1. Keeping your Schedule Lets face it, you’ve all missed meetings because you entered them into your diary on the wrong day, wrong time zone, or simply forgot to enter them at all!Your assistant is the master of your diary. Your assistant knows who you’re meeting, when you’re meeting them, where you’re meeting them, and how long it’s going to take you to get there. She knows which meetings to interrupt if you’re going to be late for the next one, and she has the presentations printed and ready for you to take. She’ll also re-arrange that conference call with New York that you’ve put in your diary for 9am London time.
2. Thinking of the small details Most of the time these are things that will never ever even cross your mind. You dont notice when she’s done them, but you’d notice if she didn’t. She reserves an area in a bar when you’ve planned to take your team out for a few drinks. And pre-ordered the drinks so you’re not standing at the bar for half an hour. And a few snacks! She notices when you’re almost out of business cards and re-orders them before you get to your last one. She puts a spare pen in your jacket pocket because you normally lose yours, and there’s a reminder in your diary for your wife’s birthday, along with a link to her favourite jewellery shop.
3. Organising your travel plans If you travel a lot, you know how important it is to get the plans just right. Your assistant can do this with her eyes closed so don’t try and get involved – leave it to the professional. Your assistant knows what time your taxi needs to pick you up when you’ve got a 6am flight and want every last second of sleep possible. She knows how to get you the occasional cheeky business class flight when she knows you’re cutting it fine to make the last flight home and need to zoom through security as quickly as you can. She also knows that the hotel you’ve specifically requested is actually miles away from where your meetings are and books you one that will be more convenient. Then sends all your presentations to it so you dont have to pack them in your bag and pay for excess baggage. She’s sorted out your visa before you realise you need one, and she’s ordered your dollars or euros so you don’t get stung with the ridiculous exchange rate at the airport.
4. Keeping your office tidy You file things in two piles: Important and No Idea What I Have To Do With This. Your assistant can sift through everything and pull out the documents that are actually important (once she’s understood that important documents will be in both piles). Look out for the ones with sticky notes on – these are the ones that you have to sign. If she physically hands you a document you know this is serious. She will stand over you until you’ve signed it and wont let it out of her sight. She’ll then whip it away from you before the ink is even dry. You dont have to worry about this kind of document again. She’ll make sure it gets to the right person, and that a copy is carefully filed in her own drawer.
5. Technology Your blackberry was one of the first ones ever made, and you dont know how to work the conference phone in your office that you’ve had for 5 years. Never fear! Your assistant is here!Her mere presence is sometimes enough to get your computer to start working again after it’s crashed for the 4th time in a row. She can sort you out a Video Conference with her eyes closed, and can even get your presentation up on the screen in Zurich. You know, the one she did on Powerpoint from the sketches you drew on the back of your cab receipt.
6. Managing your team You’re the manager, but sometimes you get a little bewildered with all the documents you have to process every time the annual Objective Setting comes around again. By the time you realise the deadline is fast approaching, she’s already reminded your team that they need to submit their draft to you and has scheduled individual 1-1 meetings with each of them. She’s printed out a copy of everyone’s draft objectives, left them on top of your keyboard where you’ll see them, highlighted the ‘Due By’ date with a neon yellow highlighter, and put a reminder in your calendar letting you know when you have two hours left to submit them. She’s also there to remind you that you’ve not given the new guy his induction yet.
7. Remembering Names We’ve all been there – someone comes up to you all happy and smiley, pleased to see you. Slaps you on the back and asks you how the kids are. But you simply cannot for the life of you remember their name. Your assistant recognised the look on your face (a combination of confusion and a fake smile) and has emailed you not only their name, but also when you last spoke to them, where it was, and their wife’s name, all before you’ve sat back down on your seat. She also knows exactly who you’re talking about when the only description you’re able to provide is “that bloke from that place”.
8. Answering the Phone When you’re croaky and tired from being out all night with your best client, the last thing you want to be doing is answering the phone. Your assistant can sound bright and chirpy, even if she was out all night as well! She also knows how to hold off even the most persevering of people – she’s a true gatekeeper.
So remember, the next time you speak to your assistant, remember that you really wouldn't get very far without them!