How to improve business trips for you and your principal
Something I've only recently come to fully appreciate is how much more challenging the role of an EA becomes when your principal is traveling. Not only are you potentially dealing with different time zones and unfamiliar cities, but you're also required to stay several steps ahead, rather than the usual one or two.
While each trip presents its unique set of challenges, there are some best practices that can be applied consistently:
- Establish routines - this could be as simple as having morning checkpoints during breakfast or sending regular updates via WhatsApp. Not only does this provide structure to your day, but it also ensures the effective habits you've developed with your principal in the office carry over.
- Consider adjusting work hours - personally, I've found that a time difference of over three hours warrants a discussion about adapting work hours. Recently, I shifted my workday by three hours to increase overlap with my principal's time zone. Although it affected my daily routine, it allowed me to maintain effectiveness and provide the necessary support. If you're changing your work hours, be sure to follow the new schedule and communicate it to your team to avoid confusion.
- Make the most of tech - the "Find My" app on the iPhone has become my new best friend. It helps me ensure my principal's schedule is on track without needing constant messages. Additionally, it allows me to notify upcoming meetings if there's a slight delay.
- Think deeply about how and what you’re communicating - a recent and valuable piece of feedback was to be mindful of the number of emails I was sending to my principal while he was traveling. Although my intention was to keep him informed and seek approval, the impact was information overload and inbox clutter. Properly sorting information takes trial and error; use feedback to determine what requires immediate sharing and what can wait for the next update.
- Create a playbook - I track everything: which restaurants my principal ate in, where he stayed, how long it really takes to get from point A to point B. By creating a playbook per trip, you remove the guess work and can make better, more informed, decisions the next time you’re planning a trip to the same city.
- Conduct a post-mortem - at the conclusion of each trip, I compile two lists: one highlighting what went well and the other outlining areas for improvement, along with plans for how I will do that. I share both lists with my principal within two days of his return to gather feedback. This exercise not only helps detach personal ego from the work but also benefits from rapid feedback for a smoother next trip.
Business travel is demanding for both the traveler and the EA, but by maintaining open communication lines, gathering comprehensive information before and during the trip, and actively seeking post-trip feedback, you possess the tools to ensure a seamless experience.