What does it take to be a kickass assistant? The truth is it takes a lot of things! Our job descriptions are as varied as the executives and organizations we work for and yet there are qualities we can bring awareness to and develop which will be universally beneficial. Today I’m going to flush out three qualities which often go unrecognized, but are no less important.
As kickass assistants, we show up for the things we care about both physically and mentally. We invest time and energy and show our dedication by being fully present and 100% invested in the task at hand. Yes, from time to time we will have “off” days, but they are few and far between.
In college, I had a professor by the name of Eric Forsythe. I will never forget Eric’s speech during our small department graduation, in which he said, “There are only two things you absolutely need to know in order to be successful. The first thing is, ‘Don’t be a jerk’ (in our line of work this goes without saying), the second is, ‘Always be on time’.” This has always stuck with me.
Brace yourselves for some tough love. There is rarely ever a reasonable excuse to be late. Ouch! Kickass assistants realize this and want to be on time because they truly love their work. Here are a few other reasons we want to be on time and fully present:
1. Being frequently late and partially present tells those around us that we are not invested in the success of our executives or companies. We are an extension of the bosses we support, and they are relying on us to represent them in the best light possible. I understand that as assistants we are constantly under enormous pressure, which can lead to distraction. Kickass assistants practice and get good at setting these pressures aside by dealing fully with the task at hand, whether it’s a meeting, project, or fire to put out.
2. We don’t just represent our bosses, we represent ourselves too. One of the best ways to bolster our own personal brand is to be on time and fully present. If we are consistently late and constantly distracted it sends the message that we don’t really want to be there.
3. Being on time and fully present subconsciously sends the message that we are reliable and trustworthy. I think we’ve all had “that one coworker” that has epitomized reliability and trustworthiness. An easy way to gain this status is to show up on time, both physically and mentally, 100% of the time.
Pinpoint what most distracts you. Is your brain overloaded with tasks? Are you worried that something will fall through the cracks? If so, please check out this post, where I walk you through setting up a system for task tracking that utilizes Trello or snag your free copy of my Peak Productivity Roadmap. We will always be busy, but having a system for managing all the “crazy” is the first step in getting to a place where you will be able to focus on the task at hand.
If you’re consistently late, start by asking yourself why. Do you lose track of time through your day? Are you not giving yourself enough time in the morning? Does your boss always seem to urgently need something the moment you are heading into a meeting? Once we can pinpoint the root of the issue we can address it.
Kickass assistants generally view things with a glass-half-full perspective, maintaining optimism that there is no challenge too great for their grit and resourcefulness. If you want to hear more about grit, check out the blog here. Even though they might not know how they are going to complete certain projects, they take the first step and go from there.
A positive attitude can have amazing personal benefits, including higher rates of productivity. This, of course, makes total sense. If we believe we can do things that are new or don’t come easily to us, we are more likely to consider creative solutions and complete challenging tasks successfully. I would argue that a positive attitude also decreases stress and increases overall happiness. When we operate from a place of negativity we are more inclined to feel ill-equipped to handle certain tasks or situations, resulting in increased stress and decreased productivity
Optimism begets optimism. When we have a “can-do” attitude it tends to have a ripple effect. Have you ever been around someone with contagious joy? How did it make you feel? A good attitude is the same way. This is not to say that we shouldn’t acknowledge challenges for what they are, or that we should be fake or insincere. Kickass assistants realize, however, that their attitude is important and has the power to elevate those around them.
Leadership pays attention to attitude. As assistants, we rub shoulders with internal and external leadership all day long. A great attitude is a fantastic way to set yourself apart as a team player who is willing to grow and take on new challenges. In my current position, only my boss and I are located in Denver. The rest of the team is spread out along the west coast. I don’t have regular interaction with the other two managing directors of our company, however, another managing director reached out to me to tell me he appreciated my attitude! I’ve never even met this executive face to face, and he noticed my attitude. Kickass assistants realize their attitude is important and strive to maintain a positive outlook.
