How Assistants Can Manage Their Manager’s Needs & Priorities Using The 3P’s

Clarifying expectations and clear communication are two of the essential building blocks of building a strong partnership between a manager and their Executive Assistant.

In the latest episode of the Assist With Impact podcast (Episode 170), I discuss the challenge of assistants needing to manage the needs and priorities of multiple managers.

It can be a stressful and overwhelming task for assistants. But don’t worry, I’ve got a practical solution for you.

Stressed Assistant

Let me introduce you to the 3 P’s Framework – The Preferences, Priorities, and Pet Peeves Framework. It’s a simple yet effective scaffold for clarifying and circling back in your discussions to your understanding of your leader’s needs and priorities.

These are key to setting up new relationships for success and for resetting existing relationships.

This may not be a new concept for you. You might have seen me speak about it. But have you implemented this approach in your relationship with your manager?

Let’s break it down a bit more.


…preferences are how your leader likes things to be done, and it includes communication styles, calendar structure, and how meetings are run, among others.


…priorities are what your leader needs to get done, and it includes what their team needs from them and what other stakeholders require.

Pet Peeves…

…finally, pet peeves are the things that set your leader off and what they need to minimize their exposure to. 

How To Use Them To Elevate Your Effectiveness As An Assistant

Knowing all of these can help you show up as effective, efficient and proactive, making you a fantastic assistant in your leader’s eyes.

But, you’re not a mind reader, so I share some tips on how to gather this information, including asking your leader directly. I also emphasise the importance of ongoing dialogue and structured approaches to checking in with leaders since priorities are constantly changing.

Circle Back

Once you have developed your 3P’s file remember that it is a living breathing document. Keep it current. Use an edited version of it as a handover document when you go on vacation.

Circle back to the 3P’s frequently with your managers to ensure that you are clear on their top priorities. When you notice that their time and attention is not aligned with what has been communicated as their top priorities, use what you have documented to start a conversation with them.

The way I encourage assistants to do this is to use curious language. For example

“What I’m noticing…”


“What I’ve observed…”

In this way you are leveraging the 3P’s as a tool to manage up.

Progress Not Perfection

I hope I have convinced you of the merits of giving my 3P’s framework a go. Putting this system into practice takes practice! Be kind to yourself and focus on progress not perfection.

When I work with Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants and Administrative Professionals in my training and coaching programs I support my students to implement the 3P’s framework with their manager or managers.

I provide a workbook for coaching clients and training program attendees that guides them through how to set up a 3 Ps conversation with their leader. Spoiler alert, I will be providing you with an opportunity to access templates like this (and more) along with my support to implement them as part of a program I’ll be announcing soon.

Be Proactive

So, if you want to become a proactive and curious assistant who understands and anticipates their leader’s needs, Make time with your manager to ask them about their priorities, preferences and pet peeves today!

Liz Van Vliet

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Liz Van Vliet, The Linchpin Assistant

Meet Liz

I work with Executive Assistants and Administrative Assistants to deliver the confidence, consistency and career development that transforms them into thriving Linchpin Assistants. 

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