Set up the delegate status so they get copies of the appointments and can see what you’re accepting and declining.

Stick to their calendar appointments

Offer to step into the meeting when 5 or 10 minutes remain, encouraging them to wrap up on time and start the next thing on time.

Offer clear feedback

If you aren’t getting feedback, ask for it. It’s easy to assume that “no news is good news”, however small changes can have a big impact – so solicit the feedback.

Every manager is going to have their own styles and preferences.  Empowered with the awareness of what you can control, what to let go of and where to wield your sword of influence, you and your manager can create and foster a powerful partnership where you are managing them and they are achieving their goals!

Vickie: Amazing stuff, Jennifer. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise.

Literally making the audiences’ jaws drop, Vickie Sokol Evans, author of the bestselling “100 Tips” series for both PC & Mac, teaches the world’s smartest people how to use their technology better. She's witty, sharp, pointed and knows more about how ... (Read More)

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