Recently, Gina delivered a workshop at the amazing Empower 2020 Summit for Assistants, put on by our friends at Base.
Here is an excerpt from the discussion on what it takes to truly be a high-caliber executive assistant:
I’ve noticed that assistants tend to be people pleasers. Who are my people pleasers? Be proud! You do not want people to be upset or frustrated. That is upsetting and frustrating for you, my people pleasers. And sometimes we pay a little too much attention on making sure somebody’s not going to be upset, which then reduces your power and effectiveness.
A very professional and confident way of avoiding having people get upset is to manage expectations. What do I mean by that? Let me illuminate something about the power of “expectations” in general.
Let’s say it’s midnight and you’re in the mood for a piece a cake from your favorite bakery. Do you get your car and drive to your favorite bakery at midnight and then get upset and frustrated because they’re closed? No. Why? Because you had NO expectation that your favorite bakery would be open at midnight.
So when you have an expectation, of somebody or something, and that expectation goes unmet, you will often find yourself upset, frustrated, or annoyed. This is true for most of humanity. Unmet expectations make us mad, frustrated, and upset.
So, knowing that and being wise about that, you can avoid people getting upset and frustrated by making sure you’re always setting, resetting and level-setting expectations. As you can imagine, this process will also bring your executive certainty. It may not be “good news”, but it will be certainty. Certainty and Facts always prevail over just “good news”.
I can tell you as an executive myself, and a business owner of a rapidly growing company, I would much rather have the truth and the certainty about something (even if I really hate what the truth is) than for somebody give me some half truth, hoping I won’t be as upset. When somebody gives me the straight scoop about something, I can continue to Captain the ship. I will figure out what to do next. That’s how I got where I am in life. That is how I built a very successful company very quickly.
And many times, the straight scoop involves re-setting expectations. “I said those three things would be done by Friday but given that hot item that just came up this morning, those three things will be done next Monday.” No need to even apologize! That is the actual, current, real status of things right this moment. If your boss has an issue with that, they will let you know. They may have no issue with it at all.
The 10 things your boss gave you yesterday and the 10 more the day before, are not all going to get done by tomorrow. You want to be the planner and author of the expectations.
When you reset expectations, it also ensures that I, as the executive, am not going to get blindsided. I’m not going to be surprised that something isn’t done, or isn’t progressing in the way I was expecting. Then if it IS really important to me – that thing you just told me won’t get done until next week – I now have the opportunity to do something about it. I can re-prioritize what is on your plate. I can get you more resources. I can go to work on it myself. I can delegate it to somebody else. I have options and can continue to Captain my ship.
The other great thing that happens when you reset expectations, is that then YOU are not panicking. “Oh my God how am I going to get all this done?” You’re not going to get it all done. You stop, re-plan, and re-set expectations, and then get back to being a Rockstar.
This moves your brain out of “overwhelm mode” and gets you back to being effective, professional, and high-performing. Back in your zone. In your sweet spot.