Thursday, January 3, 2013

7 Defining Traits the Most Successful Executive Assistants Have - Part 2

Here are more tips on how to set yourself apart. As mentioned previously, the most coveted executive assistants that appeal to senior management and recruiters are the ones that have either worked for a Fortune 500 CEO, reputable talent agency, or the ones that show great promise because they are hungry, smart, and can be easily managed. While it goes without saying that every EA should keep things confidential, be organized, and reliable, the best ones stand out for these additional 7 reasons below. This is part 2.




1. Have diplomacy and an even temperament

Diplomacy is a knack for communicating information without anyone losing face or making them feel bad. It's going for the win win scenario and being tactful. And having an even temperament is not being overly loud, happy, or sad. It's having an even keel of a reaction. Sure you will be mad or annoyed at work at times, but if you need to convey it, convey it with what you need and be direct. It doesn't help to be overly emotional at work. You should always be approachable and professional, but in no way come across as playing favorites. You can have high energy or be happy without being loud or over zealous. You can disagree, but be firm and kind about it. Be the honey instead of the vinegar.


2. You either get it or you don’t

That saying about it’s better to appear stupid and keep your mouth shut than open it and remove all doubt comes to mind. Very few people will go out of their way to mentor you and help you change for the better. That’s something you will have to undertake yourself. Before you get classified as getting it or not getting it, observe - a lot. “It” could be anything from how the world works, reality, office politics, or what your boss values. This is why I advocate reading articles and books on personal growth and on business/career matters. When you are perceived as "getting it," you are viewed as easier to manage, work with, and teach. Because if you have a partial understanding about how something works, at least it's easier and faster to get you up to speed to contribute more.

Here is an example when I was overseeing interns. One intern had sent out a mass email without realizing the difference between the to, cc, and bcc fields. This was years ago and he was still young, in college, so he had no awareness because he probably only used email with friends or forwarding mass emails, and not in a business context in a professional environment. I had to explain to him that "to" meant the email was for those people to directly respond, "cc" was more like an fyi to keep people in the loop and their reply was optional or as needed, and bcc was for fyi purposes, but the person in the bcc field was to act like they didn't know the information in the email, which is why the bcc is only visible to the sender and the bcc'd person.

Now imagine you are an assistant and you didn't realize or learn something equally basic and fundamental as how to use email in a business context. Maybe it's Dropbox, an FTP site, Quora, Klout, or GoToMeeting. Companies have their own proprietary software, technology always changes, or if you are new to a field you might not be familiar with business lingo. You want to learn this on your own or ask a peer instead of bothering an executive or asking in a meeting, "what is P and L?"


3. Be proactive, but walk the fine line of not stepping on anyone’s toes

It’s always important to be extra helpful and to anticipate needs, but keep in mind that it’s just as important not to step on anyone’s authority. This relates to my earlier post about a succession of power and authority. While it may seem logical for you to do something instead of someone else, a great majority of the time you are operating under a small piece of information or without the full picture. Things change literally by the hour or office politics you aren’t aware of are in play. So while you are new to a role, anticipate needs that are fail safe, and always ask if there is anything else you can do. That willing, open, and eager attitude will let folks know if you didn’t do something they thought you should have, it’s because you didn’t know, not because you were lazy or didn’t care. The longer you stay in a role, the more you can figure out when to act without your boss’ constant permission. It takes time to hone this skill, sometimes until the 2nd or 3rd year of working with your boss, because so many components are in play - how people get along, what happened before you came aboard, red tape, or undisclosed information or plans. It does make it hard to do exactly what your boss wants, but to also save time or energy on their behalf because two opposing ideas are at play. In the end, whoever manages you has the ultimate responsibility over you so be aware any decisions you make reflect on them as well. Sometimes it is best to play it safe or the path where the decision can be reversed without penalty. So learn when to be helpful and take exact direction and when you have to step up to be the in charge point person and lead the way.


4. Everything is urgent until it’s not

Because things change frequently and everyone is just so busy in general, learning to juggle many tasks is key. Until a project is absolutely dead, you should be actively working on all projects and requests. You’ll learn things get pushed further and further down the list of priorities, but they should all be monitored or brought up monthly to your boss’ attention. This is why I also advocate any time you have an extra minute or “free time,” like when your boss is on vacation, you should be working on tasks, even if they are lower on the priorities list. It’s important to remember, you never know when you will be asked to do something that will take 5 hours to finish. This unexpected big project could throw a huge wrench it your timing, pacing, and deadline schedule. You may have no time left to finish anything else or may also have to work OT. While you have the time, address tasks and cross them off your list.


5. Care a lot or do well anyway because it’s your job

There’s nothing worse than having an assistant that doesn’t care and doesn’t want to change. If you can’t care passionately about a project because it doesn’t interest you, at least be very detailed and don’t take the lazy way out. This is where doing what you are asked, regardless of the task, comes in handy. Sure you may not be enthusiastic about a task, but it comforts your boss to know it will be taken care of, on time, and handled well instead of it falling through the cracks. This is how your boss learns to trust you, either because they know you are excited and want the company to succeed or you are on top of your game and have your act together because you are top-notch assistant even if you don't know very much related to x, y, or z.


