5 Ways Executive Assistants Can Add Value to Their Company

Last week at a networking event I was called an “office girl” and a “very powerful person” within about 10 minutes by two different people. Yes, I am female. And yes, I work in an office. But that’s about the extent of my identification with the label “office girl.” I mean, what is an office girl, anyway? While that devaluation of my chosen profession always gets to me a little, I’ve been called worse. However, it did get me thinking about why that one individual called me a “very powerful person” in the first place. Did I really live up to that moniker? And how do career Executive Assistants continue to grow in their role and earn that title?

Here’s what I know: Great Executive Assistants are leaders, invaluable resources, and influencers (aka powerful people). But to be seen as such, we must provide exceptional value, not just to our Executive, but to the organization at large. We must go above and beyond the traditional EA responsibilities and think outside the box.

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Below are five ways Executive Assistants can add value to their company:

  1. Keep information, the right information, flowing. Executive Assistants are in a unique position where they have the privilege of learning from and interacting daily with the top Executives in the organization. A large part of an Executive Assistant’s role is to act as a gatekeeper. Yet, gatekeepers are not meant to keep people out; rather they should let the right people in at the right time. Control the flow of information, do not stop it. You can either hoard information and use your position of power as a crutch, or you can share what you learn with your co-workers and be seen as a leader, a resource, and an influencer at all levels of your organization. Information should flow up, down, and sideways throughout the company – and it often hinges on the successful communication skills of the EA. That does not mean you should be an open book. Your first priority is to maintain confidentiality and the confidences of your Executive. But understanding what information can and should be shared with which team members is an important part of our roles.
  2. Volunteer to lead special projects. This may already be a key part of your role (as it is mine), but if not, step-up! Companies today are doing more with less and that often means with less people. But I imagine your Exec and organization are not slowing down. Often there are new projects or initiatives that the organization wants to work on, but they don’t fall into any particular category or department. That’s where you come in. Executive Assistants are problem solvers and fixers. Executive Assistants are detail-oriented, organized, perfectionistic, and the ultimate project managers. Executive Assistants do whatever it takes to get the job done. You are uniquely equipped to handle projects that are important to the CEO, but may not require a full-time hire (yet).
  3. Tell stories. Are you great at writing or marketing? Perhaps you could create a company newsletter, take over your Executive’s social media accounts, start a company blog, write feature articles for local publications, or pitch stories to national media outlets. Content marketing and public relations are king. If your company doesn’t have a PR or marketing department and you are great at telling stories – then that’s your niche! Positive, free media mentions for your organization will definitely set you apart.
  4. Create or join a committee. Are you passionate about wellness or company culture? Then create or join a committee that focuses on those issues and share your insights. Better yet, listen. As an influential person in the organization, you may be looked to for all the answers. Instead, ask questions and get other’s to share their ideas. The most powerful person in the room is not the one who talks the most, but the one who can take all opinions and information and make a decision that best serves the company.
  5. Draw on your strengths and share your knowledge throughout the organization. What can you do better than anyone else? The ultimate mark of a leader and an influencer is to teach. Find opportunities to share your knowledge with your co-workers. Could you hold a seminar about event planning with the other administrative staff in your company? Perhaps you could train department managers on a new software the company is rolling out. Start and lead a monthly book club. Or hold a class about managing up for Executive Assistants.

 

Executive Assistants are powerful people. But that title is not just given. It is earned by providing extensive value not just to your Exec, but to the whole organization. Above are just a few examples of how one can add value – there are hundreds more. But it is the rockstar EA, the very powerful EA, that actually does them.

How do you go above and beyond in your role and add value to your company? Share in the comments below!

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Are You Working With the Right Leader?

I get a lot of questions from Executive Assistants all over the world about how to form a better relationship and strategic partnership with their Executive (a topic we’ll continue to explore). It really starts with a fundamental question: Are you working with the right leader?

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If you are feeling unfulfilled at work, are struggling to get excited about supporting and working with your Exec, or if you are dreading going to the office in the morning, no matter how much you love being an Executive Assistant and no matter how great your company is; your Exec may not be the right fit for you. I’ve seen amazing EAs struggle and eventually leave because they want more growth and opportunity, while their Executive is content with the status quo. Conversely, I’ve seen great EAs falter because their Exec is a hard driver and is constantly changing priorities and the EA would be better served in a more methodical and structured environment. Neither is right or wrong, better or worse – it’s just not the right fit for either party.

If any of the above scenarios sound like you, it’s time to take a good hard look at yourself and your Exec. First, get clear on your own personality, behavior, working style, and career goals. I recommend the following (free or inexpensive) personality and behavior assessments to learn more about your strengths, areas for improvement, ideal work environment, etc.

Some Executive Assistants want a strong, direct, fast-paced Executive. Others, thrive in a a more structured and copacetic environment. While still others will prefer working for a creative, spontaneous Executive. Do you like to keep it strictly business or do you want to attend weekly dinners with your Exec and her family? Do you like a controlled and organized environment or do you thrive on bringing order to chaos? Do you like to take the lead on all projects or do you prefer to wait for detailed instructions before tackling a task? Take all of that into consideration as you are evaluating who you are and whether or not your Exec is the right fit for you.

If you have access to your Executive’s behavior or personality profiles, compare your results with his. (In fact, I would encourage you to have your Executive take one of these assessments. It is a great way to start a conversation about how to work better together.) Where are the assessments in alignment? And where is there a mismatch? You definitely don’t want to have the same strengths as your Exec – or else you wouldn’t need each other! But there are some key places you will want to align. For example, Adam is a DI personality, which means he is direct, fast-paced, gregarious, a driver and an influencer. I am a DC, which means I also work very quickly, am direct (and can handle his direct style), but also have the organizational, detail-oriented, perfectionistic qualities he lacks. And, in fact, if Adam was not a High D personality, I would not have lasted six plus years working with him (I would simply have been too bored!).

If you don’t have a behavior assessment to review, then take a few minutes to complete a quick comparison sheet. Your sheet will be different than mine based on your behavior profile. Really dive deep into what you need in a leader. You may need an analytical and methodical leader and someone else may need a creative and visionary leader to feel fulfilled. Take a look at mine below and then create your own (email me for a template).

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Is your leader the right fit or the wrong fit for YOU? Ideally, you would determine this before accepting a position, but that doesn’t always happen. You could have been assigned to an Exec or be supporting your Execs replacement. Even more common, you or your Executive have grown (or not) or have had some big life events that change the working dynamic. Time to reassess whether or not you are working for the right leader.

I know I am working for the right leader because I am constantly growing, I am challenged daily, I take steps (okay, sometimes I’m pushed) outside of my comfort zone so that I can grow (hello! this blog!), I get up every day excited to go to work and help Adam grow our companies, I have freedom and flexibility with my work, and I am supported personally and professionally. Most importantly, I know I am working with the right leader because I don’t have a “boss”, but a business partner.

The EA/Executive relationship is arguably the most important one in the organization and if it doesn’t work, the rest of the organization feels it. It behooves you to ensure that you are working for the right leader for the sake of your sanity and for the success of the organization. The first step to a successful EA/Exec partnership is making sure the time you will invest in your Exec will be time well spent. If you are not the right match, regardless of the strategies you implement, you will fail to build a fulfilling strategic partnership.