How an Executive Assistant Force Multiplies Their Leader’s 20%

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON WWW.HERGLIFE.COM ON AUGUST 13, 2018 

Last week I talked to two very successful Entrepreneurs who both expressed interest in hiring an Executive Assistant (EA). Smart move. An EA can work wonders for a busy Entrepreneur. However, both business leaders were unsure exactly what this person would do. Fair enough. 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/Entrepreneur. 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 available for this career. Yes, executive support and administration is a career. One, I was happy to discover, that was actually very fulfilling and lucrative, because it was made for me (a Type-A, overachieving, organized, detail-oriented, intrapreneurial leader).

SO, WHAT DO EXECUTIVE ASSISTANTS DO? WHATEVER IT TAKES.

Executive Assistants are the ultimate force multipliers and project managers. Their project just happens to be their Executive. From purchasing unique gifts for a business associate, to managing internal and external communication, to preparing speeches, to reorganizing staff roles, to managing social media, 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.

The Executive Assistant position is even more unique when you’re talking about working with a Founder, Entrepreneur, or public figure. Earlier this year, I attended a retreat just outside of Seattle where Monique Helstrom, Chief of Simon Sinek (i.e. Executive Assistant to, and Producer of, Simon), was a guest speaker. She was explaining a bit about her position and told us that she recently was talking to Brene Brown’s Executive Assistant about their respective roles. While, in theory, they are in the same industry (EAs to very prominent authors and public speakers) Monique said their roles were completely different. I think that is perfect illustration of why the role is so hard to define in any real specifics. A job description for Simon’s EA, Adam’s EA, or Elon Musk’s EA could all be very different. The Executive Assistant position varies so significantly depending on what industry you work in, how established the organization is, and the personality and behavior of your Executive.

Last summer, Adam published a blog called The 3 Most Important Things a Leader Must Do. They were:

  1. Casting the vision
  2. Providing focus, clarity, and direction for the team
  3. Removing roadblocks

That is a Leader’s (an Executive’s) 20%. Clear and concise. Well, what about an EA’s 20%? It tends to get a bit murky, but I think this sums it up:

An Executive Assistant’s 20% is ensuring the objectives, goals, and vision of the Executive are executed.

So, in theory, the Executive Assistant’s 20% is the Entrepreneur’s bottom 80%, right? An EA handles all the miscellaneous responsibilities, tasks, and administrative duties that allow an Executive to stay focused on leadership, strategy, and communication. But we all know EAs aren’t just going to focus on the 80%, part of their job is helping their Executive manage their 20%.

Adam has a really great analogy for this concept, that I like to call the 0-10 Principle. As a visionary, Adam has brilliant ideas on the daily. They may not be completely fleshed out, but he has the spark and then sees the end result crystal clear. It is my responsibility to take that idea from a 2 to a 9, bring the idea/project back to him so he can do his final finessing to bring it to a 10. Here’s what that looks like in practice. Adam wants to create an inspirational speaker series that raises funds for his Foundation. Great! That’s at about a 2. I will then take that idea, gather the necessary people, create a timeline, budget, put together a marketing plan, interview speakers, plan the event, and come back to Adam with a final plan, including the speaker line-up. He will offer additional insight, perhaps tweak the speaker order, and come up with an overarching theme for the night. Now we’ve got a 10.

That is how Executive Assistants help their leaders with their 20%. You can apply the concept to almost every aspect of your Executive’s 20%, from drafting a letter to include in the company’s annual report, to revamping their blog, to preparing for a quarterly offsite leadership meeting, to planning a 40th birthday trip for their brother. An Executive Assistant manages the people, details, timelines, etc. to make an idea come to life. This can happen on a large scale like helping them write a book or on a smaller scale like choosing the perfect anniversary gift for their wife. Let’s break this down even further and look at how an EA helps their Executive with their 20%:

FORCE MULTIPLY THE VISION. Communicating the vision is perhaps the most critical component of an Executive’s job. Casting the vision wide and often through strategic communication and branding initiatives generates new business, attracts talent, and boosts employee engagement. Branding and casting the vision go hand in hand.

