Secretary vs An Executive Assistant

A Secretary vs An Executive Assistant

As a CEO and founder of Office Dynamics International, my career has led me to work closely alongside top-tier execs like CEOs, Presidents, and Vice Presidents for over four decades. I have nothing but admiration for these trailblazers and always manage to pick up invaluable knowledge from them. What I find truly fascinating is their knack for imparting wisdom in a one-of-a-kind fashion.

One CEO I know once compared the roles of a secretary and a high-performing executive assistant. In their words, a secretary is someone who executes various tasks and becomes more proficient over time but may not necessarily provide value beyond task completion. In contrast, an executive assistant not only possesses secretarial skills but also has the foresight and ability to enhance outcomes.

During a workshop I led with Senior VPs from a prominent construction firm, we touched upon the distinctions between someone who holds the title “Executive Assistant” and an authentic executive assistant. The consensus was that an Executive Assistant embodies a unique set of skills not commonly found in the lower echelons of the admin world. Similarly, simply having the title of CEO doesn’t make one a good CEO; instead, it’s their leadership prowess and competencies that define their effectiveness in the role.

Let’s look at a few examples that showcase the differences between a secretary and an executive assistant:

  • A secretary may handle tasks like scheduling appointments, fielding phone calls, and organizing documents, while an executive assistant, apart from these tasks, also deals with higher-level responsibilities such as budget oversight, strategic planning, and decision-making.
  • A secretary may stick to the script and complete tasks as directed, while an executive assistant proactively identifies the needs of their executive and takes the initiative to enhance processes and results.
  • A secretary may have limited input or impact on the organization’s direction, while an executive assistant is likely to play a more significant role in strategic discussions and act as a trusted advisor to their executive.

I trust these examples clarify the distinctions between a secretary and an executive assistant. It’s worth mentioning that specific responsibilities and the extent of involvement can vary based on the organization and the particular role of the secretary or executive assistant.

Such comparisons prompt crucial questions for executives to ponder: Do you have a secretary or an executive assistant? What type of support do you require in your position within the organization? What kind of working relationship do you envision with your administrative office professional?

To aid executives in forging a robust partnership with their administrative office professionals, I’ve penned a comprehensive guide on the subject. Remember, finding the right balance and understanding the unique dynamics between executives and their assistants can lead to a more efficient and successful workplace.

Executives Assistants Working In Partnership The Definitive Guide to Success

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Improve your working relationship with your administrative office professional and increase your productivity and effectiveness with our comprehensive guide, "Executives & Assistants Working in Partnership: The Definitive Guide to Success." This interactive tool provides a structured approach to managing both people and processes and includes special bonuses to enhance your success.


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