Monday, September 27, 2010

10 Tips to be a Better Executive Assistant - Part 1

Here are 10 random tips I’ve culled over the years on how to be a better assistant. This is part 1.

1. Yes, No Boxes

Since I’ve worked for so many Fortune 500 CEO’s, I’ve actually been coincidentally groomed the same way in all the offices.

Whenever my boss would receive snail mail or an invitation, we had a pile or folder that either needed his signatures or we needed an answer from him. This is where the Yes, No Boxes come in handy.

For example, if my boss was invited to a movie premiere, I would take a post-it note and write:

You are free this evening. Would you like to attend?
____ Yes ____ No

This way it would take my boss 2 seconds to mark his decision. Easy. Sometimes the CEO would add a note underneath like, “See if I can also bring my children.” We would ask for +3 guests instead of just +1.

2. Only give a max of 3 choices.

This is probably pretty self explanatory. Whenever presenting any options, give no more than 3 choices. Presenting too many options just overwhelms and confuses people and makes them indecisive. It would be good to make the choices inexpensive, medium, or very expensive or whatever spread of variety is possible. If asked for restaurants, choose one seafood/sushi, one steak, and one general/American cuisine.

3. Money/gifts contributions etiquette

When it comes to donating money to causes, gifts, or anything else where a lot of people are also pitching in, don’t be shy to ask how much everyone else is contributing. The person to ask would be the other assistants or discreetly ask the person collecting the money. The goal is to solicit enough information so your boss or CEO either contributes the same amount as everyone on his level or slightly more, whatever is appropriate. The goal is to make sure he doesn’t contribute less than everyone else.

4. Answer the phone so the caller only needs to say yes or no.

Whenever I answer the phone and I know who it is or know it’s not a cold call, I try to make it easiest on the caller. Instead of this conversation happening:

Me: ______’s office.
Caller: It’s Jim. Is _________ there?

I say this:

Me: ________’s office. Hey Jim. Let me see if I can find ________. Hold on.

5. Bake cookies, cupcakes, or any homemade gift during the holidays if you can’t afford at $10-$15 gift card from iTunes, Starbucks, or Jamba Juice.

In the past, one of my executives would burn a CD of holiday music and gave those out.

6. Print out your boss’ daily schedule and put in by your desk.

This helps immensely so your boss doesn’t have to check their schedule via their smartphone or walk back to their desk. It also helps when discussing with colleagues when they should stop by again to see your boss. If you’re like me, you always have about 10 different screens open on your computer which makes it a hassle to find the right one showing the calendar and then resuming your task.

7. Meet other assistants from other companies that you work with over lunch or coffee.

Every now and then, if I find myself working a lot with a particular assistant, I ask them if they’d be open to meeting for lunch. Sometimes I go to their office or they come to mine. It’s always nice to get to know them as people and it makes for a better working relationship since you can understand their role, their boss, and how they as clients fit into the bigger picture.

8. If you need to interrupt your boss in an important meeting or when they are on the phone, pass them a note.

In all the offices I’ve worked at, passing a Post-it note with large legible writing is the best way to get your boss information or to ask a question. The reason why writing it down is better is for confidentiality reasons and to not interrupt the meeting/call by talking. You will find that most often, the meeting will continue on around you or the meeting will stall only for 5 secs.

Before you enter the room, knock, then walk straight to your boss. Show them the note and wait for them to nod or shake their head, say they’ll call back, answer yes or no, or follow you out of the office. Then exit as quietly as you entered.

9. Answer every email/request right away even if only to say you got it and keep you posted on answer.

It’s helpful to give them an ETA on your answer and encourage them to check back with you frequently if they so desire.

10. When someone is asking for your help or has a request, write down everything they say and repeat back the information.

46 comments:

  1. I just found your blog today and am reading it top to bottom! I am an EA, and relatively new to my position...there is a lot to learn! Thank you, thank you for all this great info.

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  2. I am a new EA to a CEO and have been loving my job until I made the a couple HUGE boo-boo's. Without getting too self-conscious and down on myself, I've been trying to read up on ways to improve my work ethic.

