Interesting podcast tonight guys, as a mid level team leader I don't have an assistant. No one in my company does actually as it is a small 50 person company.

I'm hoping you guys might address this for anyone in a similar situation as me, what is and is not reasonable to have others do for you even if they are not "an assistant". It seems the effectiveness for myself would improve but if it is taking away from team members effectiveness, where does this task best fit?

Not sure but are assistants ever placed for a group of people and how does that work? I'd really appreciate if you can try to address how this fits in once as part of your series or here on the board?

I was hoping this would have been addressed in Druker EE, but it wasn't there either.

Mike K

mauzenne's picture
Admin Role Badge

Good questions, Mike ... thanks!

We'll see if we can address these on the next podcast ... now try to get that kind of responsiveness on a regular radio show! :-)


HMac's picture

Enjoyed Part 1 - you guys might already be planning to make the following point, but it gives me a chance to recommend a favorite book:
"Slack" by Tom DeMarco (Getting past burnout, busywork, and the myth of total efficiency). One of the key points he makes about Admins, is that an important role of the Admin is TO BE AVAILABLE to the executive, when the executive needs his or her services.

But the problem in today's coporate culture is that being available can sometimes appear to be just sitting around - and the Culture of Efficiency just HATES that. So Admins get combined, and start serving too manay managers - in the name of efficiency. But by doing so, they're removing a key value - that the Admin is available when needed.

MattJBeckwith's picture
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Question about performance reviews for an admin and reporting relationships.

Is it common for an admin to not report to the person he/she supports? My boss's admin supports him, primarily, but also helps me (and my peer) quite a bit (with a lot of the things you mentioned on your cast). The admin reports to my peer but has reported to me in the past, which works for us, but am curious to know if there is an opinion on who she should report to.

Lastly, everyone else in my department is measured with quantifiable metrics, except the admin. Any suggestions on what type of goals to use for admins?

Thanks kindly.

Mark's picture
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No. Moving that admin around is not terribly effective, though there can be extenuating circumstances.

That admin ought to report to your boss. That's a purely economic decision.

Metrics: YOURS AND YOUR TEAM'S!! And, reporting assigned to him/her. usually that includes pay administration, expense reporting, and operational reports.

The key is the team's and yours. That ties him/her to the org in the right way. Without that, he/she can self-actualize in the wrong direction.

It's a privilege to serve you,


stroker's picture

For starters, in Q1 i succesfully argued the case for having and admin assistant and gained approval for out of plan hiring for the position. But this was more a reaction to "all the other guys have one" at my level. That accomplished, i took to the standard job description and started interviewing candidates passed on by HR. I found what seemed to be the best candidate of 5 that i had interviewed and she came with experience as an assistant to an Ambassador of Sweden.

Backing up a bit, this i my first time to have an admin assistant and really was at risk of starting off on the wrong footing. Listening to your podcast on eff exec/eff asst was a great eye opener. I wish i had heard it earlier in the year!

I am now struggling a bit with a couple of things... in order of difficulty to overcome...
1. email control - from experience rumors emanate from the admins of the other execs
2. calendar control - i think i'm a high D and struggle with giving up control (which also leads to issues with delegating but i'm working on that!)
3. performance evaluation - my goals and the team's goals are not directly in her line of sight. she's more of the supporting cast and if i or my team fail anyway despite her chugging along at her role full steam, should she suffer?

I've listened to the cast at least twice by now and usually while driving to work. That prevents me from writing down notes but I think I will have my admin listen to the cast as well as posted here previously.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Good questions!

1. Email control: Give her total access. Yes, there are risks, but they are noticeably less than the benefits, and they are defensible. Email will eat you alive if you don't have a plan for it. She can be a huge part of that plan.

Don't think that you can forward to her the ones that you don't' want to handle. That doesn't work, as you end up handling every mail. The whole point of this is to reduce your workload by trusting her to be smart about what she can do for you.

By the way, somewhere here on the forums is my answer to PierGiorgio about how to transition email to your assistant. It's a future cast, but the basics of it are in the post.

Now, about the risk, in light of the other admins: the problem is not email, the problem is the other admins and unprofessional, unethical behavior. While email may be the most likely place where they learn these things, there would be other places as well, surely. Using your logic, you wouldn't share ANYTHING with your admin.

The solution is to share everything, including email, AND have a discussion with her regarding what you will be sharing, what the other admins may be doing, ethics, and getting fired in a millisecond if she ever breaches confidentiality. Make it clear that she will be hearing about employment situations, about human resource issues, and business issues that will affect people... and if you even SENSE that she has been a problem, you'll fire her or have her transferred.

