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About This Episode

Working with an executive assistant isn’t a one size fits all experience. Each leader has their own communication style and management style and so does each EA. Being able to use your unique qualities to better work together as a team can be the catapult to your potential as a leader and your growth as an organization.   

 

This week, we are continuing our conversation around how to help you better lead your organization by learning to leverage your executive assistant in more effective ways. Here to join us again for this conversation are our very own executive assistants, Kate Sawtelle and Melissa Lawrence. They are ready to jump in and help us discuss how leaders can best work with their executive assistant to build trust, effectively create expectations, and better communicate.

 

Your One Next Step

 Are you ready to maximize your time? Download this week’s episode activation guide, our Delegation Worksheet. This resource will help you identify tasks that only you can do and those that you have the opportunity to  delegate. Start juggling less 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. Trust with your assistant begins by realizing your need to let go.

Once they’ve proven they can do the job, you’ll trust them more, which begins a cycle of trust between you and the assistant. Start by passing off the things you don’t like or simply aren’t good at, such as scheduling. Then over time, you should naturally begin passing along even more important things. Letting go will eventually become natural. But that can’t happen until you realize your need to let go in the first place. 

2. Your relationship with your assistant is a two-way street.

You will hold them accountable to the job you hired them for. But they should also be empowered to hold you accountable to the expectations you set for them and to be able to speak truth when you need it. The best assistants have the ability to lead their leader, providing focus and clarity when things get overwhelming. 

3. Clarify your preferred method of communication right away.

Make sure your assistant knows the best ways to reach you, whether that’s instant message, text, email, or (yikes!) a phone call. Also, help them understand when and where each method might be preferred. For instance, a text message is great for something a little more urgent, like a lunch order, but an email might be better for communicating more information and an issue that might not need an immediate response.

What are some areas of work where you might need to let go?
What does two-way accountability look like in a relationship between an executive and their assistant?
How do you create expectations with an assistant? And what’s the best way to respond when those aren’t met?
What is your preferred methods of communicating, and when and where might those methods change?

The key element to trust is effective communication.

Lisa Zeeveld

If you can't relinquish and give trust to your assistant, you will become the lid to your own capacity.

Tricia Sciortino

Trust begets trust, begets trust.

Tricia Sciortino

Delegating is easy, clearly communicating expectations is the hard part.

Lisa Zeeveld

Setting expectations has to be a two way street in any successful working relationship.

Lisa Zeeveld

(4:31) How do you build trust in your relationship with an assistant and let go of control?

(7:03) A good assistant will be deliberate and intentional about asking how they can help and go the extra mile. 

(9:35) How do you create expectations, on both sides, and how should you respond when they aren’t met? 

(11:40) Leaders can miss the value that sits inside their relationship with their executive assistant. 

(12:53) The relationship is a two-way street. Your assistant should be empowered to call you out when needed. 

(16:06) You should always be having an ongoing conversation with your assistant about what is working and what isn’t, for each of you. 

(16:56) What is it like working with leaders in a remote environment?

(19:03) Make sure you define how you prefer to communicate with your assistant, whether it’s email, text message, IM, etc. 

(23:45) This week’s one next step: Download this episode’s activation guide, our Delegation Worksheet. Use this resource to identify things only you should do and things you should delegate.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Like you said Tricia in the beginning, it’s like giving up those things that are easy and then growing that muscle over time. When you communicate well, that just breeds for more trust.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Trust begets trust, begets trust, begets trust. The more you trust, the more they trust you, the more you trust them, the more they trust you. You go into this very positive trust cycle.

 

Speaker 3:

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:

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 5,000 fastest growing companies list for six years running.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

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 excited you’re with us today. In this episode, we are continuing our conversation around how to help you better lead your organization by learning to leverage your executive assistant in more effective ways. Here to join us again for this conversation, our very own executive assistants, Kate Sawtelle and Melissa Lawrence. They are ready to help us discuss how leaders can best work with their executive assistant to build trust, effectively create expectations and better communicate.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

This is so important. Working with an executive assistant isn’t a one size fits all experience. Each leader has their own communication style and management style, and guess what? So does your EA. Being able to use your unique qualities to better work together as a team can be the catapult to your potential as a leader and the growth of an organization. Tricia and I couldn’t lead the way we do without the support of our executive assistants. Kate and Melissa are the best EAs around. They support us in their own unique and different ways, and keep us moving smoothly in the right direction.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Supporting a CEO and a COO is no easy task.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Especially when it’s T and LZ. But they have learned what makes us tick, and use those unique qualities to help us work better together as a team. They are here to share their secrets and tips for how we as leaders can better lead through building trust, creating clear expectations and effective communication. Now let’s dive in.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

