The Annotated EA Role Description
In our two-part article series about How to Hire a Great Executive Assistant, we discussed the importance of writing a well-defined role description. A role description lays out the basic tenants and expectations of the position in clear and concise language. At Emmre, we believe a role description is one of the most important documents you can develop to ensure a good hiring experience and a healthy relationship with your Executive Assistant.
In this article, I’ve included a representation of an EA role description I wrote and compiled for my last EA hire. I’ve broken the role description into sections and under each section, I’ve provided commentary (in italics) to explain my thinking and rationale.
I hope you can use this role description and my annotations to craft your own effective role description so you can hire a great EA!
Partner with Executive
- Understand and stay informed of key activities, strategies, challenges, and opportunities facing the Executive.
- Use intuition, judgment, business knowledge, motivational techniques, and personal leadership to be an integral element of the Executive’s leadership.
- Act as the sounding board for new ideas and initiatives.
- Actively look for any opportunities to take work off the Executive’s plate.
- Act as the communication arm between the Executive and other members of the Leadership Team, associates in the organization, clients, or major stakeholders.
- Help the Executive prioritize time and appointments.
There are a lot of different workplace philosophies when it comes to EAs, but at Emmre, we believe the role should be viewed primarily as a partnership. In this first section, I set the stage for that expectation. I want the applicant to know that we’re partnering in this endeavor together, but also that a lot of the responsibility of that partnership will be delegated to the EA. I need someone who is proactively looking for opportunities to help me prioritize my time and tasks. When you’re busy, one of the most important things I believe an EA can say to you is “Why don’t I do that for you?” Another important aspect I wanted to highlight in this section is that I needed an EA who could act as a good sounding board. In other words, I want them to be informed and comfortable engaging with me if I ask questions or pose ideas about the company.
Gather and Provide Information
- Perform research and effectively communicate results.
- Gather key information and metrics into daily, weekly, and monthly reports as requested.
- Learn and understand key areas being pursued and researched by the Executive.
As an Executive, I’m expected to absorb, retain, and act on a lot of information. A good EA can be a critical asset in helping you manage that constant flow of information. And an EA with the ability to search for high-quality information and assemble that information into easily retainable bite-sized chunks is invaluable. Before an important meeting, I’ll often ask my EA to provide me with a one-sheet of relevant talking points, biographic details of who I’m meeting with, or highlights about the issue we’ll be discussing. From a turnaround standpoint, I want my EA to know the difference between deep dive and surface-level research based on the context of the request. Sometimes, all I need is ten bullet points. Other times, I may need a more comprehensive exploration of a topic that requires a bit more effort. Ultimately, a great EA is going to deliver helpful information when needed.
Work On Behalf of Executive
- Take notes during key meetings attended by the Executive and ensure that the action items are documented, communicated, and executed.
- Write first drafts of proposals, emails, letters, other communications, role descriptions, etc.
- Edit and proofread proposals, emails, letters, and other communications.
- Attend meetings and calls on behalf of the Executive, if he/she couldn’t make it.
- Act as the facilitator for the Executive’s direct reports, ensure preparedness for 1-1’s, and communicate wants, needs, concerns, roadblocks, ideas from direct reports in an effective and efficient way.
This section has a little bit of overlap with the first section (“Partner with the Executive”), but it’s important and distinct enough that I really want to emphasize it. You really want an EA who will take the initiative. There are EAs out there who require more of a hands-on approach, but I wasn’t looking to hire someone who had to constantly be told what to do. An EA is someone who’s there to help you do your job well for the betterment of the company. You’re going to want someone willing to call you out and offer to help if they feel as if you’re approaching burnout long before you reach that point.
Perform Necessary Administrative Activities On Behalf of Executive
- Ensure the Executive is responsive, organized, and productive through effective email management, task management, meeting management, and calendar management.
- Responsible for organizing and maintaining electronic documents through Dropbox, Google Drive, etc as well as printing, filing, scanning, faxing, and mailing physical paperwork.
- Review, approve, manage, and create budgets.
- Schedule, coordinate, and rearrange as necessary any travel arrangements.
- Make purchases, order meals, receipt management, local errands, as necessary.
- Coordinate team member appreciation, birthday and anniversary celebrations, and cards, Christmas presents, etc.
- Coordinate and manage other life events such as family calendar management, personal travel, personal errands, etc.
I’ll be honest: This was the section I was most nervous about creating when I sat down to write a role description. However, it’s important that the role description reflects the day-to-day reality of what the position actually entails. There’s no reason to sugarcoat an EA role – it’ll only hurt you in the long run. Some of the tasks I’ve listed in this section are absolutely foundational to the role, and it’d be a huge detriment to your working relationship if you surprise your EA with these tasks later on without listing them in the role description. At this point, you should’ve also decided on the scope of the EA’s role – will they only concern themselves with office work, or will they help manage your personal calendar, as well? You need to make sure you’re both on the same page. For example, if you ask your EA to pick up your dry cleaning, that request shouldn’t come out of left field. And, if it’s in the role description, it won’t.
Drive Key Strategic and General Processes
- Drive annual budgeting process, pre-process preparation, coordinate meetings, ensure timelines are met, ensure communication of decisions and changes are effectively managed.
- Drive annual initiatives and key thrusts process including strategic plan documentation, Leadership Team Strategic Execution Meeting, and bi-quarterly report outs.
- Drive and coordinate annual review processes including raises and performance management.
- Develop project plans and necessary structures and meetings to ensure consistent on-time delivery of projects.
- Lead decisions on how to complete project deliverables, manage resources in relation to capacity and timelines, and how to engage the organization to support productivity.
- Identify gaps to goals for the team’s production and recommend corrective courses of action.
I don’t want my EA to think of themselves as a Project Manager, but I’d hope they’d have the ability to responsibly manage tasks and lead initiatives if the situation called for it. And, from ensuring we’re allocating our resources wisely to following up on deliverables, the role definitely includes tasks and duties related to project management. I think most Executives would agree that these skills should be highly sought after in an EA. The tasks listed above are definitely more high-level, but hopefully, their inclusion will lead to lead high-level candidates and, ultimately, a high-level EA.
Prepare For and Organize Key Meetings
- Examples: Leadership Team Quarterly Offsites, Leadership Team weekly meetings, All Staff Lunches, 1-1s, Daily/Weekly Huddles, Company Retreat, Kaizen meetings, other strategic meetings, etc.
- Meeting Coordination: Schedule meetings, book accommodations, ensure room tech is prepped, ensure other items for meetings are ready and available such as paper, pens, TV, snacks, meals, etc.
- Meeting Preparation: Prepare agendas, manage tools, prepare presentations, gather information, ensure presenters are ready,
- Meeting Participation and Follow Up: Take minutes and notes, follow up on to-do’s and necessary action items, communicate with appropriate people key items and decisions from meetings.
This section is pretty broad, and that’s because the definition of “meeting” is broad. However, the section is pretty self-explanatory. My EA knows the ins-and-outs of my schedule, and therefore she makes sure I’m fully prepared for each of them – including the venue, facilities, and hospitality. It seems small, but having someone make sure that all the tech is prepared, the agenda is set, and presentations are ready to go is an absolute life (and time) saver. In this sense, the ideal EA candidate should be very detail-oriented, organized, and timely. From individual employee meetings to our annual staff retreat, I rest easy knowing each one has been booked, coordinated, and prepped before I even walk into the room. It’s good to have an EA who has their eyes on the big picture, but in the day-to-day operations, it’s attention to detail that matters most.
Key Attributes & Competencies
- Judgment / Decision Making: Consistent logic, rationality, and objectivity in decision making. Neither indecisive nor hip-shooter.
- Organization / Planning: Plans, organized, schedules & budget in an efficient and organized manner. Focuses on key priorities.
- Adaptability: Not rigid. Copes effectively with complexity and change.
- Likability: Puts people at ease. Shows Emotional Intelligence. Warm, sensitive, compassionate Not arrogant. Friendly, sense of humor, genuine.
- Strategic Skills: Determines opportunities and threats through a comprehensive analysis of current and future trends. Comprehends the big picture.
As you may have noticed, this final section looks a little different from the others. For starters, it’s more value-based and qualitative. As an Executive, I want to challenge you to seriously consider creating your own personal list of Key Attributes and Competencies. The role description of your ideal EA may look different than mine (and that’s okay!), but I don’t think you should brush past the Key Attributes & Competencies as I believe they represent the heart of your working relationship with EA. So, when you’re crafting your own list, imagine someone you could easily get along and work well with together. You’re going to spending a lot of time in each other’s company, therefore it’s important that your personalities align in a way that’s healthy and productive for both of you.
I really hope you found this breakdown of an EA role description helpful and enlightening. As we said in the introduction of this article, we believe the role description is one of the most important documents you can create prior to hiring an EA, and it can be instrumental in ensuring a healthy working relationship by aligning and setting expectations for you and your EA.