Executive Assistant – What it means and why every CXO should have one
Last week my EA had to go on a sabbatical. Some medical emergency in the family ensured he could no longer continue to be with us. That brought me to an interesting conundrum. Finding a replacement and that too quick.
And that brought me full-face to a problem I knew existed but didn’t really get to the deep impact of it. We put a job post on Linkedin and were very excited as we discovered that there is a standard job posting called Executive Assistant on LinkedIn. With high hopes, we put a post up. However, the results have been disappointing, to say the least. We got 75+ resumes but almost none that works.
What I realized was though some people are fashionably hiring EAs, what they are really doing is the job of an AA. The top skill they possess is managing calendars and setting up meetings. Even greeting visitors is considered a job role. Some of them have been EAs for 10-15 years. Hence, I thought of writing this blog to reflect upon my thoughts of what is an EA and who should consider this role (working for me or elsewhere)
An executive assistant role is a shortcut. It is a shortcut for those that want to grow faster than their peers. The bright, passionate, diligent, organized ones, who want to slog it out in a pressure environment to get there faster. I say slog and pressure because their job is to make the executive as hands-free as possible. Hence, they should always have more than they can handle or at least should aspire to. If you do this well for 3-4 years, you should be ready to take the word assistant out of it. They should have seen enough senior management play to know how to be one of them.
Of course, the executive hiring the assistant need to provide that environment too. Keep the EA involved in all works, help them grow, be the mentor. Interestingly, I gave this thought to a dear friend from Surat. He hired one in a week and says it has made his life so so so much easier.
One extremely important aspect of an EA-executive relationship is total trust and transparency. The EA should choose the executive clearly. Someone that is revered in their view, someone they can look up to. I remember in my IBM time, an existing Director took the role of Lou Gerstner’s (then CEO) EA and gained insight into the full organization. I would have myself wanted to do it at some point if I hadn’t chosen to move to India. One can not be an EA for 10 years. That’s a PA or AA. An EA needs to grow and move.
As for me, I have almost always had one. They have been carefully selected and all of them have done exactly what I outlined here. Now I am looking for a new Executive Assistant, not personal and not administrative. I need someone who can be an EA. Growth guaranteed. Some other aspects that I need in my EA:
- Ability to work with a smile. No frowny faces
- Being ‘YES’ to work. Always willing to try new things
- Having a bit more than half a brain. Basically, cut above the rest
- Extremely well organized which I am not
- Wanting to do everything to grow faster (of course legally/morally/ethically correct)
Some of you have shown interest in the past when the role wasn’t available. Anyone from my known circle who is interested, contact me directly. Otherwise, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please be sure you qualify to be an EA, not AA or PA.