They’re pros at making you more efficient.
Have you ever stopped yourself from getting a PA because you’d be worried that you don’t have the time to manage them? Yep, we’ve heard this one before and it’s a really common misconception (don’t worry, you’re not the first).
A PA’s role is about making things easier for you – but like any member of staff, micromanagement can stop them from working to their best potential. Most of the time, this isn’t intentional and (understandably) those in senior roles have a bit of a hard time letting everything go when they’re so used to doing it on their own – especially business owners. The thing is, bringing support on board can go two ways a) it’s a ‘tell-and-do’ relationship where you set the tasks and they’ll complete them, which can be pretty labour-intensive for you or b) you establish trust and let them take care of things so you can spend all your time reaching your next goals.
“But how do I get to option b when I don’t really know them yet?”
Excellent question that just so happens to lead seamlessly into the main point of this post! Here are some things you can do to build trust with your support team…
If you’ve hired someone, chances are, you trust them to be able to do the job based on their previous experience, how they match the job description and how well they did at the interview – so things are already getting off to a great start. However, you make yourself feel more comfortable in their ability to get the ball rolling from the first day by setting expectations at the application stage. From that very first job description, make the role crystal clear and let applicants know what you’d expect from them in the role and bring that through to the interview stage – we compiled a list of questions PAs wish you’d ask during interviews and the common thread is that they want a good understanding of the role, so they can help you in the most efficient way possible.
Once you’ve hired your new PA (or EA) the briefing stage in those first few days-to-weeks are so important and worth prioritising. If there’s a little bit of crossover, it would be great if your previous PA can do a handover with your newbie, giving them the opportunity to ask questions and get a real understanding of how you like to be supported (if they’ve already left the building, a detailed handover doc would still work). From there, make sure to put some time aside to properly brief your PA and again, give them the opportunity to ask questions (trust us, there will be lots of questions). This might seem like a big ask for your time, but from that first week, it will set a strong foundation and allow your support staff to get started on the right path. Those few hours are like an investment, with near-instantaneous returns.
Talk to Each Other
Communication is the backbone of support staff, otherwise there’s no point. With time, they’ll be able to make decisions on your behalf, based on how well they know you, which will make them more independent as time goes on, which is where the time saving really kicks in. However, even beyond those initial few weeks, there’s always a need to clearly communicate the information that’s buzzing around your head that could help them do their job better – no matter how long you’ve been working together. Strong, frank feedback on a regular basis (especially at the beginning) is what makes a support team work well for you and your business. There has to be a culture of giving feedback and adapting in order for them to work – if a PA isn’t working in a way that suits you, feedback will get them on track as it’s in a PAs nature and experience to adapt in a way that benefits the person they’re supporting. As time goes on, this builds on your productivity as you’ll be able to tailor the support you need through ongoing feedback.
Invest in Them
Even if a PA has 30+ years of experience or has been working with you for 10 years, there are always better ways to do things. Put it this way, when your support team are more productive, it makes you more productive. We’ve seen a real shift (for the better) in the role of support staff with the implementation of automation and machine learning, and how they can be used to save hours of time – which sounds great, right? The thing is, how would a support team know how to set up these new automated processes without learning how to do them? By investing in training and development for your team, you open up new ways that will allow them to get things done faster and more efficiently. On top of that, you’ll build a ‘growth culture’ in your business and retain great talent (fun fact: employees who think they’re progressing in their career are 20% more likely to stay at their companies). So, if you need anyone to help with the training and development side of things, we can help you out.
Be Honest with Yourself
The seniority of the PA you need is really based on the time you have and the role you need them to do. If you’re hiring someone in their first role as a PA, there’s going to be a little bit of hand-holding to begin with and it will likely be more task-oriented. This might be a case of holding a morning brief, or giving them a project and allowing them to come to you with questions – but either way, there’s going to a slightly longer period where you need to put time aside to train them (or, bring experts in to train them for you). If you don’t have the time, confidence or another senior member of the team they could turn to for help, you’ll likely need a more senior person to fill the role. A good PA should help to save you up to 2-3 hours of time a day, but that comes with experience. Having a good understanding of what you need from the support staff makes you more productive as you can plan around their abilities and collaboratively design a structure of process that gets the most from them.
Trusting someone to deal with your schedule, inbox and business is a big thing to ask, especially if it’s someone you’ve really only met a few times. That’s why it’s so important to build relationships with support staff and create a culture where people all support each other. It can be particularly difficult for leaders, especially in SMEs to let go of managing everything (especially if it’s their first experience with support staff) but with clear communication and feedback, it will have a massive positive impact on your productivity and the productivity of your entire business.