My 9.30am yesterday didn’t start till 9.50am. When the MD of the firm I was meeting with arrived, he apologised profusely for keeping me waiting as he walked straight towards his office, signalling for me to follow. His office was full of files – on the floor, chairs, phone – everywhere. He hastily put his jacket and backpack away, pulled folders off a chair so I could sit, found his seat under another pile of documents and we began our meeting. The MD was already frazzled and I was exhausted from the flurry of activity before we even began! I wasn’t surprised when he admitted that he didn’t have an ‘organiser of chaos’.
The value of a great assistant was never more obvious to me at the time. Whilst I wasn’t there to talk about the fact he needed an assistant – I had actually been invited to discuss his global firm’s need for international protocol and cross-cultural training – my former career-EA radar sprung into high alert and I couldn’t help but ask him why he didn’t have one (and boy do I know someone who can help!). A number of different reasons came up but what I was hearing the most was that it came down to a lack of “trust” that led to uneasiness in delegating.
Sometimes, no matter how skilled or experienced an assistant has proven themselves to be, their manager doesn’t quite give them all the access to information that is needed to be efficient and proactive in the role. For those just starting a new role, it can be a frustrating cycle of trying to prove oneself but not quite hitting the mark or expectations because something has been held back. If your manager is not delegating tasks you know you can look after or you are not delegating down the line – there is a lack of trust.
Proving “trustworthiness” almost sounds offensive; especially if you have a stellar employment history. To a seasoned EA it is almost as annoying as having to do a typing test when applying for a new job! But trust is a little different in that, unlike a technical skill, trust is personal. You know how this feels. Some people you feel you can entrust them with anything, others not so much whilst that very same person is thought by others as super trustworthy. Gaining the trust of someone and learning to trust someone are both dependent on credibility. Some will assess credibility on previous history, others by association, ie, what other people have said, and others by their own intuitive process which can start from first impressions – or a mix of both. The best advice I can offer in this regard is to figure out which is the main driver to building that trust in your particular circumstance. Doing what you can to address that missing link will go a long way to building respect, support and loyalty – all characteristics of trust.
Patricia Butera is an ex-C-Suite Executive Assistant with over 20 years of international support experience. She is the also the founding director of 60ZONE Pty Ltd, an organisation specialising in international business protocol and cross-cultural training. www.60zone.com
Sprint is delighted to partner with 60ZONE and encourages you to contact Patricia directly should you have any questions regarding their workshops and growth & development training programs for executive support teams. email@example.com or (02) 9199 4529