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Getting on the Same Page

As a professional woman in leadership, it is especially important to be able to communicate effectively with your assistant. Being able to avoid and to manage the event of a communication breakdown is critical.

When communicating with your assistant, it can sometimes seem like the two of you are speaking different languages. But the importance of clear communication can’t be overstated. You must be able to provide your employee with direction and feedback, and he or she must alert you to challenges or concerns to avoid missed meetings, forgotten deadlines and similar problems.

One of the best ways to prevent communication breakdowns is to understand how they occur in the first place. Here are some principal causes to watch out for:

Frequency: How often is too often? 
Your assistant is helping you plan for an important meeting, but she doesn’t tell you that everything is on track until after you’ve sent her half a dozen e-mails requesting status updates. If you and your employee have different expectations concerning how often you two should touch base, stressful situations like this will become commonplace. Remember that the frequency of communication a person prefers can be influenced by many factors, including prior work experiences and even generational differences.
Method: E-mail, voice mail, text message, oh my! 
As technology continues to advance in the workplace, the number of ways for getting in touch with others is only growing. If you’re soft-spoken or a skilled writer, you may prefer e-mailing your assistant about urgent matters. But does he or she check e-mail throughout the day? Your assistant may prefer communicating over the phone, increasing the likelihood that the person misses your messages.
Level of detail: A five-minute voice mail?! 
Say you send your assistant a long e-mail that goes into great detail about what you want him or her to do the week you’re on vacation. You probably expect a response of similar length, so you can be sure the person has read the entire message and understands each aspect of it. If your employee instead writes back with a simple “Will do,” does that mean everything will be taken care of while you’re away? Being on the same page when it comes to the level of detail expected in a communication is key to avoiding confusion.
All of these potential problems have a similar solution. Like any partnership, it comes down to compromise. If communication issues between you and your administrative professional have sprung up, arrange a meeting so each person can talk about your communication preferences. This gives both of you the chance to explain why you lean toward certain methods, then determine how to meet in the middle. Remaining flexible is important, and you may need to take some of your employee’s considerations into account to effectively communicate with him or her.

Written originally for by Dave Willmer.