As many Executive Assistants have shared with me, it is frustrating when your executive does not delegate things. You feel underutilized and not trusted. As an Executive, it is frustrating when you can’t (or don’t think you can) delegate. There are many things an executive can do to get better at delegating. But today, I want to cover one topic that, as an Executive Assistant, you can do to start encouraging more delegation from your Executive.
Close the feedback loop.
What do I mean by this? As an executive, sometimes we delegate something that we considered doing ourselves. We know we should let it go, but it's hard. Consider this scenario.
Scenario 1: On Thursday morning, an Executive delegates the task to review and finalize the board agenda and send it out. The executive always sends it out by 5:00 pm Thursday.
Response 1: The Executive Assistant gets the request immediately, finds the rough draft of the agenda, makes the changes discussed with the executive, runs it through Grammarly, and sends the message to two members of the leadership team asking for the time they need on 2 topics. At 3:00 pm, the Executive Assistant gets timing back from leadership team members and sends out the agenda at 3:30 pm.
// That seemed pretty good - except this may be how that felt from the executive’s perspective…
The Executive delegates the task of sending out agenda at 9:00 am. Doesn't hear anything back. Assumes Executive Assistant got the message. At noon, checks email to see if the agenda has been sent. Nothing. Has to jump into a lunch meeting. During the meeting, wonders if their request got missed. Starts to feel stressed about asking Executive Assistant how it’s going with agenda. Doesn't want to micromanage so holds off. At 2:00 pm, checks email. Still no agenda. Starts thinking, “I knew I should have just done it myself.” Worries it's gotten forgotten. Reminds themself that EA is very reliable and tries not to stress about it. At 3:00 pm, gets asked by a member of the leadership team if the agenda will go out today before 5. Gulps and hesitantly says, “Yes.” Starts thinking, “Why am I stressing about this????” At 3:20 pm, thinks the request must have been missed and regrets delegating the task. At 3:30 pm, grabs their phone to message EA and ask for an update. As they write, an email comes through with the agenda done and all in order. Executive is relieved but also frustrated about the unnecessary stress and feels guilty about doubting their EA.
Second Scenario: Executive Assistant gets the message and replies with a quick, “Got It.” Executive knows EA is working on it and moves on with their day. At 11:00 am, EA sends a quick message to the Executive, “Sent two timing requests to finalize the agenda. Should be no problem getting it out well before 5. If I haven't heard back on those items by 3:00, I’ll let you know.” Exec sees message right before lunch meeting. At 3:00 pm, EA sends a message, “Just got all the feedback. Making a few tweaks and will send out in the next 30 minutes or so.” Executive continues to focus on their day and sees the email with the agenda attached at 3:30 pm.
In both of these scenarios, the Executive Assistant was all over it, did great work, and got the request completed 1.5 hours early. Yet, in Scenario 1, the likelihood of further and more important tasks being delegated is low and in Scenario 2, the odds are much higher.
Now every Executive is different. Some want more visibility; some want less. You need to figure out what the specific needs of your executive are. But if you’re finding your executive is not delegating what you feel should be delegated, you might want to give this a try. I also recommend that if you are a ”scenario 1” person and have assumed that's okay, ask your executive. You might be surprised that they would welcome a little more communication and more closed feedback.
I am a “scenario 2” executive, but my Executive Assistant used to operate more like scenario 1. I felt guilty about asking for more communication when my EA was so reliable. I couldn’t understand why I wanted more communication. However, when I finally brought it up, my Executive Assistant welcomed it, and I found myself so much more at ease with delegating.
This communication challenge is one of the factors that drove us to build Emmre. Built into our task management is a simple and automated way to close that feedback loop.
Whether you use Emmre or not, I highly recommend conversing with your executive to understand what level of feedback would help them delegate more and continue to drive your partnership forward.
Emmre is executive assistant software created by an executive and assistant for executives and assistants. Emmre's mission is to help supercharge productivity and maximize the strategic partnership between executives and executive assistants.