Time spent with an Assistant is the best use of an executive’s time, argues Rachael Bonetti

We’ve all been there. Scanning the calendar looking for free time. Hunting for that one commitment we can move or cancel to make way for an emerging priority. The only gap where it feels feasible: the regular one to one with your executive.

For the greater good, you sacrifice your catch-up.

Sometimes it genuinely is unavoidable, but it’s a bad habit to fall into. It’s the fast track to diminishing your impact, influence and effectiveness.

One on one time with an executive is more than a window with a captive audience to get the answers you need to move forward with work. It’s an opportunity to build genuine partnership dynamics, to get out of the transactional and tactical space and into the strategic. 

Time spent with an Assistant is the best use of an executive’s time. It is an investment in the health of the organisation and its people. It helps to create more free time through thoughtful planning and elevated prioritizing, and that’s what gets everyone out of the reactivity cycle. 

5 Tips to Elevate Your 1:1

These quick tips will help you elevate your catch-ups and help your executive see the value in committing to regular meetings.

1. Strategically plan the order of what you will raise in the catch-up

Leave the shiny things that will create a loss of focus until last. Start with the burning platforms and work through.

2. Take the long view into every single meeting

Looking at 4 to 6 weeks out, highlighting peak pressure periods and looming deliverables helps with the thoughtful planning that creates a no-surprises culture. This is the number one way Assistants can help executives and teams get out of the reactivity cycle.

3. Think about the quality of the items you’re taking into the catch-ups

Are enough items linked to strategic priorities and objectives, the work that will truly shift the dial?

4. Have your clever questions ready

This is the time to get inside their head and understand how and where you can lean in further to create impact. 

  • What’s keeping them awake?
  • What are their biggest concerns?
  • What problems can you solve?
  • Where is there pain in your business unit and how can you be part of the solution?
  • What do you need to know that’s outside email visibility to help you support them in an elevated way?

5. Be confident and empowered in your catch-ups

Do not be apologetic for taking up space. Remember, your executive can’t do what they do well without your support. Own your authority; show up well-prepared and like you belong there. Take care with the language you use and ensure it isn’t subtly undermining your worth and work. Phrases like “sorry to bother you” do just that.

To establish or refresh regular catch-ups, agree the time of day that works best. Is it a first thing in the morning touchpoint, or end of day? It must be consistent and habitual.

Ensure you highlight the value of this time spent together. To arrive at clarity, consider the following:

  • What will the impact be for you, your executive, the business unit and the organisation?
  • How will this time spent thoughtfully planning help to ease friction in the organisation and manage peak pressure periods? 
  • How will you be able to better serve stakeholders when you are working in alignment?
  • Where are pain points currently being created through not protecting and prioritising time together?

While a new year is a great time to re-calibrate ways of working and best practices, every day is a good time to reset expectations. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t take off immediately; view it as re-training your executive, be consistent and it will eventually stick.

Rachael Bonetti is a corporate trainer, writer, podcast host, speaker and former Senior Executive Assistant to thought leaders, change-makers and high-profile executives. Her experience spans several countries, industries and public and private companies ... (Read More)

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