In life, support is everything. It determines who wins and who loses and because success is both an inside job and team effort, it matters who makes up the team. In the world of business, it is the same thing. Successful CXOs and high-level professionals understand that to win, they need the right team and support. One key component of support that high-flying CXOs do not compromise on is in the choice of their Executive Assistants (EAs) because they understand how instrumental they are to their overall success. Seeking to be the right Executive Assistant, here are six characteristics you should have:
- Ruthless prioritisation: A typical day in the life of a professional EA is fast-paced with many balls to juggle all at once. If not managed properly, this can be frustrating and paint you as unreliable and inefficient. One sure-proof way to handle this is to break projects into smaller steps and determine what is urgent and important, then tackle those first. Prioritising ruthlessly can be the thin line between losing your mind and winning like the star that you are. Don’t joke with it.
- Proactive and calm under pressure: As noted in point one, a professional EA understands the fast-paced rhythm of work and knows that staying alert and thinking proactively is not negotiable. While many things can go awry in a day, losing your cool while handling tough issues is not professional. This is why scenario planning is important. Anticipate crises that can occur in the course of a project you are handling or even in your daily work and put measures in place to prevent them or manage them effectively without hampering the success of the task/project. Planning for a crisis is one of the hallmarks of a professional and earns you points of esteem and high regard in the eyes of your bosses.
- Ethics and good conduct: Professional executive assistants understand the importance of their role. They know that every move reflects positively or negatively on their bosses and the organisation they work for, so are mindful and comport themselves with dignity and honour. They are not loose-mouthed, name-droppers or bribe-collectors. They understand that by virtue of their role, they are one of the first line of brand ambassadors of their organisation and protect their reputation through proper conduct.
- Possess great people skills and emotional intelligence: Knowing how to work with people to achieve success is a very important life skill that professional EAs comprehend. Working in proximity with C-suiters, they study the persona of each chief to know how to pattern their support to bring out the best in them for the overall success of the project or business. This passion for understanding human behaviour is one that helps them relate with those beneath and beyond the C-suite, diffusing conflict, and relieving stress and communicating in a way that connects.
- Impeccable organization: Professional EAs are some of the most organized people in any organization. They are super connectors and rely on their ability to connect with people to galvanize support from diverse teams to execute most of their projects successfully. They are able to get things done in the shortest time possible because of the combination of their organizational and people skills.\
- Big-picture thinking: This is one of the most important hallmarks of a professional EA. They have the ability to think strategically like CXOs because they immerse themselves in the study of the organization’s strategy, vision and plans as well as the industry their organization operates in. They make worthwhile connections both within and beyond their industry, having relevant and trustworthy contacts or news sources from which they get useful intel that is beneficial to their bosses and organization.
About the Columnist
Precious Emechebe is the Executive Assistant to the CEO of MultiChoice West Africa. She shares her wealth of knowledge and experience gained from years of working as an EA in different multinationals and different fields of business including Law and Human Rights, Customer Strategy, Sales Development and Business Operations and Projects among others. She is passionate about mentoring EAs and does this actively through Executive Support Professionals, also known as ESPro, which she founded to fill the gap in capacity development and training for professionals in the executive support space and providing executive services and support. You can connect with her on the following platforms: