Is it time the Executive Assistant role is redfined?
The Executive Assistant of today is far removed from the old era of the secretary as depicted in the the 1960s hit series Mad Men, with their haram of secretaries serving the executives. The secretary of those days has gone and been replaced by the executive assistant, now typically reserved for senior management. Today’s EA’s are a vital part of the executive office and are constantly facing increasingly complex responsibilities. In order to provide full support to the executive team and ensuring efficiency, the executive assistant is now well-versed on the company’s business strategy and mission.
The EA has exceptional organisational and time management skills. Often savvy negotiators and valuable networkers with high emotional intelligence. One of their key attributes is a strong resilience. An excellent EA needs to be head strong. If your character is sensitive and emotional, you will need to learn fast to leave those feelings at the door. It can be a tough gig!
Today’s Directors/CEO’s are looking for highly professional assistants, or as I like to refer as, executive associates or partners, whom they can rely on to be their right hand person, and who have the ability to stay on track and invest in organisations business growth on top of effective client management. Long gone are the days where secretaries were only required to handle simple administrative work. The EA is now no longer just acting as ‘Gate keepers’ between their bosses and the outside world, straddling the responsibilities between ‘The Executive’ and the rest of ‘The Business’, they now have the expertise to influence key relationships with clients as well as manage projects.
This leads me to my next question. Is it time the EA role is re-defined given the responsibilities within the company's structure and the challenges and opportunities beyond the title? My personal view is YES. As the right hand of most executives, the EA brings value by building strategic and successful long-term relationships within the team and with clients. If you are fortunate to be working in a company that truly appreciates the skills and expertise of their EA, it can be a very powerful relationship. We are after all often the CEO’s most trusted partner and confidante.
I know in my experience, going up to your CEO and letting them know a tender is going out because you leveraged relationships you have with your connections can be very powerful. Getting recognised for this however is often difficult. I often feel there is a stigma of the stereotypical assistant’s profile.
So, what are the opportunities beyond the title?
As quoted in the Harvard Business Review, “at very senior levels, the return on investment from a skilled assistant can be substantial. Consider a senior executive whose total compensation package is $1 million annually, who works with an assistant who earns $80,000. For the organization to break even, the assistant must make the executive 8% more productive than he or she would be working solo—for instance, the assistant needs to save the executive roughly five hours in a 60-hour workweek”.
I have no doubt, our top performing EA’s bring incredible value to corporations, yet often their rewards are note equally considered to that of senior executives. Factoring in bonus schemes, options/share/equity in the business should be highly considered when on boarding a professional assistant, just like you would when negotiating terms for your Chief Commercial Officer for instance. When a top performing EA can be remunerated up to $140K, you take them seriously as a key partner in the executive team. A top-performing assistant “is crucial to being productive.”
A recent report by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) revealed that the administrative professional’s role has changed dramatically, and many are involved in executive work more than ever before. The profile of the work required to be done by Secretaries, Office Managers, and PAs now requires a concerted combination of management, interpersonal and technical expertise including a creative work attitude.
Today’s administration professionals need to be versatile, tactful, organized, pro-active, and be able to think on their feet at a moment’s notice in a fast changing business environment. Not only exceptional organisational and management skills are essential, presentation skills, diplomacy, perception and an unparalleled ability to communicate effectively and productively with people at all levels are also a must.
Danielle is Managing Director of Sage Ventures Pty Ltd. Following decades of experience in public listed companies supporting CEO’s and Directors, Sage was founded to provide a specialised short-term executive support solution. Sage slot in seamlessly to assist your administrative resource needs. Sage are proud of their ability to work as an extension to our clients’ business.
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