  1. Schedule regular company updates. These can be in the form of Town Halls, a Letter from the CEO in the annual report, daily blog posts, quarterly video announcements, weekly emails, monthly company meetings, etc. What matters here is that there is a cadence to the communication and that the leader is casting the vision and keeping the team updated and informed regularly. It is the EAs responsibility to schedule these, make sure the cadence is kept and to even prep these letters, meetings, video content, etc. Make sure the CEO’s vision is heard often!
  2. Along with their marketing or brand strategy teams, EAs must specifically reviewing their Executive’s social media regularly to ensure the messaging is in line with the company’s mission and their Executive’s vision. Once the brand is established, EAs must protect it and ensure the messaging is consistent across all channels. How an Executive shows up at church, needs to be the same way he/she shows up on YouTube.
  3. EAs are in a unique position to pitch their Executive for interviews on blogs, national media publications, podcasts, radio shows, etc. They know their Executive’s story, they know their language and how they would answer questions. Submit for awards and as many media mentions as it make sense. EAs are able to craft the message that their Executive wants to be heard, and usually these opportunities lead to even bigger opportunities. Don’t be afraid to start small and build up the brand presence.
  4. EAs can help their Executives write a weekly blog or do a weekly YouTube or Instagram show. The key is consistently delivering the vision and positioning their Executive as a thought leader in his/her industry.

FORCE MULTIPLY COMMUNICATION. Casting the vision means communication with both internal and external stakeholders, so how can an EA enhance these activities to maximize the leader’s reach?

  1. Listen on calls and participate in meetings to listen for anything that their Executive says will be done, delivered, or followed up on. Does their Executive say he’ll make an introduction or get the name of a book to someone? It is an EAs job to ensure that promises made are promises kept.
  2. Managing internal and external relationships is critical. Maintaining a database that houses important, and sometimes seemingly irrelevant, information about people can be a lifesaver. This can be family members, employees, candidates, vendors, community members, former employees, competitors, business leaders, etc. As the EA and their Executive meet with people and conduct research or meeting prep, store any details about the meeting or the individual. Set reminders for anniversaries, birthdays, or important life milestones. I recommend using an inexpensive CRM so you can set tasks and follow-up reminders so you don’t miss an important date. Create a VIP list of people that the Executive wants to either maintain or create a relationship with. Then set up Google alerts that keep you in tune with what these people are doing, awards their company’s receive, etc. It’s a perfect opportunity for the EA to remind their Executive to reach out, call, email, or send a hand-written note. Executive’s will run into these players at conferences or networking and social events. Keep this information handy so it can be pulled out and given to the Executive as a quick refresher before they go to a community event so they don’t forget to congratulate a potential business partner on their recent merger.
  3. The art of the handwritten note is not dead! Incorporate handwritten notes into the correspondence with an Executive’s VIP list. It could be one of the most impactful ways to maximize an Executive’s reach and build relationships. Whether that is thanking someone for coming in to meet with their Executive, or congratulating a competitor on building a new office, handwritten notes get noticed. Pop a business card in there (because not everyone can interpret the Executive’s handwriting and signature like an EA can). To really maximize this, EAs should write thank yous and general notes to vendors or the concierge who went above and beyond helping them book a massage for their Executive when he arrived at his hotel. The more relationships that an EA is able to create will only help them help their Executive. And you never know when a kind word or just knowing the name of the right person at a restaurant will come in handy. Provide value, expecting nothing in return, and it will be returned tenfold.
  4. If an EA travels with their Executive for speaking engagements or hosts training events where their Executive is the keynote presenter, they must pay attention to the audience. What content is resonating? What content could be removed for the next training event? After the event they can update and refresh the Executive’s content accordingly. EAs are the eyes and ears while their Executive is presenting. Watch the room. Who is fully engaged and asking questions? Who is leaving the room every five minutes? Is there talent in the room? After the presentation (especially if it is a day-long event) their Executive is going to be fried, and may need to catch a flight home, and yet everyone is going to want to talk to him. Often an Executive will have a line of people who want to thank him or ask questions. The EA should position herself/himself near their Executive to take business cards, take notes on who to follow-up with, answer questions, or take photos. And perhaps most importantly, to grab their Executive and steer him towards the exit so he doesn’t miss his Uber!

FORCE MULTIPLY FOCUS, CLARITY, AND DIRECTION. This is all about leading and managing up so the Executive is making the right decisions, has the right meetings on his calendar, and is in relationship with the right people in order to achieve the company’s objectives. If one of the Executive’s primary goals is to ensure the team is on track and focused on what must be done that day, week, or month, then that’s the Executive Assistant’s goal too.

