Recently I attended, by proxy of being an Executive PA, a meeting hosted by a group of managers, whose initial aim it was to get an idea of what I perceived the realistic role of the PA should be. You see, the reason for this meeting was because their own PA’s were not performing up to their

expectations.

These were a few negative perceptions that arose from this meeting, and I thought I would like to share them, not to discourage, but to give assistants the opportunity to re-evaluate our personal intent. She isn’t at her desk. The managers’ perception is that she is off to chat to other colleagues, visiting the canteen, on “another” smoke break, or has snuck off to the mall. Firstly, you should always, always let your manager know where you are off to, whether they are in the office or not! They need to know that you have to fetch documents for them from another office, or that you are taking their dry cleaning down, or that you are off to the restroom, or off to fetch forex, or going to the bank, or wherever. If your manager is not in the office, even more reason you need to be there; you are their back up system, the go to person and the in-office contact. Make yourself available all the time, during working hours. Email them if you do need to leave the building, when they are not in. The perception you create here, is that you are a run-a-round, and that you are not actually working! If we are meant to be managing our managers, we should be able to manage ourselves, and this includes keeping those communication channels open all the time.

I need someone proactive, I have to keep repeating myself. All managers want a PA that can deliver without them having to micro manage every task! Having a clear view of their diary gives you a head start and can help you prepare for, and anticipate the events of the day, week or month. Being proactive means you need to be ahead of your game and anticipate outcomes, events or requirements before your manager asks you about them. Being organized and prepared is key. An example one manager gave, was that he hosted a meeting with some of his staff. When he got to the meeting room he found they didn’t have facilities to do their presentation.

She consistently makes mistakes! Most of the time, there are various reasons why we make mistakes; we are trying too hard to complete a task as quickly as possible (working under pressure), we have not asked for clarity of the expectation at the commencement of the task, we assume that what we have done is correct, we have not paid attention, and we are human.

Never be intimated by a project or task. Always ask the right questions, reiterate the managers’ request and make sure you have all the boxes crossed (who, what, where, when, why etc.).
Read through your work to ensure you can understand what is being said, don’t do rush jobs – rather go at a slower pace and ensure that you only submit your task once. Repeating work is counterproductive and wastes time, energy and leaves you feeling worthless, and crying in a pool of self-pity.
Always off sick! There are those of us who take sick leave at a whim, a little cough and we are off work, a runny nose, and we have bronchitis, a headache, and we are dead in the water…….
One manager actually had a staff member visit his PA’s home to see if she really was ill. It turned out she wasn’t even at home! This behavior is not conducive to a healthy working relationship with your manager. If you have flu, take medication and get yourself better! If you don’t feel well, but are well enough to drive to work, you are well enough to be there. If you want to work for an executive, you need to have the mindset of one! Success is not for sissies.

Matters of confidentiality. Funny how us PA’s all believe we should be able to share everything we know amongst each other, that we are a sisterhood, a secret group of mystical beings, looking out for each other no matter what, but fail to accept the accountability of our actions when confronted with the reality. One particular manager had a huge issue with the fact that his assistant was sharing information of a confidential nature, to both her peers and his.

This placed him in very bad situation, which made it difficult for him to manage, and it undermined his authority. Of course, this manager, in his own mind, has now placed ALL assistants into the same mold, which may seem unfair. His reasoning being, is that they all engaged in the conversation, with not one of them standing up to nipping it in the bud. If you are participating in a conversation of such a nature, you need to cut the conversation short and not allow yourself to be party to it – End of story!

But remember that your behavior is consistently being evaluated by your managers. No matter how much we want to believe that we are great and trying to do the right things all the time, it takes just one of us to stuff it up, and we all get branded together. Manager’s then don’t say “my PA behaved like this or that”, but rather will say these PA’s ……

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