Gone are the days of mad men era “vanity assistants”. To be truly productive, you need to surround yourself with people who move as fast as you do – that includes your support team or assistant. However, many leaders confuse this assistance with deference - that their subordinates must follow any of their requests – when in fact it should be the reverse. Great support is doing what’s best for you and the company, not just mindlessly submitting to your will. It’s to your benefit to hire someone who will not only assist with tasks that keep the wheels turning, but will also proactively offer suggestions on how to utilize your time more effectively.
But with all the different individuals and services out there, how do you know when you’ve found someone with that entrepreneurial spirit who can best support you and your business? What do you look for? One way is to learn from the culture of a country that produces more start-ups than countries many times their size: Israel.
Two Traits to Imitate from the Start-Up Nation
In Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s book Start-Up Nation, it tells the story of how Israel – a country of only 7.1 million people – can produce more start-ups than Japan, India, Korea, Canada, and the UK. While the book largely focuses on culture, and how it fosters innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, there are two core traits that stand out to be part of the “secret” to their success.
- Chutzpah, that characteristic “gall, brazen nerve effrontery, incredible ‘guts,’ presumption plus arrogance”
- Rosh Gadol literally translated to “big head” it’s described as “a positive term signaling that the bearer of this head is capable of seeing the big picture, of taking responsibility and initiative, of demonstrating leadership, and of going beyond the job description or the call of duty”
While simple concepts in theory, these are at the core of every decision to take on challenges and persevere against adversity. As Senor and Singer put it, “there had to be a willingness to take on higher authorities” in order to challenge status quo and work towards a hope of a better future outcome. But how would these traits help an executive who is growing their business? Wouldn’t hiring for someone with these qualities produce a swath of stubborn, argumentative, and otherwise, poor candidates? I disagree.
A Portrait of the Modern Assistant
Beyond professional and proactive, the modern assistant who has the right degree of both chutzpah and rosh gadol can better support you in the following ways:
- Inquisitive - An assistant with rosh gadol shows curiosity and a desire to learn and understand you and your business by asking questions, especially the easily overlooked, without hesitation. The more they learn your preferences, the more they develop an understanding of your needs and the reasons behind them. In the long run, this “vision” will help guide proactive decision-making – empowering them and freeing you to focus more time and effort on growing your business and less on the tasks that keep it running.
- Forthright – While lacking the intensity of chutzpah, this is similarly defined as “direct and outspoken; straightforward and honest.” Typical of a headstrong individual, this assistant communicates with a forwardness that is clear, manages expectations appropriately, and keeps all parties on the same page. In addition, armed with their experience, and a keen understanding of your preferences and operating needs, this individual has the confidence to make suggestions that increases your efficiency and productivity. Ultimately, it’s these traits and practices that will set the foundation of trust and, in time, strengthen the assistant’s relationship with you, their executive.
A great assistant can help you by acting as an extension of you: she can keep the wheels of your business turning by completing the myriad admin tasks that would otherwise easily fall through the cracks. When your assistant is fiercely in-tune with you and your business, she’ll be much better able to ‘tee-up’ any decisions that need to be made, maximizing your time and amplifying your productivity.