becoming a superstar assistant
By tim brown in Great Work
Batman and Robin. Mario and Luigi. Lennon and McCartney. Pretty iconic duos, right? Whether you’re on a mission to rescue a city under attack by snarky villains, write a #1 hit song or tackle a work week full force, every supervisor relies on the skills of an assistant, making a professional duo destined for great things.
If you’re the average supervisor-assistant duo, you probably aren’t collectively determined to save Princess Peach from her spiky antagonist, Bowser. Rather, you’re an executive relying on your assistant to help make your day-to-day more organized and efficient. A few tips on becoming a fabulous assistant.
- Be proactive
It is safe to say that the department supervisor or company executive is very busy…aren’t we all? At times, though she may not be on a rescue mission, she is looking for her next opportunity while prioritizing the company’s various needs. In running a team, department or company, there are plenty of moving parts—no one person can do it all. Don’t forget, we are talking about humans here not superheroes.
This is your chance. The very nature of companies provide a myriad of responsibilities to spearhead…from business development to finance, from long-term strategy to legal matters and even company culture development. In short, your boss may be too busy to even seek out help.
However, simply asking what you can do to lessen her workload goes a long way. Be observant and provide specific options as to where you can be of assistance (rather than blindly asking, which shows you’re helpful but not really paying attention). Curiosity may have killed the cat, but proactiveness can award the cat lasagna in the long run (I hope we have some cat people in the audience).
- Follow up
Let’s face it. We’re busy. We’re all busy. That’s the beauty of the professional world, a fast-paced realm where supply meets demand. Remember my earlier note that we can’t do it all? Still relevant. But don’t let that handicap you from effectively getting it all done. Hence, the importance of following up.
Whether you’ve been tasked with quoting a vendor, managing a creative project or writing an analysis, it is important to closely manage your hourly/daily/weekly to-do list and follow through on the pressing tasks in priority.
For example, just because you finished a report and marked ‘send’ on your email, that doesn’t mean the task should be marked ‘complete.’ Instead, mark it ‘in progress’ so you follow up with your supervisor after you have emailed it to him for release. It is crucial to remember you are working as a team. Missing a media deadline because your boss may have forgotten to send out the report will equally fall on your shoulders and result in dwindled confidence. You are a duo, remember?
The more you can remind your boss of pressing tasks, deadlines and anything else that will fall in the pipeline, the more seamlessly—and successfully—you two will work together. Set calendar reminders for yourself to follow up with your supervisor in a timely manner.
Suppose your supervisor emails you with a new task, specifications and her gratitude for your expected assistance. Dot dot dot, a week later and…nothing…you give no response, no update. Perhaps you forgot. (Did you?) It can be quite frustrating to assign someone a project and receive no update in return, from my personal experience.
With so many moving parts on every executive’s plate, being updated along the way goes a long way. Providing your supervisor with status updates (or multiple ones) helps her to know a task can be managed without a microscope. Because micromanaging isn’t fun for anyone, it brings the added curse of fostering an instant lack of trust and wasteful inefficiencies.
Conversely, replying to emails noting you have received the new request, while adding initial questions for clarity (if needed), indicates your boss’ request is acknowledged and will be resolved effectively.
Again, you are working as a team, where collaboration is the secret sauce and successfully completing tasks makes the taste exquisite.