Be Nice to Rachelle

Are you lucky enough to have a personal assistant?  If so, do you think of yourself that way – lucky?

My assistant’s name is Rachelle, and I consider myself extremely lucky.  Aside from the fact that she basically dared me to write something titled “be nice to Rachelle” (she was hoping for a book – I’ll see how that goes) I thought I would take up the challenge and canvass an important topic with that basic principle as the message.

Business leaders, and lawyers in particular, have a tendency to suffer from delusions of grandeur.  We occasionally convince ourselves that we (the individual) are the most important cog in the particular machine that makes up our business.  We tell ourselves how productive and smart we are, how we are multi-skilled and we have an unfortunate knack of forgetting something:

We can’t do it all.

Now, of course, if you asked anybody “hey are you perfect at everything?” obviously they would say no.  But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.  How do they conduct themselves?  How do they speak to their assistant?  What is their manner?  Are they respectful of their assistant’s time, feelings and motivations?  Do they even bother getting to know their assistant?  Actions speak louder than words, and in my experience many people fortunate enough to have an awesome personal assistant can’t seem to see beyond their own noses when it comes to identifying the reasons for their success.

They have, in effect, become self-absorbed.

But I’m not self-absorbed!

Here are some falsehoods that we might mumble to ourselves on our path to self-absorption:

  • My assistant is replaceable.  If your assistant was to simply cease assisting you, how would your day go then?  In a large business you might have another person to replace them, but would they know your style, your preferences, your instruction method, your document locations, your husband/wife’s name.  Would the replacement be able to read your mood when you walked in the door?  Would they be able to read your handwriting?  You might be able to get a new assistant, but that’s not replacing your current one – it’s starting from scratch.
  • My job is more important.  You might be higher on the pay scale, but that doesn’t make your job more important.  The reality of most personal assistants is that your job can’t be done without them, just the same as they wouldn’t have a job without you.  So be respectful of the fact that you are a team.
  • My time is more valuable.  This might be true on a cost analysis (ie – my hourly rate is $X and my assistant doesn’t have one) but that does not mean you have a right to waste your assistant’s time.  Keeping your assistant doing useful and productive work rather than having them wait on your pleasure is always the better bet, if at all humanly possible.
  • My way is better.  Sometimes your way is going to be better, and sometimes it’s not.  Listen and you just might occasionally learn something.  Doesn’t mean you have to stop having an opinion, but a bit of respectful listening can go a long way.

OK – Maybe I’m a little self-absorbed….

Fear not, because the path to being nice to Rachelle is not far away.  Here are a few starting thoughts on how you might go about it:

  • Be grateful.  Plenty of people do their jobs all by themselves.  A bit of gratitude for the fact that you have a team to work with will help your attitude immensely.
  • Pay attention.  How is your Rachelle going today, is he/she grumpy, happy, tired, distracted, enthusiastic?  Doesn’t mean you have to be a counsellor, but sometimes you need to make allowances and either be understanding of a negative, or engaging for a positive.
  • Be a team, not a hierarchy.  You might be “in charge” in a business sense, but that doesn’t mean you have to be elitist.  There’s two of you, and the better you work together, the more productive you will be.
  • Keep Rachelle informed.  If you’re going out, making a meeting, disappearing, or going to be absent – keep your PA in the loop.  They are, after all, generally your gatekeeper – they keep the flotsam away from your desk, and the important stuff rolling through.  They need to know what’s going on.
  • Never ever ask your PA to lie for you.  If you don’t want a call, then you are “unavailable” not “in a meeting”.  If you just haven’t done something, don’t get them to tell your customer that it’s “in the post” or whatever.  Lying damages your reputation, makes your assistant uncomfortable, and ultimately harms your relationship.
  • Buy chocolate.  OK – this one’s not for real – after all, chocolate works on everybody….

Over to you…

So – hopefully you know your PA better than anyone – how are you going to be a productive, well managed and capable team?  Whether your PA is Rachelle, Bruce, Julia, Michael or an un-named virtual assistant from a country you can’t find on a map – find the ways you need to interact to work best.  Not only will it make both your work days happier, it will absolutely make you more productive and beneficial for your organization.

Now to go and ask Rachelle what I got wrong in this post….

Happy lawyering!



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