In my career I have been the assistant and the person that requires the assistance. I will go on the record as saying that these superstar guys (yup, leave your gender biases at the door) and gals are the backbone of most organisations. So many times I hear, “I’m just an assistant”. Well there is no ‘just’ about it! You my friend are the person that keeps the cogs turning and your management looking super snazzy. Being an assistant, secretary, PA, EA or whatever other spiffy title you want to slap on it is as important to an organisation as any of its other employees and here is why!
The definition and the dark ages – step into the light of the 21st century
A secretary, according to Google (because who owns a hard copy dictionary these days, am I right?) is defined as a person employed by an individual or in an office to assist with correspondence, keep records, make appointments, and carry out similar tasks. ‘HAAAA!’ I can hear the eruption of laughter from anyone who is or has been employed as an assistant. The role of secretary or more commonly known now as an assistant has evolved greatly from this definition clearly written in the dark ages.
Gone are the days of diary management and typing correspondence on a typewriter. How nice it would be just being the pretty young thing employed to make coffee and greet incoming guests. An assistant in the 21st century is expected to juggle calendars on multiple platforms, field correspondence from no less than 3 social media entities, as well as traditional email and snail mail, answer calls from landlines (yes, they still do exist), mobile phones and virtual calls, on top of being the person who knows exactly what to do or who to call should you destroy anything IT related. Among other various tasks in their constantly evolving job description. Must I say it again? SUPERSTARS!
Update the culture
Is it any wonder that there are now extensive studies into what occupations have the highest rates of depression and that being an administrative staffer is topping these lists? This brings me back to my earlier comment of hearing, “I’m just an assistant”. Lack of appreciation and feeling overwhelmed in an environment where a person has little control over what their skills are used for is cited as being a trigger for depression. With the emerging entrepreneurial culture and creatively structured start ups we have a chance to alter this cycle and create a new culture. It’s already happening, assistants are being groomed to be future management because they have a grassroots relationship with the business.
Recognise the potential
An assistant is an instrument to be used for good, not evil. Start by commending them on a job well done and saving your arse for the 73rd time this week (due to your significant others social media hiatus, Facebook didn’t alert you that it was their birthday… phew that could have been disastrous).Get to thinking as to how you can give them a voice within the organisation. Include your assistant in brainstorming sessions with your team. After all an assistant is the one most likely to interact with all facets of your business (duh!). Who better than an assistant to identify where systems and processes are failing? Or, where you could implement process automation so that your staff can be doing something more productive, like attracting revenue? Or… who is taking extended lunch breaks (I’m looking at you Sharon from accounts – sneaking home to watch your soapies).
Regardless of your organisations type, size or stage it is important to remember that your assistant is a person with feelings, emotions and best of all ideas! You could be sitting on a goldmine of information as to how your organisation could perform better, grow larger and it’s been under your stinkin’ nose the whole time…. So get cracking!! Have a real people conversation with your assistant today!
**this public service announcement is not in fact a public service announcement and is in fact brought to you by me. The opinions expressed in this non-public service announcement are that of one person who has been on both sides of the desk!
Experienced and written by Nicole Atkins (Campaign Crusader)
Author: Ronsley Vaz
Ronsley is the founder & chief day dreamer at AMPLIFY. He is an author, speaker & serial entrepreneur.
He has a Masters’ degree in Software Engineering and an MBA in Psychology and Leadership. He is known as the creator of We Are Podcast – the first Podcasting Conference in the Southern Hemisphere, and the host of The Bond Appetit Podcast and Should I Start a Podcast. He has an audience of over 3 million in 133 countries.