It Can Be Lonely At The Top


As an executive at a Fortune 1000 company, people see you as somewhat superhuman and will likely admire your confidence, lifestyle, and the trappings of your success. These people may have think they know what it’s like to be you – flying on the corporate jet, dressed to the 9’s in the corporate boardroom, retreats at fancy resorts, making huge multi-million dollar decisions before breakfast. But the truth is, non-executives have no idea what it’s like to be you..

There is one person who knows what it’s like to be you though. I mean, they really know you – better than anyone does – even your husband or wife. Your Executive Assistant probably knows and understands your stresses, challenges, and needs better than anyone else on the planet.

Amongst many other things, your EA is your gatekeeper and interface, and as such s/he can make you look stellar or foolish. S/he can magically free up hours of productive working time a day, or take them away…  S/he can be smooth out the relationships with people around you or make them a mess. In a nutshell, your EA can be the biggest reason you succeed or fail, so you better get the right one.

“Alright – I Get It… I Need to Hire A Great EA. I’ll call HR.”

You may already be holding your phone, poised to tell HR – “Hire me an EA with top-notch smarts and skills, and have her/him show up in my office on Monday”, but don’t call yet! This is the equivalent of asking HR to “Find me an attractive, smart and socially competent (woman or man) and tell them to meet me at the altar this Saturday.”

Yes, you do want your EA to have great skills – that’s a given- but you also want them to be the right EA for YOU! After all, they’re going to spend more time with you and arguably have a greater impact on your career and life than your spouse.

To find the right EA you must ask yourself, ‘Who Am I?

“Ask myself what!!??” Yes. If you want the right EA you had better think about what kind of person and manager you are.

Some starter questions:

  • Are you collaborative or authoritarian?
  • Do you delegate or tend to do everything yourself?
  • How demanding are you?
  • How much direction are you able/willing to give?
  • How reactive and critical are you? – i.e. how thick do people’s skin around you need to be?
  • Do you tend to say ‘thank you’ or do you tend to think if you don’t point out a problem, they should ‘know’ that they did a good job?

When I work with an executive I ask these questions and dozens more to get a feel for who will thrive vs fail. Hire a great EA who is the wrong personality match and they’ll be sending out their resume by their second paycheck.

Depending on how you answered the questions above – you may want to think about making some changes to your own style. If you snap, fail to communicate, fail to say ‘thank you’, or fail to share important information, you’ll be a challenge for any EA to work with. Again (yes, I’m beating you over the head with this) your relationship with your EA can make or break your career and even your company.

During the next 10 months we’re going to explore the Top 10 Ways to Attract and Keep your Dream EA. Some of these articles will explore attracting and finding the right EA, and others will talk about you becoming the person who will keep and make the most of your EA relationship.

Stay tuned for next month’s article that will explore more deeply the starting point for finding the right EA – ‘Who Am I?’

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