When it comes to working with an assistant, it is easy to fall into micro-management mode. Maybe you struggle with trusting your assistant, you have a big deadline coming up, or you’re feeling some other type of anxiety that drives you to constantly ask for status updates. We’re all guilty of doing it from time to time. And while micromanagement may make you feel like you are in control of the situation, it actually does the opposite. When you spend your day concerned about what your assistant is doing, you prevent yourself from tackling your to-do list.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk into your office each morning and know the project got done, or you were able to focus on your tasks instead of making decisions for everything that lands on your desk? It’s time to embrace empowerment, but what is it? Empowering your assistant is about allowing him/her to grow under your guidance, to make his/her own decisions, and to learn lessons and create solutions when mistakes happen. When executives use this philosophy properly, they often see that their assistant becomes more confident and comfortable growing into their role. Empowerment also will help you move past micromanaging and become more trusting. It’s a win/win scenario for productivity and efficiency.
If you’re ready to see your assistant grow into their role and take on more responsibility, follow these tips to start empowering them:
Show Trust in Your Assistant
The best assistants are caretakers at heart, and when you are constantly second-guessing their work, you can easily crush their confidence. The best way to empower your assistant is to show them that you trust them. You can show your trust by sharing project end goals with your assistant and allowing them to create the means to get there. You should also encourage your assistant to make decisions without your guidance. There is a chance that they may not do either of these the exact way you would, but you can feel confident that they will do everything they can to get the end result you requested.
Understand That Mistakes Happen
As you encourage your assistant to make more decisions, you also have to understand that mistakes will happen. It doesn’t matter how big or small the mistake is; how you react to the mistake will determine if you are empowering or sabotaging their growth. For your assistant to feel more confident with decision-making, you have to allow room for them to make mistakes safely. Here’s how:
- Tell them from the beginning that is important that they anticipate your needs and that may require them to make executive decisions.
- Communicate how you want to be told when mistakes happen. Your assistant should know if you want to know about mistakes immediately, during a low-activity time during the day, during your daily meeting, etc.
- Share how you typically react to mistakes. When your assistant knows how you react to telling you a mistake, they will feel more comfortable bringing the problems to your attention.
- Reassure your assistant that mistakes happen and that if they bring them to you, that you will always hear them out.
- Encourage them to bring solutions to the problems that were created. They can’t always prevent mistakes, but you will boost problem-solving skills when you request solutions.
- Try to use gentle correction as necessary, but continue to encourage them to make executive decisions.
Have Regular Reviews
Having regular uninterrupted time with your assistant is important for their growth. Use this time to not only provide important feedback but also to learn more about them. Find out how they see their role in the company and how they would like to see it grow. It is also a good time to do an assistant wellness check. There are times assistants can feel like they are isolated or not apart of the team because they spend their time supporting you. Checking in with them will make them feel supported.
Everyone loves to feel like they are appreciated, but sometimes we get so busy we forget that even our assistant wants to know that they are doing the best they can do for you. In fact, showing appreciation does more than make someone feel valued; it also encourages your assistant to do it again (and even better this time).
While you shouldn’t be stingy with the thank yous, there will be times throughout the year you may want to do more than just say thank you. For these times, it may sound weird, but find out what your assistant’s Love Language is. We encourage you to find this out because you will know how you should appreciate them. For example, if your assistant’s Love Language is words of affirmation and you just provide them with a monetary bonus and never tell them how much you value them, they aren’t going to feel appreciated.
Create a Company Culture Connection
Since assistants can sometimes feel like they are not apart of the team, it is important to make them an active participant in the company’s culture. In addition to their responsibilities to you, allow your assistant to take ownership of an event or task that connects them to the team. It doesn’t have to a big task either; something as simple as being in charge of employee birthday celebrations can be enough. During one of your meetings, ask them if there is an event or task they would like to take over.
Provide Paths to Growth
It should really be no surprise that when your assistant learns a new skill, it will benefit you and the company as a whole. Once you know where your assistant would like to see their role grow into, you should start encouraging that goal. Consider sending your assistant to role-specific classes or other programs that teach them new skills.
Challenge Your Assistant
Just like you should provide ways for your assistants to learn new skills, it is also important to challenge them. You hired your assistant for a specific role, but always staying within those boundaries can get monotonous. Beat the boredom blues by giving your assistant new projects that are in the same ballpark as their current roles, but takes it a step further. For example, you might not be able to attend your weekly staff meeting due to a conference, but that meeting must go on. Since your assistant makes your agenda for this meeting, consider having them lead it when you are away.
You are going to develop a close relationship with your assistant that allows them to come to you with any problems or ideas they may have, but if you don’t actually listen to them, they will eventually stop talking about it at all. When your assistant is talking to you, listen to them. If they come to you with an idea, encourage them to work through it. If there is a problem, ask them for solutions. When you listen and create that dialogue, you are affirming your commitment to communication.