An Assistant's greatest talent.
Do you have that one person in your office or your friend group who everyone turns to for advice, answers, guidance or even a smile on a rainy day? She is unusually cheerful without being annoying, and somehow always available in spite of a calendar far more full than yours or mine. To you, to me and to everyone else she touches, she is invaluable.
She must be one of those people who was born with the right mix of charm and grace, right? She must have just come out like that, all sparkly and wise, right?
Invaluable people have learned and internalized a few key qualities that anyone can master. A perfect mix of charm and grace is not what makes people invaluable. Empathy, proactivity, and an attitude of gratitude is what will make you the person no one can let go.
When someone comes to you with a work problem, relationship drama or a question about something routine, do you find yourself immediately giving advice on how to “fix it”? Do you quickly flip through your experience rolodex to find a similar situation you’ve been through and share how you worked through it yourself? Your instinct to quickly suggest a solution and share your experience is natural, but these are not empathetic responses.
The wise and hilarious Brené Brown reminds us “empathy is feeling with people,” and meeting people right where they are with open arms and no judgement. The most invaluable people in your life do this already. And if you haven’t seen this short cartoon about empathy narrated by Brené Brown, watching it will be the best use of your next 2 minutes and 53 seconds.
There are two types of people, proactive and reactive. Do you spend most of your time putting out fires? Do you pride yourself on being able to operate well under pressure? These are reactive behaviors, and while these are useful skills, reactive people are replaceable.
Reactive people put out fires, but proactive people see the smoke before the fire picks up steam and are able to change the pattern before it’s too late. Proactive people are invaluable.
Put yourself in other people’s shoes, anticipate and avoid obstacles, and figure out how to change the course of action before it’s too late. For example, a proactive assistant who has been asked to book her boss’ flights to Aruba will always follow up by asking if her boss’ passport needs to be renewed, or by suggesting she can source accommodations and activities for the trip. A reactive assistant who hasn’t asked these questions might find herself standing in line at the passport office on Christmas Eve. The proactive assistant proves herself invaluable every time.
ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
When you go into a big pitch meeting that you need to go well, how do you feel? Nervous? Full of adrenaline? Eager to win and ready to leave it all on the table?
Spoiler alert: This anxiety-driven, stress fueled energy is not only hazardous to your mental and physical well being, but it’s damaging to your pitch too. Greedy, aggressive energy is a turn off and can be detected a mile away.
What would happen if you came to that same pitch meeting from a place of gratitude instead of need? What if you invited the folks on the receiving end of your pitch to join you in exploring your excellent ideas instead? Approach opportunities with gratitude, and release yourself and those around you from any other expectation than a genuine conversation. Don’t forget to take an extra dose of gratitude for whatever the experience ends up being, because it’s likely exactly the one you needed.
Don’t excuse yourself from becoming an invaluable person any longer by thinking being invaluable is a natural ability. With thoughtful attention and discipline you will be invaluable at work, at home, and most importantly, in your own heart.
Originally published on Thrive Global.