Resilient, approachable, collaborative, warm, dependable, authentic, trustworthy… You will have your own views on what these words mean but one fundamental opinion that combines all EAs is that we are all of these things. And we have to be to get our jobs done. Written by Jo Jones, Deputy Chief of Staff at Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
A person I used to work with many years ago was a very unpleasant individual and didn’t succeed in her position because of how she conducted herself. She was utterly convinced that if her role title was changed from EA to Senior EA, she would automatically get the respect she deserved – her words not mine – and nobody could tell her any differently. This, of course, was not how it worked.
Instead, as you will know, gaining buy-in from everybody we interact with is key to our own success as EAs… And, subsequently, key to the success of our boss and wider organisation. Quite simply, our reputation is everything and relationship management is extremely important for EAs. We cannot deliver without our colleagues and peers on the same journey with us, it’s just not possible. And, unlike my previous colleague, we don’t automatically get that buy-in. Proactive management of our stakeholders is necessary. But it’s rarely easy and never just simply given.
Five ways to supercharge your relationship management
- Most of us have a level of emotional intelligence and that’s the sweet spot. Being able to read a room or a situation effortlessly will let you press forward with your journey – or pull back and review depending on what you’re doing. This intel gives us an understanding of the requests made and feedback received, and helps us bridge any gaps, which ultimately creates stronger relationships (Talking of requests, don’t say ‘yes’ to everything. Having the confidence to say ‘no’ goes towards getting that crucial buy-in that makes us successful).
- Trust me when I say, stay away from emotional decision-making. Of course, everyone’s feelings are valid but reactions and passions will send you on a pathway of decision-making you don’t want to be on!
- Facts are essential for us to gain trust from our colleagues (conjecture has no place in the high-level assistant’s mindset) and they help us help our bosses because what they don’t know, we can find out for them.
- Don’t know something? Can’t do something? Transparency is key. Say it as it is and don’t make anything up as you go. Being open and honest will quickly build a foundation of trust amongst your various stakeholders.
- If you acknowledge, internally, the different personalities that you deal with day-to-day but make sure to avoid internal politics, you won’t go far wrong. As far as you’re concerned you are forever neutral… And subsequently will be successful!
Being chief of staff, although becoming more in demand, is still very much misunderstood and we can’t assume that what we do and why is widely known. Therefore, we need to be a key communicator, working with trust – which we have earned, of course – while recognising that we’re operating with a level of ‘narrowed’ trust from across our organisations. As you are the closest person to those at the top, it’s not uncommon for us to be treated like some out of space creature, with caution!