All right guys welcome back to your second episode of the One Next Step podcast. Hey ladies.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Hello.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

This episode devoted to all things virtual assistant again, so thanks for being with us, it’s going to be an awesome part two conversation.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Thank you so much for coming back we had so much fun the last time. I know that we didn’t get to some of the key elements just even for us as leaders. I think that it’s important to discuss because so many leaders have a hard time with these next few steps. The first one is really how to build trust. I know that when we are at events, that’s again, one of the first questions besides what do I delegate, goes how do I trust them? How do I know it’s going to get done? Tricia you are the expert in this area of the business. How did you start out with your EA? Then I know now with Melissa, really giving trust and relinquishing that control.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

First I will go down by saying I am a control freak, so this is a good lesson for everybody, because I do not like giving up control. However, if I’m going to be a healthy and thriving leader I must. All of you out there listening who think you cannot do this, you can, I promise. If I can do it you can do it. First and foremost I think it’s realizing that, those things. Realize you’re a control freak and you don’t like giving things up. When Melissa first started I was very transparent with her about that being the case. Some things I found very easy because I had no emotional attachment to them or I didn’t feel like I was good at them. Those were the things I could easily give away, like calendar and travel because I hated it, and so I had no problem giving it up immediately.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Then by setting really clear expectations about exactly how I liked it and how I wanted it, and ideal work week and all the things we’ve talked about before, she was able to really run with it and deliver things successfully right out of the gate. I think starting with what will be easy for you to let go that you don’t have control or emotional attachment to, is an easy way to give your assistant a quick win and an easy way to make an impression and build that trust to start. Then I think from there, it’s an evolution and it grows. I think you sit in the seat of naturally giving trust even when it feels unnatural to you. If you can’t relinquish and give trust to your assistant, and more and more over time, you will find yourself in a place where you’re unable to leverage this relationship, and you’ve kind of become the lid on your own capacity. I think being able to trust your assistant is really important for the success of this relationship.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

Yeah definitely that’s really good Tricia. From my side as the assistant, I think trust is built within the relationship. Of course from executing on my responsibilities and deliverables and communication, all of those things. But also for me by being really deliberate about finding ways to show you that I care about you as a person. Asking after a busy day how I can help you wrap up so that you can finish up early, or following up after an important meeting to ask how it went. Things like that, that really help you to see that I have your best interests in mind, I think really helps to develop that trust.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Showing that you’re in their corner, that’s ultimately our goal. We want you guys to succeed, because if you guys succeed we succeed. It’s a two-way street and so thankfully we have a culture here that trust is just automatically given at the get go, which is not usual but very refreshing. Knowing that walking into the situation of, when you say that you don’t actually believe it, because you have history with other places where that’s not the case. But then after one week, two weeks, a month, you’re like they really mean that they’re going to trust you from the start. That’s also very empowering that you guys actually own what you say and lead it well.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I think the small, like you said Tricia in the beginning, it’s like giving up those things that are easy and then growing that muscle over time. When you communicate well, then that just breeds for more trust.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

It’s like a cycle, it’s like a trust loop. Trust begets trust, begets trust, begets trust. The more you trust, the more they trust you, the more you trust them, the more they trust you. You go into this very positive trust cycle.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Just because there’s like, and hear me, trust is in that cycle. You don’t just give it and take it away and give it and take away. You have to know that everybody is human. Just like I make a mistake, Kate is going to make mistakes. If there’s a deadline missed or a calendar, we gave that example. That doesn’t mean that I no longer trust her. I think that’s where we see a lot of leaders that’s where the relationship gets strained. Because usually if there is a miss it’s because expectations weren’t communicated in the beginning. I think that’s a key element to trust.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Well, and that’s a perfect tee up to the next step in all of this is really having clear expectations for your assistant and vice versa, so that those misses can be minimized and really setting the stage for clarity. LZ I’d love for you to sit there for a minute and talk a little bit about what it means to create expectations in delegation and how we work through that maybe when they are missed.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Well Kate and I within the first month created a document of expectations and promises. That was really, really good for me to say, hey, what do I actually expect her to do? I can’t just keep it all in my head. There’s one thing to delegate. Delegating is easy, can you please do this? The expectation part of it is the hard part, and especially as a busy leader. Now this is not a document that works for everything, but it really did help us get off on the right foot and it’s something that we now visit annually, works for us because it’s a pretty evergreen document that we just bring up. But I also wanted to know what was her expectations of me. It’s not a one-way street. I was like, “Okay, take a look at this and let me know how can I make sure that I serve you well?” It is a two-way street.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I think that’s a great place to start. The promises of that are a little different than the expectations. I promise to always have your back. I promise to always keep your best interest in mind. I promise to protect you and encourage you, like all these things that are really important to having a great relationship. Because at the end of the day outside of my immediate family, Tricia it’s you I need to trust you, you and I work so close together that we are a true partnership and then it’s Kate. That deep, deep relationship has to have some sort of additional expectations and promises that you might not just have with another peer.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I think that’s something that people miss. I think that leaders miss the importance or the value that sits inside the leader/executive assistant relationship. I say it and I’ve said it on other podcasts and from stages, but it’s literally one of the most important relationships and roles to me as an executive. I don’t say it lightly when I say I could not be successful in my role if I did not have Melissa, I literally mean it. I literally will say to her sometimes like, “I would die.” She relieves so much pressure and stress for me. Really knowing that that is really the case, the amount of energy and effort and care that’s put into that relationship for it to be successful is high. Just as my relationship with you LZ. The relational capital and the connection, and the ability to work really well together is as important with Melissa as it is with LZ.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

