“If only there were two of me, I could…”

Take a moment and finish the sentence.
Seriously. I’ll wait.

In our time-crunched culture, it sometimes feels as if we frequently hit a wall and the only way to increase our output and effectiveness is to double ourselves. With our professional and personal responsibilities, we can become so caught up in the demands of leading a company that daydreaming about a clone actually becomes an appealing past time – along with wishing for more hours in a day.

How many more projects and initiatives would you take on? If there were two of you, maybe you could finally dedicate more time to improving your company’s culture. Maybe you could stay on top of the newest trends and read all the latest leadership books. And maybe you could devote more time to your family.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

And it is. I’m not here to announce that we’ve completed a scientific breakthrough that would allow you to 3-D print a copy of yourself. In fact, I’m here to tell you that having a clone (or, at the very least, someone who thinks and acts exactly like you) would be a terrible idea.   

Let me explain.

If there were two of you running around your office, you’d probably expect (or hope) your productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness would skyrocket. I’ve actually given this scenario some thought, and I think the exact opposite would happen.

For starters, just because you have a clone wouldn’t mean you’d have the ability to read each other’s minds or be at the same place at once. You’d still have to work out a system to effectively communicate and develop trust with your clone.

You’d have to frequently update each other and ensure each of you knew all the decisions that each of you were making. You’d have to stay in sync on how to answer all questions from people, you certainly couldn’t give different answers to the same question!

And everything you found helpful or inspiring, you’d have to ensure your clone (or vice versa) acquired the same information or inspiration to ensure your goals and values were consistently aligned. 

It’d be exhausting. You spend so much time filling each other in on the details and nuances of the day that you’d lose any productivity gain you’d expected from having a clone in the first place.

And, perhaps most importantly, you’d more likely than not find yourself doubly hampered by your own faults. Think about it. Do you have a short temper? Do you struggle with hiring the right people for the job? Are you cold and distant to your employees? Are your meetings unorganized and boring?

Your clone would have the exact same problems. And your people would suffer for it. 

Our desire to work with another version of ourselves is rooted in pride and a lack of trust in other people. Far too often, we’re blind to our own faults – until we’re confronted with the consequences of our shortcomings. A clone would only serve to be a mirror image of the worst parts of ourselves, a constant reflection of our constraints and limitations. 

Ouch.
Who wants to order a clone now?

Of course, I’m not really talking about clones to paint some dystopian picture of the future workplace. You don’t need futuristic technology to fall into the same trap I’ve described above.

I’ve met too many executives who expect their Executive Assistant (EA) to be carbon copies of themselves. When hiring an EA, they’re far too often looking for someone who mirrors their personality and skillset. And, as a result, their relationship with their EA looks as harried and frantic as the make-believe clone scenario. 

There are two key takeaways here I don’t want you to miss:

  1. Whether we’re talking about a clone or your EA, a structured and balanced communication plan is key if you want to make efficient and effective use of your limited time. You can hire a new EA (or clone) every single year, and, I assure you, nothing will change if the two of you can’t find a better way to communicate.
  2. You really don’t want to work with yourself. No matter how ego-bursting that realization might be, it’s essential you understand that your workplace will always be hurt more by the amplification of your weaknesses that it will be helped by the amplification of your strengths. 

In a later blog, we’ll talk more about what to look for when hiring an EA, but for now, just know that using your EA correctly will highlight the complementary strengths your EA brings to the table.

I truly believe that if you’re lucky enough to have an Executive Assistant on your team (or, if you’re reading this is in the far-flung future, a clone) that you can leverage that relationship with the necessary communication, collaboration, and trust to become a better worker, parent, spouse, friend, and leader.

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