Must-Have Skills for Executive Assistants

5 Must-Have Skills for Progressive Assistants

You are a top-performing, high-achieving assistant who has accomplished much. You have the fundamentals down pat and even demonstrate advanced skill sets. So where do you go from here? What might be missing from your bag of skills? Where do you need to expand to be seen as a more valuable employee and business partner?

Here are five areas that are sure to challenge you. These are taken from my book, Who Took My Pen. . . Again?

Accountability

It’s only natural this was the first chapter of the book because every action item in the book will take accountability to create success. Accountability is about being responsible and being present. We are accountable to each other and to ourselves. Even if no one is watching over your shoulder or your executive travels 90% of the time, you have to answer to yourself. When you don’t follow through—not doing your job—the department or group you support falls apart. Being an accountable person means you know this life is no dress rehearsal! This is a one-shot life, and you are giving it your all, every day.

Why is accountability important for an assistant? Credibility—your reputation is on the line. Your executives need to know that even though things shift, change, plummet, switch up or fall apart, you are the glue that will hold it together. Credibility means never cutting corners. No shirking duties.

How?

  • Whatever you talk about, you need to demonstrate. (Do you preach being on time and yet you are always late?)
  • Do what you say you are going to do.
  • Meet deadlines.
  • Be diligent.
  • Don’t make excuses. (There are reasons and then there are excuses.)
  • Be future-focused—forecast what you can be accountable for. Ex: Use a comprehensive approach to the calendar. Think about the big picture.

Change Agent

Learn to be a change agent. A change agent is someone who adds value by strategically thinking about what has always been done. They add new thought and wisdom to mundane or critical tasks. A change agent solves problems, improves the world, sees things that are, and knows they could be better.

How can you be a change agent?

  • Be a peacekeeper.
  • Accept fresh, new ideas.
  • Present new ideas.
  • Listen for clues to what could be enhanced in your group.
  • Teach yourself to think “yes” instead of “no” when listening to others’ ideas.

Creative Thinking

We are all created to be creative. We just portray it in different ways. Being creative adds value every day. Creativity improves communication, builds stronger teams, reduces costs, and increases your value to the organization.

There are some blocks to creativity, though. Watch for the following:

  • Ambiguity—an overriding desire for security and order.
  • Challenge—lack of; project or problem fails to engage your interest.
  • Environment—physical environment stifles you.
  • Judging—preference for judging ideas vs. generating them.
  • Incubation—inability to relax and place an idea on the back burner.

To help release and encourage your own creativity, do the following:

  • Get comfortable with not thinking status quo.
  • Quit looking for the perfect answer.
  • Put your ego aside and quit worrying that other adults are going to think you are silly or frivolous.
  • Study creativity.
  • Place a picture by your desk that speaks to your creative side.

Decision-Making

If you are an engaged executive assistant, you are making decisions every day, often without even realizing it. Decision-making is key for productivity and growth. Your executive relies on you to grow in this area so you can take more off their plate.

To become a better decision-maker, follow these guidelines:  

  • Understand the objectives and situation surrounding the issue.
  • Educate yourself on your leader’s decision-making style.
  • Consider potential blind spots and biases you may have. What areas are you ignorant about?
  • Avoid analysis paralysis.
  • Generate workable solutions.
  • Think through and evaluate potential outcomes, barriers, and risk vs. advantages.
  • Decide and then evaluate your decision.
  • Avoid making emotional decisions, with only your heart. Use your head.

Future-Focus

The future quickly becomes our present. Think of the future in terms of new projects, outcomes, goals, your executive’s calendar, and important upcoming events.

Also, consider trends and changes in technology. Being a future thinker will decrease your pressure and stress. For seasoned assistants, future thinking helps ensure you do not become obsolete.

But how do you anticipate the future? Read blogs, articles, and materials written by trend analysts. Studying the movers and shakers who create the curve, set the trends, and define what the future might be in a week, month, or year makes you valuable to your managers and organization.

Pay attention to the present. Observe what is going on around you, be a good listener, and read between the lines. If you keep your antenna up, you can often predict the future or anticipate what needs to be done next.

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No matter where you are in your profession, you will find value in these administrative resources. Please take a look at our free educational resources for administrative professionals.

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