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BLUF: new admin, need input on how to process email for exec.

I recently started a new career as Executive Assistant and am following MT advice on best practices. My new boss is totally on board with me handling his email, but we're having issues figuring out how exactly to set up delegation and processing within Gmail. We can't do simple gmail delegation because my email is @company, and his is @gmail. How to set up so that his gmail comes to my @company and I can respond with "handled by [email protected]" tag? How have you all actual handled your email with exec/admin?

Also struggling with figuring out how to keep organized. If email is delegated will my tagging and labeling show open when he opens his mail, or will it all just show up in main inbox?

Thanks for any advice you may have. Also thrilled to get any tips on how to really shine in new role. Thank you!

ssentes's picture

This is going to be much longer than you may like but it is not a very simple answer unfortunately.

Lets start with congratulations! The role is a vital one and, in my experience, one of the most fulfilling you'll ever have. You have now been entrusted with a huge responsibility whether you know it or not. The emperor now has no clothes, when you are trusted enough to see all of the good and the bad that will flow through an email account it is not to be taken lightly. This is a huge compliment to you. I too was an Executive Assistant for a boss who was on board with me handling his mail (he was a huge MT supporter). We, like you, also used gmail.

I cannot speak to the technical aspects of what you are asking. I am sure that there is something that can be done to help if not alleviate the issues with the differences in domain names you face. I encourage anyone who has some answers on this to chime in! My only suggestion would be that if the program he is using for mail allows for two instances to be open at the same time (gmail definately does) both of you log in with his credentials. Warning though that this not the most secure method and I know that there are several people reading this right now and cringing at the thought. That said, it does work.

I am sure you'll soon agree that the technical aspects of this are not going to be the most difficult. A real focus on the business processes that the two of you will follow is going to be instrumental in the success of this. In my previous position there were several admins working for several execs and we all did the handling of mail in a completely different way. To begin with the two of you need to communicate a lot about what exactly your manager is expecting of you. It is important to always remember that you are in a support role. Every process you put in place should be done to make your managers job easier not your own. I say this because if your manager is like mine was, they may have a habit of wanting to make things easier for you rather than themself :) To get this right there is going to be a lot of trial and error and you may set up and re-do this several different times before you get it right. Even then you will continue to tweak it as technology changes. 

The method that worked best for me was to have the admin handle the entire inbox with the intent of leaving the office at the end of each day with no messages left in it. As messages come in you read them and file them in to "folders". This process is more like you'd see in Outlook than Gmail. In Gmail this can be done by giving the message Label and then deleting the Inbox label from the message. The only place the message exists is in the Label itself. Your manager can choose which Folders to look in based on the priority they place on the messages that go into it. For Example: "VIPs", "FYIs" and any others that they want (maybe names of specific committees they take part in).. This list is likely to grow over time. Don't forget most important, the "Completed" folder. Everytime a message comes in that is something they do not need to know about (meeting invite, calendar update, request for information that you are able to fulfil without asking them) you complete it and move the message to this folder. They can still be accessed by both of you if either of you need them but your manager doesn't have to bother themself with these messages except in rare instances.

Don't be resistant to change, stay flexible and provide support wherever you can. As you get better at your role and the two of you start to work in sync the items that go to the Completed folder will begin to grow and far fewer of them will ever make it to the folders that your boss looks at. This is the ultimate goal! To take away the burden of mail to allow for them to do the important things that only they can do.

Again I am sorry that this was so long, but as you can probably tell I am pretty passionate about it! If you need more help mail me at  [email protected] and I would be happy to talk more.

Sarah Sentes - Manager Tools Presenting Associate

beesknees79's picture

Sarah - thank you so much for your detailed response. I appreciate your input and kind words!

Due to the technical challenges of "delegating," we decided that I would just go ahead and log into his account - same as you suggested. I absolutely want to be sure he is comfortable with how I handle this responsibility, as it is a major peek under the curtain, as you noted.

My approach is definitely to make this as easy/seamless as possible for HIM, instead of the other way around. This is better overall as any system I put into place that works for ME may fail completely if I'm reliant on him to follow my rules.

To start, I have made folders/labels for items he needs to review, one for emails I'm handling, and another folder for emails that I have "done." He'll have a go-to folder for things he knows he needs to process, and can quickly check in on what I'm doing and what I've done. All inbox emails will be filtered into one of those labels, or else archived, where he can view them in "all mail." I've communicated this to him, we'll see how it works over the next few days and adjust as needed.

Thanks again for your words of advice. I am VERY excited to be of assistance in making my boss more effective. I'm starting my first admin trip folder, and have listened to admin podcasts twice - and I'm sure will listen to them many more times.

Thank you!