Your Admin and Your Email

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • Should I let my admin answer my email?
  • Can I hide emails from my admin?
  • Can I trust my admin with my email?

One of our most popular podcasts - and it was actually a series of casts - were titled "The Efficient Assistant and The Effective Executive". We laid out a plan for having a great relationship with one's assistant, and we get comments and mails almost every day from managers and executives thanking us for sharing what their firm never did. [Think about the penny-wise and pound-foolishness of giving someone an administrative assistant and then not teaching the basics of how to make the investment valuable!] Many of the assistants actually say thanks for the fact that our system recommends that they do a LOT MORE work than what they're doing now.

But we need to talk about assistants again, because in our original series, we left out a key part of executive and managerial life.


This cast tells you how to handle email if you have an admin.

Now, if you've already come up with 10 (erroneous) reasons why it won't work for you, listen in. If the CEOs of billion dollar companies can do this... you can too.

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My road trips are over - for

My road trips are over - for now!...

My last planned time away from the office has finally passed, and I've been spending time getting caught...

I began having my admin read ALL my

I began having my admin read ALL my email about a month ago and believe it's one of the smartest things I've ever done.

First off, my admin. was amazed at how much I need to deal with in a day - he has a new found respect for what I do. He is empowered beyond belief - opening my e-mail demonstrated my trust in him and helps him to help me get through my day.

It also exposes him to information and material that he would not otherwise come into contact with - allowing him to learn and develop his own skills through direct observation of how I communicate. I've seen an exponential increase in his effectiveness (and thus my effectiveness)

Tonight was a great example, I was engrossed in a proposal at 4:45 and he walks into my office and says "You need to stop working on that or your going to be late for your you 5:00 meeting." It was brillliant.

One suggestion for folks who want to try this is to also cc your admin on all outgoing mail as well so they get both sides of the communication. They can also keep track of the things that you are asking of others better.

Mike Ciolino
Verve Creative

Great podcast as always. After six

Great podcast as always. After six weeks I finally are catching up to a year worth material. Thanks. I hope sharing in the forums might contribute in a small way to the great job you are doing.

In regards this show I just want to share this:
In addition to sharing anbd delegating full authority to you admin in regards email, I also believe it is convinient to create the followin share folders in your outlook:

Action: all email require some action from the manager, and where not acted by admin.

Response: All email that require response and were not acted by your admin.

Waiting: action items/task or email awaiting for an IMPORTANT answer or action from a third party.

Hold: items you nedd to keep.....for a logical while....then to trash...


Hi everyone, Like all of the content

Hi everyone,

Like all of the content on the site as well as the podcasts, the idea is "to do".

I started sharing my email this September. I knew I had to try it immediately after having listened to the 3 Effective Executive\Effective Assistant Podcasts. The Podcasts were in June and I decided I would wait until after my August vacation.

I should not have waited so long....

It is still a work in progress as I did not "do" daily follow ups and also had issues with the Sharing Setup in Microsoft Exchange, but I am rectifying this now and hope to be fully on board in the next week.

My point is that I encourage listeners and readers to "do" what Mark and Mike go through on the casts. The proof is in the doing...

Mike and Mark, thank you for your generosity and keep it up.

A great model for how to set up email

A great model for how to set up email handling for both you and your admin is Sally McGhee's 'Take Back Your Life using MS Outlook'. The structures for the Outlook control panel she recommends are fantastic. I have six staff and we all have the same email processing systems now based on McGhee and it has made an enormous difference to how my team treat email as a part of their time commitment in a day's work.

I have heard of others recommending

I have heard of others recommending this book, and I've now gone out and got it. Looking forward to it.


No way no how! I will not be letting my

No way no how! I will not be letting my admin do my email. Why? Because I don't trust my admin! She is not up to par or mature enough to handle it. I've inherited her and she's done a fine job at entry level tasks such as calendars and conference rooms. She has little professional maturity. Carries grudges. Gossips with the workers. You name it. So, why is she still my admin? She's trying to get into entry level IT and I'm helping her but so far she has not gotten an offer. So, I'm trying to get her off onto her new career but it's taking much longer than expected. Maybe I'll trust my NEXT admin!

I cannot imagine having an admin do

I cannot imagine having an admin do anything for me that I didn't TRUST.

How much feedback have you given her about the grudges and "maturity" and gossip?


