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About This Episode

It’s easy to find yourself in the weeds of running your business but knowing the right time to lean into your team is essential to maximizing your organization’s growth. Our executive assistants have helped us navigate through the good, the bad and the ugly. We wouldn’t be able to lead our organization well without their support.

 

We’re honored to have our assistants, Kate Sawtelle and Melissa Lawrence, join us for this podcast​ where we​’​ll unpack the ways in which their support has made a difference in our leadership. We’ll also ​share ways to effectively leverage your EA so​ ​you​,​ too, can become more organized and lead with more freedom.

 

Your One Next Step

Are you ready to empower your team? We’ve curated this simple list to help you get things off your plate and into your assistant’s hands. Download “25 Things to Delegate to Your Assistant” and start today!

 

Download Now

 

In each episode, we highlight one next step for you and provide an activation or delegation guide to help you immediately take action, start applying what you learn, and get your team to help you.

1. Protect your time.

It’s one of the few resources you can control, and it’s one of the first things an executive assistant can help you with. Once the EA has control of your schedule, work with them on what an ideal week looks like for you, understanding there will be variations. During each week, plan blocks of time that are just for you to get things done without distractions such as phone calls, meetings, lunch outings and so on. Building this time into your schedule will allow you to find a balance between meetings and productive time while also helping you avoid burnout.  

2. A good executive assistant doesn’t wait to be delegated to.

Proactivity is the name of the game for an EA. They’re actively looking for gaps, omissions, and things you might have overlooked. They’re looking at your schedule ahead of time, prioritizing, and rescheduling when needed. None of this is possible, though, if you’re not communicating with them and helping them understand your needs and goals. As your right-hand person, the EA is out to help you manage your schedule and workload, so make sure you have fully delegated that to them and trust them to do the job right.

3. Good EAs are able to lead their leader.

Once you trust your EA enough to delegate your schedule to them, let them run with it! That’s their job. Part of being able to trust them is making sure you have the right person in place. This is someone who is confident and assertive enough to manage the schedule and tell you when you might be overstretching yourself. Of course, you still have the ultimate say on your time. But once you have the right EA, trust them to look out for you and do the job you hired them for. 

What are some of the key benefits of having an assistant?
What might be some of the difficulties in hiring your first assistant? (e.g. being able to “let go”)
What are some of the signs that it’s time to hire an assistant? 
How do assistants not only help their leaders but also help the overall health and growth of an organization?

Every great assistant strives to be a burden lifter.

Kate Sawtelle

The fastest way to get out of the weeds is to delegate the tasks that don’t directly support your goals.

Melissa Lawrence

Just because you can do it, does not mean that you should do it.

Kate Sawtelle

A true, excellent executive assistant is not waiting to be delegated to, but rather looking ahead to see where the gaps are.

Tricia Sciortino

The goal of an executive assistant should be to take the thinking out of everything for the leader. If they're still having to think about it, to delegate it, then they are only being halfway supported.

Melissa Lawrence

(04:12) Tricia and LZ’s executive assistants, Kate and Melissa, share one fun fact about themselves and Tricia and LZ. 

(06:11) What is the first thing an assistant can do to help get their leader out of the weeds?

(08:16) Just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should be doing it. 

(09:49) Tips from Kate and Melissa on how they protect their leader’s time. 

(13:23) Combining personal and professional calendars and how that helps managing time and communication.

(16:40) The importance of executive assistants being able to lead their leader. 

(19:28) Working proactively instead of waiting to be delegated to.  

(22:00) The process of refining communication and the relationship over time. 

(24:07) This week’s one next step: Download “25 Things to Delegate to Your Assistant.” We’ve curated a list of simple ways that help you get things off your plate and in your EA’s hands.  

Melissa Lawrence:

Start with the things that you don’t like to do. If you don’t like to do something, you’re not passionate about it, it’s probably not directly supporting your goals, and you’re probably not very good at it. Your EA probably does enjoy doing that thing and they can probably do it a lot faster and better than you can. As EAs we want to support you, we want to make things easier and better for you, so that’s how we’re fulfilled in our role.

