Assistants Speak Out: The Biggest Struggles In Partnering With Their Executive

Happy Monday! Fall is in the air and I love it. Fall is all around us whether you live where the beautiful trees are overflowing with color or in the West where we feel the crisp morning and evening air. Halloween decorations and costume advertisements popping up everywhere. This is my favorite time of year. What about you?

I am very eager and excited to share with you the top 3 struggles assistants face in partnering with their executives. In preparation for a webinar I held on October 8 called Managing Your Executive’s Day, we sent out a survey and received 700+ responses to the questions “What is your biggest struggle in partnering with your executive?” That is a terrific response rate.

Here are some comments we received. Can you relate?

  • Identifying his needs. He does not communicate well . . . operates on “information on an as-needed basis” which is always too late.
  • Need for access to his email. He is a procrastinator and asks me to do things at the last minute that he has known about but doesn’t tell me about.
  • Mind reading!
  • Finding the time to “corner” him for input on issues that pop up throughout the day.
  • Him taking the time to meet with me to have regular 1:1s.
  • Communication (ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto!)
  • Scheduling; too many meetings in a day. Blocking his calendar to work on his projects.

STOP: If you are an assistant, I know you will keep reading this. If you are a manager, supervisor or executive, please keep reading this to see what the top 3 complaints are from assistants in trying to build a partnership and better assist their executive because you can help alleviate these issues and increase your productivity.

After reading almost all 700 responses, a 150 page document, here is what rose up as the top 3 struggles. None of which surprise me as I’ve been hearing this for 25 years. Also when I coach executives and assistants one-on-one, these areas of improvement are always covered. You will see you are not alone in your struggles and there are solutions.

#1 Struggle: Communication—all aspects ranging from

  • Lack of communication due to executives busy schedule
  • Talking about calendar and upcoming meetings
  • Getting information far enough out
  • No daily huddles
  • Executive doesn’t share information
  • Executive manages their own email therefore the assistant is out of the loop

#2 Struggle: Assistant not getting time with executive to discuss day-to-day events, priorities, projects, travel, meeting, upcoming projects and more

#3 Struggle: Executive’s calendar

  • Executive runs from meeting to meeting
  • Doesn’t let assistant control his/her calendar

The top 3 struggles for assistants in partnering with their executives stem from a bigger issue and the bottom line is this:

  1. Executives don’t see their assistant as their partner — or they would make time for them. I personally know this from being on both sides of the desk. The best executives I worked for over 20 years, always made time for me no matter how busy they were or how much traveling they did. I also do the same with Jasmine.
  2. Executives are not seeing their assistant as the answer to increasing their productivity by 20% or more. When I work with executives and assistants one-on-one, the executive tells me they have increased their productivity by 20% or more because they have now learned how to utilize their assistant, delegate, and include them in their business life.
  3. Executives don’t realize that by not making time for their assistant and letting the assistant be the funnel through which everything flows…they are hurting themselves and the assistant’s ability to be the best assistant possible.

I want you to know that creating a partnership between executives and assistants is not impossible. In fact, it is quite probable given the right tools, tips, processes and core philosophies. This week, your assignment is to pay attention to how your executive treats you. Or if you are an executive, how are you treating your assistant?

  • Successful partnerships communicate consistently and regularly throughout the day and the week. They actually talk to each other face-to-face or on the telephone. I don’t mean just emailing each other. If you are going to increase your productivity, create synergy with each, and be a united front, you have to have live conversations with each other.
  • Great partners know the others expectations and frustrations. Again… that takes communicating with each other. Executives and assistants often say what it is on their mind or they just give each other pieces of information. Executives need to express and clarify expectations of projects, their assistant’s roles and performance on a regular basis. Assistants need to ask more questions and make sure they are meeting their executive’s expectations.

I could spend hours writing about this topic but since Monday Motivators is supposed to be short and sweet, I will stop here. I will be blogging about this fascinating topic over the next few weeks so be sure to visit the Office Dynamics Blog and join in the conversation. I’d love to know what your struggles are in partnering with your executive.


There were so many questions posed on the survey and asked in the live webinar that I am going to “Continue the Conversation” on Friday, October 16 (Boss’s Day). I will be doing a rundown of the questions asked, many of which I’m sure you can relate. I hope you can join us for this free, invigorating conversation at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. If you cannot attend our live event, register anyway because you will get the replay link.

Have an awesome week!

Joan Burge

Managing Your Executive’s Day Webinar Replay/ReCast
By Jasmine Freeman

You may have been registered to attend our free webinar, Managing Your Executive’s Day. The morning of the event we experienced technical difficulties beyond our control and thought we might need to cancel the webinar. We were able to restore the session and host the webinar but we’ve also planned a 2nd broadcast. This will not be the same broadcast. It will be Part 2 – a continued discussion about the struggles in partnering with your executive. As Joan mentions above, there were over 700 responses about the key reason you are finding it difficult to build a partnership with your executive and on October 16, Boss’s Day, Joan will be diving further into this topic.

1. Watch the replay of our webinar, Managing Your Executive’s Day.

2. Register to attend the second part of this discussion on October 16.

Pre-order your copy today!


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