Makes a Successful Assistant
As we learned in this week’s edition of DLM summer school, hiring the right team begins with the having the right mindset and crystal clear expectations. Hard to come by as it seems, you can be confident that a talented, organized and trustworthy personal assistant who fits effortlessly into your business and lifestyle is out there for you—you just need to know who and what you’re looking for.
To give you a better idea of what to look for in a PA and how to set them up for success, I wanted to introduce my own amazing assistant Rebekah Watkins, who feels like part of the family. If you’re ready to find your own complete rock star personal assistant or are wondering how to better train yours, read the interview below for Rebekah’s perspective on what makes the role a win-win.
What qualities does a great PA need to have?
There are so many important qualities, I would start by saying that it is extremely important to be able to learn quickly, take direction, multitask and be detail-oriented! Of course there’s the usual responsibility, respect and integrity, but those all depend on the true character of the person you are hiring. Essentially a PA’s main focus should be how she can support her boss as efficiently and effortlessly as possible. That could mean anything from making sure her coffee is ready for her in the morning, or preparing to pack her for her travels before you are asked to. Support comes in different forms depending on the day. Gina can have very full days and things may not be going as planned, but I always find that they go much smoother when I respond with grace and patience no matter the situation.
Learn to work at a level of productivity where you accomplish a task before your boss even realizes it needs to be done, and have your own recognition of your performance be reinforcement to continue implementing your skill set in your daily routines. It’s not only about supporting your boss in her power, but encouraging yourself to find yours.
How do you stay in touch with Gina while she’s out of town?
I quickly learned that I always have to be a few steps ahead of Gina! It’s about learning to anticipate what she needs—whether at home or away. Getting to a task before Gina asks means it’s just one less thing that the two of us need to wonder about completing. Gina and I stay in contact mostly through email, but we text and call as well when necessary. I make sure that I always have my phone on me. As long as I stay in touch with Gina while she’s traveling, it’s a piece of cake to do what’s asked of me.
What has empowered you to be successful in your position?
An open mind, the ability to be flexible, taking initiative when necessary, and a desire to learn and to exceed expectations! When I began working for Gina and Glenn I thought to myself, “How can I find a way to really WOW them?” And that is what my job is about. I am immensely meticulous in my work and I’ve learned so much about Gina and Glenn by being extremely attentive to their needs and the way that they like things to be done. If I don’t do something correctly, the action is always fixed by the time a similar task comes back around. I do my absolute best to finish my list of to-dos on any given day, because I never know what the next day will bring. I’ve found it most useful to not let tasks roll over to the next day because bigger jobs might need to be done!
How do you think a PA should be set up for success?
It’s first essential to know what you want from them. Gina and Glenn had guidelines and expectations set up for me as soon as I started working for them, which made it much easier for me to get used to my job and everything that it entailed. These guidelines included the days and hours I would work, contract and confidentiality agreements, the daily tasks that would need to be completed around Gina and Glenn’s house and office space, how and when to pack for Gina’s travels, and dog care when they were out of town. It made it simple for me to meet Gina and Glenn where they were at, and then be able to determine how I could go above and beyond what was expected of me.
How do you demonstrate trustworthiness?
Demonstrating trustworthiness can be difficult. Anyone can say “You can trust me,” but how is anyone really able to show it? I feel that I do this by always being honest with Gina and Glenn and by communicating openly with them. As a personal assistant, I have access to private information as well as authorization to use things like a debit card. I am diligent about tracking how much I spend, what it was spent on, keeping and filing receipts, as well as sending them a weekly update (this is just one task among many). Being a trustworthy person is a choice, but it’s easy to choose when you respect and admire the people that you work for.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to find someone like you?
When looking for a personal assistant, look for good character. It’s easy to say the right things in an interview, but to really find a trustworthy person goes below the surface interview questions. Glenn was the one to interview me and we discussed more than the job. I let him know about the kind of person I am, outside of my work space, and the kinds of things I strive for in my life. He hired me the same day. I also think it’s important to give people a chance. I can’t tell you how many times I was in a situation where I needed more time to learn or understand what I needed to do. Gina and Glenn were patient with me, as they understood that there is always a period of adjustment when you hire a new team member. I believe their patience came from the fact that I continued to improve my work and made sure that I showed them that I was learning.