  1. When an EA is scheduling or drafting regular communication for their Executive make sure the message is clear and ties back in specific tasks that keep everyone focused.
  2. During key leadership meetings, note all action items and follow up accordingly. If no action items are clear, do not leave the meeting without everyone agreeing to what the next best steps are or what the course of action is and who is doing what.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, when the Executive is getting hit from multiple angles or when they start chasing a shiny object, remind them of what is important and what the team had agreed to focus on that quarter. Entrepreneurs are visionaries and will have endless ideas. Make note of them and if they aren’t part of the overall goals, table them for now. If the Executive asks about them twice, then it’s time to bring them to the forefront and get their buy-in that they should be moved to the 20% for both the Executive and EA to tackle.

FORCE MULTIPLY REMOVING ROADBLOCKS. Once the vision is cast and everyone is clear on what they need to focus on for success, help the team get there!

  1. Research tools and provide cost/benefit analysis to the Executive so they can make the best decision for the team.
  2. Make sure the Executive is regularly available for impromptu meetings. While EAs are often the gatekeeper, do not block access to the “throne”. Schedule in time for the Executive to walk around and check in with people. Do no over schedule them so much that they are not available for a quick question that if unanswered could hold up a project for days.
  3. Be the eyes and ears for the Executive and bring the challenges and solutions to him of issues that if not nipped in the bud could fester and create organizational issues. This could be employee morale, inefficiencies in staffing, or a clunky system. Speak up and help find a solution so everyone can keep moving forward.

An Executive’s 20% is also an Executive Assistant’s 20%. They may complete different tasks to get there, but they are still a part of making it happen. Own it.

Regardless of the exact responsibilities Executive Assistants have, I haven’t met individuals who work harder to accomplish a mission. While I am no longer Adam’s Executive Assistant (I passed the torch to our amazing EA, Amy, last year!), when Adam did travel without me, I didn’t go to bed unless I knew he had arrived. I emailed with him at 2am before he went off the grid to hike Kilimanjaro. I came into the office on weekends to work on a project, prepare for an event, or move offices. I got 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 (and perhaps many Chiefs of Staff).

For people who don’t quite understand this unique role, they tend to think Executive’s are expecting too much or that these requests are unacceptable or intrusive. But what they don’t know is that very rarely does the Executive actually have to request that these things happen – they just get done of the EAs 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.

This is just a starting point for those Entrepreneurs who are looking  to hire an Executive Assistant or who want to establish a better relationship with their right hand. The nuances are endless. I have been the Executive Assistant, and now Chief of Staff for eight years with the same Executive, yet my job today looks nothing like it did eight years ago. The only constant is that I am still responsible for, and committed to, ensuring Adam’s vision is implemented.

Since we’re on the topic of the power of the partnership between EA and Entrepreneur, Adam and I are excited to share that we are working on a book about this very topic! Click here to get on the pre-order list and help us choose the title! 


 

lead and assistWANT MORE? JOIN ME FOR LEAD & ASSIST: A four-week online seminar designed to redefine the Executive Assistant role and help you take your career to the next level.

An Executive Assistant role is not just a stepping-stone to another position but a dynamic career all on its own. Executive Assistants are the ultimate force multipliers and project managers. Your project just happens to be your Executive. So, what exactly does an Executive Assistant do? Whatever it takes. Lead & Assist will help you tackle mindset, communication and leadership challenges, while building the confidence and gaining clarity needed to continue to take on the world. Join Hallie Warner, Chief of Staff of Adam Hergenrother Companies, this fall and become an invaluable business partner and confident leader.

THE CURRICULUM WILL COVER:

  • Building a strategic partnership with your Executive
  • Developing confident decision making skills
  • Leading and managing up
  • Best practices for managing communication
  • Career development

RESERVE YOUR SPOT HERE AND I’LL SEE YOU THERE!

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Lead Yourself First. Get Uncomfortable. Be Indispensable.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being on Liz Van Vliet’s podcast, Being Indispensable. Liz is as passionate about the Executive Assistant career as I am and has created content through her website and podcast to help EAs not just survive, but thrive. Liz empowers EAs to first shift their mindset to become true partners with their Executive, and then teaches them how to take action.

When Liz first asked me to be on her podcast several months ago, I had a very quick, “Hell, yes!” moment, followed closely by panic, anxiety, and feelings of self-doubt. Why was she interested in me? What did I know? I’m not a public speaker. Who is going to listen? I’m going to sound like an idiot. I like being behind the scenes, not in front. Negative self talk spiral ensued… so, naturally I emailed back and said, “Yes, I would love to!”