 

Speaker 2:

Welcome to One Next Step, the most practical business podcast in the world, helping you get more done, grow your business, and lead your team with confidence, with tips and tools you didn’t get in business school. Here are your hosts, Tricia Sciortino and Lisa Zeeveld.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Welcome to One Next Step, the practical business podcast that helps you run your business and make it stop running you, so you can enjoy your work and your life. I’m Tricia Sciortino, the CEO of Belay.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

And I’m Lisa Zeeveld, the COO of Belay. Together we are T and LZ. We have known each other since 2005 and have worked together for a decade, growing a 100% remote business from startup to being recognized on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list for six years running.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Yes, and LZ and I have learned a lot along the way and have made some great friends and partners. For One Next Step, we are cashing in some favors to bring you episodes filled with excellent content delivered by some talented people. And we may have a thing or two to add ourselves. One Next Step is here to help you on your leadership journey.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Each week we release a new episode answering your questions about running an organization. We will always highlight one next step for you to take immediate action and include an activation guide that reinforces what you’ve heard.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

We are so excited you’re with us today. In this episode, we want to help you better lead your organization by learning to leverage your executive assistant in more effective ways. Here to join us for this conversation are none other than our very own executive assistants, Kate and Melissa. They are ready to help us unpack the ways their support has made all the difference to the way we lead.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Oh my gosh, that’s right, T. There is definitely no I in this team. They have helped us navigate through the good, the bad, and the ugly. We wouldn’t be able to lead our organization well without the support and leadership of our own executive assistants.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

It’s easy to find yourself in the weeds of running your business, but knowing the right time to lean into your team is essential to maximizing your organization’s growth. In this episode, we will share ways to effectively leverage your EA so that you can get better organized and lead with more freedom.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Our guests today, Kate and Melissa, are the best EAs in the business. They help keep the Belay train on track and running smoothly. As they directly support the two of us, the CEO and COO of Belay, they specialize in what it means to delegate, how to stay organized, and how to lead a leader.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

They are here to share their secrets and tips for how they keep everything, especially us, moving smoothly in the right direction so that we have the freedom to lead. So let’s dive in.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Welcome Melissa and Kate to the podcast.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Thank you. It’s so fun to be here with you guys.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Thanks for having us.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Yes. This is going to be a good one. I’m excited. But before we get started, I’m going to totally put you on the spot, and I’m going to ask you each to share a fun or interesting fact about yourself and your leader, so LZ or I. So I can’t wait to hear what this is.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

We have no idea what they’re going to say.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I know. Come on, surprise us. Let’s go.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Well, I’ll go first. So I guess, an interesting fact about me, I have been to 40 countries, most of which by myself, which is pretty cool.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Very cool.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

I lived overseas for a little bit. Love to travel. And then, fun fact about LZ. It’s actually about both of us. We both love Disney, and I think both of us wish we could be princesses.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Yes, that is so true.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

But I think you actually might be.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I was going to say, I think I am. I think I am a princess. Don’t tell me that.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

That’s hilarious. Yes, that’s so true. How about you, Melissa?

 

Melissa Lawrence:

I am currently training to run the Grand Canyon from rim to rim to rim, so all the way to the other side and back. I’ll be doing that in May of next year.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

That’s crazy.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

It’s crazy, It’s pretty crazy.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

It’s exciting. That’s fun.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Yeah. And Tricia is a very good dancer. We’ve been at some events and I’ve been very impressed with her moves.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

This is true.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Thank you.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

This is so true. She’s a great dancer.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I love that.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Yes, she’s a great dancer.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I love busting a move.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

You’re very good at it.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

That is super, super fun. Thank you guys again for joining us. So I want to know, actually not me, our listeners want to know, we get this question all the time, especially at events, those leaders who are entering this journey with an executive assistant for the first time always want to know, what is the first thing that a leader can delegate and really, how do you help get a leader out of the weeds? So first thing, get them out of the weeds. What can you do?

 

Melissa Lawrence:

I would say, start with the things that you don’t like to do. If you don’t like to do something, you’re not passionate about it, it’s probably not directly supporting your goals, and you’re probably not very good at it. So the thing is that your EA probably does enjoy doing that thing and they can probably do it a lot faster and better than you can. So get those things off your plate.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

As EAs, we want to support you, we want to make things easier and better for you, so that’s how we’re fulfilled in our role, is when you hand those things off to us. So I think just start with the things that you don’t want to do anymore.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Absolutely. And I think the simple tasks, like the calendaring, automatically that should be off your plate day one. That is something you can very easily hand over, give clear direction. LZ, when I started, you had a great spreadsheet of these are the colors that I like, this is how I like it to look, this is how I don’t like it to look, and really laying that platform at the beginning makes it so much easier, just taking that one big chunk off the plate.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

That was the first thing. I mean, to me, that’s the biggest thing, is the calendar. I could never touch my calendar again. Although sometimes I’m in there and Melissa has to smack me, give me a little tap, and say, what’s going on in here?

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Kate always says it’s like adult Jenga. No, adult Tetris.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Tetris, two people trying to put the blocks in the same place. So I have to be mindful or I have to make sure if I’m sticking something on there that I’m chatting her simultaneously, otherwise we’re double booking things. But yeah, calendar is the thing for me that I was like, please, on your first day, take this away from me.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Just because you guys can do those things, you’re absolutely capable, does not mean that you should do those things, because you need the time to be able to focus on the vision, the bigger things going on in the company, so those little tasks, calendaring, talking to people that you don’t need to be talking to, those are great ways to start, because, like Melissa said, we as assistants, we want to make you guys look good. we want to be burden lifters. We don’t want to impede what you’re doing. We want to help. A good assistant, that’s part of our innate character is to be helpers.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Absolutely.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I think it’s good too, as a leader I can remember so often, and still do, putting things on my calendar because a lot of leaders will say, I can do that. Here’s what you don’t do though, you’re not the one following up and making sure that that appointment you have two weeks from now is actually going to show up at the restaurant with you. It’s really easy to throw it on your calendar, but are you confirming, do you have all the right details? Do you know where you’re supposed to show up at? Those are some really key elements that I know has just been such a gift for me that whatever’s on my calendar, I know that Kate has double checked it. If I’m supposed to be somewhere, I have all the details on how to do that. And the person that I’m going to meet with has been confirmed. That’s something that I don’t think a lot of leaders do when they manage their own calendar.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I think that’s a great segue into kind of the next thing we wanted to talk about, is literally, like you’ve mentioned already, that you guys are the protectors of our time, really. I mean, there should be a cape. There should be a stance with hands on hips. You are the protectors of our time. Because time is the only resource that’s limited for us, and time seems to be the thing that most leaders run out of.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Being the protectors of our time, calendar, of course, is the first thing that comes to mind. So I would say for both of you, tips that you could share on how you protect your leader’s time and how another assistant or a leader can leverage an assistant to help protect their calendar and their time.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

I think it’s having that conversation, again upfront, of what is your leader’s ideal week. There are seasons when it’s just not feasible because of other things going on in the company.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

No.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Right? No, that never happens. You have your ideal week every week.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Every week.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

I’ve started trying to block times when I see them of just focus time for LZ to be able to have a chunk, and it’s either a full morning or full afternoon that I do everything in my power to not put a meeting there. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. All depends on the week. But really finding those moments that I can just save and protect for her, because meetings can be great, but at the end of the day, you guys still need to do things and to not be in meetings. So that’s one thing I know I try to do.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Yeah, I agree. I think the ideal work week really helps for the EA to understand the leader’s goals and priorities, and just ensure that there’s enough time in the week to do all the things that are necessary or important.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

With Tricia’s ideal work week, if something comes up that doesn’t fit into it, then I look at how we can either push it out, or delegate it, or eliminate it altogether. So you know if it doesn’t fit in that ideal work week that she shouldn’t be doing it within that week, and so that really, in and of itself, helps to protect her time.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I like one of the things that you do, Melissa, that really helps me is sometimes I’m requested to participate in a meeting, whether it’s inside Belay or with a partner or peers, and Melissa does a really good job at challenging me to say, “There’s time for you to do this this week, but really should you? I mean, wouldn’t this be a great meeting for Krisha, our VP of HR to be in instead of you?” So I like that Melissa really helps hold me accountable to be mindful of actually where I put myself and where need to be, because they’re probably things that… I mean, I think as a leader, I’m supposed to be in all the things.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I think we all think that, it’s a kind of a curse of ours. We think we should be in all the things and if we’re asked to be in something, that means we should be there because somebody is asking for our presence, so it’s hard to turn that down and say no sometimes, but using your assistant as really an accountability partner to really say, “You actually don’t need to do this. Why doesn’t this other executive in the company handle it?” Or “We’ll record it and you can listen to it on fast forward.” I think that that’s been super helpful because sometimes if I was left to my own devices, I’d probably over-commit myself.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I like it too. One of the things that Kate and I did is I have a, I know it’s not talked about often, I do overlay them, but I have a personal calendar, and so, because at Belay we use the G Suite and my personal calendar is in Google as well, I’m able to give access to Kate on my personal calendar through Belay, and then I can turn it on or off, so it overlays on top of each other. You guys don’t care which is sheet day at my house or those kinds of silly things on there.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Yeah, we do. We want to know what’s for dinner.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Yes. Sheet day is Sunday. But so what she does though, is I need my family to be very connected to what I’m doing, especially because we’re a remote organization and we work from home, and so podcast production days, like today, I let my entire family know that this is going on in our home and Kate automatically makes sure that they’re invited to that. And so, because she can see really what my whole life is, she can tell me, “You don’t have the energy to have this extra meeting at 4:00, because you’re supposed to go with your daughter XYZ,” whatever that is.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Having that bigger picture of who I am, I’m not just LZ who only works, I’m LZ, who is a mom and a wife, and so she just really helps me keep all that in perspective and makes sure that I’m taking care of myself too.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I love that. I think leveraging an assistant to help you with your whole person has been a game changer. It’s something that initially, when I had my first assistant years ago, it was very much just focused on work Tricia, but now having Melissa help with all of Tricia has been a gift to me as well. And I think you hit the nail on the head with that one, LZ. Is that there are things that we do personally that also take energy, and the last thing we want to do is be depleted by 4:00 because we just sat in five meetings and now we’re supposed to go spend time with our children or our spouses, and we’re just exhausted. So pacing ourselves as a whole person, so important.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

