Office Dynamics founder and President Joan Burge has been coaching administrative assistants for more than 25 years. Over time, she realized she was teaching the same things over and over, which gave her the idea to develop an operational guide to help executives and their assistants work together more effectively. This year, she partnered with career coach, writer and speaker Chrissy Scivicque to write Executives and Assistants, Working in Partnership: The Definitive Guide to Success.
Burge says the book addresses a number of interactive topics that executives and their assistants can discuss together and use as a day-to-day reference to tackle the challenges they face, including:
• Communication. Admins’ biggest complaint is always that executives don’t communicate enough. But it’s important to make sure you’re asking the right questions to get the information you need. “You have to let your executive know that you need more information,” Burge says. “Be engaged—ask the next question, think of the next step. Being an effective admin professional means thinking like the executive.”
• Lack of direction. Assistants often feel like they’re not getting clear instructions for projects. Executives may share information, but fail to provide context about details or specifics, Burge says. Don’t passively wait for them to deliver this information—ask for what you need.
• Lack of strategic insight. Executives don’t always provide the “why” behind tasks or projects, Burge says. But when you understand their motivations, you can be more proactive.
• Lack of time. Everyone is moving so quickly and is so busy, it can be difficult for executives and their assistants to meet regularly. Still, doing so is essential to an effective working relationship. Carve out time to check in regularly.
• Lack of professional development. Assistants need to learn to put themselves first, Burge says. Seek out professional development opportunities and take advantage of them.
Younger admins who aren’t yet working at the executive level need to focus on opportunities to take on more responsibility. Be professional in your appearance, language and writing, Burge says. “Be innovative and creative, and make sure execs and managers see that.”
Networking is also key. Set up lunch meetings with senior-level assistants and ask about their experiences. Being a successful admin comes from excellence over time, Burge says. “It’s not doing one big thing—it’s doing 100 things well.”