I loved the television show Batman with Adam West when I was a kid, and as an adult I have come to realize that it fabulously demonstrates the range of administrative assistant that’s out there in the working world.
Batman is a crime-fighting executive with two very different assistants: Alfred, his faithful and in-the-know butler; and Robin, his masked, crime-fighting sidekick. While Robin is on the road with Batman capturing villains, Alfred’s brand of assistance comes in the form of sweeping the floor of the Bat Cave and making coffee. Robin is thinking the job. Alfred is being told what to do and when to do it.
As assistants, we develop on a scale that takes us from a world of heavy management involvement (where the manager “tells” us what to do), to one where most of our day is filled with decisions we make on our own and duties we perform with little direction. As you might guess, the tasks down at the “telling” end of this development scale are the activities that are most easily replaced by technology. For Alfred, sweeping the Bat Cave becomes the job of a Rumba, making coffee the daily task of a Gevalia with a digital timer. For the assistant, it’s technology making a manager more accessible and self-sufficient.
Robin provides a different kind of assistance, one that’s harder to replace. Batman relies on Robin to help him fight crime, taking on the easier-to-handle criminals while Batman conquers the headliners. Robin’s doesn’t necessarily wait for Batman’s order. He’s there with Batman at the moment when action is required and he contributes proactively to solutions. Of course, he still follows Batman’s lead, but he never misses the opportunity to insert himself into a situation, working side-by-side with his fellow caped crusader.
Robin is an assistant on the “empowerment” side of the partnership scale. He’s making his own decisions and taking action accordingly, his efforts aimed at making Batman’s job easier without having to be told what to do.
How does this translate to the world of an assistant? Think about it like this: your manager tells you he needs a PowerPoint presentation. He can tell you “I want this typed out on each slide” and hand you his notes (you’re Alfred!). Or he can say, “I need our employees to understand this new initiative, come up with some slides for me” (you’re Robin!).
Managers appreciate the Alfreds in their lives, but secretly they wish for Robins. Still, many of them don’t take the time to help their assistants understand what good business looks like and what role they play in conducting it. And we can’t really blame them! They have a lot on their plates, and developing a good partner takes time they just don’t have.
This blog is going to fill that void.
For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about what a great manager/assistant partnership looks like, and the skills that you, as the assistant, should be bringing to the table. We’ll take a look at how to sell your manager on your new partnership approach and let him know what you need from him in order to be successful. And then we’ll move on to other subjects that will help you mold your average, boring job into a fulfilling career.
Come along with me on this ride, and join in on the conversation! If you’re ready to become a partner to your manager – or if you already are a partner to your manager and you want to be a better one – join us here at The Revolutionary Assistant blog. This is where the action is!
Next post: Tuesday, May 3