I recently worked with the director of a large research institution. He's a brilliant scientist, one of those guys with a brain the size of a planet, enough advanced degrees to wallpaper a small office, and memberships in all the clubs for super-smarty-pants. As an administrator, however, he's not quite in the same league.

Although he has an extremely competent assistant, he refuses to dedicate time to meeting with her. Often they'll go two or three days without talking to each other. When it's a choice between talking to one of his scientists about the latest research project or meeting with his assistant, it's a no-brainer: cool science always trumps administrative responsibilities.

Unfortunately, this has a cost. Sometimes they miss deadlines. In once case, it was for a very large government grant. Often, the assistant has to spend much of her day chasing him around the 12-story building, trying to get his signature on a form or a decision on a commitment. And then there's the issue of what she could be accomplishing instead of engaging in her daily scavenger hunt for the boss.

IdeaMatt has written eloquently about structuring an effective boss-assistant relationship. (Matt's page is temporarily down while he completes a book, but you can get the key points via 43Folders.) If you're not used to having help, it's worth reading. You'll learn, among other things, that making an ironclad commitment to spend 15 or 20 minutes each day with your assistant is essential. Your assistant is there to extend your reach and capability to effect change in the organization. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that it's the most important 20 minutes of your day.

After all, the eighth waste is unused human potential. On either side of the boss-assistant relationship.

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