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Supporting Multiple Executives

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May 26, 2020

If you’re an executive assistant or administrative professional, you might have to cater to more than one executive. While you might be up for the challenge, managing the expectations of diverse personalities might prove frustrating at times. You can skillfully navigate this uncertain atmosphere by following these practical tips:

Keep Communication Lines Open

It’s important to foster communication not just between yourself and the executives you support, but also among themselves. It helps to establish uniform procedures that everyone can follow, thereby keeping operations smooth.

If everyone is on the same page, you’ll avoid inefficiencies associated with conflicting requests. Proper communication channels also bring out the best in your executives. Since you’re an extension of them, identify the methods that each is most comfortable with, and then integrate it into your communications suite.

Get Organized

Being organized is essential if you want to avoid a chaotic work environment. It involves both old school methods and modern technology. An easy way of being on top of things is to assign a unique color to each executive you support. All information regarding them and the tasks they assign you will be in that color. With color-coding, it's almost impossible to be confused. There are also several software solutions you can utilize, such as Chrome profiles.

Examples of online time tracking tools are Time Doctor, Tomato Timer, and Clockify. For purposes of scheduling, consider using Doodle or Calendly. Social media management solutions include Sprout Social and eClincher. Task management apps such as Trello and Basecamp gather all the resources you need in one place. They help you complete your tasks smoothly, without having to seek clarification from the executives you assist physically.

Set Realistic Expectations

Setting clear boundaries from the very beginning helps prevent future conflicts. For each new executive that needs your support, ensure they understand that you assist some of their peers as well. Make sure they're aware of the full scope of your role.

At times, you may need to politely but firmly decline particular requests that should be handled by someone else. Give them proper details regarding turnaround times. Understand each executive's priorities, so you can manage tasks related to them as urgently as possible whenever they recur.

Treat Everyone Equally – to a Point

Though it’s human nature to have favorites, and you may more quickly get along with some individuals, professionalism should trump personal preferences. You need to give each executive equal treatment when performing assigned tasks. Even as you encourage uniform procedures, you must remember that each manager has a unique personality and needs. You might have to slightly tweak the approach you use to suit their preferred work style.

Your corporate culture may also necessitate that you to prioritize the senior manager’s tasks over their junior colleagues’ needs. You can follow company protocol on task management while still showing respect to what you receive from your executives. Some organizations use personality tests to understand their employees. If you and the executives you support understand one another’s personalities, it will be easier to work together.

Manage Time Wisely

You should ideally dedicate a consistent amount of time to each executive you support so that expectations for your time are clear. Some might have busier schedules, while others may have larger projects you support. To avoid confusion or perceived inequity, managing your time and communicating clearly about your time will be critical. Plan for routine tasks. Set time blocks for each executive's duties, depending on their priority. A realistic time management plan is flexible enough to account for unforeseen or urgent tasks.

Embrace Transparency

Unless you're handling a secret project, always try your best to keep your priorities and workload visible. It gives your executives a clear idea of the amount of work you're handling. They know when your schedule is open for more tasks.

Such openness improves your relationship because they know you're not lying about how busy you are. If the executives know your workload, they can also furnish you with any materials you need to perform upcoming tasks. This transparency results in better time management and efficiency.

Lastly…Allow Executives to Resolve Their Conflicts

Sometimes you'll find yourself in an awkward position when the managers you report to give you conflicting directives. Try to resist the urge to choose sides, because it will set you on a collision course with some parties. Acting as a mediator is also likely to backfire.

The best solution is to inform them of the incompatibility and let them solve it among themselves. Unless company protocol gives one of them the final say on such matters, abstain from involving yourself in such conflicts. The executives will ultimately appreciate your neutral stance as you demonstrate that you sit above petty office politics.

Working with multiple executives is a challenge, but we hope these tips will help you start to navigate the sometimes choppy waters with ease!

American Society of Administrative Professionals

Producer of

APCEA Summit  EA Ignite