Being an EA Wasn’t What I Expected

I was raised to be a hard-worker; a go-getter. And it runs in the family. I mean, my dad is technically retired and still works three jobs (because, why not?). With that as my foundation, I’ve always had a “What’s next? What’s better?” career mindset.

So, even though I never intended to be an Executive Assistant (EA), when the opportunity presented itself, I happily took it. While I was excited to work with Don and excited about embarking on a new endeavor, I saw the role of EA as a stepping stone to the “next” or “better” thing.

Much of my “stepping-stone mindset” was due to my own misconceptions about what an EA actually does (something I later found out wasn’t unique to me). According to Al-Husein Madhany, Senior Consultant Coach at the Duncan Group and speaker at the Executive Leadership Support Forum (ELS), most people think EA’s only handle “calendar, travel, expenses, and other duties as assigned.”

While that may be the unfortunate reality for some EAs (and those tasks certainly are aspects of my role), as I became more ingrained into my new position, I quickly learned I had totally misunderstood and undervalued the job description.

I saw that being an EA was much more than just being the extension of someone’s calendar; it was being someone’s right-hand person. Each day, I prioritize and complete tasks and projects for one of the most valuable resources in our company – Don’s time.

It’s about being a sounding board and getting the opportunity to share insights that help shape the direction of your company. Being an empowered EA means acting with wisdom about what information is helpful and necessary to share with your Executive so that they’re prepared – and filtering out the rest. 

It’s not subservient.
It’s servant-hearted. 

You’re doing all you can to help that person succeed. In other words, you’re a multiplier. The better you do your role, the more effective your Executive can lead. You are empowering the Executive just as much as they need to empower you.

My dad would always say, “Be a sponge, soak up learning,” when he dropped us off at school. It seemed silly at the time, but being an EA has given me a new-found appreciation for that advice. Now more than ever, I’m soaking up immense amounts of business insight and knowledge because I have a front-row seat to the inner workings of our company.

I sit in on leadership team meetings as they deliberate over the direction of the company. I meet and interact with other executives from outside our organization. I had the privilege of playing a role in leading our company through a recent acquisition. 

Depending on your experience, the word “Assistant,” might bring up images of an overworked and under-appreciated person running back and forth from the coffee shop to the office. 

So, let me help you redefine that word.

I’m not “just” an Assistant.

I’m not sitting on the sidelines.
I’m a trusted confidant for associates and leaders in our Company.

I’m not “just” an Assistant.
I’m a leader.

Don’s Response

I’m incredibly thankful that this EA role “fell” in Kristie’s lap. In many cases, I think an Executive Assistant can be the most underutilized role in a company. As Kristie said, an EA should be a multiplier, but it’s up to the two of you to determine the scale. Will you see just a 10% improvement in productivity and effectiveness? Or a 10x improvement?

Without a doubt, Kristie has been and continues to be my right hand. I’ve relied on her as a sounding board for some of the most important decisions we’ve ever made as an organization. Your EA can have invaluable knowledge and input. If you give them the opportunity, you’ll find insights that go beyond what you might expect. So, if you have an EA or are an EA yourself, I hope our journey will inspire you to maximize your partnership, and help you unlock the full “multiplier” potential – for the both of you.

That multiplication can only begin once you’ve hired the right person, and that process can often be overlooked. Come back for our next post, where we’ll discuss the importance of hiring well!


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