Be Extraordinary—Seven Traits Executive Assistants Need to Have

I believe that Executive Assistants should be included in the list of the most valuable members of every organization.  In fact, the best ones are more than just assistants. These people actually provide a high-level of administrative support.  They are the extensions of the managers they work for and practically know almost everything about their boss.  They are aware of their managers’ working style, thus, they’re expected to know what keeps the bosses going and what frustrates them. More than helping their managers in the office, the EA’s responsibilities sometimes even involve maintaining a balance between work and family obligations for their boss.  As they say, “Behind every successful leader is an exceptional assistant.” 

Evolution of Executive Assistants’ Role

Every manager wants a person he can always rely on.  An assistant who can give him peace of mind when he is out of the office.  Someone he can depend on when things mess up in the workplace.  A person he can lean on not only for administrative help but as well as for critical analysis of tough situations that may arise in the course of their tasks.

We may not notice it, but our executive assistants go beyond their job descriptions.  They do more than what is expected of them.  Somehow, the responsibilities of our executive assistants have evolved into more than supporting roles.    They are now also performing  important tasks in the organization. 

What Makes a Great EA?

We know that executive assistants must possess certain work and organizational skills to be successful in their job. That’s why, it is necessary that they have exceptional skills in computer, specifically in the use of Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook.  For small companies, they are expected to be knowledgeable on accounting and payroll if it is part of their responsibilities.  Aside from managing their bosses’ calendars, they sometimes manage some of the company’s employees too. 

But what makes one extraordinary goes beyond skill. Let me share with you 7 of the traits that can make executive assistants extraordinary.

Passion to Serve.  An exceptional assistant should have the desire to serve not only her boss, but also other people and the entire company.  A servant’s heart is not only for leaders.  Even EAs must have this quality.  They have the natural inclination to be of help to their superiors and co-workers in achieving their goals.

Sense of Humour.  As the right hand person of the executive, the EA works behind the scenes in a fast-driven environment.  As a result, she is subjected to a lot of pressures which could lead to stress or even job-burnout.  A great EA knows how to handle stress.  She must have a good sense of humour.  Of course, she is expected to do her tasks seriously, but it does not hurt to have fun while working – at the appropriate moment.

Joy of Knowing People.  An EA takes the time to get to know the people in the organization.  She exerts efforts to discover her co-workers’ personal styles.  It is very important to understand that relationship among people in the company should grow. So she makes it a point to have a regular chat with other employees and show genuine concern or offer help if needed.  This results to building trust in the workplace. 

Courage to be Sounding Boards.   Everyone has his blind spots, even leaders!  Executive Assistants have the courage to hold a mirror up to their superiors every now and then .   They see how their bosses work.  They see the results of their tasks.  Most of the time, they are the first to hear feedback from the grapevine.  EAs should be brave enough to be completely honest with their superior.  True leaders are open to feedback.  It is important that EAs are comfortable in giving their managers constructive feedback. Leaders would appreciate support from their EAs. 

Finesse to Show Vulnerability.  Executive Assistants are brave enough to own up to weaknesses and they are honest when they commit mistakes.  EAs must be able to develop a trust-based relationship with their superiors.  And by being truthful about their mistakes, they show authenticity in their relationship.  Bosses tend to be more understanding about the blunder when there is trust and EAs learn from the experience. 

Ability to Read Minds.  This trait refers to intuition.  A great EA is highly intuitive. This drives one to do something without being told.  In the book of The Art of Intuition, the author Sophy Burnham, says “It’s different from thinking, it’s different from logic or analysis . It’s knowing without knowing.” This requires an assistant to understand her boss’ or co-workers’ needs before they’re verbalized.  They make sense of the situations before they become obvious and address potential problems before they develop.

Aptness to Remain Impartial.  EAs should always be trustworthy.  And in being so, they must always maintain neutrality in the workplace.  By staying neutral, people will see them as somebody whom they can trust always.  EAs should not get involve in office politics or gossips.  They are the individuals that their bosses can trust with information that are meant to be confidential.  Executive Assistants are the gate-keepers of the office and as such they can keep secrets that come with their jobs. 

We can still name other traits that Executive Assistants must possess. But we must also bear in mind that Executive Assistants must develop a couple of unique set of skills depending on the expectations, responsibilities, personalities and leadership styles of their superiors.  

Executive Assistants play important roles in the lives of the managers.  They are very critical factors in the success of the executives as well as the organization. So keep learning, develop your skills as an Executive Assistant by reading books, learning new tech apps or attending seminars or webinars.

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