Why? Because despite my fear of public speaking/sharing my story/blogging/recording a video/doing a webinar/etc. (basically anything in the put yourself out there and wait to be judged category) the opportunity for career growth (i.e. results) outweighed any fear. I believe in coaching and have a deep desire to help others develop their careers and achieve their goals. The only way to do that is by speaking up and speaking out (even if it’s into a microphone huddled in the corner of my bedroom). Coaching and leading others, starts with coaching and leading yourself. How can I possibly help others grow and succeed, if I am not challenging myself, getting outside of my comfort zone, and growing? So I asked for it. I put it out in the universe that I wanted to coach and teach and grow. And the universe answered in the form of Liz. Thank you Liz (and universe)!

being indispensableClick here to hear my inaugural podcast with Liz on Being Indispensable. 

Podcast done. What’s next?

Something even further outside of my comfort zone. Being in front of the camera. Recorded for posterity. But comfort zone be damned. I’m stepping out of that small, limited little circle and finding that magic!

On Thursday, November 2, I am launching my first webinar series, Lead & Assist. Lead and Assist is a six-week online training program designed to redefine the Executive Assistant role and help you take your career to the next level.

As you know, I believe that an Executive Assistant position is not just a stepping-stone to another position but a dynamic career all on its own. Executive Assistants are the ultimate force multipliers and project managers. Your project just happens to be your Executive.

For more information about my upcoming webinar series, feel free to email me at hallie@adamhergenrother.com. You can also listen to my Intro to Lead & Assist recording here to learn a bit more about what we will be covering during the class. I hope to see many of you on the call and I look forward to masterminding with EAs from around the world!

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Now, let me ask you this, when was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone? Share your stories in the comments! 

 

 

Lead & Assist Survey Results: Long Hours, Longer Lists, and Loving What They Do

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Almost 100 people responded to my Lead & Assist Giveaway Survey and as I reviewed all of the data over the past week, a few things became very clear: Executive Assistants (and any of the other 28 titles they go by) work very long hours, struggle to find work/life balance, are constantly managing multiple competing priorities, and yet, still love what they do.

First, let’s look at the hard data. I asked this group of pro EAs the following questions:

  1. What is your title?
  2. What are the top three responsibilities in your role?
  3. What is your work schedule? Do you work 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday? Do you have a flexible schedule? Do you work weekends? Or something in between?
  4. What is the biggest challenge you are experiencing at home or at the office due to your role as an Executive Assistant?

Here’s what they said:

  1. What is your title? // The overwhelming title that EAs go by, is (surprise!), Executive Assistant. Just over half of the respondents went by Executive Assistant. The rest of the survey participants who identified as an Executive Assistant, went by the following titles:
  • Senior Executive Assistant
  • Office Manager
  • Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Chief of Staff
  • Operations Manager
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Senior Assistant
  • Executive Personal Assistant
  • Senior Administrative Assistant
  • Senior Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Personal Assistant
  • Executive Business Admin
  • Executive Administrative Specialist
  • Lead Executive Assistant
  • Administrative Coordinator
  • Office Manager & Executive Assistant
  • Administrative Business Partner
  • Team Administrator
  • Executive Assistant II
  • Executive Secretary
  • Lead Executive Administrator
  • Business Support Supervisor
  • Director of Operations
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Closing Coordinator
  • Transaction Coordinator

My personal favorite was Director of Getting Shit Done. So, what’s in a name? Some say it’s simply semantics, others believe a proper title clarifies the role and dispels confusion, especially in a large organization, and still others want clear titles because many have worked very hard to get promotions and yes, the title that comes along with those increased responsibilities and seniority.

I used to fall into the semantics camp – does it really matter what your title is? In the grand scheme of things, no. If you are providing value at a high level and leading up, down, and sideways, then a title is irrelevant to the internal team. However, as I have grown in my career and worked very hard to get where I am, I understand this whole title thing a bit more.

Earlier this year, when I was speaking at the Behind Every Leader conference one Senior EA brought up this topic. She was proud of her accomplishments and had earned the right to the Senior Executive Assistant position; she was no longer an Executive Assistant and she was adamant that the roles and titles be clearly defined. I tend to agree. It doesn’t mean that the Senior EA is better than the EA, simply that their roles and responsibilities are different. They are both providing high value to their Execs (one may simply be supporting the Chairman and overseeing a team of other Admins, while the other is supporting two VPs). But I guarantee both have worked their asses off to get where they are. I believe in clearly defined roles, coupled with clear titles. I think it is particularly important because the EA role is still largely misunderstood and the more clarity we can provide to the public, the better, especially when interviewing for a new position.

