How To Set Expectations For Your Executive Assistant

As an executive or organizational leader, your time is precious. That’s why it’s essential to have a trusted executive assistant who can manage your schedule, handle critical administrative tasks, and help you stay organized. It’s also equally vital for you to set clear goals and expectations with your administrative assistant to ensure that you work together effectively and efficiently. Without goals and expectations, any team member would struggle. But more importantly, when you’re the leader of a strategic partnership with your assistant, forcing them to navigate without clear objectives or direction is a recipe for mistakes, mediocrity, and missed targets. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of goal setting and expectation management when working with an executive assistant, providing actionable insights for personal and professional growth and evolution.

Understanding The Payoff

Being on the same page with your executive assistant means understanding each other’s roles and responsibilities and possessing a firm grasp of what is expected of you both. Setting goals and expectations can help foster a rock-solid working relationship. It gives both you and your assistant clear and concise direction on how tasks should be completed, as well as a measurable way to track progress and success. Setting goals and expectations with your executive assistant offers several benefits:

Improved Communication

Clearly outlining your expectations ensures that you and your EA are on the same page. This minimizes misunderstandings and miscommunications, leading to a smoother and more productive working relationship.

Increased Efficiency

When your EA knows precisely what you expect from them, they can focus on completing tasks that align with your priorities. This allows you to delegate more effectively, freeing up your time to focus on strategic initiatives and other high-level responsibilities.

Greater Accountability

By establishing measurable goals and expectations, you create a framework for evaluating your EA’s performance. This can help identify areas for improvement and drive professional development, ultimately leading to a more capable and effective assistant.

Enhanced Trust

When your EA understands your expectations, they can make decisions and act with greater confidence. This trust enables them to work more independently and proactively, further increasing their value as a resource for you and your organization.

“The takeaway is that just because an Executive can do something, it does not mean they should. And if an Executive does not delegate or turn responsibilities over to an EA, neither the Executive nor EA will grow.”The Executive’s Competitive Edge: Why You Need to Leverage the Talents & Time of an Executive Assistant, by Joan Burge and James Bristow

Start Asking The Right Questions

When you begin the process of setting goals and expectations, it’s important to start honestly. Sometimes, we can misidentify needs, and that results in assistance that feels incomplete or unhelpful. In reality, though, we simply haven’t correctly assessed vital elements like holes in our work product, immediate needs, or weaknesses in our time management tactics. Start by asking yourself key questions like:

  • What do you want to achieve in your current role?
  • What tasks are you currently completing that are not the best and highest use of your time?
  • What direction and instruction are needed to hand those tasks off to someone else?
  • Where do you want to focus your effort and attention?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?

When you start with the bigger picture and begin exploring opportunities for growth through candid questions, you can begin outlining clear objectives, including deliverables, benchmarks for success, and deadlines. This will help you stay on track and in sync with your assistant.

Tips For Setting Goals And Expectations With Your Executive Assistant

Let’s dig into some practical tips on how to set clear goals and expectations with your assistant effectively:

  1. Establish clear objectives: Start by identifying the specific tasks and responsibilities you want your executive assistant to handle. Consider both short-term and long-term objectives, as well as any projects or initiatives that may require their support. Don’t give nebulous instructions. Think clearly! Be as detailed as possible to ensure your administrative assistant understands the scope, priority, and desired outcome of each task and assignment.
  2. Create a communication plan: Determine how you prefer to communicate with your assistant (e.g., email, text, phone, in-person meetings) and establish a regular check-in schedule to discuss progress, challenges, and any changes to priorities. Don’t make this decision in a vacuum. Include your executive assistant in the conversation so that both parties get a chance to identify their preferred means of communication. Once implemented, a communication plan will play an essential role in keeping both you and your assistant informed and aligned on key objectives.
  3. Identify measurable metrics: As much as possible, pinpoint quantifiable metrics to the goals and expectations you set for your assistant. Without these metrics, it’s difficult for both you and your assistant to know how well they’re doing. This can include specific deadlines, benchmarks, or key performance indicators that will help you evaluate their success in meeting their established expectations.
  4. Provide constructive feedback: Don’t make your executive assistant guess how well they’re doing or try to interpret vague comments or perceived feedback. Instead, regularly and proactively review your assistant’s progress toward their goals and provide constructive feedback on their performance. Don’t just focus on areas that need improvement. Recognize achievements and offer guidance on how they can overcome challenges. This not only helps them grow professionally but also demonstrates your ongoing commitment to their success.
  5. Be open to adaptation and evolution: Don’t become stuck in your ways and allow progress to stagnate. Recognize that priorities and needs will likely change over time. Be open to adjusting goals and expectations as necessary to ensure that your executive assistant continues to provide the support you need. Encourage them to be proactive in identifying new tasks or responsibilities that align with your evolving needs. Any time a new goal or expectation is identified, be sure to communicate it clearly and identify the metrics by which success will be recognized.
  6. Encourage professional development: Growth is essential for everyone. Most executives recognize the need for continuing education for themselves, but many overlook this same need for their teams. Support your administrative assistant’s ongoing professional growth by providing them plenty of opportunities for training, mentoring, and networking. This will be a great benefit to them, of course, but it will also provide you with a more committed, capable assistant. Knowledge is truly power, and those assistants who are exposed to high-quality growth opportunities typically become some of the top-tier assistants in the industry.

You will have to invest time. The first or second time you ask an EA to perform a task or be responsible for a duty, it will take some time to communicate expectations and parameters, but then that EA will take over that project or task and save you time in the long run.

Gain The Edge

A successful partnership between you and your assistant depends on clear communication, mutual understanding, and a shared commitment to achieving common goals and objectives. By setting well-defined expectations, you can create a strong framework for a productive and efficient working relationship that benefits you and your assistant, allowing for powerful contributions to the overall success of your organization.

At Office Dynamics, we understand the importance of cultivating strong executive-assistant relationships. Our expert resources and professional development programs are designed to help executives and administrative assistants alike hone their skills, enhance their productivity, and achieve greater success in their roles. If you’re hungry for more, consider expanding your professional library. 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!

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