Maximize Your Assistant: Why Being Self-Aware is key to office productivity

Note: This is part 1 of a 5 part series on how to get the most out of your assistant.

If we could describe the perfect leader or executive, we’d likely use words like confident, driven, charismatic, honest, and loyal. All of these traits are admirable, and there are many more, but there is one trait that is often undervalued, and that trait is the ability to be self-aware.

Self-awareness definitely isn’t the first characteristic you thought of, probably not even the last, but this simple trait is so valuable for you, your assistant, and your business. Being self-aware will make you more productive because when you know what makes you tick, you can respond to any situation more effectively. That’s why in this blog post, we are discussing why being more self-aware will help you and your assistant be more productive.

What is self-awareness?

One thing about being human is that we are always concerned about how others perceive us. There is this unspoken list of characteristics that defines who makes a good leader, and since we are familiar with that list, we try our best to present those traits to the people around us. And sometimes, we even convince ourselves of the story we tell others.

Being self-aware is the ability to be honest with yourself. It is taking a long look inside yourself and being able to monitor your behaviors, habits, thoughts, emotions, and reactions. It’s knowing that even though you present yourself as someone punctual, you require a detailed calendar, alarm reminders, and sometimes a phone call to ensure you make it to your meeting on time. Simply put, it’s knowing your strengths and weakness and focusing on the reality of your behavior and not the story you tell others.

Why is self-awareness for a leader important?

A day in the life of an executive is ever-changing. There are new projects, meetings, and issues popping up on a regular basis, and you will be pulled a number of directions on any given day. If you aren’t someone that is self-aware, being pulled in so many directions can be confusing or even difficult. Why is that? Well, we all have strengths, and we all have weaknesses.

When you truly know yourself, you can hire employees that bring balance to your weaknesses. For example, if you are really disorganized and forgetful, you should hire an executive assistant that can help you stay organized and create organizational systems that are easy to upkeep. You will also have a better understanding of what you need to manage your stress levels and still be productive. Once you have that power, you can share them with your assistant and find the balance you have been seeking.

How to be more self-aware in the workplace

It isn’t easy to become more self-aware. It will take a lot of work and patience to truly understand how you operate and the kind of support you need. But once you know what you truly need from your assistant, you will become much more productive with your days. While there are a number of ways an executive can become more self-aware, we wanted to share a few ways that will be most beneficial for your relationship with your assistant:

  • Determine your strengths: Knowing your strengths can be very powerful. According to CliftonStrengths, people who know their strengths are more engaged at work, more productive, happier, and healthier. We highly encourage everyone to take the StrengthsFinders test to learn about their strengths. Once you’ve found out your strengths, share and discuss them with your assistant.
  • Compliment your weaknesses: We all hope to strengthen our weaknesses, but they are shortfalls for a reason. Instead of wasting time trying to improve on all of your weaknesses, lean into your strengths and hire an assistant that will provide you balance. Hire for what you need, not a basic set of skills.
  • Ask for feedback: Knowing yourself can’t be complete without knowing how others perceive you. Although it may feel scary at first, asking a trusted colleague, like your assistant, how you react in various scenarios can bring you more enlightenment and teach you something about yourself that you didn’t know. Start by asking your assistant, “how am I doing?”
  • Set boundaries: We all have limitations, and it’s crucial to develop strong boundaries around them. If you haven’t determined yours, take time to reflect on them and then communicate them with your assistant. But also know that to really maximize your relationship with your assistant, you have to let them go beyond the boundaries you set for others.
  • Be open-minded: When you really start maximizing your assistant, you will be faced with new ideas, challenges, solutions, feedback, and more. It’s important to be open-minded about it. To have a successful relationship with your assistant, you have to be curious about what they have to offer and try something new.

How self-awareness helps your assistant

While being more self-aware has a lot of benefits for you, it is also beneficial for your executive assistant. You might be asking yourself how that is possible. When executives are more self-aware, their assistant will be able to:

  • Provide the best support: Your assistant can’t provide you with the support you need without knowing what you need. Over time they will learn more about you and be able to determine how to best support you, but in the beginning, it isn’t so simple. When working with a new assistant, telling them exactly what you need will start your working relationship on good terms. You won’t feel like they aren’t providing the support you expected, and they won’t feel like they aren’t doing enough. 
  • Anticipate your needs: Imagine starting your day knowing you have an important meeting to prepare for, and you walk into your office to find an agenda, important information, and speaking topics on your desk without even having to ask for it. When your assistant has a better understanding of what you need, they can anticipate your next step and leave you thinking that they somehow read your mind.
  • Keep you on track: Whether you are timely or not, your calendar dictates your day. When you hand your schedule over to your assistant, you likely want it handled a certain way. When you know this about yourself, you can tell your assistant what you need to keep you on schedule, and they can set reminders or do whatever else you need. This will also quickly build trust between you and your assistant.
  • Enforce your boundaries: Sometimes, those boundaries you set aren’t as easy to keep in place. For example, if you tend to be a “yes” person, you might take on too many projects. If you tell your assistant that you are at your max with tasks, they can be your gatekeeper and take that urge to say yes away from you. Talk to your assistant about your boundaries, and most importantly, let them help you stick to them.
  • Innovate: Your assistant may not come up with new product ideas, but they will see ways to improve various aspects of your business. Maybe they will think of a simple way to organize your files or something as complex as a way to enhance the company’s culture. Either way, when you are open to ideas or feedback, they will feel comfortable sharing those ideas with you.

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