Best practices when managing multiple executives
Being an assistant is already a balancing act, and things can really get wild if you’re faced with the challenge of managing multiple executives. Of course, you’re up for it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy! That’s why we’ve compiled the five most important best practices for administrative professionals who support multiple executives. These tips will make your work life happier and more efficient.
Here are the 5 things to always do as an admin managing multiple executives
Staying organized is absolutely vital to success when you’re supporting more than one person! First, find your system. This could be Google Docs, a project management app, or even an old fashioned paper and pen. The important thing is to find a system that works for YOU, and everyone is different!
Next up: Color coding is your friend! It’s such a simple solution that can be applied to everything. Train your brain to automatically associate each executive with their own color and you’ll easily keep everything separate and organized (and stay sane!).
Finally, create both a daily checklist and a long-term task list including both/all your execs (color-coded, of course). Not only will this help you stay focused, but we have it on good authority that it feels GREAT to check tasks off!
BONUS TOOL: Create a Google Chrome profile for each executive, then use these to compartmentalize and personalize your support. You won’t have to worry about getting distracted by Executive A’s new email while working on a problem for Executive B, or find yourself making purchases in the wrong person’s Amazon account!
No matter how big a superhero you are, there’s only one of you and you have limits! You’re going to have to learn to prioritize tasks as they come in. One way to make sure you get this right is to ask each of your executives to rank the urgency of a task when they assign it. Try, “I can definitely take care of that, but I am already working on X that we discussed earlier this week. Which one of these do you want me to focus on?” Not only will this give you guidance on how best to manage your time, but it reminds your executives just how much work you have on your plate!
On top of this, since you’re managing multiple executives you’re often going to be given assignments that conflict with each other. The best way to prioritize these is to 1) sort them by due date, then 2) if two tasks have equal importance, prioritize the task for the more senior executive. This takes the pressure off of you constantly deciding which task is more important and who to be “loyal” to.
BONUS TOOL: We did some searching online and found a suggestion from Teresa Cryer on Monster.com. She, “…created request sheets, on which her bosses not only described the work they needed her to do but also rated every project’s priority on a scale of 1 to 5. She addressed the projects accordingly, and in two years, she says she had to approach managers only twice to sort out a conflict.” Great thinking, Teresa!
Have you also heard of Eisenhower’s Prioritization Method? Check out our infographic!
For assistants who manage multiple executives, be sure to keep all of your bosses informed about your priorities and workload. If one of your execs feels like they don’t know how you spend your time, they may begin to worry that they’re not getting their fair share of your attention. One way to stay transparent is by making your task list accessible. Your executives can see that you are aware of their needs and the due dates, but also that you have a huge workload on any given day. Stay conscious about workplace confidentiality! If you know a project is of a sensitive nature, no need to spell it all out on your shared to-do list. The important thing is that you’re being open with how you’re spending your time, not necessarily the exact work you’ll be doing.
Here’s the bonus about being transparent with your executives: You’ll avoid WAY more conflict than if you kept everything about your workload to yourself! If your boss needs something to happen ASAP but knows the scope of what you have to accomplish in a given day, they’ll be more likely to ease the pressure off you. On top of this, if they want you to focus on something but see that another manager has given you work that conflicts, they can work it out between themselves without putting you in an awkward situation!
Learn Their Quirks
It’s always important to get to know your executive, but when you’re supporting multiple people, learning their personality and style is even more essential. Be sure to ask specific questions early on to pinpoint their preferences. Then, be flexible! Everyone is different, so you’ll need to make adjustments to your approach and communication with each executive.
Want an example? Let’s say you support Boss A and B as an executive assistant. Boss A is very hands-on; they want to know the details of how you’re handling tasks and like to have constant updates on your progress. Boss B, on the other hand, likes to have a little distance. They want to see you handle things independently, then report back when the work is done so they don’t have to get bogged down in the details. Staying flexible and aware of your exec’s preferences is a big factor in successfully supporting multiple executives!
Stay Calm and Push Forward
Managing multiple executives is really challenging! Even though you’re more than capable, you’re going to have times where you feel pushed to the edge. Don’t forget to take short breaks even on your busiest days to breathe and center yourself. You’re not going to do your best work if you’re burned out. Although it can feel like you’re letting precious minutes tick by, ultimately giving yourself breathing room is going to make you a happier and more productive assistant. Equally important is not stressing out over every single thing on your to-do list. Your time and energy are so valuable…value them!