One of the things that I think too that helped Kate and I is that it was a two-way street, and so that accountability part of her calling me out as part of the promises was good wouldn’t you say Kate? When you and I first started talking about it, was it weird? Was it odd?

 

Kate Sawtelle:

No, and we talked about this in episode one, right? Setting those expectations at the front end and really laying that groundwork, I think is what really helped us succeed in the long run. Because we sat down and really thought through, okay, what does LZ expect of me to provide support for her? But then vice versa. For example, I work better with a due date and we’ve talked about this. If I’m given a bunch of projects, I want to know, okay, when do you need these done so that I can then prioritize my work, and my other things that don’t have due dates that are just the everyday things that I need to do to help you succeed.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

That was one thing that I requested was, “Hey, I just need some parameters on these tasks that you’ll send. When do you need it by?” Because then that helps me help you. No I don’t think it was weird. I think it was, I mean it was great. It makes you think, right it’s like, “oh, well, what do I expect of my leader?” My job is to help you. I’ve got the list of things I need to do, but what do I expect? Like you said, I know that you always have my back, the due dates that you have my best interest and we’ve talked about all those and those were all things that we laid out in that document.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

If you are 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 bookkeepers’ thing to. 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. Kate is not just my assistant, but she becomes the assistant COO. If we’re not connected, we’re together, she’s an extra arm. We have to go through this together. If we’re not locking step, then some of the relief that’s expected, that comes with the vulnerability and the authenticity of things that she sees that nobody else sees would be missing, because we didn’t make those things clear in the beginning.

 

Melissa Lawrence:

I would say Tricia and I approached it a little bit differently. We didn’t really sit down and lay all that out in the beginning, but we just had this ongoing feedback conversation, where as things came up she would let me know if I was on the right track or needed to adjust a little bit. Then she would be continually asking me, “What do you need from me?” We just had this ongoing conversation, and we’re still having this ongoing conversation today. That continuous feedback loop really accelerated the rate at which I was able to support her. I was able to understand her needs and her preferences and decisions that she was comfortable with me making on my own, versus when I needed to come to her. That really helped me to reach that strategic partner status much more quickly.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Well we talked a lot about communication, and I know that both of you had been in environments where remote work was a possibility and you had done that, but not to this level. As we talk about communication and expectations and delegation, how did you find that it was different working with leaders in a remote environment? What was different about that?

 

Melissa Lawrence:

I think in a remote environment you definitely have to be much more intentional about communicating. I know in the beginning Tricia would send me an email with something that she wanted me to take care of. I would think I’ll get back to her when I’ve taken care of it. That way I can, trying to avoid extra traffic in her inbox. I would wait and try and get it taken care of so I could just provide her the final update. Then I realized from her feedback that she would just like what we call the virtual nod, where I say, “Hey, I got this I’m on it.” Making that adjustment really helps build that trust between us.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

