The well trained PA can learn to anticipate your every move, and when not doing that, act as a sweeper behind you, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. They can move from taking minutes to making every minute count. It all starts with preparation. Clearly define the job description and reinforce the need for the utmost confidentiality. A personal assistant needs to have a clear definition of the word ‘personal’. What defines personal for you may push the boundaries for the PA, so discuss it in detail in an interview. Look for initiative and someone who can go the extra mile.
Take the time to save time. If you have trained your PA and trust them, they will save you time in screening calls and emails, making appointments, preparing documents before meetings, travel arrangements and research. I leave my office before a business trip with a folder that my PA has prepared. In it, in chronological order, will be details and directions of every leg of my trip, with directions and a contact list of all telephone numbers of clients and companies that I will be interacting with, just in case my mobile telephone and I get separated. Updates eg plane and train delays, road works, appointments being postponed – these are sent to me via text message so that as I get off a plane I have the updated information. I know that the batteries for my laptop remote have been checked and replaced, a two-prong adaptor is packed…the list is endless. What is important is not what is on the list, but the fact that I did not have to make it. But a copy of the list with all items ticked off is included in my travel pack. Meetings are managed in my absence and I think I am managed too! This partnership is built on a triangular base of trust, communication and commitment.
I am often surprised that high-level leaders have not taken adequate time or trouble to train their assistants properly. Many executives do not think that this kind of support will enhance their effectiveness. If they calculate how much time they spend on tasks such as these, they will then realise that it is not only time-effective, but cost-effective too. Having conducted research on a sample group of top-level leaders, it was interesting to note that those who had appointed, trusted and implemented excellent PAs or the equivalent, were less time-stressed and more effective.
Attain, train and maintain:
- Hire the right person, someone you can trust.
- Train them in your personal systems, philosophies, values and your writing style.
- Empower them.
- Endorse them – let staff and customers know that you trust their abilities.
- Let them grow. Many a competent PA has risen through the ranks to management capabilities.