As leaders, we know a great executive team is essential to our success. Assembling the right combination of personalities and skillsets can make or break a company, so it’s definitely worth the time and effort to ensure you get the right people on board.
However, I’d like to propose that your most important hire isn’t a member of your C-Level Executive Team. Contrary to your expectations, I believe the most important and impactful hire is your Executive Assistant.
Never Enough Time
Four years ago, I found myself frustrated and struggling against a complete lack of time. But, the struggle wasn’t anything new.
Throughout my twenty-year career, I’d run a manufacturing plant, been a General Manager of a distribution center, and worked as the CEO of a social enterprise in Africa. I’d become very familiar with working long hours only to find that I still don’t have enough time.
But there was something different happening this time around.
The Inaccessible Executive
As an Executive Leader of a SAAS company, I had just completed reviews with my leadership team at the end of the fiscal year.
Two of the question we always ask during the review include:
“What does your leader do that frustrates you?”
And, “What could they do better?”
The overwhelming feedback was that I seemed inaccessible. I was rarely available, and I wasn’t timely in my responses when a team member would reach out. This was incredibly painful to hear. I care deeply for my team, and I’ve always tried to serve them well. But it was obvious I was falling short of my own expectations.
Initially, I tried to let myself off the hook.
“They don’t realize the demands on my time.”
“They can’t see how busy I am.”
“Their expectations are unreasonable.”
But the more excuses I came up with, the more I found that they were falling flat.
Something had to change.
I was the roadblock.
I was hurting my team’s ability to get things done. I wasn’t serving them the way I wanted. And,, it was becoming obvious to my team. Eventually, someone recommended I hire an Executive Assistant.
I initially dismissed the idea.
“I’ve gotten this far without an EA,” I rationalized to myself. “Plus, would someone setting up meetings for me really help me be more responsive and have more time?”
With these wrong thoughts in mind, I delayed. But my work hours continued to grow, and my effectiveness and responsiveness still weren’t meeting my expectations. I was tired of working so hard only to have the same problems. I was tired of letting my team down. So I finally decided to enlist the help of an Executive Assistant.
My Most Important Hire
Four years later, I can truly say hiring an EA was the most important career hire I’ve made. My executive team is critical but they could not be as effective with me being a roadblock. Not only was I able to be more responsive and available, but I could also finally help my team move forward rather than hold them back with my constraints.
I learned very quickly how a great EA will help you improve as a leader, and even began seeing positive changes in my personal life! I remember my wife commenting on how glad she was that after hiring my EA, I was getting home earlier and not missing my kids’ events. The difference was unbelievable.
After experiencing this tremendous improvement, I spoke with other leaders and heard stories very similar to where I started. Burn-out, long hours, and a general feeling of being ineffective. It became clear that this was a widespread problem, and I want to help reduce it.
With that goal in mind, in future posts, I’ll share more about my experience hiring an EA, the lessons I’ve learned over the past four years, and how the right EA will do significantly more than just set meetings, order lunches, and make copies – if you empower them to do so.
This blog, like our working relationship, will be a collaborative effort between myself and Kristie. At times Kristie will contribute or give her perspective on some of the topics. Ultimately, it’s our goal to help both Executives and Executive Assistants create a mutually beneficial, efficient, and effective working relationship. We know we haven’t “arrived,” and we’re always working to improve. But my hope is that sharing some of our journey will help you with yours!
Our focus will generally be the things we wish we had known, and the best practices that we’ve put in place over that time. More specifically, we plan to cover topics like hiring, training, building trust, responsibilities, one-on-ones, confidentiality, emails, meetings, tools, and communication.
However, we also want to connect with all of you to cover any topics or questions that have come up in your experience! So, as you move forward with us, please leave questions and topics in the comment section below each blog!
Kristie’s Perspective (the EA)
Working as an Executive Assistant for Don has been an incredible fit for me, and a big part of that is how well we have collaborated to improve and develop the role. That collaboration is key, so finding the right Executive to work with is just as important as finding the right EA. A strong partnership is a powerful thing!