Do You Have What it Takes? What Executive Assistants Value in their Executive
CEOs hire us to find great Executive Assistants.
We start by meeting the CEO to determine the range of support needed and expectations for the role. By saying “range,” we mean everything from business to personal-related support. Every CEO works differently and has different needs.
Some would never dream of asking an EA to help them personally, whereas other executives may want their bills paid, their holidays planned, and support for their spouse to plan social events. We’ve heard it all. It’s critical to develop the proper job description to attract the right assistant for the role.
There is a wide range of Executive Assistants out there, and they all have distinctly different skill sets, aptitudes, and preferences!
One time I met a client who handed me a list with over 30 characteristics and traits he wanted to find in his next assistant. That was all well and good, but to identify the right EA for him, we also needed to find out his scope of needs, work style, work pace, and temperament to know if we could recruit and attract the type of candidate that possessed everything he wanted on his wish list.
If you are a top-level executive, you probably want to hire a “great Executive Assistant.” And of course, you should! You will have your own “wish list” of experience level, skill sets, capabilities, personality type, and various attributes you want to find in your next EA.
But are YOU the type of executive a great assistant, would decide to work with as they climb the ladder in their career? Do you have a workstyle that respects and empowers a great EA— one that attracts the top talent? Or are you demeaning or dismissive toward your EA and treat them as the support staff?
If you’re like most executives, you probably don’t realize there’s another side to the equation that must be considered when hiring your next Executive Assistant: it’s YOUR workstyle, temperament, and attitude toward your EA.
From first-hand experience as the liaison and conduit connecting CEOs with prospective assistants, we’ve learned that the top-caliber assistants have their own set of criteria for identifying a new executive and company.
Are you surprised? Whether it surprises you or not, I hope it makes you take another look at your management and communication style regarding how you work with your assistant.
The bottom line is this: if you are demeaning, condescending, disrespectful, micromanaging, and quick-to-criticize or blame your assistant, the truth is, you’ll never recruit an “A-list” assistant. If you happen to, they probably won’t stay with you long-term if you continue to behave that way. On the other hand, if you are respectful, inclusive, supportive, and have a kind-hearted nature, and perceive and treat your assistant as a highly valued ally, you’re one of the lucky ones who will be able to attract and retain a top-caliber assistant.
The best attributes of a “great executive” are many, but the top five qualities valued by great Assistants are below:
1. Reputable, Honest, High Integrity
This should go without saying, but EAs are your closest ally and representative. They spend the majority of their waking hours focused on YOU, your priorities, and your needs. They work their butts off day and night to make sure your day goes smoothly and without a glitch.
The great EAs are not going to put up with working for a manager who cheats, or someone who lies, backstabs co-workers, or fudges expenses on expense reports to pass on inappropriate costs to clients. You get the picture – in short, a CEO needs to be competent, professional, and decent. Basic requirements: a person worthy of representation by a great EA. You are an extension of each other, and it goes both ways.
2. Caring and Connection
You connect with your EA on a human level—you care about them. Get to know something about their life: the name of their spouse, kids, or what kind of pets they have. If they have to schedule a date for some medical procedure, be kind—maybe send flowers or a note.
Kindness goes a long way— call or email to check and see how she/he is doing if they are sick. Do not contact them while they are still under sedation in the recovery room demanding them to change your flight from Zurich to Paris since you missed the plane—and oh, by the way, tell them you left your briefcase at the hotel, so they need to find it and get it sent to them at once. This is a true story, but an excellent example of what NOT to do.
3. Good Communicator
You share what is going on with your assistant. No assistant wants to be left in the dark and not know where you are, what you need or want, etc. You let them know your long-term, mid-term, short term goals and how they can help you achieve them. Communicate holistically, include business to personal priorities, expectations for a deadline, or a commitment to be home for dinner by 6:00. Let them know your preferences and communicate often.
You perceive and interact with your EA as your most valuable trusted partner! This is empowering to an EA. Every one of the top assistants we know wants to find a CEO who treats them with respect and is open to working as a partnership. Executive Business Partner is the new Senior Executive Assistant. You are working in alignment as integral business partners, involving your EA in everything you can to rapidly expand your business, priorities, projects, players.
The more you give your EA, the more you will get in return. The more she/he knows, the more able your EA can help you throughout the day with your personal and business schedule. When you perceive your EA as your administrative partner, you will consider him/her a key member of your executive team.
5. Empower, Recognize and Reward
A great CEO gets behind their employees – notably their EA. Empower your EA to take on a project by believing she/he can do it. Provide the budget and the end goal and let him/her know you’re available for questions.
Recognize a job well done. It’s even better if you acknowledge the great work in front of others, ideally, in your executive team meetings. Recognition will boost his/her self-confidence more than you know, and the motivation to work even harder for you! A reward is perceived differently by different people – so find out the underlying motivation and inspiration. Is it receiving stock options, a cash bonus, or paid time off?
If you do not have the top qualities sought after by the top EAs, don’t worry. Consider this a roadmap. Adopt a new perspective, and strive to be a better manager for your assistant— and you will be able to attract the best and brightest EAs!