Are you running low on bandwidth? Need someone to head off disasters, thin out your inbox, manage call and demands for you? Someone to tackle these projects the way you would, but isn’t you? If so, you’re either in need of an executive assistant (EA) or a better one, or you may need to train your EA to be an ambassador.
An executive assistant can and should be your ambassador—someone to think like you and confidently make decisions like you would. To serve in this capacity, though, they need to know not only what needs to be done, but how and why. Learning your values and beliefs (and how they align with the organization’s mission, vision, and values) will give them a solid base from which to act. Without providing this essential “you” and “we” material, however, it will be hard for them to make day-to-day decisions in a fast-paced environment.
In one amazing company that I worked for, the mission, vision, and values of the company were made real in almost every situation. My leader would give me examples of why she would do something and then ask me, “What value does that embody?” Once I learned to see and implement the guiding values, I was able to act for her with confidence. But I also asked her a lot of questions to better understand her preferences and beliefs: “Why did you choose that?” or “Why would you prefer this over that?” I viewed each time we were together as a learning opportunity and cherished every minute. She was driven by a desire to learn and demonstrate competence, and I strove to do so as well.
When leaders are willing to receive a little respectful and informative push-back from their EA’s, they may learn inconsistencies in their values and beliefs, discover a slight misalignment with the organization’s mission, or find a new and better application of their values and beliefs. Great assistants can sometimes make better decisions than the leader would on the spot. In those moments, the leader may learn something important and also feel better understood. This sort of mutual affirmation grows trust between the pair and allows the leader some room to breathe, knowing that the EA truly gets it.
Not every EA is capable of and interested in understanding how and why you want things done. If that’s your current situation, then you either need to search for a new EA or provide more ambassadorial training. When your EA gets it and can act fully as your ambassador, you will likely get compliments from friends, colleagues, and clients. You will start to get your questions answered before you ask them.