Is Your Assistant a Mindreader?
Your assistant is probably not a Mindreader. At Handy Entertainment, we work with people with disabilities. Because of this, I constantly try to improve what I communicate to my assistants, and particularly, HOW I communicate it. Think about how we can communicate in a way that validates the other person. This is part of what equity, inclusion, and diversity are all about. It’s not always easy to set somebody up for success, but each time we do it, we also create more connection. This facilitates connections to attendees at events, to the people we can hire, and to the clients we can reach. Working with people who have disabilities has made me much more sensitive to the different kinds of disabilities, the lack of equity people face at events (and everywhere, for that matter). I see up close how ignoring disabilities disenfranchises a huge segment of the population.
What your assistant doesn’t know is quite a bit.
When you do something for a while, and you work with someone new, it turns out there is even more that they don’t know.
On top of having the pleasure of working as an assistant to some of the most brilliant, creative, and innovative designers, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some of the most creative, brilliant, and innovative assistants ever!
When you work as an assistant, you get to learn, to stretch, and get ideas. I’ve discovered ways of improving our client experience, for one. Another benefit was learning how to implement new and different elements for our clients. Below are some things I’ve noticed—what works, what could be improved, and how we can streamline the process.
If we don’t say or show how we want an assistant to do something, they might not understand the task
They might understand what we’re trying to achieve, but might not do it in the right order, or the “right” way. Maybe it takes them longer. Sometimes we are surprised by the ingenuous solutions they create by doing things the “wrong” way!
How can we give assistants
-an overview of the completed project;
-a timeline of when each part should be completed;
– instructions on how to do the work?
The answer is to use SMART Goals: Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – and Time-bound.
How to structure work for maximum success
Some people respond well to verbal instruction, and some are visual learners. There are people who like a set of objectives and benchmarks. Yet others prefer step-by-step instruction in real time. Some of us like to see how to do something. Still others prefer guided, hands-on training. Then there are all the different combinations that are useful, depending on the task and the assistant.
Use different ways of teaching
One way to work around this is with show and tell. Show your assistants what things are, where they live, and how things look at the beginning and at the end. It is helpful to show the structure of what we’re doing, the beginning, middle, and end stages and what they look like.
That’s why someone who has previously worked with you before is infinitely more valuable than a first-time assistant. They have an idea of what you want and how you want it, how you communicate, and your priorities.
It can be frustrating to explain things in the middle of an event. It’s even more frustrating trying to get instruction during an event. The noise often makes it difficult to see or hear the person speaking. Tell them what the components are called. It is hard for anybody to see or hear instructions in the chaos and noise of live events!
I’m always amazed at what all those different ‘things’ are called!
Load-ins and Load-outs
A load-in and a load-out are similar, but there can be huge differences in the order. If you know the order to store items or the order to retrieve them, that expedites the process. We explain that we repack equipment to make it easy to quickly locate it for the next event. Use an inventory sheet to note if items are broken/damaged/need cleaning/or are missing. This simple step saves you and your assistants a great deal of time.
Where does stuff live?
Loading vehicles—which items go where, and in what order? Assume your assistant hasn’t seen all the items yet and can’t know what else is to come until it has been broken down or loaded.
Do you have a vehicle layout/diagram? Are there items that need to be stored differently, or separately? Do you have labels and markers available? About that inventory check-off list with names of items, the count, and the condition—why not add photos of the items to it? Load it on a tablet and send a copy to your client right after breakdown. If the client is still on site, give them the sheet or tablet to sign immediately after you show missing or damaged goods.
Let’s set those new assistants up for success and at the same time, lighten our load-ins and load-outs!