Becoming the Admin They Can’t Live Without (Part 2 of 3)

Oct 7, 2011 | Leadership

Here is part 2 of this 3-part series sharing what executives need and expect from their assistants and the strategies admins can implement to meet those expectations.

Click here for part 1 of this series.
Click here for “What Your Executive Needs From You“.

Train your executive to delegate. You do this by politely pointing things out to your executive when you see them doing them that you know you could just as easily be doing for them. Do this by asking questions or making gentle suggestions:

  • Could I save you some time as you prepare for that meeting by running those reports for you?
  • I really enjoy working on presentations like this, if you’d like me to take a first run at this before the next staff meeting, I’d love to give it a try.
  • Did you know I love working on newsletters?

I often used this same tactic when I saw my executive doing something inefficiently or simply because this was how he’d always done it.

  • As we plan for the next board meeting, would it make you more efficient if I handled [fill in the blank] for you?
  • Have you ever considered grouping your one-on-ones together in the same morning or afternoon so you can block your time more efficiently. I’d be happy to help coordinate that for you.

I always appreciate it when my team questions me on things they don’t understand or procedures that don’t make any sense. It’s usually an opportunity to make things run more smoothly. It’s an opportunity for you to help your executive work more efficiently, too.

Pay attention to the key company initiatives your executive is involved in or researching. Make it a point to scan the magazines, trade journals, and daily newspapers that come into your office. When you see information and resources related to the projects they are working on or key industry competitors, flag them before you ever put them in their inbox. This saves your executive time and energy in skimming the publications themselves and shows you are engaged in what’s going on around the office. I used to spend about five to ten minutes a day doing this when I sorted the daily mail or while I ate a quick lunch. It doesn’t have to consume hours of your day, and it’s very educational for you as well!

Share new technology or systems with your executive that you think could make your projects and company run more smoothly. Share it with your IT people, too. Don’t just sit on information you come across or complain because things don’t run well. If you have an issue you’d like to solve, get online and do some proactive research to see what solutions may be available that you haven’t seen yet. Network with other professionals online and see what they are using to solve the same problem. On this same note, you can fast track your executive’s learning curve by sharing what you’ve learned with them and the rest of the team about various software, social media, or technology based tools. One of my own team members just did this for me. She suggested we start doing live stream video as a delivery mechanism for our upcoming programs we are planning. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, so I asked her to explain. After a few minutes of explanation, I knew she was right. And we’ll soon be giving this new technology a try as we deliver training to admins around the globe. All of this was simply because one of my team members was willing to introduce me to new technology and fast track my learning curve. I didn’t have to spend time researching it myself; my team did the work for me, and now all we have to do is implement it.

Be a POWER USER of the software you regularly use. Not everyone has to use the same programs in the same ways on their respective jobs. But know which ones you are expected to know as your primary tools to get your job done and be a POWER USER of each of them. Who do your team members ask questions to first when they get stuck in a program? YOU. Being a power user of the program yourself makes it quick and easy for you to answer their questions, but it also ensures you are efficient and effective at doing your job instead of wasting hours trying to figure the program out or using it inefficiently. Take every training opportunity you can get. (If you need some pointers on how to get your training requests approved, read more here.) For admins, I’d have to especially encourage you to be a power user of your company’s calendar management program. There are few things I’ve seen agitate an executive more quickly than an admin who is sending or updating multiple meeting requests because they don’t know how to use the software efficiently or correctly in the first place. It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back because it’s an irritant that is unnecessary and highly confusing all at the same time. Calendars are sacred because they involve committing people’s time, so not knowing what’s accurate and what isn’t on your own calendar is highly frustrating for your executives and team members. Plus it’s a big waste of their time and energy (and yours!) trying to figure it out.

Be willing to learn new things. Get over the fact that software and technology keeps changing; prepare for it. In this day and age of advancing technologies, you are going to have to embrace the fact that what got you here won’t get you there. You may be able to avoid the company issued smart phone for a while longer, but you should still be learning how smart phone technology works in the meantime. If you’re still using Office 2003, you’d better find some training classes as soon as possible for Office 2010; you’re going to be in for a BIG shock. When it comes to new software or programs, you really want to have made the transition before your executives and teams do because they are going to have questions and they are going to be asking you. Find out if you can join the pilot programs at your company for rolling these new software packages out so you can be ahead of the curve. The same goes for learning how to use social media sites and developing some website development skills. Just because you haven’t been asked to do any web based tasks yet, doesn’t mean you won’t ever be. Even Sharepoint requires some basic web skills, and a lot of companies are using this technology more and more to stay connected and collaborate across offices around the world.

Learn to listen. This may seem obvious, but it’s not as obvious as it should be. It’s important to listen to what they are asking and the instructions they are giving the first time before interrupting or assuming. It’s also important to watch the non verbal cues that accompany their words. Both are involved in how your executive communicates the message. It’s also important to listen to what is happening around you. I have had several executives who thought I knew how to read their minds. I didn’t. I simply listened to what was happening in my office space. As the admin, we are many times placed in close proximity to those we support, so I was typically able to hear my executives when they were on the phone promising to send follow up information or documents that I was responsible for sending. I always made little notes as I overheard these tidbits so I could prompt them later if they didn&r squo;t pass the information along to me (which also frequently happens with busy executives). Often I would catch pieces of conversations that were occurring as team members walked past my desk that gave me clues on how to proactively follow up. Always remember there is a time and a place for everything. It may not always be appropriate to stop someone the moment you hear them say something and ask for more details; follow up discretely later, though, and it will likely be better received. It’s not eaves dropping or sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong if you’re using the information to support the progress and efforts of the team. Always use discretion in how you handle the information you overhear, realize you may not have the full story, and make sure you confirm with the appropriate team members how you should proceed once you do have more information from which to act.

Learn to communicate well both in writing and verbally. If you truly want to support your executive in a meaningful and involved way, you absolutely must be able to communicate well in writing and when you speak. You are a direct representative of your executive and your company every time you send an email and each time you answer the phone. Your boss will be more likely to delegate important responsibilities to you, involve you in higher level projects, and respect your skills and abilities if you can communicate well.

This list of strategies will certainly take you further down the path of becoming the admin your executive can’t imagine his or her corporate life without. In our final segment next week. I’ll take you even deeper and show you how to proactively share your personality preferences with your executive (as well as discover theirs) and show you how deepening your understanding of business operations will make you an indispensable part of your executive’s corporate team.

© 2011 Julie Perrine International, LLC


Want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or website? You can — just as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at

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