2. What are the top three responsibilities in your role? // The three most prevalent job responsibilities for EAs are scheduling/calendar management, travel planning and management, and event/meeting planning, preparation, and execution.

In other words, managing the Execs life (personally and professional as there is usually a lot of overlap, especially as you start working with more senior level Execs or company owners). Being an incredible planner and project manager with the ability to anticipate needs, create contingency plans, and above all, be incredibly resourceful, while maintaining the utmost confidentiality are all critical to being a top EA. Sounds easy, right?

3.  What is your work schedule? Do you work 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday? Do you have a flexible schedule? Do you work weekends? Or something in between? // As for work schedules, the majority of respondents worked 8-9 hours a day (usually from 8am/9am to 5pm), but that was just in-office. Most Executive Assistants said they check emails and work from home at night and on the weekends, and several EAs are on-call 24/7.

4.  What is the biggest challenge you are experiencing at home or at the office due to your role as an Executive Assistant? // The overwhelming response was work/life balance and boundaries, followed closely by not having enough hours in the day to handle all of the shifting priorities.

Let’s dive into questions 3 and 4 here. Long, often undefined hours, coupled with multiple competing priorities is tough. I’ve been there and I get it. But here is my (probably) very unpopular opinion: That’s the job. That is what an EA does. And it’s not for everyone. But that’s why we need an Executive Assistant community – so we can talk through the challenges, vent on those tough days, and strategize about ways to control the chaos and increase efficiency and effectiveness. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people should work all of the time. You need other hobbies, you need to spend time with friends and family, to take care of your mind, body, and spirit. It’s not easy for anyone to manage all of life’s obligations, and particularly difficult for EAs, but it is not impossible.

Ultimately, I think that EAs should make sure they are very clear about what they are getting into (with the caveat that no two EA roles are the same). Some positions may require being available at all times, some may ask that you simply stay connected via email, some require extensive travel, and others are simply 9 to 5, with no requirements outside of those hours. However, I would be skeptical about any position that is simply 9 to 5 (particularly at an Executive level). EAs make the life of an Exec flawless and what Exec do you know who only works between the hours of 9am and 5pm? Be aware of what the position entails before signing on.

Now, many of the survey participants also mentioned that they have flexible schedules. Again, they might be in the office from 9am to 5pm, but can run out to their kid’s soccer game, a dentist appointment, or meet a friend for lunch at their discretion. It works both ways. EAs may be up at 2am waiting for their Exec to land in Europe, but they may also leave early on a Friday for a pedicure.

So, why are so many EAs searching for that work/life balance if, in fact, most of the respondents said they love their careers in spite of the hours? I think it has a lot less to do with balance, and much more to do with not feeling in control of their schedules and their time. Very few positions are as demanding and dependent on the direction of someone else – someone else’s priorities, projects, needs, and deadlines. I believe that with the help of some clear expectations and extreme time management, inner balance can be restored, even if it still looks out of balance on the outside.

Reading all of the survey responses really bolstered my belief that being an Executive Assistant is an incredibly rewarding career choice. Despite some of the frustrations I read, I didn’t see anything that couldn’t be overcome with some personal development, fierce conversations, and time management. In fact, I think the frustrations only spoke to the passion and desire that all of these assistants have to be the best versions of themselves. They all wanted to learn, to improve, and take their careers and leadership to another level. No one was willing to settle for mediocrity, and that is both admirable and rare.

It is certainly an exiting time to be an Executive Assistant and I can’t wait to explore many of the above topics more in depth on my blog, during my Lead & Assist webinar series, and with my EA community.


 

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Executive Assistants Unite!

melburne-ea-groupA few months ago, Carmel Bond, founder of the Melbourne EA Group (MEAG) reached out to me after seeing my blog. Turns out we both work for real estate companies, just on opposite sides of the world! This is what is so cool about my career – EAs/PAs/Executive Secretaries/Chiefs of Staff/Coordinators of Chaos are so willing to connect and share, are so passionate about teaching other how to be successful in this role, and most importantly, so quick to support each other in this exciting, challenging, and often crazy world we’ve chosen to live and work in.

