Believe it or not, I still hear hesitancy from some executives about whether or not they really need an executive assistant. Some have an assistant they don’t know how to utilize fully, and others have never tried to partner with a resource as powerful as an exceptional executive assistant. The arguments against having an executive assistant (EA) often reveal a lack of understanding about the role of a stellar EA. Executives cite calendar apps, project management software, and smartphones as replacements for executive assistants. That tells me they’re missing the point.
An outstanding executive assistant can provide an executive with a host of benefits. Some may save the executive time, while others, perhaps more critically, can help to expand their reach, sharpen their work product, and allow them to “level up” and reach new heights in their career.
The List Goes On
An executive assistant wears many hats. The great ones are able to use their skills and expertise to sustain, protect, and energize their leader. If you think an EA is only helpful for a small handful of tasks, you haven’t seen a true EA. Here are some of the many responsibilities, tasks, and projects an executive assistant can manage on behalf of their executive:
- Schedule and manage travel
- Monitor and respond to email correspondence in a timely manner, eliminating delayed responses
- Facilitate internal and external communication on behalf of their executive
- Manage their executive’s schedule and maintain their calendar, developing a system that avoids tardiness and inefficient uses of time
- Serve as a gatekeeper protecting their executive’s valuable time
- Provide creative solutions to problems or issues
- Help to prepare their executive for critical meetings
- Identify opportunities for growth and success
- Increase their executive’s credibility
- Ensure their executive has everything they need when they need it by anticipating their needs
- Connect with other EAs, thus growing their executive’s network and reach
- Eliminate significant amounts of stress and worry from their executive’s plate
- Maintain a clean and organized office
- Ensure their executive never misses any deadlines or drops any balls
- Collaborate on projects, aiding with key tasks like research and organization
- Serve as an extension of their executive’s professional brand
- Act as their executive’s sounding board
- Provide calm and steady support during times of chaos or crisis
- Examine and optimize office procedures with an eye toward efficiency
- Expand their executive’s skills by supplementing work with their particular strengths, like document organization or effective messaging
- Function as their executive’s personal ambassador, representing the organization well and expanding the reach of their leader
How You Get There
If you’re one of those executives who has never had the experience of partnering with an exceptional assistant, you may read the list above and still wonder, “How in the world can I find someone who provides me with even 50% of that list?” The answer? You build a relationship that allows your EA to feel trusted and empowered. You have to be willing to invest and grow alongside your assistant. If you approach the relationship with a new EA as one where they are simply there to manage your calendar, you won’t ever realize the power and richness they can bring to the table.
The most accomplished executive assistants and executives are the ones who have forged a strategic partnership with each other. Developing that next-level relationship takes time, commitment, and trust. So, how do you start building that foundation? First, it is vitally important that you embrace the right mindset about the role. Don’t minimize it. Understand that your executive assistant is there both to provide critical support and to become your strategic partner, which will pay off exponentially in the future. It’s also your responsibility to convey to your EA your vision, mission, and goals. Bringing them into the fold will provide them with keen insight into your mind and show them the direction you envision. Once they have a good grasp on what you’re trying to accomplish and why you’re doing it, you’ll be amazed at how quickly and passionately they embrace your vision, mission, and goals and how creatively they work to maintain your forward progress. It’s all about showing them the why and then letting them show you how they can help you get there.
Let Me Bounce This Off You
A great way to begin forging your relationship with your assistant is to use them as a sounding board. This provides multiple benefits. First, it gives them a peek inside your brain and provides a critical understanding of how you approach projects and initiatives, what concerns you have, and when your productive hours are. Next, it helps them feel included and needed. It also empowers them, and there’s a good chance you may just find some of their hidden strengths. I’ve met executive assistants who have brilliant marketing, financial, and operations-focused minds, but none of that appeared on their resumes. If you take the time to invest in your EA, you will often find that you’re unlocking incredible potential in someone who is becoming your strategic partner. That’s a win-win for any executive!
So, how do you start using your executive assistant as your sounding board? It couldn’t be easier: Just start talking to them! If you’re sitting at your desk and a brilliant thought comes to you, call your assistant in immediately. Present the idea to them. Ask for feedback. Talk out the pros, cons, potential pitfalls, and possible windfalls. Just keep talking. Open up. Let them see inside your logic and thought process. Allow them to learn in real time. Hear them out too. Let them ask questions, pitch their own ideas, and dissect your ramblings. And don’t just wait for brilliant ideas. Schedule regular “sounding board” times to sit down with your EA and talk things out. The concept of “the more you know” will play a crucial role in their development. The more they understand about you, the organization, and the big-picture view, the more they’ll be able to contribute.
Reclaiming Your Time
Executive assistants help you focus your time and energy on the things that need an executive’s brain. If you’ve shrugged off the idea of having your own EA, I’d be willing to bet you spend an inordinate amount of time on administrative tasks and functions that eat up vital hours every single week. Is that what you’ve worked so hard to do? I hope not! Partnering with an executive assistant will help you reclaim your time. There’s not much that’s more valuable than that.
Once you start finding more hours in the day, your potential for growth and continued success knows no bounds. You’ll feel more confident knowing you have your executive assistant as your strategic partner, someone who is by your side and always has your back. That confidence can give you focus, energy, and a renewed passion for the business in which you work. I know so many executives who have had transformative professional experiences through developing their relationship with their assistant. It can be a true game-changer.
Ready to Find Out for Yourself?
Written by executives Joan Burge and James Bristow, The Executive’s Competitive Edge: Why You Need to Leverage the Talents & Time of an Executive Assistant helps leaders understand how to utilize the power of their executive assistants. They artfully blend best practices with new world techniques, outlining, in great detail, how executives can best approach the critical relationship they must establish with their assistants. A must-read for every executive, leader, and business owner, this robust yet approachable book explains the vital role Executive Assistants play in the modern business world, demonstrating their exponential impact on their executive’s productivity. Loaded with one incredible takeaway after another, business leaders will find this book acts as a critical guide, providing them with the tools and advice they need to find new levels of success. Learn more and get your copy today!