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.

 

 

 

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What Does an Executive Assistant Do? Whatever It Takes.

The Executive Assistant role is one of the least understood positions, in part because it encompasses so many different responsibilities and can differ greatly depending on the industry or Executive. My husband doesn’t even fully understand what I do (and I talk about my work a lot).

In the past five years or so, I have seen significant improvements in both the perception of the position and the training resources available for this career. Yes, executive support and administration is a career. One, I was happy to discover, which was actually very fulfilling and lucrative, because it was made for me (a Type-A, overachieving, organized, detail-oriented, intrapreneurial leader). I have made it my mission to dispel the myths surrounding this career and find as many resources as possible (or create my own) to support Executive Assistants in their career development.

So, what do I do? What do Executive Assistants do? Whatever it takes.

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Executive Assistants are the ultimate force multipliers and project managers. Our project just happens to be our Executive. From purchasing unique gifts for a business associate, to managing internal and external communication, to preparing speeches, to reorganizing staff roles, to creating business plans, and everything in between, we’ve got it covered. Executive Assistants are problem solvers and fixers. They are some of the most resourceful and connected individuals in your organization. If you have a challenge, bring it to your nearest EA, and I guarantee they will have a solution for you by the end of the day. Executive Assistants are leaders and seeing them as anything else is a complete underestimation of their ability and a disservice to you.

I am fascinated by the Executive Assistant position because I find it varies so significantly depending on what industry you work in, how established the organization is, and the personality and behavior of your Executive.

I have been an Executive Assistant/Chief of Staff for over six years with the same Executive, yet my responsibilities have significantly evolved over the years. Here’s a little bit about what I do as a Chief of Staff at Hergenrother Enterprises (which encompasses six companies):

  • Manage and plan Executive’s time and priorities (including all meeting prep, briefing, taking meetings on Exec’s behalf that aren’t the best use of his time)
  • Act as an extension of Executive and help lead the organization
  • Review current operations and make recommendations to support overall company objectives (then lead implementation of changes)
  • Lead all special projects and track initiatives to ensure successful completion
  • Handle all communication on behalf of Executive (calls, email, social media, media requests, staff questions, meeting follow-up, etc.)
  • Recruit and hire for key positions
  • Key relationship management
  • Schedule, calendar, travel, event management
  • Whatever it takes so Executive is only focused on leading, training, coaching, and spreading the vision of the organization

As the Chief of Staff to a serial entrepreneur I have done everything from setting up new entities, to refining systems that allowed us to launch teams in new states, to planning, organizing, and selling tickets for a non-profit speaker event, to reviewing budgets and strategic plans, to training other Executive Assistants, to recruiting and hiring staff, to helping write course content, to scheduling meetings and travel, to holding other staff members accountable, to preparing presentations, to conducting meetings on behalf of my Exec.

Regardless of the exact responsibilities Executive Assistants have, I haven’t met individuals who work harder to accomplish a mission. When Adam travels without me, I don’t go to bed unless I know he has arrived. I’ve emailed with him at 2am before he went off the grid to hike Kilimanjaro. I’ve come into the office on more than one weekend to work on a project, prepare for an event, or move offices. I’ve gotten out of bed more than once to rearrange travel and get him booked on a new flight after delays or cancellations. It needed to be handled. I handled it. I’m sure this is sounding pretty familiar to my fellow EAs.

For people who don’t quite understand our unique roles, they think our Exec is expecting too much or that these requests are unacceptable or intrusive. But what they don’t know is that very rarely does the Exec actually have to request that these things happen – they just get done of our own volition. I knew what I was signing up for, in fact, I thrive on this. I work for an incredibly interesting and dynamic entrepreneur and I am helping him build multiple organizations; occasionally work doesn’t happen between 9am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. The trade-off? I get to work for an incredibly interesting and dynamic entrepreneur and help him build multiple organizations – the work is challenging, rewarding, and it doesn’t hurt that I have complete flexibility with my schedule and unlimited vacation and time off.

What about you? What does your day look like? I want to hear from you! What is your title and what are your top five responsibilities? Share in the comments below and let’s keep the conversation going!