Eight words that made me change my outlook on EAs

I have a confession to make. I used to be a real pain to work with.

It took me a good couple of years to understand that my PA wasn’t just there to manage my calendar and travel but that she could assess and prioritise emails and calls, give me insights into how the team were doing, run the most incredible events, smooth the way into client organisations and generally make the complex simple.

Before I came to my senses and realised just how powerful and effective a combo we could make, I’d make her life unnecessarily painful—not intentionally—in all sorts of ways like not sharing important information, changing things at the last minute or getting frustrated when things weren’t done a certain way. And then I would have the audacity to look surprised when she hadn’t read my mind!

What changed? One sentence. Eight words. She sat me down and said, “tell me what’s important to you and why.”

It was a stroke of genius on her part. She was able to cut through by asking ‘why’ and when I then took the time to consider the question, it forced me to assess the ‘why’, too. With one powerful question, she helped me to simplify, focus, prioritise, delegate and empower far more effectively than I had before.

Now when Michelle and I catch up, she’s (gently) trained me to say, “This thing I need help with is important and it’s important because…” And more often than not, once she understands why something is important, she’s able to suggest different—usually far better—approaches to solving challenges.

It wasn’t the easiest habit to form. Explaining the ‘why’ can sometimes be difficult and time-consuming but it’s always been worth it.

Leon Doyle is Customer Strategy & Experience Design Practice Leader at Deloitte Australia and Runner-up for Boss of the Year at the 2019 Executive PA Awards. Read our exclusive Q&A with Leon here.

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