Q & A with Jan Jones: Part 10 “Collaboration”
Jan Jones is the author of “The CEO’s Secret Weapon How Great Leaders and Their Assistants Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness”. The book debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in the Office Management Category. It has received widespread acclaim from executives and executive assistants worldwide. Jan spent 20 years as an esteemed international executive assistant to well-known business people, including personal development icon and author Tony Robbins. Jan is passionate about the executive assistant role and continues to champion the profession through speaking, mentoring and offering timeless, practical advice that is relevant to the day-to-day role of the executive assistant.
Want more from Jan Jones? Check out her Q & A Series: Part 1–Part 9!
FlyPrivate: To what extent does it make sense to collaborate with other executive assistants to meet common company-wide goals?
Jan Jones: Assistants collaborating with each other makes complete sense! Communication and cooperation are essential attributes of an effective executive assistant. It cannot be otherwise because the role of the executive assistant includes being a facilitator and a communication channel for their executive and their organization. Assistants play a vital role in reminding the organization they must do what’s in the best interest of the entire company, not just a particular department or division.
We know that fully engaged employees have higher productivity levels, resulting in reduced absenteeism and higher profitability. Collaborative assistants can have an impact in this regard. It could be as simple as engaging in regular conversations with assistants in other departments. Talk about how your division is functioning. What strategies are you implementing? What challenges are you experiencing? What projects are getting bogged down? Who are some of the star performers on the team? Who needs coaching? Research shows that most managers don’t engage in strategy discussions with their colleagues in other departments. An assistant who engages with fellow assistants can serve to close that information gap. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be about work. Take time to get to know each other on a personal level. Being part of an organization means you have common goals. Collaborating to achieve those goals is smart business. As Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
We’ve all seen examples of assistants playing a role in bringing groups together. They work across boundaries and promote cross-department collaboration. They don’t buy into petty jealousies and suspicions. As a conduit to top management, they can help far-flung departments and locations feel less isolated. As a repository of information many others don’t have, the EA is able to judiciously offer guidance and input to other departments.
Sometimes assistants tell me that sharing information isn’t always welcomed. People feel threatened, or disloyal to their team if they share what’s going on. In these circumstances, trust needs to be built. If you use the information they share to get results for them, or improve their circumstances, they will certainly start to trust you and work with you. Without betraying confidentiality, I’m always willing to share information that is needed to get the job done, or, indeed, to make life easier for others. If you know a way to make a situation better, then do so. You’ll enjoy the wellbeing you feel from it.
I’m reminded of an assistant who told me about starting a job at a technology giant. The culture of the organization encouraged people to be fiercely competitive, always vying to get ahead at someone else’s expense. She said no assistant would help her for fear that she would look better than they did, or get ahead faster than they did. You were on your own. I can’t imagine working in such a brutal environment where everyone is out for themselves. The company’s objectives are subverted by employees protecting their turf. Imagine what a breath of fresh air a capable, confident assistant who is not threatened by others and wants to cooperate would be to an organization like that? It would cause a huge paradigm shift. It might feel like a herculean task, but such an assistant would catapult themselves into a higher level position the minute the company starts to feel the effects of this assistant’s outreach. Believe me. I’ve done it. It takes megatons of passion and energy and not everyone is up for it, but if you are, don’t hesitate. The rewards are immense and you’ll grow in stature and ability.
I saw an article by EA trainer, Adam Fidler, which referenced assistants befriending each other. Adam said, “Share your knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm far and wide. The more you give out the more you get back. Share all your best tips and experience with another EA. Being secretive and defensive creates the wrong energy and if you take the time to share information, and work as a team spirited EA, you’ll command respect and be seen as a true professional.”
The nature of the EA role is to act as a hub. This means assistants are poised to share information, facilitate decision-making and help avoid bottlenecks, whether it is inter-department, or company-wide. Helping someone in another department gets the job done faster. It facilitates transparency, gives you insight into how they function and where inefficiencies may lie that you can help overcome. When executives see you working with their assistant, or if they know they can finally get a long-awaited answer simply by their assistant picking up the phone to you, they’ll notice. Make no mistake about it. They’ll be talking about you in the boardroom as someone who makes things happen. This is how, step-by-step, you get your seat at that proverbial table that many assistants lust after.
One thing that may affect assistants being able to perform this function of facilitator is the number of assistants who say they don’t read their executives’ emails, and who meet with their executives once a week or less. If you are working like this, you are subject to only knowing what the executive shares with you, or picking up information indirectly. If you are to serve as a conduit throughout the organization, you must be on top of what’s going on, otherwise you will not be as effective in that role. Another factor is assistants who are so widely focused on interacting with the organization at large that they forget who they are in place to support. Don’t neglect your responsibilities to your primary team members in your quest to be a company-wide ally. Your immediate team must remain your first priority. Keep them supported, assured and strengthened in the knowledge that you are firmly invested in the partnership. With this assurance, they will support and encourage your efforts to be a company-wide resource.
©Copyright Jan Jones, 2015 “The CEO’s Secret Weapon”
Visit Amazon to purchase Jan Jones’ new book and visit her website: The CEO’s Secret Weapon.
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