6 Ways to Get Your Boss to Share Their Time, Knowledge, and Work

What do Force Multipliers want?

What do most Force Multipliers (Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff) want? Believe it or not, they want more! Specifically, they want more time with their Executive, more insight into, and context around, their leader’s thinking and priorities, and more responsibility and projects. Why? Because they want to make an impact on their Executive’s lives and on the company. If they didn’t, then they probably wouldn’t have chosen a career that calls for supportive and influential servant leadership on the daily.

Survey Says

In our recent Founder & Force Multiplier survey, we heard from executive support professionals from around the world. Here’s what they had to say about what frustrated them the most (hint: a lot of it had to do with getting their bosses to delegate, give up control, share information and their knowledge, and spend more time investing into the strategic partnership):

We asked: What is the number one most frustrating part of your job?

Force Multipliers answered (edited for clarity):

  • Not enough control of my boss’s life – I need to get him to let go of more, e.g. emails.
  • I want to help assist the leadership team, but my boss won’t allow me into the group. I absolutely see the need to be there, but was told that comes with time. I’m frustrated that I can’t do my job effectively without knowing everything that happens at a leadership level.
  • Knowing I can take on more but not being given additional responsibility. This sometimes leaves me with days without a lot of work.
  • Not being included “at the table” with the other company leadership outside of my department.
  • Not being included in the senior leadership activities.
  • To have my manager understand if I don’t know things, I can’t help.
  • Getting only half the story; if I were taken more seriously and were able to sit in on the meetings, things would be so much easier for him. And he seems to not have time to discuss this….
  • Wrestling work away from my managing director
  • The most frustrating part of my job is convincing my Founder that to be more effective, he must spend time to work with me/train me so he can give up control, so he can focus on what matters most for the company.
  • My boss to give me access to her thoughts and priorities and allow me to help more.
  • Sharing information.
  • Not being looped into everything I should be.

There is definitely a common theme here. Force Multipliers are eager for their Executives, CEOs, and Founders to share their time, knowledge, and yes, their workload. Leaders – if you are reading this, it might be time to let go! Force Multipliers want to be true partners to their leaders and in order to do so, they do require access to their leader’s thought process, their time, and their task list.

And they may need a little (or a lot) of help from their Force Multiplier in order to let go. Challenge accepted!

Here are 6 ways Force Multipliers can get their bosses to share their time, knowledge, and work.

  1. ASK WHY?

    When your Executive is in extreme micromanagement mode, acting particularly controlling, withholding information, or exhibiting this as a new behavior, you must come from a place of curiosity, not judgment. I always like to start with the simple question, “Why?” Above all, do not dismiss it simply as “That is just the way they are.” That may be true, and that may in fact be their natural behavioral style, but if you want to be a leader and a strategic partner, you must learn how to navigate this behavior, communicate accordingly, and get stuff done. If nothing else, it will create a much more fulfilling and pleasant work environment for you.

    So, why is your boss not setting aside time to meet? Why are they not sharing more information with you? Why are they not delegating work to you that you know you could handle? Get curious. What is going on at home, or in their personal life, or even within the company that might be causing them more stress than usual? Are they feeling out of control in a certain area of their life (perhaps with a sick relative, an unhealthy lifestyle, or an unhappy marriage)? In order to feel in control, amid other chaos, they may be doubling down and controlling whatever they can, which may mean you and your work. 

    Could there be a lack of trust in the relationship? Is it because you have made several mistakes? Is it because your Executive has been burned in the past by an Executive Assistant? Or is it simply because neither of you have committed to doing the work to build trust?

    There is no one-size fits all answer here. But do the work to really understand why your leader my not be sharing certain information, not inviting you to various meetings, or asking for help on certain projects. Once you get clear on an answer – then you can get to work finding ways to handle their objections and get the access you need to do you job exceptionally well.

  2. WATCH FOR TRIGGERS

    Keep an eye out for various triggers. Does your Executive start canceling meetings with you or rush to meetings without including you when he is about to meet with the Chairman of the Board or when he is presenting the quarterly financials to the company? Perhaps he made a big mistake on a previous project and now every time a similar project comes across his desk, he holds on even tighter to every detail and doesn’t have time for you or anyone else. Notice the patterns, then you can begin to anticipate this behavior and take action to mitigate stress for both you and your Executive. Whether you start to overcommunicate, proactively reschedule your weekly 1:1 to a more convenient time, or simply add in one or two extra yoga classes (for you) leading up to a big presentation, the key is to identify the triggers and plan accordingly. These times of stress are where Force Multipliers shine. By noticing the triggers and coming up with solutions (that you share with your boss), they should begin to feel more confident delegating projects to your or spending some time brainstorming options with you.

    It is not easy to point out a leader’s blind spots. And yet, I also believe that is one of the most important things a true strategic business partner can do. They may not like you for it in the moment, but they will thank you later.