It's such a long story. Yes, I have

It's such a long story. Yes, I have talked to her and addressed a few issues as they arose. But, I shouldn't have to say "You need to talk to Jim, end of story" every time I need her to talk to Jim. She will barely communicate with the other admin. It's such a shame. She actually could be pretty good if she'd just grow up. But, I don't think that's my job. I can just keep telling her things and hopefully someday she gets it. I've thought about letting her go but HR needs documented proof that she's not doing her job. That's not really the case as I said, as an entry level admin, think high school degree who makes the copies and books the conference room, she does fine. She just can't scale up and that's what I need. Hence, trying to get her an IT job without lying and selling my soul! But, her yearly review is coming up next month (I've only had her since August) and the consequence of the messages is coming. Maybe it will finally light her fire to get her out on her own will.

I WANT to do this but have a couple of

I WANT to do this but have a couple of nagging issues I need resolved before I make the plunge - please help!!!

1) Can you describe more in depth the 1 week, daily meetings when I start this. What are we discussioning and how should I prescribe the correct behaviors?
2) I get a lot of sensative emails about salary, etc that I don't want my admin to know about. I know you said that it needs to be a level of trust but sometimes the tempation is too much. Any rules or technical solutions?
3) What is the primary objective? Is it to make me more effective by not working on emails all day? I'm pretty good with email effeciency as I keep my inbox clean and organized.
4) Can you be more specific when you say the admin can "action" your emails. What kind of actions? Scheduling meetings and what else???

I'm looking for more "context" and actual examples to help me make this change. Is there any kind of further reading (article) to read up on this?

Blueman- (1) Not really. C'mon...


(1) Not really. C'mon... what more can we say?

(2) Tell those who send those sensitive mails to do so differently, or flag them and ask your direct to not open them. If you can't trust him that way, you have the wrong admin, or the issue is yours.

(3) The primary objective is to save you time. You spending ANY time, no matter how efficiently, on an email that your admin can do, is a mistake. I think you're confusing efficiency with effectiveness. Your job is to be effective, not efficient.

(4) Everything she can. Meetings, responses, documents reviewed, prepared. If she CAN, you ought not.


I've got a question. I'm an Admin and

I've got a question. I'm an Admin and my boss and I are in the process of me taking over his email. My main question is this: when responding to his emails, do you recommend I respond as his proxy and use his name and signature, or sign it as my name "for" my boss...? This brings up interesting points about whether people begin to feel that he doesn't even see his email, him looking impersonal, etc... This issue didn't seem to be addressed in your podcast. What's your opinion?

Thanks much,

Justin- A GREAT question and one we


A GREAT question and one we didn't address.

I generally recommend the proxy sends the message that the boss still gets mail, and has given you the authority. The very fact that the proxy exists means that he has seen the mail and given you the authority to speak for him. It's certainly possible that there could be abuse, but the solution to that is never delegate. The cure is worse than the possible injury.

We DON'T recommend you saying you are answering "for" him. That is also assumed, even if the mail does not show as being forwarded to you by your boss. You have the authority almost naturally (or at least admins/"secretaries" used to), and that is assumed when you answer a request.

Jealously guard the gift you have been given, as well. Be ready for feedback when you're slightly off, and beg for feedback whenever you can.

Hope this helps.


Mark, Thanks so much for taking the

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question. I think this will help us greatly and I'll be sure and talk to my boss regarding this issue and the opinions you've shared with me.

Thanks again for your time,

Justin Reed

I have just discussed this podcast with

I have just discussed this podcast with my husband a General Manager at a large company.

He raised two issues I was not able to address.

1. He is the only General Manager in the company without a personal assistant, because he feels that a PA puts a barrier between the staff and the General Manager. (He has a great reputation amongst his staff, and is well respected).
What do you think does a PA put up a barrier?

2. When he is out he carriers his blackberry with him. Should he not respond to the emails that he receives on the Blackberry? He can sometimes be away from the office for three days at a time, and the media is always very interested in what the business he works for is doing. His role is not high profile, but what it effects is high profile & frequently in the National News.

What do you think? Do your suggestions still apply?

Thank you for all your podcasts, I really enjoy them.


Anise- While all assistants put up a


While all assistants put up a barrier, as a general rule that's a good thing. If your husband is approachable and enjoys talking with his team, the assistant won't hurt at all, as long as he's clear with her about how to handle her gatekeeper roles.

Just the IDEA that a GM is doing what an admin could do makes me shudder.

I can't recommend how he interact with his BlackBerry without knowing more. In general, though, if he's out of the office on business, he should interact with his mail on the BB the way he does with his email in the office (three times a day). If he is with family, less so...or, depending upon things I don't know, he could check it and NOT respond.

Remember: being involved always limits the development of those who could be doing some of this stuff.