6. Frequent updates, next steps, follow up

Getting a task done is not the last step. The last step is making sure the other person got the information, has no questions, and letting your boss know it was handled. This is where most assistants fail and what sets apart the absolute best. They ask what else can be done, give frequent updates even if there is no update, clue people in on what’s coming next, explain why things have to be in a certain order or have to happen, double check if everything made sense and was clear, and provide that extra oomph of customer service, attention to detail, and say it was a pleasure to help out, and actually mean it. This is what makes people feel special, cared for, and trains them not to worry because you have everything under control. This is how people know you are serious about your role and know they can count on you.


7. Learn the rules and learn the exceptions

There are rules for everything, even if they are unspoken, and for every rule there is usually an exception, especially for VIP, urgent matters, or anything unprecedented. The rules often change and the exceptions also change just as often. This is another skill you will have to hone and may take awhile to learn. This plays a lot into office politics, culture, seniority, people’s personal lives, and sometimes what’s happening in the world. Most often, the rules are either dictated by your boss, corporate culture, rules and procedures, reality, logic, and stakeholders.


I've also partnered with 24 Seven Talent Acquisition and Recruitment Agency.  Read their thoughts here: https://talentthread.com/2016/02/17/5-reasons-we-should-be-taking-culture-fit-seriously/


***New “rule” - when you ask me a question and I answer it, could you write an anonymous comment so I know you read the post? You can just write “Thx!” or something! :)

As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 3-4 days to answer.

I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

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

56 comments:

  1. Excellent article! Thank you for posting!

    Georgina Cantlon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJanuary 8, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      Georgina, Glad you liked the post! I will be post a new piece on Thursday or so. :)

      Delete
  2. I love your blog! Would you mind please giving some examples of #6 Frequent updates, next steps, follow up. I am always afraid sending too many unnecessary emails or updates. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of A High Level Executive AssistantJanuary 9, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      Thank you for reading! I will write another blog post to answer your question!

      Delete
  3. Love the post! Great tips, many of which are common sense - but not to those that are 'new' in the field, so certainly valuable! I am following your site now as well.

    Cheers!

    Trish

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJanuary 14, 2013 at 12:30 AM

      Trish, Glad you like my blog and my tips for newbies! :)

      Delete
  4. Fantastic! It takes discipline and diplomacy to manage the fort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJanuary 15, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      Shelly - Glad you liked my post! I agree, it takes the two D's to hold down the fort! Thank you for being a reader!

      Delete
  5. Darn! If only I'd found your blog sooner. Excellent post. Look forward to more of your musings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJanuary 16, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      Foley - so happy you found my blog, better late than never, right? Thanks for being a reader!

      Delete
  6. This is an excellent article. I love it. will be utilizing some phrases - Be the honey instead of the vinegar!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJanuary 17, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      Dear Anonymous, So glad you like the article and my phrases! That made me smile. Thank you for the comment!

      Delete
  7. Elizabeth A. Griffin, CAPJanuary 19, 2013 at 5:57 AM

    Wonderful article! this information will definitely come in handy for me. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJanuary 19, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      Elizabeth, Glad you will find my tips helpful! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      Delete
  8. Thanks so much for writing such a great article and very informative!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantFebruary 12, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      Anonymous - Glad you like this post!

      Delete
  9. So pleased to have discovered your blog and to read all your useful tips!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantFebruary 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      Anonymous - So glad you liked my blog. It is challenging to come up with different posts each week.

      Delete
  10. Totally agree with #4 and 6.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantFebruary 13, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    Mickaele - So glad that you find my tips to be true to your experience too. Thank you for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for your tips, I´m going to practice them

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantMarch 20, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      Anonymous, Glad you found my blog post helpful! Thank you for your comment! I hope to have a new post up in the next couple of days!

      Delete
  13. i love your website. i'm a high-level EA and you verbalize everything so beautifully about "fitting in" and going with the current culture. My team has hired a second assistant who does the complete opposite. She's awful and does not work well with the team. Can you possibly write a blog piece on how to know the red flags/warning signs in an interview of a "second assistant'? She interviewed well! She was so pleasant, so enthusiastic. Once she was hired, she was a total nightmare and different story! I was fooled!! We are in year two and i believe my team is now ready to get rid of her. I do not work with her at all. Which was not supposed to be the case. Unfortunately, until she started to make BIG mistakes (with clients) was when it got noticed...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantJune 2, 2013 at 10:22 PM

      Hello Anonymous - Glad you love my blog and how I verbalize fitting in/culture. Thank you for stopping by! I will definitely answer your question! This week, I will be answering a question about EA duties and what's realistic/juggling roles. The following week of June 10th, I will be answering your question re: 2nd assistants, red flags, warning signs, and the screening process! It's such a great question no one has asked met yet, I'm excited to tackle it! Keep in mind: New “rule” - when you ask me a question and I answer it, could you write an anonymous comment so I know you read the post? You can just write “Thx!” or something! :)

      As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 3-4 days to answer.