This week I had the privilege of being the featured guest on the Melbourne EA Group blog. Check it out and while you’re there take a look at the amazing work Carmel and her team are doing to support, teach, and inspire their fellow Executive Assistants.

behind-every-leaderHere’s another example of the power of the Executive Assistant network around the world. About three years ago I attend an amazing conference in NYC – Behind Every Leader. I felt like I had finally found my people and was in total awe of the presenters – all either current or former EAs to the greats like Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Mark Zuckerberg, JFK Jr, Nate Berkus, and Magic Johnson. I remember emailing my Exec, Adam, after the first day and telling him how amazing it was and how much I loved my career as an Executive Assistant. And he told me that one day I would be on that stage. Little did I know one day would come so soon!

Fast forward to sometime last year when Victoria Rabin, CEO and Founder of Executive Assistants Organization, which hosts Behind Every Leader, saw Adam’s blog about strategic partnerships and connected with us about speaking at Behind Every Leader this year in Washington DC and NYC. Circle complete. Victoria is a consummate badass and a huge advocate for the EA/Exec strategic partnership. I am honored to be a part of anything she’s doing and I hope I can inspire just one EA like those amazing individuals did for me several years ago.

Want to learn more about Behind Every Leader? Check out my interview with Victoria and Adam as we gear up for Behind Every Leader in DC in April. 

Your turn! Share where you are from, one of your recent successes, and one of your current challenges in the comments. Together, we can all elevate our careers and master the art of leading and assisting.

 

3 Things to Start Doing in 2017 and One Thing to Stop

blank-notebookOne of my very favorite things is a blank notebook. (Another favorite thing is the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball Extra Fine black pen. Executive Assistants and their office supplies, am I right?) Back to the notebook… Empty pages to fill with ideas and plans for the future. And lists. Lots of lists. When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, it’s as if the collective world population opens a fresh notebook. White blank pages. A fresh start. A new beginning.

What will you write in the pages? If the idea of a blank notebook is daunting, then here are 3 ideas to get you started for the new year:

1.  Put your health first. For the past six years I’ve been completely focused on building my career (in between buying a house, getting married, acquiring a dog) and during that time I’ve gained over 50 pounds and lost a lot of confidence. I am a project manager by nature. Put a task or mission in front of me and I will get. shit. done. The project I have failed to work on for the past several years is me. But doing so will have the most impact on the rest of my life.

Executive Assistants are some of the hardest working and most selfless individuals I know – which means they often put themselves on the bottom of their to-do lists. Family, friends, their Executive, and the company all come first. I want you all to turn that to-do list upside down. YOU must come first. Your health is everything. You can not achieve what you want or give to those around you at the level you want to if your health is not in check. I’m talking directly to myself here too! Your energy, mental clarity, and mood are all effected when you are not fueling your body with proper nutrition and exercising regularly.

If I accomplish nothing else this year, but this one thing, I will have succeeded. If you are struggling to get into a fitness routine or looking for some accountability, let’s connect and support each other.  I have started a private Facebook group where we can work together to put ourselves first, while still crushing the rest of our goals at work and at home.

2.  Create more than you consume. How many times have you gotten lost in the black hole of Instagram? We have become a society that just consumes, whether that’s binge-watching The Walking Dead, stock-piling toiletries from Costco, ordering take-out, or skipping from Instagram to Facebook to LinkedIn to Snapchat to Twitter and back again looking for another hit. I am just as guilty as the next person, perhaps more so.

But I challenge you to create! Journal, paint, build a bookshelf, plan a charity walk, start writing your novel, get certified to teach yoga, host a dinner part and cook!, make your own holiday cards, plant a garden, hell, build a chicken coop and get some chickens! Just create. We all have such unique gifts to offer. That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to share them on Instagram, but perhaps during your scheduled social media time (remember, time blocking is key!).

3.  Leverage all non-essential tasks. There are only 24 hours in the day. Focus on what only you can do better than anyone else and what you actually enjoy doing, and leverage the rest. At the end of the year, I started my NOT to do list. Those items can either become another individual’s job description OR perhaps areas where you can simply outsource or ask for help. For example, at the office I was able to leverage all social media and marketing by making a key hire. This applies to your personal life as well. Perhaps you hire a housekeeper, or the neighborhood kid to mow your lawn, or a college student to do personal errands for you once a week. I would much rather spend time with my husband, working on a project, or traveling to visit my niece and nephew, then cleaning the house or running errands. Life is too short to do the dishes. I mean, someone has to do them, it just doesn’t have to be me. This year, it is particularly crucial for me to leverage as many tasks as possible so that I can accomplish #1 – putting my health first. Every time you begin a task, stop and ask yourself if someone else could do it, then go find that person! I might mean asking your mother for help, but sometimes we’ve just got to do what we’ve go to do.

