This is a question that I often ask Assistants who are delegates on the team development workshops that I facilitate with leadership, operational and project teams. The replies are wide-ranging from being an integral part of the team to being on the fringe of the team. There appears to be no hard and fast rule.
Recently I was facilitating a workshop entitled “Adaptable Leadership” with a Senior Leadership Team, consisting of 18 people.
Attending this workshop was the Assistant who had liaised with me prior to the event. At the end of the day, I always ask individuals to provide feedback on their experience. As I gathered the feedback forms in, I read the comment from the Assistant which was as follows “You have been brilliant at bringing a light to an individual’s life. Thank you.”
At the end of the event she came up to me and thanked me personally, I said it was my pleasure. She then mentioned that being on the workshop had been a surprise to her, as she wasn’t part of the Leadership Team and was “just the Assistant.”
I took her to one side, we then sat down and I asked “Why do you feel that you are just the Assistant?” She replied, “Well, all I have done is arrange this event.”
So we then discussed the skills and competencies she had used to arrange the event:
Time Management: She had managed 17 leader’s diaries and also mine, to book a date when everyone was available.
Planning: She had researched venues to find one suitable for the event.
Negotiation: She had negotiated an acceptable price with the venue, to deliver what was required in terms of space, refreshments and equipment.
Risk Management: The original date that was chosen to deliver the workshop, had to be changed to another date, due to a strategic issue that had arisen. However, she already had future contingency dates, which she put into action.
Stakeholder Management: She had liaised with both the venue and myself, to ensure that needs were covered. On the day, she checked-in with her colleagues, to ensure their needs were being met.
Communication: She had been the main channel for communication between me and the Leadership Team, to ensure everyone knew the objectives of the event, pre-work required, the details of the venue and timings.
Team-building: She had organised a social meal for the team after the workshop, so they could continue to bond as a group in a social setting.
Decision-making: She had made a lot of decisions independently, based on her own knowledge and experience.
We reviewed the above and I posed the question, “Aren’t the above qualities and attributes of a Leader?” A big smile spread across her face and she replied “I suppose they are.”
In addition, as she was the Assistant to the CEO, she was privy to more strategic information, than the majority of the Leadership Team, therefore at meetings talked knowledgeably and shared her ideas with the rest of the Leadership Team.
Assistants have some incredibly valuable skills, talents, knowledge and experience, adding value to the teams that they support and are part of.
I’d really appreciate hearing your experiences. Are you part of the team or apart from the team? What impact has this had on you?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours behaviourally, Nick
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