Q & A with Jan Jones: Part 3
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.
FlyPrivate: How transparent with your business objectives and personal objectives should you be in order to get the most out of the working relationship? Are there certain things you shouldn’t entrust an EA with and handle yourself instead?
Jan Jones: It depends on the job level. An assistant to a CEO for example, is typically privy to more confidential business and personal information than an assistant to a mid-level manager. Do a thorough job when hiring your assistant so you can feel confident about giving them information. It may take a while for the executive to feel comfortable with full transparency. It will certainly depend on the maturity level of the assistant and whether the assistant shows they can be trusted with information. The greater the transparency the more effective the assistant can be in getting the job done. I have taken phone calls from lawyers, accountants and others who needed urgent responses while my bosses were away. I was able to help them because my bosses kept me fully informed. There was 100% transparency because I proved worthy of it. Use your judgement about what you are sharing, but generally, if you can’t be transparent with your assistant, they should not be working for you. If you have trust issues and are unwilling to take your assistant into your confidence, learn to work through those issues so your assistant can represent you effectively. Many assistants are more trustworthy and capable than they are given credit for.
Speaking about his assistant Debbie Gross in my book “The CEO’s Secret Weapon”, John Chambers, the executive chairman and former CEO of Cisco Systems said “From our first day together I let her know that my office, files and everything in my business life were hers to manage and that I had complete trust in her capabilities”. The Chambers/Gross relationship is the epitome of transparency and teamwork between the executive and assistant. Mr. Chambers interviewed 17 candidates before he selected Debbie. This is the level of diligence that executives need to adopt in finding an assistant they can trust implicitly. For a certain caliber of executive there is no separation between business and personal matters and their assistants know everything.
As far as personal objectives, if they are relevant to the executive getting the job done, the assistant should know about it. If the executive wants to be at their child’s baseball practice, or has promised their spouse they will be home by a certain time, then the assistant should be informed so they can plan the executive’s schedule accordingly. I recall when one of my bosses hired my replacement. His wife had him on a strict weight loss program. One of the first things the new assistant did was to place a bowl of candy on his desk. I swiftly removed the candy and had a chat with her. With the weight loss objective being so paramount, he should have let his new assistant know it was a major priority for him and enlisted her help in staying on track.
In many corporations, assistants are not permitted to do personal work for executives. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. In fact, it is quite widespread and I’ve done it myself. If someone owns the company, there is typically no distinction between personal and business matters. Everything is transparent to the assistant. It’s the only way they can manage the executive’s affairs. One area I suggest you keep separate is your personal emails, especially from friends who don’t use discretion when they circulate jokes or photos, because they don’t realize that your assistant is seeing every message that goes to your business email. If your assistant is joining you on a phone call, let the other parties know your assistant is on the line so they mind what they say. There is such a thing as too much transparency, even for an assistant who has seen and heard it all!
Visit Amazon to purchase Jan Jones’ new book and visit her website: The CEO’s Secret Weapon.
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