How to get the best out of your new relationship

So you’ve gone through the interview process, you’ve met with the HR representative, the previous EA or one of the other EA’s in the business, a member of the team and then finally the person who could be your new boss.. you have even proven that you’re (somewhat) sane in the personality psych testing, and you have scored the role. Well done! Now the nerves of ‘did they like me?’ subside and in come the ‘how can I do my best to ensure my success in this new role?’ nerves to take their place.

I’ve always referred to my relationship with my executive as a work marriage. It’s essential that you hold it with the same importance I think, as after all, you spend more hours during the week at work with your boss than you do at home with your partner. What are their needs, what are my needs? How do we communicate effectively? How do we make this a successful relationship and how will we work best together? These are all the questions that go through your head when you start a new role with a new boss. It’s like dating all over again... getting to know someone and trying to work out whether you’re a match or not.

It sounds like you’ve started an exclusive relationship with that cute new guy you’ve met on tinder doesn’t it? But no, I’m talking about your other new important relationship, the one with your new boss. As an Executive Assistant, chemistry and the dynamic with your executive are so important— sometimes even more so than skills and experience... those things can be learnt, but chemistry, that is something you either have or you don’t.

Often when interviewing for a new role, you have one or two, one hour interviews, then that’s it – you’re work married! You are now in one of the most important relationships in the organisation. You need to be in sync, aligned and able to work well as your own team. It’s important in the first few weeks working together that you get to know each other as best as possible. You need to establish trust, respect, boundaries, working style and ensure you communicate effectively. How do you do this? Well, there is that chemistry thing… but some ways to figure out the rest is to ask questions, then listen. Really listen.

Our role is fundamentally to assist our executive to ensure they are successful – so ask them, what support do you need from me to make you successful? What are your priorities? As these will then become your own priorities as you do what you can to make sure they are successful in delivering them. Ask them to describe their management style, who are their most important internal and external stakeholders and what is their biggest goal in life right now? 

The better you can get to know your executive’s personality, working style and even pet peeves, the easier it will be to support them and be successful in the role.

You are the heart of the organisation, so make sure you get to know everyone. Identify who your boss deals with ASAP, get to know their assistants and build rapport with them as you are going to be dealing with them a lot. It's important to know who’s who in the zoo, and to be able to communicate with them effectively. Ask for help and keep asking If your immediate colleagues don’t know the answer, seek out established PAs in other areas of the company. Meet your counterparts by scheduling a lunch or after work get together. This will help in building a strong network you can use on an ongoing basis. Be pro-active about talking to your Exec and have some clear goals in mind of what you’d like to achieve in your role. Be assertive about what you need and what you can offer.

Even if you are an experienced EA, sometimes a new role can be daunting, so just give yourself time to understand the business, environment and your new boss, and remember that no one can know everything by the end of their first day!

Nis & Sarah

Enisa Fazlic