    Hope to read more in your blog.

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  3. Do you have any suggestions for tools that would help in the day to day work? For example, I am about to start as an EA, and am a bit worried that I won't be able to write down everything my boss says. Do you use a voice recorder?
    Do you recommend any other tools?

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantMay 31, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      I know I answered your question via a proper blog post, but in case anyone was reading old posts, I wanted to encourage anonymous questions in the comments sections too! :)

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  4. Whilst the executive is travelling and you are communicating at the opposite ends of the day due to time zones, I find it useful to send a list of questions/ list of that they can read overnight and respond if required so I have replies ready and waiting for the next day. Additionally I print out the calendar and put it on the executive's desk ready for the next day in case of any electronic blips with equipment they still have a paper copy to hand if required.

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  5. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJuly 1, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Thank you for the comment and for being a reader!

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  6. This is great. I realized that I've been doing the right thing :)

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJuly 12, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      Anonymous - Glad you enjoyed the post! Good job being a great EA! It's not an easy role! This post also has parts 2 and on so don't forget to read those and my other column too - jobstr.com Hollywood Executive Assistant.

      Delete
  7. This is an awesome post! No wonder its the most popular one. :) We would love to repost it on our site OfficeNinjas.com as we think our office ninja community would find it really valuable. Would that be alright with you?

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantAugust 12, 2013 at 12:11 AM

      Dear Office Ninjas - I am so glad you like this post! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, I was on vacation. If I'm not too late, please feel free to LINK back to this blog post if possible as I would prefer that. Or, repost but credit me/my site at the top and/or at the bottom again. I also have another column at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant if helpful. Thank you so much!

      Delete
  8. This is a great site with great advice. I am also an EA to the EVP/CFO and Human Resources with 50% of my job being Office Administrator. I came to this website to look for tips during the holidays or keep the morale of excitement within the office, if you will. Any and all help related websites welcomed. Thanks,

    A

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstSeptember 17, 2013 at 1:16 PM

      Dear A, Glad you like my post. This blog has existed since 2009 so please look at past posts and also my other column at jobstr.com I have many posts on morale, tips, etc! :)

      http://jobstr.com/threads/show/4303-hollywood-executive-assistant

      Delete
    2. You're the best! Thanks so much.

      Delete
    3. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstSeptember 17, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      My pleasure! :)

      Delete
  9. Hi, this blog is cool. I'm also an administrative assistant(broadcasting) and just started a blog. check me out
    http://proassistantinbroadcasting.blogspot.com/

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.October 2, 2013 at 6:43 PM

      Nice! Concise, short, and sweet entries! I hope you get lots of traffic!

      Delete
  10. I just started becoming an EA in few week and just found out this blog. You really helps a lot. Hope you receive all the good returns :)

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstOctober 22, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Nabilla - So glad you find my blog helpful. Congrats on the new job! Thank you for being a reader. I also have a column at this site: http://jobstr.com/threads/show/4303-hollywood-executive-assistant

      Delete
  11. Hi, I was looking for tips on "how to be a better EA" and found your blog..Thank you so much for such great information!! I just started as an EA a month ago. Looking forward to more and more info/suggestions... :)

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstDecember 13, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      RJ - Thank you for the comment. I hope you will enjoy all the old posts too! I also write at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant. Hope you have a great holiday season.

      Delete
  12. this is an awesome read. I've found this blog really great and helpful in a lot of ways! keep it up! continue posting more blogs.. :)

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstMarch 26, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      Anon - I am so glad you like this blog and are finding it so helpful! Please read old entries until I post a new one and find me over at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

      Delete
  13. Hi, this article was very timely. Thank you so much for posting this. It helped and enlightened me a lot on how to be a better EA. It's definitely an awesome read. Keep posting more about EA.. ;)

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.March 27, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      Raine - I am so glad you found my blog post in time. I hope you enjoy all the older posts too. Have a great weekend and I also write over at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

      Delete
  14. Will be starting #6 from Monday - thanks for the simple but great tip!

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.June 13, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Anon - Glad you liked that tip! Thank you for being a reader!