      I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

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

      Delete
  14. Just found your blog and loving it! You're very wise and obviously experienced...I can't tell you how much I appreciate all this great advice. Thank you so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstNovember 26, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      Dawn - I am so glad you are loving my blog! Thank you for being a reader. Don't forget that I write over at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Asst as well! Have a great weekend!

      Delete
  15. Just found your blog randomly and it's great! THANK YOU, I'll definitely be reading all your posts- I've just moved up to an EA position and am still trying to find my feet (especially in regards to non-existent boundaries).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AsstJanuary 29, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Anon - So happy you are enjoying my blog! Congrats on your promotion! Don't forget to read my column at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

      Delete
    2. I know the feeling! Same situation. But, we'll get there! Each day adds needed experience!

      Delete
    3. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.July 8, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      Anon - Glad my blog is helping EAs! Thank you for the comment and being a reader!

      Delete
  16. I think very few EA's realize it isn't one or two things that get you the job as an EA (or keep you as the EA)---its really everything. Demeanor, personality, willingness to help, being professional, looking professional, not taking advantage of anyone's good graces (i.e. elongated lunch hours, leaving early etc).....I think as EA's we have to offer the "entire package!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.February 26, 2014 at 3:49 PM

      Mary - So glad you enjoyed my post and believe the whole package is vital. I hope you got to read part 1 as well. I write over at jobstr.com under Hollywood Exec Assistant too.

      Delete
  17. Such a great post. I just found your blog, I am a new EA and don't know any others, and this has been a great resource! This is what I've been going through the last two years, feels great to find people who can relate! This article is so spot on

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of A High Level Exec AsstMarch 5, 2014 at 12:27 AM

      Anon - So glad you liked this post! I hope you enjoy old posts and my column at jobstr.com under Holly Executive Assistant. On this blog, I just posted a new entry a few minutes ago too!

      Delete
  18. Thanks, great article!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of A High Level ExecJune 5, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      Glad you liked it! Thank you for being a reader!

      Delete
  19. Thanks for the tips. I'm new to the EA role and so is the CEO I report to. We both are learning our jobs and it gets a bit hectic some days, particularly when the "I'm the BOSS!" ego forefronts and everyone in the admin suite picks up on the attitude. We'll get there, but hopefully sooner rather than later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.July 8, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      Anon - Congrats on the new role! It will be fun and exciting! Glad you enjoyed my post. Hang in there! Thank you for the comment and being a reader!

      Delete
  20. Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstJanuary 28, 2015 at 2:37 PM

      Glad you liked this post! Thank you for the comment!

      Delete
  21. I've been umming and erring about applying; worrying about not being good enough but this list is amazing and pretty much describes me! It's really given me the confidence boost I need to try. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstJanuary 29, 2015 at 1:04 AM

      Anonymous - I am so glad this post helped you give that extra boost in confidence! Thank you for being a reader and for your kind comment.

      Delete
  22. I just started a very high stress C-Level EA position within the financial industry. Everything that I had learnt before this, did not prepare me for how difficult it would be. About to enter into my fifth week, there have been a couple of times where I now realize it would have been better to either respond to a request by saying I would get back to them, to allow me time to then give a better response or stay as quiet as possible.

    Thank you for your very caring and thought-provoking article that is right on the mark and timely for what I am currently going through. I searched high and low for some guidance that was accurate and not fluff if you know my meaning. This is it! Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstJuly 28, 2015 at 9:30 PM

      Leeane - I am not sure how I missed this comment. So glad you found this post helpful! I hope things are going well for you.

      Delete
  23. Great article! I'm just about to start as an Admin Assistant and this material is helping me prepare for the role quite well. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstJuly 28, 2015 at 9:32 PM

      Anon - Thank you for the comment! I am glad to be of help. Good luck on your new role! And congrats!

      Delete
  24. Thankyou for such a great post..I have moved recently into EA profile and trying to do better everyday, learning from such wonderful posts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstJuly 28, 2015 at 9:33 PM

      Ishneet - I am so happy this post and old ones are helping you so much. Thank you for taking the time to comment! Congrats and have fun!

      Delete
  25. Very Informative and thought provoking..... some more musings/tips on updates would be helpful......

    Madhav Patil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.September 10, 2015 at 10:57 AM

      Madhav - Thank you for this comment. I am so glad you liked my post. I hope you saw part 1 of this series too. I hope to write more posts soon.

      Delete
  26. Great article. I'm going to read 1 now. Thank you do much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AsstFebruary 12, 2016 at 1:21 PM

      Absolute Vanity - Thank you for the comment and being a reader!

      Delete
  27. Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AsstFebruary 12, 2016 at 1:21 PM

      Eric Swanson - Glad you enjoyed my advice! Thank you for being a reader!

      Delete
  28. Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantAugust 4, 2016 at 1:11 PM

      Thank you, Unknown! Hope you are having a great summer!

      Delete