By Mary Dann-McNamee, MA, MFT

Ever wonder what to say to your 
assistant that will inspire her or him toward success and decrease the amount of times they “miss the boat”?

Given the high-stress, detail-oriented nature of wedding planning, forgetfulness from assistants is a challenge that industry professionals throughout the country face. But, if you find that your assistant or another employee in your business is consistently absent-minded, despite the best intentions, there is a good chance that s/he is not happy with your working relationship but is afraid to give voice to these concerns. A good leader notices this and makes the time to discuss the issues. Here’s how to coach your assistant for success:

1. Make some time to talk
Make room in your schedule, while being respectful of your assistant’s schedule. This shows respect and increases the chance your assistant will actually hear you.

2. Always begin with praise
Tell your assistant what s/he is doing well and better than anyone else. By offering praise for what your assistant is doing right, you will open up his or her ears, mind, and heart to guidance and suggestions for improvement.

3. State the obvious
Model head-on communication by stating the obvious: “I notice you have been forgetting more than you had in the past, and I wanted to talk about how we can reduce this.” You might even point out an example—a crucial event/task that s/he forgot to do, then ask, “What would you have done differently if you could do it over again?” This gives you an idea of how committed your assistant is to the task. If s/he cannot verbalize what s/he would have done differently, it is an indication that your assistant could be more unprofessional than anticipated. Just saying, “sorry” is not enough if it’s not followed by something like, “If I had the chance to do it over again, I would have done…”

4. Ask for input
Let your assistant know you value his or her feedback. Ask what s/he would like to see changed in your business relationship or what s/he needs from him or her to help him or her enjoy the job more. Nine times out of 10, it will be more respect not more money. By asking directly and caring about the response, you show you are open to collaboration. Asking and listening doesn’t mean you are promising to do all that is requested, it means you will consider it. Moreover, asking direct questions shows you are secure in yourself and that you care about your assistant.

5. Set aside time for mentoring
If you see extraordinary traits in anyone assisting you, and you believe they have qualities for greatness and success, invest more time in their professional journey. Demonstrate that you care and believe in your assistant by giving her or him more face time. Consider observing your assistant more throughout the day or asking him or her to be more accountable by giving you a report of daily tasks. Make sure s/he knows that you are being more attentive so you can help by offering your expertise through insight, management tips, or multitasking ideas.

6. Consistent praise gets results
Being free with compliments and rewards for a job well done, usually guarantees repeat behavior. Praise builds self-confidence, esteem, and job satisfaction, which are critical if you truly want your assistant to stay on the team and grow with you rather than away from you.

7. Say what you mean, mean what 
you say
Forgetfulness can be a passive aggressive means to communicate. It’s as if the person who forgets is saying, “You don’t matter enough to me for me to remember what you asked me to do.” Not only is this disrespectful to the recipient, it can be a sign that the person forgetting doesn’t respect himself or herself. Remembering and keeping your word are acts of self-love. That said, I’m not a believer in “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” That is, I won’t just let go of an assistant who forgets too much. Instead, it’s important to coach him or her toward a better understanding of the importance of words and actions, and how all of it impacts others. Keep in mind, if the person keeps forgetting, even after extra efforts are taken, I would consider looking for another individual who is a better fit for the position. After all, if you’ve built a successful business by saying what you mean and meaning what you say, you need to surround yourself with others coached in the same philosophy so that the team grows together.

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