      Delete
  15. I've been working in admin for over 20 yrs, with the last 6 years as an EA. I still have challenges due to different company cultures, coworkers, bosses, etc. I find your tips are a huge help. I'm making my way slowly through all your previous entries and will also check out your other site. Being an EA is quite difficult and I say that word because we're always taught to say "challenging" instead of difficult!

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.June 17, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      I am so glad my posts are helpful to you! I am so grateful I had wonderful bosses and mentors and I love sharing what they taught me. It is so nice to have readers and an audience who enjoy my blog! Keep up the good work! I learn something new every day! I hope my readers do too!

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  16. Could you clarify #4. You would answer the phone all in one sentence:
    Me: ________’s office. Hey Jim. Let me see if I can find ________. Hold on.

    What if he wants to speak to you and not your boss?

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.June 17, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      Anon - Ah! Such a good question! I wrote that tip in mind because in my experience, I had my own direct line and so did my CEO. And anyone who had a question for me, even ABOUT my boss, that may be lengthy, would call MY LINE. If they wanted to speak to my boss, they called his line which I still answered anyway. This is because my boss would get TONS of calls every day and we didn't want to tie up his lines. We had anywhere from 3-5+ lines and at times all lines would be in use whether on hold or etc. So the above is how I would answer his line knowing 99% of the time, the call wasn't for me, especially since I could recognize from callerID who the person was and most often guess what they were calling about. Hope this helps! If not, let me know!

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  17. Thanks for clarifying #4 :)

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.June 18, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      You are welcome!

      Delete
  18. Hi I'm happy to found your blog :) being an EA is one of my dreams and I think your entries here will help my a lot to do the job better. Also I will learn a lot from you thank you
    P.S
    I have a lot of questions to ask but maybe next time I will give it to you.

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.July 11, 2014 at 10:01 PM

      Hi abymariano,
      So happy you found my blog too! :) I am so excited to hear being an EA is your dream! Feel free to submit a question! Thank you for being a reader! Any executive will be lucky to have you!

      Delete
  19. Hi I'm happy to found your blog :) being an EA is one of my dreams and I think your entries here will help my a lot to do the job better. Also I will learn a lot from you thank you
    P.S
    I have a lot of questions to ask but maybe next time I will give it to you. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  20. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.July 11, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    So nice to hear from you twice! :) LOL

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  21. These are some amazing tips! I recently wrote a similar blog post and I see our advice overlaps some, so I'm glad to see I was on the right track! Here's the blog in case you want to check it out http://blog.esper.com/2014/07/23/the-seven-habits-of-highly-effective-executives-and-assistants/

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  22. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJuly 25, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    jrosok16 - So glad you enjoyed my post! I read your blog too and we did write a lot of similar things! Thank you for being a reader.

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  23. These are some great and funny tips. I think they are very useful as well. I know number 7 hit me as very very good. Networking is not just for executives, its for everyone in the business world. Not only should you meet other close by, its also a great idea to join an administrative assistant association like Tnaoap or Iaap which gives you a great opportunity to network with so many other members.

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.October 26, 2015 at 4:53 PM

      Katrina - I am glad you found the post helpful and funny! :) Thank you for being a reader!

      Delete
  24. Thank you for posting such useful information. I am definitely going to check out your other posts as well. I'm studying business administration and trying to learn as much as possible.

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.October 26, 2015 at 4:52 PM

      Megan - I am glad you found this post helpful and that you will read my other posts too. Congrats on studying business administration. I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant too.

      Delete
  25. Thank you for posting your insights! Found it to be extremely helpful as a newly hired EA joining the field for the first time. Will be going through all of your other postings for tips before I begin my new position in January.

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AsstFebruary 12, 2016 at 1:25 PM

      Thank you for the comment! Glad you are enjoying my blog!

      Delete
  26. I've been an EA for 3 years now, and I find your blog EXTREMELY helpful! Whenever I face challenges in my career, I usually turn to your blog which is on my favorites. :-)

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJuly 5, 2016 at 5:06 PM

      Mrs. 305 - Thank you so much for being a reader! I am so glad that even after 3 years of being an EA, my blog is still of some help to you. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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