The DNA of a Great Executive Assistant
For the past 28 years, my company, Kathy Macdonald Associates, Inc., has been retained by high profile CEOs to find “great” Executive Assistants.
We interview our clients upfront to understand their needs, work style, preferences, expectations, temperament, and the company culture before we begin our professional search to target their future administrative partners.
Having interviewed thousands of Executive Assistants to top-tier and celebrity-level CEOs around the country, we understand the variations of the leadership support role inside and out.
We know what type of EA it takes to support a start-up founder/CEO and what type of EA it takes to assist the CEO of a public, multi-billion-dollar global company. Not all CEOs are alike, and neither are Executive Assistants. There are, however, a few foundational attributes that comprise the DNA of a great EA and will differentiate the good from the great.
Top 10 traits of the great Executive Assistants:
- Intellectually curious. Eager to learn about the business, the corporate structure, the board members, the industry, and the competition
- S/he reads industry-specific news to keep abreast of what is relevant for the executive
2. Complete confidentiality
- Innately discreet in all communications
- Trusted to maintain secrecy with highly sensitive information; whether it is personal; a personnel-related matter or a business issue
3. Impeccable integrity
- Earns trust and respect from his/her executive, the executive’s direct reports and their EAs
- Honest and direct communication with the executive; quick to admit mistakes and take corrective action
4. Superb oral and written communication skills
- Articulate and concise when interacting with high-level business contacts,
- Impeccable standards for written communication: zero tolerance for emails or correspondence with grammatical errors
5. Outstanding interpersonal skills
- Interfaces graciously with all levels of individuals
- Cultivates good relationships internally and externally
6. Business acumen
- Identifies who and what is most important to manage the executive’s time and priorities effectively
- Efficient, street smart and able to connect the dots
7. Extremely organized
- Innately capable of creating organizational structures (processes/systems) for the executive
- Ability to work at a fast-pace, keep track of multiple projects and timelines and follow through to completion
8. Executive orientation
- Always thinking about the priorities of his/her executive and the executive team
- Keeps two steps ahead and anticipates his/her needs; provides the executive with key information in advance of all meetings and calls
9. Win-win orientation
- No Ego; A great EA does not wield his/her power
- Positively influences members of the executive team for the benefit of all
10. Great attitude
- Total customer-service orientation (both internally and externally)
- Cares about people and always willing to take the initiative to help solve a problem
Great EAs not only have tangible hard skills (advanced proficiency with a variety of software such as Microsoft Office Suite; Google Suite; Concur, Asana, Evernote, and many other apps), but they also have a number of soft skills ( key attributes such as the ability to be flexible, pivot on priorities quickly as needed, work with a keen sense of urgency and with a team player mentality).
When I meet a great EA, I know it’s in their DNA! These are the people who love and thrive being in the role.
As a former EA myself, I value and understand the role of the EA. My team and I believe that great EAs are worth their weight in gold.
Savvy CEOs who understand the real value of a great EA will pay six-figure compensation packages to recruit and even relocate talent from across the country to work with them.
We offer services such as coaching and consulting for executives wanting to know how to identify a “great” Executive Assistant, and for EAs interested in stepping up their game.