Why Leaders Fail with their Assistants

Have you had a hard conversation with your assistant lately?

Leader and Assistant

Being unwilling to engage in conflict with your assistant can ruin your working relationship. Here are four mistakes to avoid with those who assist you:

1. Assuming your assistant can read your mind

I often coach leaders who are frustrated with those who assist them. These leaders are sometimes hoping that their assistants can read their minds. Do you communicate clearly with your assistant on a regular basis? Are your expectations crystal clear? It takes time to work with an assistant. Regular interaction is critical to a healthy work relationship between leader and assistant. Your assistant can’t read your mind. So, make your expectations clear.

2. Being hesitant to ask for help

The reason that you hired an assistant was so that you could get some help. So why are you still doing things that your assistant could do? If you are struggling to figure out what kinds of things to have your assistant do, read this post for some ideas. Assistants play a valuable a role in an organization. Stop doing your assistant’s job and focus on yours. Ask for help.  Communicate what you need to be done. Don’t apologize for this. We know that you are humble and willing to do it all yourself. But doing everything yourself is not the best use of your time or the best use of your organization’s resources.

3.  Giving up on your assistant too early

Are you four weeks into a new assistant and ready to fire him/her? It can take several months to learn to work well with your assistant. The front end of a leader/assistant relationship takes a lot of work. The pay off for this time commitment down the road is well worth the time, however. Having a new assistant won’t solve all of your problems today, but if you do the hard work up front, you will reap the benefits later.  Invest the time to train well and communicate clearly with your assistant. Follow the Leadership Development Cycle. Be patient and allow your assistant to learn how to work well with you.

4. Being unwilling to have hard conversations with your assistant

Conflict avoidance is deadly to healthy working relationships. Engaging in conflict with your assistant is critical to a healthy working relationship. If you are unable to engage in conflict, then you should do something else besides lead. In a new relationship with an assistant, I commit to teaching, correcting, clarifying, and communicating daily. The end-result is an assistant who knows exactly what I am looking for, represents me well, and is highly productive.

How well are you leading those who work under you? What are you learning?  Feel free to leave a comment.

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