TEN MISTAKES LEADERS MAKE WITH EXECUTIVE ASSISTANTS

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I’ve worked with several executive assistants over the years, and I have found it is a make-or-break relationship when it comes to my success.

Think about it: None of us can do it all on our own. We need to bring others into our work to help us succeed in it. And the bigger the dream, the more help we usually need.

In my corporate days, I had some very effective executive assistants, and I couldn’t imagine doing the work without them. The same has been true since going on my own again in 2011, though at first I thought I could just operate as a one-man show. I was wrong. I couldn’t.

It wasn’t long before I was completely buried in email, speaking requests, travel details, calendar complications, expense reports, and more. I knew I needed help. Fortunately, I found a virtual executive assistant who enabled me to dig out of my pile, offload the stuff I hated, and get back to the essentials.

I now have two virtual executive assistants working on my team, and I can’t imagine it functioning without them. But that doesn’t mean an executive assistant is a silver bullet for all our big hairy problems. An executive assistant is only as good as the working relationship.

There are a lot of ways to blow it with your executive assistant, and I have identified the top-ten mistakes leaders make with their executive assistants, regardless of whether they’re virtual or sitting right outside your office. If we can avoid these, we can amplify our chances for success:

1b30– We undervalue our true worth. How valuable is your time? Most of us don’t know, which is why we keep wasting so much of it on activities that don’t really matter. Without a doubt this is the No. 1 mistake people make with their executive assistants.

Take your total compensation and divide it across your available work hours. Now ask yourself: Is mailing that package, scheduling that meeting, or processing those invoices really worth that much? I bet not. If we really understood how much we’re worth, we’d hand off far more to our executive assistants.

2- We undervalue our executive assistants’ true worth. Some of us don’t appreciate the competence, talents, and skills of our executive assistants. We don’t trust them enough to delegate the important but time-consuming tasks that take us off mission. It’s like we’re stuck in an old­-school “secretary” paradigm. The truth is that an executive assistant is really a full partner in achieving our goals.

3- We don’t communicate enough. Communication is key to working with an executive assistant, and yet I constantly see executive assistant relationships that suffer because leaders fail to provide necessary details about their work and even their private lives. If an executive assistant is a partner in achieving our goals, they will only be as effective as they are dialed into what’s happening. Keeping them in the dark only hurts our ability to succeed.

4- We don’t give the why behind the what. No. 4 is related to No. 3. A good executive assistants can fill ­in the blanks of tasks and projects if they know the rationale behind a task or project. When we don’t communicate adequate background and reasoning, we’re hampering our executive assistants’ ability to help us win.

5- We just don’t know how to delegate. If there’s a magic sauce to leadership, it’s delegation. Nothing will sink a leader faster than the inability to assign priorities and responsibilities.

But many of us don’t properly delegate to the one person working closest to us, our executive assistants. That’s a recipe for disaster. One executive assistant was straightforward about the problem: “If you don’t ask for something to be done and then explain how you’d like it accomplished, I’m no good to you!”

b256- We refuse to surrender our email and calendars. Some of us actually like managing our inboxes and schedules; others are just control freaks. Either way, it sucks up tons of time. Leaders who don’t delegate these two functions are killing their productivity.

7- We don’t open up. Some of us don’t share our lives enough with our executive assistants, but we could delegate so much more if we were more transparent about both our work and home life.

A good executive assistant will see where they can plug in and take things off our plates we’re not even aware of – but that only happens if we give them access. How many unnecessary tasks and low-payoff activities could you offload if you only gave your executive assistant permission?

8- We don’t play fair. Executive assistants get used to extraordinary requests; it’s sometimes part of the job. But if we are hypocritical about things, we can really undermine respect. For instance, to demand that your executive assistant be hyper responsive and then sit on a request ruins your credibility. We have to work toward the same standard we expect from our teammates.

9- We’re lousy about feedback. It’s easy to get caught up in the grind and miss opportunities to give our executive assistant insight into how they’re doing or what they could do to improve. Not only does this hurt our working relationship, but it’s also like shooting ourselves in the foot. Who benefits if our executive assistant improves? Who suffers if they don’t? Regular feedback is a must.

