Professional PA is Worth His or Her Weight in Gold
Copyright © Alison Gitelson
Used with permission of the author:
Author: Alison Gitelson
06 November 2007
Executive stress and burnout is a serious problem affecting productivity in business. A truly professional personal assistant is part of the defence against burn out.
I am talking about a person who is much more than the answerer of the telephone, gateway to the diary and runner of errands.
A quality executive personal assistant is worth his or her weight in gold.
Recently a client of mine, a senior manager, was going through a rough time personally but still doing an excellent job at work. Keeping up an intensive work level at the office and dealing with equally intense personal issues is extremely stressful. Her truly well skilled PA has been one of the main reasons that she could continue to contribute so effectively at work.
The PA contacted me a few days before our most recent, scheduled, appointment to ask that I met my client off site at a coffee shop conveniently close to my client’s home. This was because she had cleared her manager’s diary for the week so that the manager could take a well needed break at home; a week of personal focus - ‘me’ time’ - to re-energise herself for the demands of her work.
This same PA is known for her awareness and initiative. She prepares documentation or information that may be required before it is requested, identifies problems and suggests solutions and notices who needs some extra ‘one on one’ time with the manager. Sometimes she takes some pressure off the manager by writing rough drafts which the manager can then edit and develop further.
Other attributes of a top class PA include
screening calls and visitors appropriately to ensure the manager has blocks of consolidated time for working through e-mails and phone messages; for meetings; for uninterrupted thinking and for team time
being upbeat and cheerful
reminding the manager of team birthdays and organising small celebrations for all those little achievements and occasions
being well organised and structured
being resourceful - able to find people, information, names and numbers quickly and efficiently
Do you have PA’s who bring all these attributes to their role?
Do you recognise their value and make them feel special?
They are ‘partners’ to their ‘bosses’, using their strengths to give the boss the space and time to use theirs, to the benefit of the business.
If your organisation’s PA’s don’t have these attributes, consider assessing who, with the right coaching and mentoring could become a professional. And then invest in them. It is protection for the investment already made in their manager.
Look for the PA’s who already have the basics under their belt. They are well presented and organised, take accurate messages, answer the phone well, set appointments efficiently and manage their admin duties with ease. They are energetic, self motivated, accept responsibility for their actions and enjoy their jobs.
It is especially important to look for people who already show some awareness, such as anticipating what is coming up next, and display some initiative. Appropriate coaching will then be able to further develop and focus these traits whilst mentoring will ensure that they are focussed into areas that will benefit the Professional PA role.
Traits such as these, often referred to as soft skills, cannot be trained through “courses”. Their development is a process. It requires interaction and time. This can be one-on-one or within small groups. The dynamic of a group is very valuable in fast tracking the process.
The facilitator may begin by exploring what is the manager’s role in the organisation; followed by the role of the PA and the manager together and then what is the bigger vision of the organisation with respect to South Africa and even internationally. This enables the PA to see the purpose and value in their role.
This can be further expanded into looking at the chain of consequences when either the manager or the PA don’t deliver: an exercise which encourages responsibility and dependability.
Further sessions may look at time usage techniques and energy management. This is important to prevent the PA’s burn out as well as that of the boss.
Imaginary scenarios which encourage thinking and awareness are then debated – your boss has an accident on the way to work - what do you do in this situation? You receive some new information – does this warrant interrupting the boss or can you take care of it yourself? Participants should also bring examples from their own experiences and discuss them.
Select good PA’s, invest in three months of weekly coaching sessions with follow up sessions at lengthening intervals and you will soon have your own special group of super PA’s to bring out the best in those well paid senior managers and executives!
Alison Gitelson is a personal and business development tutor and the founder of CanBeeDone, a management consulting, personal and leadership development organisation built upon her 25 years of business practice, continuous study and hands-on learning experience. Alison is passionate about facilitating people to grow in their work and personal environments; managers to develop the intra and interpersonal skills required to develop loyal and effective teams; and business owners to grow sustainable, profitable and efficient businesses. She has been interviewed on Radio Today and appeared on iTV and Shift (SABC 1), is a contributor to Entrepreneur.co.za and a panelist for Business Day: Real Business. Alison is also a member of Women in Finance. She can be contacted at 011 465 9256 and www.canbeedone.co.za
Personal Assistants working as partners with executives are in a position to support executive performance and productivity.
Keywords and relevant phrases
Awareness, burnout, coach, energy management, executive stress, executives, initiative, mentor, organise, performance, personal assistant, productivity, resourceful, responsibility, structure, time management.