Managing difficult diaries – a flexible approach

By Adam Fidler

A good diary manager needs to be decisive yet flexible. Diary flexibility is something that many PA's are afraid of, however; it allows staff access to the boss, ensures that what needs to be done gets done and that there are no ‘hold-ups’ due to the unavailability of the managers.

Here are my top 6 strategies and tips for effective, flexible diary management:

1. Talk to the boss
Sit down with your boss and agree which meetings you can move, which you can delegate to someone else and which you can send his or her apologies to.

2. Create a meetings reference folder
If you’re new in your role or work for a boss that has many different types of meetings to attend that occur frequently, then make a list of the regular meetings that come up.
The meeting title is what you’ll remember, so create a list of the meetings and take it to your boss and ask which, if any, of these meetings:

a) he MUST attend under any circumstances

b) he can send a delegate or proxy to

c) hecan get away with not attending

d) he doesn’t want/need to attend

When the electronic invite comes up or the meeting owner calls you to arrange, you can make a clear decision about how to manage that meeting.
3. Be creative

Managing the diary with logic and common-sense is paramount. You’ll need guidance from your boss about what their priorities are.
When a meeting request comes in, ask the following questions:
a. Does the boss have to attend this meeting in person?Can they send a delegate and receive a de-briefor read the minutes of the meeting?
b. Can the meeting be done earlier? Breakfast, lunch or as a late afternoon meeting?
c. Does the boss need to stay for the whole meeting? Can they attend for the first 30 minutes and perhaps the end of the meeting for the plenary?
d. Is a meeting necessary? Can the decision be made by a quick call or email?
4. The diary should also show what the boss isn’t doing as well!

Use the ‘all day’ events at the top of the diary as a reminder of meetings that the boss isn’t attending,eg: ‘Apols’ [Apologies] followed by the name of the event, the time and venue. This shows your boss that you’ve sent his apologiesand it’s a reminder for you. This is useful if your firm uses lots of Outlook invites for meetings. Before you hit ‘decline’’ scribble enough information to put as an all day event in Outlook which will serve as a reminder should you need it again.

If you use this tool systematically it will save you time as you’ll be completely on top of not only what the boss is doing but also what he’snot doing.

5. Dealing with the controlling boss
When a boss wants to control his own diary, it’s down to the PA to work with them to convince them that the diary is their domain and they should be allowed to manage it. If no deadlines are missed, barriers are not created and the organisation is getting things done, then it means you are in good control of the diary.

6. Being a good diary manager is an art
A good diary manager means thinking outside the box, being creative with scheduling appointments and knowing your boss’ key priorities, so you can make decisions on the diaryand get the job done.

Please contact CBM Training for more information on 011 454 5505

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