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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Harassed, Overworked, Stressed Out? What You Need is a Great PA!

I seem to have several of the Managing Director/CEO members of my Vistage groups saying that they are working too hard, too long hours and don’t seem to have any spare time for anything other than the business.

Not unusual in this day and age and the wide use of the ever-present smart phones and/or tablets doesn’t help.  Ask yourself; do you surreptitiously take a glance at your phone while you are witching TV?

The consistent need is to delegate and I often have the answer: “delegate to whom?” as if there were no one in the business that can do some of the menial tasks that we take on.

If course it is a nonsense and it is a manifestation of the “leave it to me, I’ll do it” syndrome safe in the comfortable feeling that if we do it, then it will be done right.

That is, if it is done at all, because after a while the workload expands to fill every hour of the working day and something has to give.

I remember going to see a new member of one of my Vistage group and during the first one-to-one I asked him if he set priorities and he said that he did and he had a “to-do” list.

That’s good” I said, “Can I see it?” so he did a search on the computer and up it came.  It had 72 items to do.

We spent a great deal of time over the next few meetings trying to regularise the situation and we made great strides simply by being ruthless and either not doing certain things but mainly by delegating them to others.

In another instance the member told me that he was thinking of taking on a personal assistant (PA) although he knew that he would have only enough work for a couple of days a week but that alone would help.

He suggested that he could pass the appointee to the FD to cover his work as well if she had little to do.

When the appointed candidate arrived she took one look at how things were done around there, rolled her eyes and tut-tutted a great deal, metaphorically rolled up her sleeves and got down to work.

The result was of course that she worked full time for the CEO who couldn’t believe the amount of time that was released for what he now saw as more important.

Over the years I have met and to some extent worked with many PAs in a range of businesses and have come to relaise that they are almost all of them the unsung heroes of the company, quietly going about their work and actually doing things rather than discussing them.

Most leaders accept the effort that is put into smoothing the day for them without drama does take an enormous load off their shoulders.

It is sad to note that in these days of diversity and inclusion, the job of the PA is considered one for a woman and it frequently comes with a metaphorical glass ceiling.

However it is good to see that in some industries women have made great strides in moving upwards to leadership; typical of these are teaching, the law, retail and HR.

I know that I would always want to have women in my Vistage groups simply because they bring another dimension to the discussions and generally change the dynamics of the group for the better.

I have been banging on recently about the unseen and unnoticed talent lurking in many businesses.  How about making a start and promoting our PA to a position that really does value their abilities.

Remember that they usually know more than anyone what is going on in the business and that knowledge can be invaluable.

Give it a try: like the football manager said, “It could be the best signing you ever make”.

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