Thanks Mark for your prompt response -

Thanks Mark for your prompt response - hey it is the weekend - you should be relaxing :)

It's only work if you'd rather be doing

It's only work if you'd rather be doing something else.

Helping others IS relaxing.


Mark and Mike Back in December I

Mark and Mike

Back in December I lost my assistant of 3 years. Knowing that I never leveraged her as well as I wished I had, it was a search for information on how to work better with my new assistant that brought me to your website.

I listened to your series of 3 podcasts on that subject. Then this one. Then I listened to more because I found them so easy to understand, and so actionable. So I decided to register. It's a great resource and thank you vey much for sharing it freely.

I haven't implemented anything yet: I will return to the office tomorrow after a week's vacation armed with my preparation for a new kind of relationship with my new assistant who finally starts tomorrow.

I have a concern though. I have always delegated my schedule to my assistant, but whenever she was out of the office, I felt like I was working without a limb. I tried getting help from other assistants or temps, but it never worked well. And my schedule didn't allow me time for the significant additional workload of managing my own schedule. And worse, not knowing how she did things meant I made plenty of (sometimes embarrasing) mistakes.

So, although I'm about to take the step of delegating my email to my new assistant. I fear the unknown: the consequences of her being out of the office. Will I need to work nights on my email while she's on vacation? Do I need to start synchronising my vacations with my assistant?

I'm hoping you or others reading this forum might be able to share their experience or thoughts on what other highly effective managers do when their highly effective assistants go on vacation or called on to help out when a colleague's highly effective assistant goes on vacation?


Steve- There is no free lunch. Fear


There is no free lunch. Fear of being without an administrative assistant causing any pause in implementing more effective behaviors is like not buying a Ferrari because it will remind you that your other car isn't that sweet.

C'mon. I know CEOs who work without admins for a week while their admin is on vacation. You're not that busy. And that means there's NO need to synchronize.

Meet with her in advance, a couple of times if necessary, and get your calendar down. Ask her to teach you a few of the things she does, MAYBE.

It's always worked fine for me, and hundreds of others.

Sounds like if this admin does as well as your previous one, she'll need a raise.


Mark, I really enjoyed your podcast


I really enjoyed your podcast and implemented all of the recomendations straight away. However.... my admin is falling back into old habit. I want to incorporate the essense of the podcast into her objectives.

I have a few notes from the time I listened to the podcast however these were scribbled in haste while commuting to work and do not have the detail behind the high level topics:

My notes thus far are:


Assistant Support

This is all about leveraging the time of the manager (M) and making the M more effective.

The assistant (A) is responsible for:

- managing the M's schedule
- managing the M's office
- managing the M's relationships
- managing the M's deliverables


Do you know whether anyone has (more complete) written notes I could crib from?

Much appreciated.

Sheyne Bauermeister
London, UK

Sheyne- We'll provide shownotes


We'll provide shownotes (detailed) soon for that cast and many others. Until then, I'd just suggest you listen again.

And use lots of feedback. THAT works INFINITELY better than changing her objectives.


Thanks Mark, I'll look forward to

Thanks Mark,

I'll look forward to the shownotes. I will definately listen again.

I will probably type up the notes after listening anyway. If I manage to do it before your notes appear on the site, I will send you my copy and you can then edit and change / distribute as appropriate.

I will give the feedback but need the objectives as a point of reference to be agreed to by both parties.

Thanks for the great podcasts.



Just listened to this podcast the other

Just listened to this podcast the other day. Great stuff. Our office of 8 has one admin who is retiring in the next month or two. She's already mentally checked out, so I'm waiting for her replacement to arrive before trying to implement these suggestions.

I am not the head of our office. I and 3 others, plus the admin, report directly to him.

None of us is presently using this technique. I plan to discuss the concept with our leader at our next one-on-one, asking him to allow me to utilize our new admin in this way, and encouraging him to consider letting himself and the other 3 do likewise. He has the final say, regardless. Do you foresee any potential problems I haven't considered, with this being promoted by a Lieutenant (me) instead of the General?


Barry- Of course there are problems.


Of course there are problems. Your boss may well deny you the right to do so, knowing that it's a better way that will cause you to get "more" of the admin's time than he will if he doesn't change.

That said, nothing wrong with you doing so...and if you're told no, consider working in that direction anyway over a period of time.

It's been done many times, and works just fine. But REGARDLESS of what you are allowed or not allowed to do, DEVELOP A GREAT RELATIONSHIP with the new admin. No matter the structure, a great relationship will get you more of what you need.

Good luck!