Astute leaders look for ‘advantage’, an opportunity, something to provide an edge. The search is relentless, high, and low, a constant survey of the horizon for the next great opportunity. What if it was right in front of you? ‘The people in your business are your most valuable assets’, we know this mantra well, having heard it from various CEOs around the globe. Maybe they are onto something? Our human assets.
Without employees, we have no businesses. People come up with ideas, strategies, visions and make things happen. At the helm are the CEO and their executive leadership team. How powerful would an organisation be if the CEO and the leadership team, for that matter, were superhuman and could do their job at twice the speed, pace, voracity? Now, that would be some competitive advantage!
Well, they can. The answer lies in having the right Executive Assistant. This is every CEO’s superpower. Think of your EA as your radar, forever ‘on’, discreetly in the background, calm, subtly emitting messages / energy waves, detecting harm or danger and reporting back. While the EA radar goes on in the background, the CEO is free to focus on what they do best. Each hour saved from a CEO’s day is worth 10 in real terms.
Please don’t mistake your EA as just a great administrator. To underestimate the value of a great EA at the CEO level is short-sighted and a potential career impacting mistake. Among other qualities, your EA acts as the best traffic controller; they get rid of the right lane hoggers and smooth the road ahead. They are your business’s cultural pulse point; they know what is happening at the coal face and act as the conduit. And finally, they have their very own Illuminati. If you need access or information on a person, club, restaurant, which they don’t know - their contacts will.
How to best utilise your superpower
Firstly, let’s assume you have recruited the right EA, smart, agile and in tune with your work and personality style - which by the way, doesn’t happen overnight! That sync in a relationship can take over 12 months! As in life, it is the intensity from a close working and sharing relationship that is significant, more than simple tenure. The shared experience in any relationship is what makes it powerful.
- Bring them into the fold. Your EA needs to see, hear, and read everything. They need to know everything, which includes your thoughts and ideas on everything and everyone. Allow them to sink into your socks - not shoes, socks! This will help them analyse and view from your perspective in making future decisions, showing initiative and being proactive.
- Seat at the table. If you want your EA to be taken seriously and respected by the ELT, they need to attend all ELT meetings, off-sites etc. It establishes credibility but, most importantly, gives them access to information! It’s a given they have full access to your inbox and calendar and ideally be within earshot of your conversations, phone calls, etc.
- Empower and trust. Most of the EAs to CEOs I know are signatories on bank accounts. I’m not suggesting that happens straight away - you will know when the time is right, but that is where you want to get to. That level of trust is never taken lightly and instils respect, privilege, and responsibility. High trust is returned with loyalty, commitment, and dedication 10-fold.
- Ask for their input and feedback. Your EA will feel validated when you respect their opinion. EAs see the organisation through a lens different to yours and this assists with highlighting your potential frame of references or bias. The level of insight and intuition may surprise you.
- Share your vision, goals and explain why. EAs are insightful. When you explicate the ‘why’, watch the magic happen. With a deeper understanding and additional knowledge, ideas, strategies, thoughts, and plans will materialise. Seeing the bigger picture will navigate the consequences and allow for mistakes and unnecessary obstacles to be avoided, and providing better decision making.
The CEO plays a lonely role and especially during our current times of high pressure. The stress of managing the ‘never before dealt with’ environment catastrophes of COVID-19, and navigating back to a new norm must be overwhelming. During the extremes of such times, your EA is not only your support with business effectiveness but provides the care necessary for a sense of stability and continuation.
That’s the beautiful and selfless aspect of great EAs; despite their high-level capabilities, their one motivation and inspiration is to see their CEO shine. It’s never about them; it’s always about you!