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Why Executive Assistants are so Critical (Part 2 of 2)

Today’s blog is one in a series on education, best practices and industry hot topics related to careers in Administration, including but not limited to those working as Executive Assistants, Admin Assistants and Office Managers. Today’s Admins handle duties that have no limits in scope and as the greater Philadelphia’s most trusted Corporate Transportation partner, Kevin Smith Transportation Group is invested in supporting those who work to make sure their companies run smoothly every day.  

If you want to hire your own Personal Assistant to book ground transportation, call 610-222-6225 and speak to one of Kevin Smith Transportation Group’s Corporate Concierges who can assist you with everything from Airport Transportation, Executive Black Car Service and Employee Shuttle Services.

Today, we are finishing up our blog on Why Executive Assistants are so Critical. If you missed part one, click here (link here to part 1) to first read through our opening.  

Getting the Most from Assistants

Two critical factors determine how well a manager utilizes an assistant. The first is the executive’s willingness to delegate pieces of his or her workload to the assistant. The second is the assistant’s willingness to stretch beyond his or her comfort zone to assume new responsibilities.

Delegating Wisely

The most effective executives think deeply about the pieces of their workload that can be taken on or restructured to be partially taken on by the assistant. Triaging and drafting replies to e-mails is a central task for virtually all assistants. 

Some executives have assistants listen in on phone calls in order to organize and follow up on action items. Today many assistants are taking on more-supervisory roles: They’re managing information flow, dealing with basic financial management, attending meetings, and doing more planning and organizing.

Executives can help empower their assistants by making it clear to the organization that the assistant has real authority. The message the executive should convey is, “I trust this person to represent me and make decisions.” 

Not every executive is well-suited for this type of delegating. Younger managers in particular have grown up with technology that encourages self-sufficiency. Some have become so accustomed to doing their own administrative tasks that they don’t communicate well with assistants. 

These managers should think of assistants as strategic assets and realize that part of their job is managing the relationship to get the highest possible return.

Stretching the Limits

Great assistants proactively look for ways to improve their skills. Today we see executive assistants learning new languages and technologies to improve their performance working for global corporations.

In our work, we frequently encounter world-class executive assistants. 

Loretta Sophocleous is the executive assistant to Roger Ferguson, the president and CEO of TIAA-CREF; her title is Director, Executive Office Operations. She manages teams. She leads meetings. Roger says that he runs many decisions past Loretta before he weighs in.

Many Executive Admins fill an informal leadership role, have an unparalleled ability to read complex settings, and can recognize and respond to challenging people and circumstances. “A spectacular executive assistant can defy the laws of the physical world,” they say. “She [or he] can see around corners.”

Trudy Vitti is the executive assistant to Kevin Roberts, the CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi. Often when you ask him a question, he’ll say, “Ask Trudy.” He travels for weeks at a time and says that he has utter confidence in Trudy to run the office in his absence.

Compared with managers in other countries, those in the United States do a better job of delegating important work to their assistants and of treating them as a real part of the management team. Outside the United States, educational requirements for assistants are less intensive, salaries are lower, and the role is more typically described as personal assistant.

You can often tell a lot about an executive’s management style—and effectiveness—from the way he interacts with his assistant. Can the executive trust and delegate, or does he micromanage? Do assistants like working for her, or does she have a history of many assistants leaving quickly or being fired? 

Not every boss–assistant relationship is made in heaven, but an executive’s ability to manage conflicts with an assistant can be an important indicator of his overall ability to manage people.

If you want to hire your own Personal Assistant to book ground transportation, call 610-222-6225 and speak to one of Kevin Smith Transportation Group’s Corporate Concierges who can assist you with everything from Airport Transportation, Executive Black Car Service and Employee Shuttle Services.

Finding the Right Fit

Hiring the right assistant can be a challenge. In some ways, it’s trickier than filling traditional management positions, because personal chemistry and the one-on-one dynamic are so important, sometimes more so than skills or experience. 

Expert assistants understand the unspoken needs and characteristics of the people with whom they work. They have high levels of emotional intelligence: They respond to subtle cues and react with situational appropriateness. 

They pay close attention to shifts in an executive’s behavior and temperament and understand that timing and judgment are the foundation of a smooth working relationship. A good assistant quickly learns what an executive needs, what his or her strengths and weaknesses are, what might trigger anger or stress, and how to best accommodate his or her personal style. 

Good matches are hard to come by: That’s the reason so many good assistants follow an executive from job to job.

After many years of debriefing assistants who’ve been fired, one report identified several factors that make for bad relationships. The most common missteps an assistant makes are misreading the corporate culture, failing to build bridges with other assistants, failing to ask enough questions about tasks, agreeing to take on too much work, and speaking to external parties without authorization.

Bosses usually contribute to these deteriorating relationships by not being open in their communications or not being clear about expectations.

As an example from a recent piece online, there was an assistant who’s having trouble developing the right relationship with her boss. The executive called the placement agency and said, “Melba, I expected her to read through these memos and then get them out very quickly to my managers.”

“But she left them on my desk, didn’t call me over the weekend, and didn’t send them out.” I asked the assistant about it, and she said, “He didn’t tell me it was important, I can’t read someone’s mind.” But in fact, in this job you’re supposed to be able to read minds or, at the very least, you’re supposed to ask questions. 

Simply put, the best executive assistants are indispensable. Microsoft will never develop software that can calm a hysterical sales manager, avert a crisis by redrafting a poorly worded e-mail, smooth a customer’s ruffled feathers, and solve a looming HR issue, all within a single hour, and all without interrupting the manager to whom such problems might otherwise have proven a distraction. 

Executive assistants give companies and managers a human face. They’re troubleshooters, translators, help desk attendants, diplomats, human databases, travel consultants, amateur psychologists, and ambassadors to the inside and outside world. 

After years of cutting back, companies can boost productivity by arming more managers with assistants.

Executives who are fortunate enough to have a skilled assistant can benefit by finding ways to delegate higher-level work to him or her. 

Executive–assistant relationships are business partnerships: Strong ones are win-wins between smart people. In fact, they’re win-win-wins because ultimately the companies reap the benefits.

If you want to hire your own Personal Assistant to book ground transportation, call 610-222-6225 and speak to one of Kevin Smith Transportation Group’s Corporate Concierges who can assist you with everything from Airport Transportation, Executive Black Car Service and Employee Shuttle Services.

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