- Guest Post
Lauren Bradley Explains How To Manage Your Boss
You have them on speed dial and speak multiple times a day, know every one of their passwords, exactly how they like their coffee and can predict their mood simply by the tone in which they answer the phone. No, we’re not describing your relationship with your best friend, if you’re a PA this is how close you are to your boss.
Knowing your boss inside and out makes things a whole lot easier if you’re the one in charge of planning their life, but how do you ensure that their life doesn’t take over your own? We’ve talked to top PA and founder of The Officials, Lauren Bradley, to find out what steps she takes to manage her boss and ensure that she gets her job done as efficiently as possible.
This is possibly the most important tip I have to give. The terminology around our role can be confusing, we are assistants yet we manage the lives of others. It’s a balance between giving some much-needed medicine while also executing important tasks.
Set boundaries such as your time commitments, your personal priorities, how many meetings and requests you can execute in a day, etc. I appreciate this is easier said than done but trust it will be easier the more experience you get in your career. It’s very much like a relationship - you need to have had a few of them to learn what works and doesn’t work for you in a partnership.
The devil is in the details
I get a lot of questions from new executive assistants and PAs asking for advice on how to get started on the right foot with their newly assigned executive. The first one I always suggest is finding out all the important details as quickly as possible, these include passport details, date of birth, any credit card details you may be expected to use, travel preferences, etc. When your executive emails you later and says, book me a ticket to Zurich, you won’t have to go back and forth about all the information you are missing. I’ve created a handy executive questionnaire which you can download on my website here.
Use some top tech
I recently went to Sandringham and was fascinated by the estate manager’s office in the museum. This expansive estate was completely managed from a small room in one of the small buildings with little to no technology - just extensive ledgers and maps. They certainly were not working with apps!
I was so thankful that because of the age we live in, I have almost everything I need at my fingertips with the help of some very clever sites and apps. I particularly like 1password, Google Drive, Canva, Amazon Now, HP ePrint or any remote printing applications, Slack and few more I’ve gone into detail about here.
First, schedule everything for your manager. Their calendar should be their to do list with all the information they need added to each entry. Also, if at all possible, make sure you are the only one updating their calendar. The manager shouldn’t be modifying it or lines can get crossed.
Second, you need to schedule all of your tasks as well. I find a lot of admins resist this one, or try it but never quite follow through. My argument here is that we use our boss’s calendars to manage their lives, so why aren’t we doing it for ourselves? I find this especially useful if you are an admin whose to-do list is longer than a page in an A5 notebook. When you have the emails, texts and verbal requests pouring in and it's starting to get away from you...just add each item to your calendar. I typically make entries last at least 15 minutes even if I know it is going to take me 2 minutes because there are enough nameless tasks in the day, like checking emails and getting a coffee, that will fill the space. Scheduling all your tasks allows you to physically see how busy you are and move non-urgent items around to account for unexpected urgent items.
When a request comes in I consider whether I can:
Do it Delegate it Dump it Schedule it
I also schedule all my follow-ups for Fridays unless I know I need to do it on a specific date. If I sent an email to a vendor asking for a pricing sheet I then put an entry in for Friday to follow-up on it, just in case they don’t quite get to it. I continue to add follow-ups to the following Fridays as needed until the task is complete.
Automate - Delegate - Eliminate
After you have been executing the requirements of your role for a while, sit back and evaluate which tasks you can automate, delegate and eliminate. I realised my manager was always having me create an itinerary but all the information was also in her calendar which she diligently followed. So I stopped creating the time-consuming itinerary (eliminate), after discussion with her, and only included a packet of physical documents she would need for the trip.
I have also set rules that allow all calendar invites to my manager to flow into a special inbox folder so that I can quickly identify them (automate). We also have a report that she needs to check every other week, instead of me sending this to her every week I have created a recurring entry in her calendar with a link to the spreadsheet, which is a live document in Google Drive. I have a reminder to update the day before if needed.
Another reason I love apps is because you can often find fabulous companies willing to do time-consuming tasks for you. As a personal assistant, I was responsible for making sure the family car was fueled and washed. It was taking a good portion of my day to drive to the petrol station and then through the posh car wash, once I was stuck in the queue for 3 hours! That is time I cannot afford to lose. Now with apps like Zebra Fuel and the Dropless site, I can schedule someone (delegate) to come to the office to do those tasks! What a time to be alive!
I think the overarching theme here is to maximise your time. Do this by learning as fast as you can.
Lauren Bradley is an Anderson Hoare Alumni and the Founder of The Officials, where she is empowering admins through community, courses and coaching.