By Tricia Sciortino
As pastors, directors of special ministries, worship leaders, educators and administrators in the church, we know the call to serve is paramount. You strive to grow, nurture, provide for and support our communities and congregations.
But you also must do so in ways that demonstrate stewardship and competent leadership.
People believe in you. They depend on you. And your congregants are relying and counting on your steady hand to direct the organization forward. But with so many moving pieces, so many competing and continuous demands, it can become a challenge to manage everything.
It’s not uncommon, though, for leaders to experience some growing pains when they first hire a virtual assistant. They’re so accustomed to managing everything, to being hands-on with very routine tasks, that it can be hard to let go. But as the president of eaHELP, I’ve learned how pastoral and ministerial clients can avoid unintentionally sabotaging their virtual executive assistant. Sometimes this can happen quite accidentally, despite the best-laid plans or good intentions.
We are only human, after all, and there’s only so much an individual can – or should – do.
There is the day-to-day administration, the calendars and scheduling, the meetings and reporting, and even the special projects, new events and even just the process of getting the word out as you seek to grow and bring others to Christ.
There are weekly preparations, daily commitments and the longer-term planning of what you hope, aim and plan to do in the future.
At eaHELP, we help many leaders and ministers just like you who have recognized they would benefit from some extra support.
In fact, we specialize in matching virtual administrative and executive assistants with leaders and organizations of many types, and we’ve honed in on the unique needs of the church. We have a team of more than 400 home-based administrative assistants who partner with people like you to make life less hectic, projects less monumental and general operations more efficient.
When you have a dedicated expert to manage schedules, arrange travel, update databases, conduct outreach, respond to emails and perform bookkeeping, imagine how much easier your life becomes.
Here are some insights to help you make the most of the dedicated help which companies like ours provides. Following these tips can ensure a satisfying, productive experience for all involved – for you as the leader, for the assistant as your administrative partner and for the service provider who matches both sides of the equation.
Don’t Just Task – Empower
Somewhere along the way, the perception of what executive assistants really offer became too simplistic. Yes, administrative assistants can answer calls and make copies, but the reality is that they do much more than that. Sometimes that work happens behind the scenes and is not always within full view.
Think of a quality executive assistant as the mystery ingredient in an incredible recipe; it’s the one element that brings it all together, but you may not even see it, smell it or taste it.
Plus, executive assistants often bring a level of disciplinary expertise that can be valuable to your efforts. These insights and knowledge could pertain to member outreach, operational organization, research and reporting, or marketing and media.
Churches always have reports to produce, and social media is more of a must than an “if” or “when” these days. Emerging, developing and established ministries alike often have complex calendars to manage, and getting the word out is a consistent concern of churches as they grow. Seek and solicit your assistant’s input where it counts, and you’ll cultivate a professional “right hand” who can help you more than you ever thought possible.
Don’t Infer – Express
Based on their aptitude and experience, executive assistants are often pros in proactively identifying needs and opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that you, as a leader, can go work on other things and leave your assistant operating in isolation. An avoidable error in the administrative assistant-client relationship is a gulf in clarifying needs and expectations.
Even if your assistant is performing according to expectations, it never hurts to offer constructive feedback. Be sure to volunteer your guidance about her ideas on how to execute an existing or new task.
Offer specifics about key contacts she may interact with, bringing beneficial context to her conversations and interactions. Executive assistants need to hear from you to ensure you’re not only singing from the same hymnal but that you are synced to same song and verse.
Don’t Conceal Your Quirks
Quite naturally, over time your virtual assistant learns more about you as the client, picking up on your verbal cues and gestures. Everyone has quirks – let’s call them pet peeves or preferences. If we take just a few minutes to do some self-reflection, each of us could probably name at least three work-related deal breakers of our own based on personal ideals or specific ways of being.
On occasion, these unknown quirks can emerge at inopportune times. For example, let’s say you ask your virtual assistant to create a new report about a developing program. She creates the report, but as you review it, you see that it’s not color-coded in a way you would prefer and even features a shade you absolutely never use in documents. There’s nothing wrong with the report itself; however, your preferences represent an affinity that she could not have known unless you informed her.
Miscommunication, bruised feelings and instances like these can be minimized through honest, clear conversations and fuller disclosure on the front end.
Don’t Be a Closed Book
Of course, you must establish and preserve professional boundaries at all times with your executive assistant. But that doesn’t mean you should erect a fortress between you and your administrative support partner.
The truth is that our private life does affect work life. You don’t have to completely “spill the beans,” but it may strengthen your virtual assistant’s performance and perspective if she knows about your kids’ demanding schedule of extracurricular activities, that you’re traveling overseas with your spouse for three weeks in the spring or that you have an upcoming medical procedure that’s been weighing heavily on your mind.
Communication, continuity and consistency are some key ingredients in the successful recipe of an executive assistant-leader relationship. When both sides understand each other and are vested in the benefits of an effectively shared partnership, what materializes can be absolutely game changing for you, your ministry and your highest calling.
Trust me. We see the results every day.
Want more information on getting help with your team? Contact us free of charge.
In the meantime, what have you found helpful in working with an EA? Scroll down and leave a comment.