  3. TEACH YOUR EXECUTIVE HOW TO WORK WITH YOU

    Remember, your Executive may never have worked with an Executive Assistant before. What you perceive to be diminishing behavior or noncommitment to the partnership may simply be his lack of knowing any better! Or maybe his previous EA was an order-taker, not the initiative-taking badass that you are. In this case, it’s your responsibility to show your Executive how to work best with you. What if you are a master at website design and your Executive has no idea? Meanwhile, he’s been wanting to start a blog to attract more talent to the organization. It’s your responsibility to share your strengths and see where those can fit into your Executive’s needs. It’s up to you to develop your career. Part of that may be having a conversation with your Executive to let him know that you feel you are being underutilized and that you bring (insert your talent) to the table and can contribute more in specific ways to benefit your Executive and the company. We can’t hold our leaders accountable for what they don’t know. So share with them to encourage them to share with you!

  4. ASK FOR FORGIVENESS

    On occasion, it is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Depending on what the task is, and how risk-tolerant you are, take a go at it and then immediately ask for feedback. If it’s something you know you can handle, and if it has minimal impact on the organization, that is. For example, booking dinner reservations that you know you can cancel, ordering much-needed office equipment that you know you can return if needed, or returning all of your Executive’s voicemails either with the correct information or getting additional information for your Exec to review. Just communicate what you did and get that feedback so you can adjust next time if needed.

    This goes for meetings too. Invite yourself to the meeting. Let your leadership team know you are going to be sitting in to learn about the new project, division, hiring process, whatever. Put yourself in the room or on the call with the people you need to be with in order to fulfill your role at the highest level. Just make sure you take the information you learned to provide value to the team, proactively bring a new idea to the table, or take something off your Executive’s plate. Results matter.

  5. ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED

    You know what will make you most effective and impactful in your role. Share this with your leader. Let her know the cadence of meetings and communication you need – maybe it’s a daily check-in via phone or a weekly in-person meeting. That is largely irrelevant. What sort of time do you need with your Executive to succeed? Don’t forget you can get creative! Maybe a weekly meeting works to set priorities, but there are many other ways that you can learn how they think and make decisions. Listen to all-company calls or read board meeting minutes. Listen to or read interviews or podcasts they’ve done.

    Next, consider what information or knowledge you need from your company and leader to be most effective in your role. Is there specific training you need? Ask for it. It may come from your Executive, another team member, a class, or a former EA. On an ongoing basis, it will be critical to get clarity around what sorts of emails, calls, and meetings you need to be involved in to do your job well. Either invite yourself and ask for forgiveness or ask your Executive for access. But make sure you specifically share why you need that access. It’s not just so you can do your job. It’s so that you can benefit your Executive and team in XYZ way. Clearly explain the benefit and then deliver.

    Finally, know your strengths and zone of genius! And then pay close attention to your Executive’s workload and where you can add value. Identify the low-hanging fruit of repetitive, non-dollar producing tasks that you can handle. Once you’ve mastered those, keep looking for opportunities to take things off your leader’s plate and just ask! Who doesn’t want help? And if they resist, go back to #1 and ask yourself “why”?

  6. OWN YOUR PART

    If you feel like you have exhausted all of your options and you still feeling blocked by your Executive; it’s time to turn the mirror on yourself. Reflect on your own behavior, and own your part of the situation that you’re in. Ask yourself the following questions: 
  • Am I fulfilling the needs of my Executive? 
  • Am I achieving the goals and expectations of my position and of the company? Do I even know what the goals and expectations are? 
  • Do I need to work on my leadership skills? 
  • Do I need to work on my communication skills? 
  • What skill might I be lacking that is causing my Executive not to have confidence in me, not want to share information, not delegate, etc.?
  • Have I proactively reached out to my Executive to have a conversation with him about me assuming more responsibility, autonomy, and access?

    If there are areas where you can improve, start working on those immediately. Revisit this list in 30 days and do an internal check to see if things have improved. If you need to better understand the goals and expectations, ask! If you want more responsibility, ask (or better yet, just do it)! Your Executive has a lot on his plate, and your day-to-day work (or lack thereof) is probably not on his radar. If you want more challenging work and more out of your career, ask for it! If you need more information, ask! Just make sure you deliver.

It is definitely frustrating to feel underutilized and undervalued as a Force Multiplier. A successful working relationship is so important to our success in the role. When you don’t feel like you have the necessary time with your Executive, the information you need, or the work projects and responsibility you want, that frustration can lead to burnout. But before you get there, focus on what you can control! Try one or all of the 6 ways to get your boss to share their time, knowledge, and work. And let me know how it goes!

Are there other ways you have successfully built a partnership with your Executive? How did you get them to invest their time into the relationship, share their knowledge, and delegate more work?

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