Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Books & How to be a Better Assistant Through Suggested Readings

Hello New and Old Readers,

Today I am answering a question from a new reader!  They write:

“Greetings, I hope this email finds you well.  My apologies, for not using a first/last name, but I didn’t want to assume anything based on email addresses or handles and address you by an incorrect name.

I came across your blog about a week ago and have read several entries which I found to be very helpful.  Most of which posses powerful insight on situations which EAs face often and even some delicate topics which you handled beautifully.  I plan on continuing to read through your blog and use it as a valuable resource.  I am truly thankful for you because of your expertise and poise but also for being gracious enough to share this with the rest of us.

Some background:  I was recently offered a position which I start this week.  I am absolutely thrilled, as I have been away from the workforce for a few years.  As I said I am very excited, but I am also somewhat nervous.  Even though I have confidence in my skills, I feel nervous about going back into it.  Performance jitters maybe.  I will be supporting the President and VP of a company which has been established for quite some time and has a great reputation.  I truly feel the position will offer many great opportunities for me to shine, but also have some challenges, much like anything in life.  That being said, I started looking to motivate myself, get some updated information/perspective/techniques/best practices and so on, on how to become a better EA and that is how I found your site!  As I said, I took away many great things from reading through it.  It inspired me to dig deeper.

Although I have found some other resources out there, I’ve gotten very mixed reviews from Amazon on certain titles which they’ve offered.  I would like to start some books this week, to give myself those refreshers.  So, this is why I am turning to you, perhaps with all of the knowledge you’ve garnered in your time as an EA and an avid reader, you’ve come across some valuable books that truly affected how you perform your role.

Some of the books I  have found seem a bit outdated, yet some resources have recommended them.  After having read the way you address so many different topics, I am confident that you can point me in the right direction.

Thank you so much in advance for your time and for your recommendations.  I truly appreciate what you’re doing, and on days when you might feel discouraged, just know that you truly inspired at least one person that day.  Me!  As a side note, if you’d like to share this question so that others might benefit, I would like to remain Anonymous if possible.

Thanks again.  I look forward to hearing from you!

PS - Here is a list of what I have so far, please let me know your thoughts. As I said some of these seem a bit outdated and reviews are mixed so I don’t want to waste my time.  I want something that will truly give me the sage advice/observations and perspective that you possess.  I know for the most part this comes from years of experience, which I have, but I really want to up my game at this point.  Again, thank you so much for your time!

7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Rereading it.)

How to Win Friends and Influence People (Rereading it.)

The Definitive Executive Assistant and Managerial Handbook by Sue France

Emily Post’s The Etiquette Advantage in Business (Anything she does is always valuable.)
Building a Partnership with Your Boss:A TakeCharge Assistant Book by Jerry Wisinski (I may get this.)

The Valuable Office Professional: For Administrative Assistants, Office Managers, Secretaries, and Other Support Staff by Michelle Burke

Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship With Those Above You by Rosanne Badowski

Become An Inner Circle Assistant by Joan Burge

The New Executive Assistant: Advice for Succeeding in Your Career by Melba J. Duncan

Be a Kickass Assistant: How to Get from a Grunt Job to a Great Career by Heather Beckel

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson

How to Say it For Women by Phyllis Mindell”

Dear BC,

Welcome to my blog!  And no worries on not knowing how to address me in email since it’s not very clear on my blog post!  :)  I am so glad you are enjoying my posts and that they have been helpful to you!  It is always nice to get emails and comments from readers, especially when I can be absent online for quite some time.  And don’t forget I write at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant as well. 

Congrats on your new position!  I am so happy for you!  It is so refreshing and great that you are being proactive on how to be a better assistant!  Constant growth and learning can only serve you better at work and in life! 

I like the list of books you wrote down though I have only read the ones are you are re-reading and know of the Emily Post one.   

Below is my long list of books I think everyone should read.  It is not a definitive list, but it’s a great start…  I culled it from looking at what books I ordered online thru Amazon.  My better source for buying books online is half.com's old library books.
I should preface the list by saying, none of them are directly related to being an executive assistant except for one or two, and that’s by design.  1) I strongly believe that as long as one is organized, smart and can be taught, anyone can do an EA role fairly competently.  2) The defining characteristic of a stellar EA is more about developing and honing your self awareness, interpersonal, emotional intelligence, leadership, and managing skills.  These can also be called soft skills.  At the heart of it, it is being a good listener, understanding people’s emotions, and understanding perception and being in other people’s shoes.  I plan on addressing this a bit more in another post so look out for it in the future.  For now, here is my list that covers everything from being an executive, business acumen, networking, self discovery, listening, the human condition/spirit, the meaning of life, and giving back to the world.  Because the list is so long, I encourage you to read whatever one catches your eye and heart first.   

The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness by Thaler and Koval

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, et al

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen R. Covey (and his other books)

Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience by Stephanie Palmer

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman (and his other books)

The Power of Story: Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny in Business and in Life Jim Loehr

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr

The Only Way to Win: How Building Character Drives Higher Achievement and Greater Fulfillment in Business and Life by Jim Loehr

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

John C. Maxwell and any of his books

The Hollywood Assistants Handbook: 86 Rules for Aspiring Power Players

The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back : Overcoming the Behavior Patterns That Keep You From Getting Ahead by James Waldroop

Corporate Confidential : 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know---and What to Do About Them by Cynthia Shapiro

What Your Boss Doesn't Tell You Until It's Too Late : How to Correct Behavior That Is Holding You Back by Robert Bramson

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) Robert B. Cialdini

A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last Stephen Levine (Author)

Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work Tim Gunn, Ada Calhoun

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff, et al

The Moth: 50 True Stories by Catherine Burns
Malcolm Gladwell's books

David Bach's books on personal finance


***New “rule” - when you ask me a question for anonymous advice 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.

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



  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful list. In all honesty this is precisely what I'm looking for! I completely agree with you on both points. That's why the list I found felt lacking. The list you offered seems more rounded to me. Some of these books truly jumped out at me and some are on my Amazon list, so I will begin reading them ASAP.

    Thank you again for your time and recommendations, I truly appreciate it. I am so very excited to start work tomorrow! Please wish me luck! I want this to be a year of successes and really just achieving and challenging myself to reach farther than I have in the past. Growth is constant and I think I'm due for a spurt! :)

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.March 19, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      Dear Anon - Thank you for the comment! :) I am so glad you found my book suggestions helpful and it was exactly what you were looking for! I am so excited to hear you are eager to start reading right away! I wish you lots of luck and enjoyment on your first day! It sounds like an exciting time for you! Yay! Congrats again!

  2. This is perfect! I found your blog through Googling EA tips. This post could have been written by me, so it is extremely helpful. I just started a new EA position a week ago, and while so far everything is going fairly smoothly, I am finding that my background in reception hasn't prepared me for an EA role the way I thought it would. Thanks for all the great advice!