If you’re anything like me, then keeping up with the daily tasks of AR, AP, and account reconciliation are not your favorite things. But you also know how necessary and important it is. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be your thing anymore, Belay can help.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Numbers are totally my thing, Tricia, and thankfully numbers are Belay bookkeeper’s thing too. Our sponsor, Belay, believes you deserve top-notch bookkeepers to produce balance sheets, pay bills, reconcile bank and credit card statements, and monthly reports to keep you up to date on the numbers of your organization. Whether you’re a church, nonprofit, or a business, they have the right people ready to help. Talk to their team today and never lose sleep over your financials again. Get started by visiting belaysolutions.com/services/bookkeepers, today.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Really, I mean, Kate and Melissa, you guys are leading us, and we have to be willing to come with open palms, and when you say, “No, you can’t do this meeting,” say, “Yes, ma’am, you’re right. I can’t.” So what are some tips really, or some advice, that you could give perhaps another EA who’s saying, how do you lead your leader? Because I think that that’s actually a real problem some EAs have.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Yeah, definitely. I think understanding your leader’s goals and priorities is really important to helping to keep them on track with that, keep their eye on the prize. So being intentional about sitting down, maybe quarterly with them, and understanding what their current goals and priorities are and then holding them accountable and doing things like blocking time on their calendar, like I have time on Tricia’s calendar monthly for her vision planning for Belay, because that’s something that would never happen if I didn’t block time for that. Those are the kind of intangible things that are easy to kind of just get pushed out.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Doing those things to where you’re helping to hold your leader accountable and protect their time to be able to achieve those goals.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

It’s funny, we had another EA start this week, so I got to meet with her and she asked a very similar question and I said, “It’s really setting it up on the front end. Really starting out strong with the communication, with the expectations, and figuring out how you communicate with each other. What works best for you. Because it’s not going to be the same for everyone.”

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Then holding them accountable, “calling them out” when maybe they are doing something they shouldn’t. For example, great example from this week. Totally on me too. I made a mistake. I put PTO incorrectly on the calendar and LZ corrected me, as she should. But then she said, “I’ve just gone in and changed it.” And I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. I can do that. I will fix my mistake. You shouldn’t be doing that.” And so really catching them in those moments of, again, just because you can do it does not mean that you should do it.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

I know myself, I made the mistake, I will absolutely fix it, but letting them know, “Hey, thank you for telling me that I made a mistakes, because I don’t want to do that wrong again, and giving that feedback, and giving it in a very nice and gracious way. But you let me go in then and fix it and you didn’t have to waste your time doing that.”

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I think what I love, what I hope, if there’s any assistants out there listening to this episode can take from this is that, you guys really do a great job at emulating what it means to lead administratively, in that you are proactive and you don’t wait to be delegated to.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I think there’s this subset, or this idea, this myth, that for a VA, I’m sitting and I’m waiting for my leader to tell me what I’m supposed to do to help them now. And you do not live in that category. A true, excellent executive assistant is really not waiting to be delegated to, but however seeing where there are gaps, where there’s work, looking ahead, and being so proactive to say, “Hey, I know you have this thing three weeks from now, let me start a presentation.” Or “I see you’re going to take a vacation Let me reschedule meetings now.”