And here’s one thing to stop doing in 2017 – in fact, stop right now!

comparisonStop comparing yourself to others. There is a great quote that goes something like, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” We are all flawed. Embracing those flaws is the first step in living a fulfilling life. We are all on our own journeys and you don’t know where someone else is on theirs. Everybody is better than you at something. The trick is to accept yourself and accept where you are on YOUR journey. It’s very easy to get stuck in our heads and think we’ll never be as good as whoever we’re comparing ourselves to. But there is no benefit in the comparison. In fact, it can actually paralyze you and derail you from your own goals. You stop yourself before you even get started because you don’t think you can ever be as fit as Jennifer Lopez (#bodygoals), as fearless as Indra Nooyi (#leadershipgoals), or as fun as Marie Forleo (#lifegoals). But we all must start somewhere. And if we don’t start, we’ll never be able to share our story and and inspire someone else along the way. Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap and just get started.

So what have you decided to tackle in 2017?  Are your goals big enough? If your goals don’t scare you, then you are not pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and you’re not growing! None of my goals scared me, so I had to challenge myself to go back to the drawing board and think bigger. I’m still working through my my Future Self (a 3 year goal/visualization document) and making sure my goals scare the shit out of me. I hope you do the same.

Here’s to your best year yet! Cheers!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

One Habit to Implement NOW to Make You an Invaluable Assistant

Do you want to be an invaluable resource to your Executive? Do you want to form a strategic partnership with your CEO? Do you want to seriously impress your boss? Then work on developing this one habit that will make you an invaluable asset to your CEO:

Know what your Executive knows.

Simple, right? But not always easy. This goes far beyond knowing how your boss takes his coffee (Note: Adam takes his strong and black, but prefers green tea in the afternoon). This habit requires some serious dedication (usually reading or listening to books and podcasts in your “off hours”). But I think it is the most critical habit to develop as an Executive Assistant and something you can implement right away, no matter how new you are to the EA role.

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This habit has helped me gain trust and become an invaluable resource to my employer. If he mentions a book he’s reading, I read it. If he is following a blog or podcast, so do I. I watch the movies, read the books, and listen to the radio stations he does. Why? Because the more I am able to align myself with his interests, and more importantly, his knowledge, the more I am able to not just listen, but to participate in conversations with him or that he is having with other leadership members or key business partners. He never asked me to do this, but my natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge led me to create this habit from the beginning and it has truly been invaluable. When he is in a meeting and says, “Who was that quote by?” or “What year did that company go public?” I know. He doesn’t have to repeat himself or fill me in on a critical article he read or a book that he would like to discuss at a company meeting – I’m already familiar with it.

As a self-proclaimed force multiplier, the more I can align my knowledge and thinking with Adam, the more valuable I become to him and the company. As Executive Assistants we are tasked with furthering the reach of our Executive. Often that is by completing tasks and projects that, while important, are not the best use of our Executive’s time. More often it means making decisions and speaking on behalf of our boss. The most effective way to do that is by having the same information as them and thoroughly understand the way they think. Yes, some of this will come with time. But start right away! Gain as much knowledge as possible. Study his/her emails and responses to questions. Listen in on phone calls (get permission first!). Attend as many meetings as possible. Be able to speak your boss’s language. This will allow you to be a part of the conversation and eventually be able to speak on behalf of them with accuracy and authority.

Does your Executive read the Wall Street Journal or Inc. Magazine? Get a subscription. Is he/she watching House of Cards or Blacklist on Netflix? Watch it. If nothing else, instead of being on the periphery, it will bring you closer to the inner circle. Your Executive will want to be able to discus the latest episode of Sons of Anarchy with you, just as much as the most recent article on Elon Musk. Be ready and ABLE to participate and add value to the conversation. This is such a simple habit to implement, but one that will set you apart and help you grow that much faster.

Knowledge is power. Start by gaining as much of the same knowledge as your Executive as possible. Couple that with a clear understanding of their thought process and communication style and you will be unstoppable.