What is the measure of an administrative professional? Some would say it’s all about helping your manager do his job well, AKA making your boss look good.
With that in mind, we asked professionals who have been on both sides of the relationship what admins can do to help their bosses shine as brightly as possible. Here are their top 10 tips.
Discover What the Boss Needs Before He Knows He Needs It
Executives are often too busy to think ahead as much as they’d like to. Admins can help by systematically prompting their bosses.
“When Dr. deBethizy walked out the door for a meeting late this afternoon, I handed him a folder with everything he’s got to do tomorrow,” says Jo Peay, executive assistant to Donald deBethizy, president of biotechnology firm Targacept. “You can’t read their minds, but you’ve got to anticipate their needs.”
Pump Up Your Manager with Useful Research
Managers want to do deep preparation for meetings with prospective clients and business partners, but they don’t always have time. Enter the admin.
Over the years, “admins have made me look good by giving me ideas about how to approach prospective clients and by giving me research on companies,” says Joyce Gioia, a management consultant and president of The Herman Group.
Let Your Manager Deal with the Big Picture
“Managers are into concepts and dealing with people but not so much paper or electronic documents and details,” says Susan Fenner, manager of education and professional development at the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). Admins who keep up on their executives’ detail work can help them keep on top.
Fill in the Boss’s Gaps
Let’s face it: A substantial part of making your boss look good is compensating for weaknesses. “Every boss will have things they ought to do but prefer not to do,” says Billie Blair, a management consultant and president of Leading and Learning Inc. “The job of the admin is to figure out what the boss always shuffles aside and to fill those gaps, whether it’s returning phone calls, taking care of paperwork or other administrative tasks.”
Help Your Boss Keep Promises
Whether it’s in a long meeting or on a short phone call, your manager may accept action items without noting them for future tracking. You can help here. “When an admin hears me making a commitment to someone, I want them to make sure I keep the commitment,” says Gioia.
Keep Your Manager on Time
Most managers want to be prompt for meetings and other commitments, but distractions can make this difficult. “I keep Dr. deBethizy on track,” says Peay. “When a meeting time is approaching, sometimes I need to go into his office and point to my watch.”
Polish Your Manager’s Language
Regardless of position on the org chart, many administrative professionals have a better command of language than their bosses. The wise manager will recognize this and allow the admin to step in. “Some admins who were English majors can be grammar police for their bosses,” says Gioia.
Buff Your Boss’s Presentations
Whether it’s tweaking a PowerPoint feature or overhauling its organization, admins can vastly improve on their bosses’ presentations. What better way to make your boss look good? “Sometimes admins have presentation skills much better than their boss’s,” says Gioia.
Avoiding calamity is at least as important to your boss as looking polished. “Look at what problems are coming up, and consider how they can be solved,” says Fenner. “Look at what hasn’t been done successfully, and do it or improve it.”
Represent the Boss’s View of Corporate Culture
Admins often play an important role as de facto ministers of corporate culture. “The administrative assistant must know what her executive’s expectations are, what culture he wants to set,” says Peay.
For more information and tips to help you advance your administrative career, see all our advice for admin professionals.