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I think that was what makes you, in my opinion, the best of the best, is that you really have the vision for leading forward and getting out of what’s happening today. Because for us, as leaders, being able to look ahead is where we need to be, and if you’re already there with us, what a blessing.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Yeah, definitely. Your goal is an EA should be to really take the thinking out of everything for your leader. If they’re still having to think about it, to delegate it to you, that’s kind of only halfway supporting them. It’s still on their mind. They’re still having to worry about it. So really getting one step ahead of them to where you’re worrying about it before they even think about it is really the ultimate goal as an assistant.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

As we are starting to plan all of the next 12 months, you guys getting ahead of us is such a blessing because I don’t get to live in today. I am here in the moment, but my brain is already 12 and 18 months out. We’re planning our business three years out. And so the more that you can empower your EA as a leader, the more that you can really reap the benefits of having one be your partner.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I think it, for the leader, it boils down to truly empowerment, permission. You guys know you have permission to say, no, no, don’t you touch that, or no, you shouldn’t have done that, or no I’m going to do that for you, or no you should not do that. So I think the fact that you’ve been empowered and have the permission to hold us accountable makes all the difference. Because I think if you didn’t feel that way, I don’t know if you’d be able to be as successful.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I think the communication tool, like Kate said in the beginning is such a key. Kate and Melissa started around the same time, and so they’ve been with us now almost two years and there’s still refinement, just like with any great relationship, there’s a refinement that has to happen because you have new things that you might not have done before, and so you’re always having to communicate. Or your life changes. My kids are at a different stage now than they were, Kate, when you started serving me. It’s crazy to think about that journey we’ve been on. And I think so often leaders just assume that it’s a one and done like, “Hey, I’m going to tell them this and then it’s always going to be the same,” and that’s not the case, because just like my life is changing, Kate’s is changing too, and I want to keep encouraging her and helping her grow. I’m always giving her harder and harder things to do.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Like a rise to the challenge. Because even our responsibilities grow and rise as our organization grows. So what we’re doing today, even if you’re in the same position, and your position might have changed, if your organization is growing, then you’re doing more than you did two years ago. So there’s a constant evolution of resetting expectations and resetting things. I mean, we do that quarterly kind of like, okay, what about now? And how about now? It’s an evolution of growth.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I know we have a lot more to share, but I think this is a great kind of stopping point for episode one. So if you guys don’t mind, could you hang around maybe and we could continue the conversation and really dive in a little bit deeper on how this relationship works and how you guys are able to serve us, and back at you, how we can empower and serve you guys. So you okay with that?

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Of course.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

I would love that.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

All right, so now it’s time for the one next step. As the most practical business podcast, we want to make sure taking action isn’t overwhelming to you. So with each episode, we’re going to offer you one next step to propel you and your business forward. And today’s next step is to download this episode’s activation guide, which is a tip sheet called 25 Things to Delegate to Your Assistant. We’ve curated a list of simple ways that help you get things off your plate and in your EA’s hands. Use this list to empower your team and get a jumpstart on your organization’s growth.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Absolutely. To download it now, text the phrase one next step to 31996, or visit onenextsteppodcast.com. When you request today’s guide, you’ll also receive a summary of today’s episode, which includes key quotes and takeaways, and links to resources mentioned in the episode.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Thank you guys so much for listening to this episode of One Next Step. We hope you enjoyed it and that you will join us next time for more practical tips and actionable tools to advance your business one step at a time.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Until next time, own your journey. It’s your life and your business. It’s up to you to create the life and organization you want.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Start by making today count.

 

Speaker 2:

Thanks for listening to one next step. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or follow us on Spotify, then join us next time for more practical business tips and tools to help you get more done, grow your business, and lead your team with confidence. For more episodes, show notes, and helpful resources, visit onenextsteppodcast.com.

Are you ready to empower your team? We’ve curated this simple list to help you get thing off your plate and into your assistant’s hands. Download “25 Things to Delegate to Your Assistant” and start today!

 

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In each episode, we highlight one next step for you and provide an activation or delegation guide to help you immediately take action, start applying what you learn, and get your team to help you.

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Thank you for listening to One Next Step.

Next week we’ll continue our conversation with our executive assistants, Kate Sawtelle and Melissa Lawrence, as we talk with them about how to better lead your organization by learning to leverage your executive assistant in more effective ways.