Those first couple of weeks it takes some adjusting, absolutely going from being in an office to a virtual world. The virtual nod you have to get used to I just need to acknowledge yes I’ve seen this, I’ve read it. Just like you would with a person if you were standing in the hallway with them, it’s like okay I got it, and walk away. Then you give the feedback it’s the same exact thing it’s just virtual. Definitely an adjustment to get used to that. But then it’s become so normal. I even talk to friends who work and are normally in an office, and I was like, “Yeah I’ve sent like 10,000 emails in the last six months or something like that.” He looked at me and he goes, “I think I’ve sent like 50.” Night and day difference. We’d just communicate on everything by email.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Yes. Because we don’t have the opportunity to run into each other in the hallway like you said, I can’t run into you and be like, “Hey Melissa, can you ba ba ba?” I actually have to reach out to you intentionally, whether it’s an email, text message, instant message and all of that stuff. Which brings up a great nother just short topic is, define your modes of communication for you and your assistant? Some leaders love to be on a text message and virtual assistants do some don’t. Some people prefer everything to be in an email so there’s an easy record, you can follow the reply. Sometimes people like a good instant message.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I think getting on the same page and understanding the way with which you communicate, especially when you’re remote is key. Melissa and I know we use instant message and email, and those are our primary sources of communication. We don’t stray too far from there. Obviously Zoom, we have our Zoom meetings. Those are our three modes of communication. We don’t try and be in too many other areas. Those are the most important three for us and we know that about each other, and that makes it easy to know where to look and to be prepared for where to see when the communication is coming back and forth. That’s been a good one for us too around communication.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I’ll let you go to this one Kate. How do you track me down?

 

Kate Sawtelle:

We were chatting the other day, I had to actually think about this because we utilize all three. I would say instant messaging actually less than email and texting. I think we email and text the most. I feel like I’ve gotten a good grasp on when to text and when to email. A lot of it has to do with where you’re at. If you are out and about, I know that I can reach you quickly by a text, or if you’re in meetings. I don’t want to distract you from the meeting because of an instant message popping up, I would rather send a text so it doesn’t… It just all depends. I think I’ve just gotten into that rhythm of I just know this question will be better via text because I need it quicker and it’s not necessarily a task, but emails are all the tasks, the longer bits of information, not the “hey what kind of coffee do you want?” Well tea, “what kind of tea would you like?”

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Which tea? We already know black tea, no instant messaging. These are the things I know about my girl. Yes, my work wife Lisa does not like instant message nor coffee.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

No nor coffee. The other funny thing too, and this has happened the very first time is that Kate and I have very similar personalities. My prior assistant, I was similar to her husband. Actually Kate and I talked about this, this week or last week. That we were saying that how we work together or whatever. I said, “Yeah, it’s so interesting,” because she just has a level of professionalism coupled with the fact that pretty much she knows what I’m going to want because now she knows me after two years, but it’s because how she would like it to. That’s really fun to have that depth of relationship. We both find energy of doing something more at the last minute. I know that makes you cringe Tricia.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

That makes Melissa and I both cringe, we are both cringing. We are the planner group over here that are like please give us weeks of notice.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

I love nothing more than a challenge, so we laugh a lot. We need other people in our lives that you and Melissa, to compliment our need for things to be exciting and last minute.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

You’re going to have to find another duo for that one.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

No, you see you complement us.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I guess.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

Then we’re helping you guys see that last minute things aren’t all that bad.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I’m going to agree and leave it at that.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

To disagree?

 

Tricia Sciortino:

I’m going to say the word disagree. I’m going to go okay.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

This again you guys was so super fun. I hope you both know how valuable you are to T and myself and to this business to BELAY. We definitely could not do what we do without you guys, and love working with you both. Thank you for supporting us so well and trusting us too. Thank you for joining us for episode two, this has been awesome.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

Yes thank you.

 

Kate Sawtelle:

My pleasure.

 

Lisa Zeeveld:

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. With each episode, we’re going to offer you one next step to propel you and your business forward. Today’s next step is to download this episode’s activation guide, which is our delegation worksheet. This multi-page document will walk you through how to fill out our delegation matrix. Use this list resource to help you identify tasks that only you can do and things you should delegate.

 

Tricia Sciortino:

So important. This is a good one guys. To download it now, text the phrase one next step to 31996, or visit onenextsteppodcast.com. When you request today’s guide, you’re also going to 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 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 3:

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 maximize your time? Download this week’s episode activation guide, our Delegation Worksheet. This resource will help you identify tasks that only you can do and those that you have the opportunity to  delegate. Start juggling less 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.

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Thank you for listening to One Next Step.

Don’t miss next week’s episode where we’ll be chatting with Casey Graham, the Co-Founder and CEO of Gravy, an organization that helps businesses collect unpaid recurring payments. Not only has Casey launched three businesses, but he’s authentic and passionate about helping business owners. He’ll help us recognize how unsatisfied owners create unfocused and unmotivated leaders, and what to do about it.