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Pitfalls: Avoid These 5 Mistakes, with Steven Neuner and Ryan Cassin

Shannon Waller, Steven Neuner, and Ryan Cassin return for the fifth in a series on how entrepreneurs can hire and work with an executive assistant. In this episode, discover the five common pitfalls that can ruin your relationship with your executive assistant before it’s even begun. Dive into costly mistakes like being abrasive, hoarding tasks, and adopting a short-term mindset. Stay tuned to the end for Steven’s bonus pitfall. Learn Steven and Ryan’s hard-won strategies to develop your relationship with your assistant and empower them as a proactive partner so they can help you 10x your growth.

Show Notes:

The 5 mistakes to avoid:

1. Delivering growth goals abrasively

2. Hoarding tasks

3. Having a short-term mindset

4. Thinking of trust as a vase

5. Using your assistant as a task completer

Bonus pitfall:

6. Not enrolling your team and significant other

1. Delivering goals abrasively:

  • “Impatience is an argument with reality.” —Rick Rubin, The Creative Act.
  • Don’t compromise long-term growth for short-term hurriedness.
  • Question for entrepreneurs to ask themselves: Is my assistant going to be responsible for menial work or meaningful work?
    - Each one requires different expectations and different levels of communicating them.
    - Meaningful work requires your assistant to understand the world the way that you see it so they can be most effective in planning toward your goals.
  • Entrepreneurs think they want a clone of themselves, but they really need a complement.
  • Steven Neuner emphasizes that, although the assistant has different strengths and profiles, this does not make them a lesser entity. So, don’t treat them like they are.
  • Many assistants are empathetic people, while many entrepreneurs are passionate people.
    - If you do deliver something abrasively, use the F word: “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
    - Treat assistants and other team members as “equal in form, unique in function.”

2. Task hoarding:

  • Many people have trouble delegating three things:
    - Email
    - Scheduling
    - Travel planning
  • Entrepreneurs hold onto tasks when they’re uncomfortable communicating their preferences.
    - Assistants aren’t judging you; they need to know your preferences so they can make the right choices for you.
  • Not delegating becomes a block to living the bigger future you’ve committed to.

3. Having a short-term mindset:

Set up the first 30-, 60-, and 90-day checkpoints with appropriate learning goals.

  • Evaluate learning based on growth and improvement, not the last experience.
  • Strategic Coach’s 4x4 tool helps an entrepreneur communicate what success looks like (absolute do’s) for the executive assistant role and what will drive them crazy (absolute don’t do’s). This tool can also be used in the other direction.
  • The Impact Filter is another tool that can effectively outline ingredients for success with any project or process.
  • “Drive-by delegation” is a symptom of a short-term mindset.
  • To help with future handovers, the executive assistant should be documenting preferences as a long-term road map for how to work with that entrepreneur.
    - Shannon’s previous assistant documented “My Top Teamwork Tips,” which serves as a guide for how to work with Shannon or any Quick-Start personality.

4. Thinking of trust as a vase:

  • When mistakes happen, do you think of trust as a vase (it’s shattered) or as a bank (a little of what’s accumulated is withdrawn from the account)?
  • To deposit into the “trust bank,” focus on the daily progress.
  • Focusing on the gains will keep you out of “The Gap.”
  • Learn not only how to improve from negative experiences but to replicate the positive ones too.
  • Build trust through what Dan Sullivan calls The Referability Habits—including the fifth one: be appropriate.

5. Using your assistant as a task completer:

  • The value of an executive assistant is not in completing menial tasks for you and other company leaders.
  • To best support your growth and potential, your assistant should operate as a proactive strategic partner with their own growth potential.

6. Bonus: Not enrolling your team and significant other:

  • Your team and spouse might feel threatened by having another person to go through to reach you.
  • Be sure to communicate long-term benefits to your key relationships.



Learn more about Trust Banks

The Creative Act by Rick Rubin

The Kolbe A™ Profile

Unique Ability®

The 4x4 Breakthrough tool download

Impact Filter download

“My Top Teamwork Tips” download

The Gap And The Gain by Dan Sullivan: 

Learn about The Experience Transformer® in “Transforming Experiences Into Multipliers”

The Couples Connection® is a two-day Strategic Coach® getaway exclusively for Strategic Coach members and their spouses. (“Balance And Persistence: An Entrepreneur’s Love Story”

The Referability Habits


10x Is Easier Than 2x by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy

The 80% Principles (“Get Into Action With These Five ‘80% Principles’”)

Episode Transcript:
Shannon Waller: Hi, Shannon Waller here and welcome to Team Success. Oh my gosh, today I am back with Steven Neuner and Ryan Cassin of Superpowers, and we are on episode five of how to really elevate the whole conversation around assistants, being leveraged, being supported, what to do. And today we’re going to talk about what not to do, which I think is completely cool and fascinating. And literally I’m leaning into the microphone of the camera right now, because we’ve called this one "Pitfalls—Avoid These Mistakes." So this is what not to do, and I’m sure that you guys have created this list out of, A, what you’ve done and didn’t work so well. And B, what you’ve seen a lot of other people do that doesn’t work.
So I’m excited to share this wisdom. There’s five key points, and you also have a lot of coaching about how to not make the big errors that other people have made. So thank you for sharing this wisdom with us. For me, this is gold. We all love coaching entrepreneurs on how to be more successful in teamwork. You have your specialty, I have mine, but I feel like we’re so like-minded in this. So just thank you for your generosity and sharing all of your insights.
Steven Neuner: Thank you for having us here. It’s always great to be a part of this community and just all learning and growing together. I would say I’ve made none of these mistakes. I’ve been totally perfect in all of my assistant teamwork. So every mistake that you’ve heard here is 100% about Mr. Cassin here.

About the Author

Shannon Waller, Entrepreneurial Team Strategist, is a natural collaborator who instinctively saw that a thriving Unique Ability® Team can strengthen their entrepreneur, the business, and themselves. A win-win-win. Go, team, is Shannon’s rallying cry.

Profile Photo of Shannon Waller