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Create a Partnership with Your Boss

You and your boss are involved in a dynamic workplace alliance that calls on both of you to engage in a cooperative partnership to achieve organizational goals. Today’s administrative professional is both an administrative manager and leader, charged with communicating, planning, organizing, negotiating, and participating in decision making at high levels. Within this evolution of responsibility and authority, the traditional role of secretary is dissolving to be replaced with the proactive role of partner to the boss.

Self-Assessment:  How well do you partner with your boss?
Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions, then see below for scoring information.
1.  Do you and your boss share information, stories, tasks, and so on? (Y/N)
2.  Do you feel like you are “playing on the same team”? (Y/N)
3.  Do you have a joint interest in the goals you are trying to achieve? (Y/N)
4.  Is there a solid alignment between you when it comes to how to achieve mutual goals? (Y/N)
5.  Do you associate comfortably in an informal setting? (Y/N)
6.  Do you “know where you stand” with your boss? (Y/N)
7.  Would you say you work well together? (Y/N)
8.  Do you trust your boss? (Y/N)
9.  Does your boss trust you? (Y/N)
10. Would you say you are currently “partnering with your boss”? (Y/N)

Total # of “Yes” answers ____
8–10 “Yes” answers: You have a solid relationship and partnership with your boss. Focus your attention on ways to improve it.
5–7 “Yes” answers: Your work together could probably be more productive and pleasant. Focus your attention on deficits in skills or differences in your work styles and management approaches, then find answers to help you improve.
1–4 “Yes” answers: Your partnership with your boss needs attention and work. Focus your attention on issues of work style, trust, skills and ethics. You will probably want to build a plan to approach your boss about resolving some issues together

Successful Partnering: Essential Skills
The self-assessment identifies the strength level of your current partnership. No matter what your score, every partnership can be improved. The list below shows some essential skills for successful partnering.

Knowing Yourself: Knowing who you are, including strengths and liabilities
Setting Goals: Identifying what you and your partner want to accomplish and setting a plan
Adapting Your Work Style: Recognizing the needs and work style of your partner and adapting as necessary
Planning and Managing: Planning and managing your work in tandem with the boss’s
Decision Making: Identifying when to make decisions and how to take action
Confidence: Presenting your ideas with confidence
Collaboration: Performing as an active team player
Being Proactive: Acting proactively versus reactively
Productivity: Supporting multiple bosses while maintaining high levels of personal productivity

Taking on the Role of Partner—
Characteristics of Successful Partnerships:

  • Sharing joint interests, goals, and concerns
  • Respect and trust
  • Frequently associating and communicating (face-to-face or long-distance)
  • Sharing an important environment or setting
  • Sharing in risk taking
  • Establishing clear rules and expectations for each other
  • Agreeing to perform certain activities, tasks, roles, and so on
  • Connecting in thought and meaning
  • Being dependable
  • Acting reliably
  • Holding and affirming a belief in integrity of oneself and of others
  • Team-player orientation
  • Joint goals
  • Commitment to building and maintaining relationship
  • Connected by shared expectations

Becoming a partner with the boss calls on you to be aware of and ready to take on a broad spectrum of roles and responsibilities. Whether you partner with one boss or multiple bosses, each partnership is defined by distinct expectations around the roles you take on and how you should go about discharging your responsibilities.

*The following are some tasks performed by successful administrative professionals:

  • Information Flow: Maintaining paper and electronic files and databases as well as developing methods for organizing and retrieving information.

  • Communications: Authoring and editing correspondence, and overseeing office communications tools, including voice-mail, fax machines, and e-mail.

  • Inventory: Ordering, monitoring, and developing specifications for supplies, with responsibility for cost-effectiveness or purchases.

  • Planning: Updating the organization’s master planning calendar and maintaining project schedules.

  • Logistics: Scheduling business travel and meetings, along with planning and developing agendas.

  • Office Policies: Maintaining and updating organizational policies and procedures.

  • Finances: Preparing and sometimes approving vouchers and financial data, monitoring budget status.

  • Customer Relations: Interacting with visitors, salespeople, customers, and members of the community.

  • Staff Training: Providing procedural training to staff on equipment policies, software, and other workplace skills.

*Adapted from an Office Team Report, PSI WWW. Site (February 19, 1997).

Next Steps
Based on the results of your self-assessment:
—List three things you are doing “just right” to be a great partner with your boss.
—List three things you could do more of or begin doing to be an exceptional partner with your boss.
—List three things you wish your boss would do to improve your partnership.

© American Management Association. All rights reserved.

While the information given here is a very basic introduction to creating a strong, mutually-beneficial partnership with your boss, it is hoped that it will provide you with enough information to get started. To learn more, consider taking AMA’s seminar Partnering with Your Boss: Strategic Skills for Administrative Professionals from which the material in this article was excerpted.