How to Train an Assistant

See also: What is Mentoring?

One of the greatest challenges in the modern world is managing to do it all. The number of daily tasks and responsibilities can become overwhelming. You can be incredibly talented and gifted but unable to keep up with everything.

This can be solved by hiring some much-needed assistance to take care of the things you needn't occupy yourself with.

Unfortunately, good assistance is hard to find, and it rarely comes along by chance. This is why you should try to look for potential qualities in the people that you're hiring. If you're not as competent in this area as you'd like to be, or if you think that some guidance would be of use, that's completely reasonable.

It takes a certain skill set to train an assistant and there's no reason for you not to have a satisfactory result.

Notepad, laptop and coffee.

It's important to take notes when trying to train an assistant.

Take some notes

Considering that you're working with people of the same caliber as yourself, there is an abundance of advice ready to be shared.

There's nothing like word of mouth to get you quality information and insight into mentoring skills. Ask your colleagues for some guidance in this matter. Have them write you a short list of everything you need to take into consideration while training an assistant.

First and foremost

After taking into consideration all the advice that you've received, get the process of training your assistant going. Set up some interviews and prepare questions you're going to ask all of your potential trainees. Your questioning skills and techniques don't have to be perfect, you just need to be aware of some hacks.

The questions should be somewhere along the lines of:

  • Their background

    Although you will, of course, have their CV in front of you, these types of questions are very important. Their purpose is to show you how well these potential assistants know their history, as well as how satisfied they are with it. From this, you will get the feel of the working atmosphere.

  • Their greatest failures/successes

    This is the question that everyone dreads. And for good reason. Knowing how to explain your greatest success without false modesty is something that takes a certain flare and skill. This question will also show you how they think on their feet, which is important for future endeavors where they'll need to solve issues without running to you for help every time.

  • Future accomplishments

    What they wish to accomplish with this job is as important to know as anything else. This information will show you their determination and persistence, which are qualities you should be looking for when coaching an assistant.

It Takes a lot of Work to Train an Assistant

Now that you have a base, the next thing you're going to do is build on it.

Getting from point A to point B takes hard work, but it's far from unachievable. It is up to you how this blank canvas of yours is going to turn out.

This means that some long hours are ahead. You'll practically need to train your assistant to do all the things you would, but don't have the time for.

For example, you might need advanced knowledge of software programs. If your assistant doesn't excel in this subject but they have all the other skills you are looking for, it's a good idea to set aside some time to help them get to the level you desire.

When training an assistant, try and be as patient as you can and create a success mind-set as it'll create a well balanced work atmosphere which is very important. This applies, of course, only considering that they aren't messing around and are willing to work hard and make an effort.

Feedback form, good, OK and bad.

Feedback is a must when attempting to train an assistant.

Feedback is of utmost importance

While the main thing you should be focusing on is you and your necessities, you need to consider both sides when training an assistant.

This means trying to see what their perspective and feelings are regarding your mutual arrangement. Active listening is key. This way, you'll not only be able to consider their needs and be a good boss by creating a well-fitted environment, you'll also improve your own skills.

By getting feedback, you'll discover other people's impressions of you, and this will be useful for your encounters with future clients and colleagues.

Vice versa

Of course, it's very important that you're also the one giving feedback.

A positive when training an assistant is that you have someone to guide and shape, and that the final product, your trained assistant in this case, will be the best fit for your needs. You need to do this by holding meetings regularly to tell them how they're doing. These will not only benefit you, but also them in the long run.

Plan ahead

While going through this whole experience, try to write down all of the steps that you were taking, along with any fails and obstacles that you stumbled upon.

It will be incredibly useful when looking for your next assistant, whom, if you've trained this one well and they continue to excel, you will need. Your assistant can also help you with this. It can even be their first task so that you see how they manage.

Feedback form, good, OK and bad.

Sign a confidentiality agreement before training your assistant.

Make a confidentiality agreement

Don't think that, because you're going to train your assistant, you'll get to know them enough so that you can just skip this step.

Mixing business and pleasure never did anyone any good. You'll share a lot of confidential information with this person, not just yours, but your company's as well.

For your own safety and your assistant's, write a confidentiality agreement where you both agree on keeping work related information confidential.

Be Professional

When it comes to conflict, try to resolve it in a calm and mature matter.

When trying to train an assistant, things can get a little bit hectic. However, you shouldn't let that affect your emotions and the way you treat your them. Focus on the final result and just move past any difficulties in a civilized manner.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Coaching and Mentoring

The Skills You Need Guide to Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring require some very specific skills, particularly focused on facilitating and enabling others, and building good relationships. This eBook is designed to help you to develop those skills, and become a successful coach or mentor.

This guide is chiefly aimed at those new to coaching, and who will be coaching as part of their work. However, it also contains information and ideas that may be useful to more established coaches, especially those looking to develop their thinking further, and move towards growing maturity in their coaching.

About the Author

Margaret Jones is a professional assistant trainer. Over the years, she's taught more than a fair share of successful trainees. Now that she's retired from the field, her goal is helping others by sharing all of the useful insight she's gathered over the years.