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Brimming over with meetings? Rank ’em

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Trudy Vitti, executive assistant to the worldwide CEO of ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, works for an exec who must be one of the busiest on the planet. “He runs all our Saatchi offices around the world,” she says. “So that keeps him on the road, on a plane, all the time.”

A particular challenge for Vitti is scheduling meetings for her boss, Kevin Roberts. “That’s my biggest nightmare. It’s always, can I get him from one side of the world to the other? And can I find room in his schedule?” she explains.

Making things even more vexing was Roberts’ habit of telling others, “Call Trudy and have her set up a meeting time.” But when Vitti set up the meeting, her boss would ask her, “Why am I meeting with this guy? It wasn’t that important.”

“I told him, ‘I need to know that. I need to know whether you’re saying something to be polite to the other person. I need to know how important it is to you that I set up a meeting.’”

Her solution to this communication challenge: Vitti devised a rating system, which ranks meeting requests on a scale of 1 to 4. A rating of “4” means that Vitti should set up the meeting if her boss happens to have a morning free. A rating of “1” means, do whatever you have to do to find a date: Cancel something else, if you have to.

The tactic has made it easier for Vitti to understand her boss and manage his brimming-over schedule. “Now it’s working really well,” she says, “and he’s loving it.”

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