On many occasions, I haven’t asked my Executive Assistant to do things because I felt bad asking or scared about how they would respond. I recently did a panel interview for a group of Executive Assistants and found out that I am not the only Executive who has felt that way!
I was on a panel of Executives (four or five of us) who had Executive Assistants. Around 20 to 30 Executive Assistants were attending the interview to ask questions. The entire interview was about an hour long, but there was a 5-minute interaction that stood out to me…
I was asked a question like, “Do you delegate your inbox?”
My initial answer was, “Yes.”
But then I got a little more honest with the group…
I said, “I didn’t at first because I wasn’t sure I should. I felt bad asking my Executive Assistant to do something like send my emails when I could do it myself.”
The group all responded with comments like, “Why would you think that? That’s our job!”
I said, “I don’t know. I was too scared to ask about it!”
Looking out at the group, I saw shock. They couldn't believe that my fear had kept me from delegating. Before anyone else could say anything, another Executive in the panel said…
“That happens to me all the time. I often think of things for my EA to do but I’m scared I’ll offend them if I ask. For months, I didn’t ask my EA to do my travel because I was too afraid to ask. When I finally did ask, she was excited to take that over and I was so relieved.”
Then one by one, each Executive told a story of NOT delegating because they were too scared, nervous, or embarrassed to ask. It turned into a group therapy session! The Executives were expressing their fears and the EAs were assuring us that they wanted us to ask. As we spoke, one of the Executive Assistants commented, “I’ve always assumed that everything my boss does not delegate to me was because she didn’t trust me or didn’t want me to do it. I never considered that the reason could be because she worried about asking me.” There wasn’t an EA in the room that had ever considered that option.
So I encouraged them as I’ll encourage you now. If there is something that is not delegated to you, don’t assume your Executive doesn't want you to do it. (Although on some occasions, that might be the case.) They may really want you to do it but may feel afraid to ask. Take a risk and ask for it! You might just make both your roles better in the process!
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