Often referred to as the gatekeeper, the position of executive assistant can be a very powerful and lucrative career, but it certainly not for everyone. According to Jan Jones author of the book The CEO’s Secret Weapon explains that, these are the individuals who keep their executives on track and focused on the right issues in a turbulent business environment. Think of them “as your face to the world” says Jones. No executive can have sustained success without a strong executive assistant at their side. Some of the world most noteworthy executives have had long time assistants by their side. There are some key elements every executive should look out for before hiring assistance.
Here are the crucial elements executive most watch out for before hiring assistance
First and foremost you must hire for values and to do that you must be clear on your own values. In order to bring on an effective assistant you have to understand how you work and the kind of person it takes to effectively work with you. As the executive, you take the time to understand the principles and standards that inform the thoughts and actions of each candidate to see how well they align with your own. “They must be a reflection of your values and who you are as an executive” because they will be representing you both internally and externally. Find out what values have driven their decisions in times when there was an absence of knowledge or the ability to get guidance from their executive.
Trust and Loyalty:
Think of your executive assistant as a business partner. Keep in mind you are going to spend a great deal of your time with this person, which means you are going to have to trust this them. When speaking to candidates Jones advises “listen to how they talk about current and former bosses.” Are they loyal or do they readily share the kind of information that would make you uncomfortable if you were their boss?
Trust is also about sharing. You have to be willing to turn over responsibilities and provide open access to such personal information as emails, notes, confidential files. Although this may feel uncomfortable at first, but this is a critical aspect of the relationship which you need to get over if you are serious about being a successful executive. Often your executive assistant will have access to information that even your spouse can see. Granting open access is critical to a successful relationship. Without it, your executive assistant will be minimally effective at best.
Anticipation and Filtering:
A good executive assistant must be able to anticipate what their executive needs to know and by when. What many refer to as the gatekeeper function is more often a triage function in that executives are constantly being barraged with a great deal of information, challenges, and noise. It is the duty of executive assistant to determine what their executive needs to know. Often time requests that come in may need action, just not from the executive. Thus, it is up to the executive assistant to determine how to best respond and redirect these requests so they are resolved without having to disrupt the executive. Also important to anticipate which requests will likely bubble up again or who may look for other routes to get to your boss, so you can prepare the executive just in case.
At times your executive assistant will be speaking on your behalf. As an executive you need to be comfortable with your assistant speaking for you. This is why they need to reflect your values, philosophy, and style while complimenting any weaknesses you may have as a communicator. This will certainly vary by executive, which is why you must have quality conversations about what, how, when, and where to communicate. You must show them respect and let others know they clearly speak for you, so they are not easily dismissed.