As assistants, coworkers frequently come to us with their interpersonal problems. Sometimes it’s genuine advice they are seeking, but more often than not they are coming to us to gossip, complain, and dump their negativity on our laps. This can bring our attitudes and psyche down. While we can and should be sympathetic, it’s up to each of us to discern where the conversation is going and how we intend to handle it. If things start to head south, I’ve found a phrase that swiftly and tactfully puts an end to it. Simply reiterate that you are super busy at the moment, and ask your coworker if there is something you can help her with. Simple as that!
If you would like to improve your attitude at work, there are lots of great articles on how to do just that, such as this one. I could honestly write an entire post about attitude improvement, however, doing a bit of googling on the subject should offer you plenty of ideas.
When I reference personal brand what I am really referencing is an awareness of other people’s perceptions of you. What I’ve shared in chapters 1-4 of this book will go a long way in up-leveling your personal brand, however, I think it’s worthwhile mentioning a few other aspects of this concept as well.
First, it is important to be yourself, flaws and all. When I talk about being aware of other’s perceptions of you, that doesn’t mean we should change who we are to meet everyone else’s expectations. All it means is that we should be aware of how others perceive us. Once we are aware we can bring intentionality to those things we wish to improve, and better embrace the things we are okay with. An example of a personal branding change that I have worked hard to make is how I come across to others in stressful situations. By nature, I am an external processor when rapid decisions need to be made. Sometimes this puts undue stress on whoever I’m troubleshooting a solution with. I’ve learned that by taking a step back and a deep breath, I am able to think more clearly and am better equipped to make decisions. I still miss the mark every now and again, but I’m constantly improving.
One area of my personal brand, which I have chosen to wholeheartedly embrace is the use of the occasional (or sometimes more-than-occasional) swear word. I know this is controversial, however, the thought of not swearing at all feels disingenuous to who I am. This is especially true when it comes to responding to something I feel passionately about.
While at work, I am very careful not to disrespect others’ value systems, however, I’ve found that a well placed swear word, spoken at just the right moment actually has the power to deepen bonds with my colleagues. To be clear, I’m not advocating for or against the use of swear words. I’m simply stating that they are an authentic part of my personal brand that I’ve chosen to embrace.
Another area of personal branding that I would encourage you to bring some awareness to is your appearance. Are we saying what we want to say with how we look? I mentioned earlier that my boss and I are the only two employees from our company based in Denver. Denver is a very relaxed city with a lot of outdoorsy types, and my boss embodies that relaxed vibe. Generally, he comes to the office in jeans or shorts and a polo shirt, and this look suits him! It also suits our Colorado locale. It would be very easy for me to show up to work wearing athleisure leggings and sneakers. I never do this because, for me, I feel like I can't be my best most productive self when wearing something so casual.
My father, who now owns a successful advertising agency in my hometown, got his start working in production at our local television station before I was born. Eventually, he landed a job in the sales department. Growing up, I heard the story of how he purchased his first suit and how it changed everything. Prior to this purchase, going to work was an uphill battle. Nobody seemed to respect him or take him seriously. The first day he wore his new suit he noticed how everyone treated him differently. My dad said he learned a valuable lesson that day; in order to be taken seriously, you have to look like you want to be taken seriously.
I was speaking with my best friend, Val, on one of our weekly calls recently, and she was telling me how her wife, Sophie, had purchased new work attire. She mentioned how confident and sophisticated Sophie looked and sent me a couple of pictures. It was totally true! Sophie looked so bold and self-assured in her new button-down shirt, slacks, and a leather jacket; almost like she was channeling confidence from her clothes. She was radiant! I have found this to be true for myself as well. Whenever I work from home I find I’m more focused and productive if I dress like I’m going to the office.
It doesn’t matter your size or shape. You do you. Wear something that makes you feel confident and ready to tackle the day. For me it’s blazers, I love ‘em! A nice pair of skinny pants with a trendy top and blazer, and I feel like I can handle anything. For another woman, it might be high heels or maybe even oxfords. Figure out an element from which you can draw power and confidence, and incorporate it into your wardrobe every day.
Would you like to learn more about qualities that make a truly kickass EA or AA? Download your free copy of “4 Secrets of a Kickass Assistant”. In it, you will find actionable steps to up your game and set yourself apart as an assistant. I’ve even included a couple of worksheets to help you troubleshoot issues we deal with every day.
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