Over the years, I have done much hiring, training, and mentoring of executive assistants. In that time, I’ve learned to recognize characteristics of highly successful assistants. Much of their success comes from their attitudes—towards their leader, their job, and the organization.
Here are three things that highly successful assistants do:
They believe, truly, that what they are doing is helping not only the individual they are supporting but also the company as a whole.
Assistants who believe this tend to get annoyed less, are bothered less, and view everything that comes across their plate as important. If they don’t know how to do it or don’t think it’s in their job description, they either learn and add it, or find the right person to take it and make sure they don’t need help while doing it. If your assistant acts like tasks are beneath them (within reason and ethical standards, of course), it’s fair to ask them what they think their job actually is. Invite them to consider how their work more generally ties into the organization’s mission, too. Help them to see how their work is both necessary and important.
They actually like being an admin and have goals to stay in that role, rather than move out of it.
Of course, people can grow, and I am in no way insinuating that one shouldn’t strive to get bigger and do better. But the true assistant sees their value. They see their job as valuable. They become indispensable and so congruent with their leader and company values that it would be extremely hard to replace them. That is, in effect, their goal—to be worth their weight in gold, not to move out of the role eventually.
They don’t have an adversarial attitude.
True-blue “lifers” don’t have a chip on their shoulder. They don’t have an attitude about their job or your bad habits/shortcomings, and they certainly don’t roll their eyes behind your back or get together with the other employees to complain. If you have a gut feeling that this is happening, trust your gut and bring it to the forefront. Be honest about areas where you struggle and be open to ideas for improvement, but also share your expectation that your assistant step up in these areas, too. You are, after all, a team—not adversaries. Covering for your shortcomings is actually part of their job. If they don’t think so, then they are in the wrong profession.
Being someone’s personal and executive assistant can be extremely rewarding and fun, and it should be a lasting relationship built on trust and mutual respect. Make sure you feel that now, and if you don’t, find out why.