A crash course on working with an assistant

Great news! You have a new assistant. Oh no — now what do you do? Workplace expert and assistant trainer Bonnie Low-Kramen says two of the most common complaints from her students are: My manager has not a clue what to do with me and I could be doing so much more if they would just let me. Now it’s not really a surprise that as a manager, you don’t know exactly how to utilize your assistant. After all, they don’t have classes in college called How to Manage Your Staff. In lieu of that class, here are Bonnie’s top five tips for getting the most out of an assistant:


#1: Let go. Since we all only get 24 hours in the day, our challenge is to utilize our time in the most effective, profitable and satisfying ways we can. That means letting go of being a control fiend, and embracing the concept of delegation. The payoff for doing that is called freedom.

#2: Make a list. Make a list of the things that only you can do in your day. Make a second list of the tasks that can be delegated even partially to your assistant. These tasks include answering your phone, scheduling and typing your correspondence, which are tasks that your assistant happens to be great at.

#3. Collaborate. From these two lists, have your assistant draft your job description, which you will review together on a regular basis, checking for realistic accuracy. Consider it a living, breathing document.

#4. Don’t micromanage. Being a micromanager is not an effective use of your time, especially since you hired a talented, experienced assistant. It’s hard to let go of control, so ask your assistant for suggestions as to how you can stay in the loop without actually doing the work yourself.

#5. Communicate. Have regular meetings to review the ever-changing list of priorities. Invite your assistant to share her ideas, questions and concerns. Tell her, in no uncertain terms, that you want to know what she thinks. Your assistant specializes in organization, attention to detail and research. Allow her to do the things that she’s great at. That will enable you to not only spend time doing the things that only you can do, but you will get more done than you’ve ever imagined, and you will have more free time. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Your assistant can be your most powerful secret weapon. Here’s the secret part: If you communicate, delegate, appreciate and then communicate some more, you’ll watch your work life transform.