Be open and attentive to your secretary

There are many wonderful secretaries and administrative assistants out there. You know who I'm talking about-the people you couldn't live without. National Secretaries Day only comes once a year but let's not forget their contributions every day.

Secretaries tell me they often feel unappreciated and "dead ended." Take a moment and assess your relationship with your assistant. Chances are, there are some things you could do to make their jobs more satisfying and motivating.

Sit down with your secretary and ask him or her for their opinion on the following:

·        Take the time to explain the details of the tasks you delegate. Even though you are busy, don't expect your assistant to be clairvoyant. If you ask your assistant to "call so-and-so" or "check on such-and-such" without taking the extra minute to explain exactly what you are looking for, you waste everyone's time. Your secretary doesn't want to look foolish to other people, and doesn't want you to either.


·        Explain the big picture. Your assistant will be able to become an active partner by going beyond the menial tasks. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your assistant doesn't care or doesn't need to know the purpose and the politics behind your projects. Having the background information will help him or her anticipate problems, warn you of political pitfalls and find information you need.


·        Appreciate what they do. Chasing after you, keeping you organized, screening impatient callers, covering for you, dropping everything for your changing priorities isn't easy. Take the time to thank them for the things they do for you.


·        He or she makes you look good so make sure you return the favor. Look for opportunities to sing their praises to your boss and to other people in the organization. Trying to keep a good assistant all to yourself always backfires.


·        The best way to keep a star assistant motivated is to keep enough challenge in the job. Frequently ask, "What new thing would you like to tackle?" And when your assistant moves on to a higher level job don't worry, all the best secretaries will want to work for you...and your former assistant will be a grateful political ally.


·        Provide constant coaching. Let your assistant know when a task is going well or if it needs to be improved. All of us need feedback and yet it's the one thing most lacking in boss/employee relationships and the source of most of the problems. Don't wait and hope a problem goes will only get harder to confront and you'll be cheating your assistant out of an opportunity to improve.


·        Frequently ask them for their opinion and ideas. They talk to customers, your peers and your employees all day so take advantage of their experience and insight. When they have an idea, let them try it.


·        Be considerate and help when you can. When they are frantically typing one of your overdue reports and the phone is ringing, answer it. When they need an extra pair of hands, offer help. All the "assistance" shouldn't be one-sided.


·        Be open to their feedback and ask for it frequently. If you're smart, you won't bristle with defensiveness when your assistant offers suggestions. He or she sees you close-up every day and feels the impact of your work style and personality. If they have a suggestion they think will help you, it's in your best interest to listen.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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