In my experience, you CANNOT do this by only saying how important trust is, or that "You understand about confidentiality, right?" You must make clear what is unacceptable and what the consequences will be. This would include sharing any content of any email with anyone without your expressed permission.

I would also talk to her about the other admins, and explain that there may well be some peer pressure to "divulge" while at a lunch, or that they will say, "oh, c'mon." Walk her through how to respond, if you think it would help her.

Sure, tell her how much you know she'll do great. But that by itself is not enough.

2. Calendar. Well, not much I can do here, because it's your issue. Control is an illusion. The great execs I know give their admins enormous latitude, and then make changes themselves as well. If you don't let her do it, cut your pay some - because others a lot smarter and more effective than you and me do this and that gives them more time to worry about bigger things.

As long as you try to control your schedule yourself, you are indulging a personal preference for control over an organizational imperative for effectiveness.

3. Performance Eval. I can't say without knowing a great deal more about what your team does. I can't imagine that her eval won't be tied to your team, since her primary purpose is to make you more effective. If you make her eval NOT about the team, you're actually driving her further away from the team.

It's not about her suffering, it's about allowing her to succeed with the team. Not ALL of her eval is team stuff - there are objective factors around reporting, your efficiency, etc. Just don't exclude team factors as well.

It's a privilege to serve you,


stroker's picture


Thanks for the great inputs on this.

1. I may have mentioned elsewhere that i've finally given my Admin CDs of the 3 part series on Exec/Admin relationship. She's gone through the first one and had mentioned in passing to me that she was a little uneasy with email access. Will chew on the approach you described some more and will work with her on it further. Will look up the post on transitioning email as well and I look forward to your podcast on this topic... although when it does come out, I'm hoping I would have transitioned to my admin by then!

2. Letting go of the calendar is becoming easier... although when meeting invites come, i have a tendency to hit the accept button and prioritize those over 1:1s. I end up asking my admin to reschedule around those with the logic that it is easier to reschedule a 1:1 than a large conf call/meeting where there are more participants involved. What's your thought on that? We've started doing the start of day stand up meetings where she walks me through the day's schedule. She also prints the meeting invites for me as i like to take notes on them and they are easier to file away afterwards.

An after thought... She currently has access rights to manage my calendar but not my email. I'll need to check if she sees meeting invites come in. I would think yes and it would be a shame if she could set up meetings for me in Lotus Notes but not manage meeting invites that come in.

3. My team: I have 3 Operations AVPs (each managing 150-200 FTE of call center associates with 2 layers of unit and section managers in between), 1 Sales AVP (with 2 Sales Managers and an Analyst supporting 2 locations in providing training, sales culture, analysis), 1 Quality Manager (managing 6 Quality specialists that support quality monitoring for 900 FTE), 1 Fun Manager (supports entire company of 3000 employees through event management, rewards and recognition, and other foofy stuff, etc.). The primary role is for my call center team to ensure performance levels are met or exceeeded in Efficiency, Quality and Effectivness metrics. I am also respnsible for leading alignment and best practice sharing initiatives with our business partners. Not sure if this is enough detail, too much or otherwise.. Would really be interested in how you would translate/correlate this to an Admins evaluation.


Mark's picture
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My thoughts on rescheduling 1 on 1's because it's easier is that that technique goes against the fundamental principles of 1 on 1's and it's completely backwards. I would never approach it that way.

How's that? :wink:


stroker's picture

Fair 'nuff. I understand where you're coming from. What are your thoughts on #3?

adamb13's picture

Can someone post or direct me to a job description of an office admin assistant that captures the essence of the podcast (effective exuctive/efficient assistant-May/June 2006). I have been working with my HR on this hire but the job descriptions they have developed reflect more of a "receptionist position". I would appreciate a template that I could work with.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


A couple of thoughts from someone who finds job descriptions unnecessary:

1. In our performance evaluations casts, we list some questions that will help you develop a job description.

2. Just take the cast and write one from that. To heck with form and correctness.

3. On 1 August, shownotes and PowerPoint of both these casts will be available, and you'll be able to use the notes to draft it pretty easily, I would think.


dmbaldwin's picture

I don't know where to put this so I'm just tagging it on to the end of these postings!

I have listened to the three podcasts on how to work with your admins. I was blown away with how bad I have been and how I have wasted her time.

I am making the listening of these three podcasts mandetory for all my direct reports that have admins. And I'm going to have my admin listen to these three as well.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.



PS: I'm going to paste and copy this posting stream into a MSWord document and read it over a couple of times. GREAT discussion.