10- We expect too much access. As leaders, most of us are always on. We’re thinking about our business all the time – probably too much, actually. And we assume that everyone on the team should be on as well. The result is that we assume 24/7 service from our executive assistant is reasonable. It’s not. Especially if you’re working with a virtual executive assistant who is giving a set number of hours, going beyond that strains the working relationship. In the end, the executive assistant will be less effective, not more.businessman-in-boardroom1

Our work it too important to go it alone. It’s also too important to undermine the very people responsible for helping us reach our goals. Having an effective working relationship with your executive assistant will enable you to achieve your core objectives while minimizing the clutter and distractions that sets you back.

What goals could you accomplish if you could make the most of your relationship?

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SIX STRATEGIES TO SLEEP SOUNDLY, WAKE RESTED AND ACCOMPLISH MORE

Idormir-bem’ve been thinking a lot about sleep recently. Most research shows that we don’t get enough, and our deficit is seriously hurting our productivity, our physical health, even our mental well being.

The line we’ve all heard is, if you snooze, you lose. But it turns out the opposite is true. The costs of not getting enough sleep are staggering. And a key difference maker in accomplishing more is more sleep.

So we all know it’s important. But how do we actually do it? There are a lot of factors working against us, but many of these are easy to address. You don’t have to follow any of these perfectly – I certainly don’t, at least not all the time – but here are six strategies for getting more and better sleep starting tonight.

1. Get Committed

How many times have we been up later than we wanted because there was one more link to click, one more episode to watch, one more page to read, one more whatever?

Researchers call it “bedtime procrastination,” and it’s really about willpower. If we want the benefit of extra sleep, we have to decide on the tradeoff: one less link, one less episode, one less page. Determine to go to bed at a set time and then do it.

2. Set an Alarm

To help follow through on that commitment, set an alarm. There’s an inertia to being tired. We’ve all experienced this. It’s easier to just go on than go to bed. But a calendar alert or phone alarm can help us change gears when we might otherwise cruise along for another hour or more.

I once started using an alarm to signal sleep time and reports it’s even more beneficial than a morning alarm.

3. Establish a Ritual

It’s easier to do just about anything when there’s a pattern or a rhythm we can follow. As parents and grandparents, we know bedtime rituals work for our kids, but they can work for us too – especially if the ritual includes things that are helpful in making the transition to sleep, like:

  • getting a warm bath or cup of herbal tea
  • prayer and devotions
  • a novel saved just for bedtime
  • processing the day with our spouses in bed

The key is to follow the same pattern most nights, even on weekends. I find winding down with Gail and prayer are essential for my evening ritual, and when I skip them my sleep suffers.

4. Go for a Run, but Not Before Bed

We all know about the benefits of exercise for health and longevity, but it’s crucial for improved sleep as well. Research shows that exercise in the morning or afternoon can benefit sleep.

David K. Randall’s survey of sleep science, Dreamland, confirms these findings and adds another side benefit of exercise, particularly outdoor activity. Exposure to sunlight helps “keep the body’s clock in sync with the day-night cycle and prime the brain to increase the level of melatonin (the sleep-regulating hormone) in the bloodstream,” he says.

The important thing is to avoid exercise right before bedtime, which will make it harder to fall to sleep.

5. Kill the Lights

Just as important as getting enough natural light during the day, it’s critical to extinguish artificial light at night.

More than nine in ten of us use electronic devices before sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Not only can the tweets, emails, videos, and articles we consume leave our minds buzzing and unrestful, the light from the devices themselves – even little LEDs – can compromise our slumber.

To prevent experiencing what expert Michael J. Breus calls “junk sleep” consider:

  • turning off TV’s, tablets, and other screens an hour before bedtime
  • putting your phone in a drawer or leaving it in another room
  • getting black-out curtains for summertime or sleeping with an eye mask
  • reading a genuine paper book instead of a tablet before bed – remember those?

There’s no sense getting to bed on time if we’re getting poor sleep throughout the night.

6. Blow off Work

For high achievers like us, this is really important. Let’s agree to let the report wait for morning the design comps, too, and the email. Unless we’re already totally exhausted, all of these things just keep our minds active long after we close our eyes.

Our bosses don’t own our sleep. And if you, like me, are your own boss, then let’s give ourselves a break! If you can’t let something go, just write it down, hit the hay, and deal with it in the morning.

The evidence for the importance of sleep is clear at this point. All that remains is for us to take it seriously enough to change our habits. After all, becoming more productive, efficient, and effective in every other area of our life is pointless if we cheat our minds and bodies the rest they deserve.

Do you struggle to get enough quality rest? What’s the one strategy you could implement to improve your sleep tonight? 

Rear view of a young man waking up in bed and stretching his arm