qualities of a great assistant

Qualities of a Great Assistant

In the bustling corridors of the modern workplace, the role of an assistant is often the linchpin of efficiency and harmony. Whether it’s managing the day-to-day tasks of an office or providing personalized support to individuals, the qualities of a good assistant can significantly impact productivity and success. But what makes a good assistant? Is it their organizational skills, their ability to communicate effectively, or perhaps their unwavering professionalism?

As an administrator or executive assistant, it is important to continually strive for excellence in your role. In my live workshops and seminars for assistants, I often ask participants to create a list of qualities, attributes, and attitudes that are commonly associated with star-performing assistants. Over the years, I have compiled several of my top ideas that I would like to share with you.  Let’s delve into the essential qualities that define exceptional office and personal assistants.

As you review this list, consider checking off the items that describe you. This can help you identify your strengths and areas for development. It is important to continually assess and improve upon these qualities in order to excel in your role. It’s also a good idea to keep your specific KPIs (key performance indicators) as an assistant in mind as you read over these qualities and identify areas of growth. By identifying your strengths and areas for improvement, you can focus on specific areas to work on and take small steps toward becoming a great assistant.

Qualities of a Great Assistant

Good Communication Skills

This involves being able to effectively communicate with a variety of stakeholders, including colleagues, clients, and superiors. Effective communication is the cornerstone of any assistant’s role. It’s about clearly conveying messages, understanding the needs of colleagues, clients, and superiors, and facilitating smooth interactions. An assistant who masters verbal and written communication can bridge gaps, prevent misunderstandings, and ensure that all parties are on the same page.

Organization Skills

An organized assistant can manage a multitude of tasks without dropping the ball. This involves keeping track of important deadlines, managing documents, and ensuring that everything needed for the smooth operation of the office is at hand. Organization skills also mean being able to quickly retrieve information when it’s needed, making the assistant an invaluable resource.

Team Player

Being a team player involves more than just working well with others; it’s about contributing positively to the team dynamic, offering support where needed, and collaborating effectively to achieve common goals. A great assistant enhances the team’s productivity and morale through their cooperative spirit and willingness to assist.

Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal skills are a subset of soft skills that are crucial for building and maintaining relationships within and outside the organization. A great assistant uses these skills to navigate the complexities of workplace dynamics, foster positive interactions, and build a network of contacts that can be beneficial for their executive and the organization as a whole.


This involves being able to effectively interact and build relationships with others, both within and outside of the organization. Attention to detail ensures that tasks are completed accurately and to a high standard. For an assistant, being detail-oriented means catching errors that others might overlook, ensuring that documents are flawless, and that every aspect of an event or meeting is considered and catered for. Paying attention to small details and ensuring that tasks are completed accurately and efficiently is extremely important.

Positive, Can-do Attitude

A positive attitude can be contagious, uplifting the mood of the entire office. Assistants with a can-do attitude approach challenges with optimism and are often able to find solutions where others see obstacles. This resilience is invaluable in the fast-paced, often unpredictable world of office management. Maintaining a positive outlook and approach to work can help assistants stay motivated and tackle challenges.

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The ability to adapt to changing situations and priorities is a hallmark of a great assistant. Flexibility means being able to handle last-minute changes with grace and adjusting plans to accommodate new directions, ensuring that the office continues to function smoothly regardless of the circumstances.

Ability to Prioritize

With a myriad of tasks vying for attention, knowing how to prioritize is essential. A great assistant evaluates the urgency and importance of tasks to allocate their time and resources effectively, ensuring that critical deadlines are met and that their executive’s needs are always addressed promptly.


Honesty builds the foundation of trust between an assistant and their executive, as well as with colleagues and clients. Being honest and transparent in all dealings not only fosters trust but also establishes the assistant as a reliable and ethical member of the team.


A willingness to assist, even beyond the call of duty, is a trait that makes an assistant stand out. Being helpful involves anticipating the needs of others, offering support before it’s asked for, and being willing to take on tasks outside of the usual remit to ensure the success of the team or project.


Accountability is about taking responsibility for one’s actions and their outcomes. An accountable assistant owns their tasks, follows through on commitments, and is reliable in all aspects of their work, thereby building confidence in their capabilities and integrity.


Trustworthiness in an assistant means that confidential information stays confidential, and that they can be relied upon to act in the best interests of their executive and the organization. This trust is crucial for a successful assistant-executive partnership.


Confidence is key for an assistant to perform their role effectively. It’s about believing in one’s abilities, making decisions when necessary, and communicating assertively. A confident assistant can represent their executive professionally and handle negotiations and communications with ease.

One way you can maintain confidence is by learning to display power and not giving away your presence, as Nada Lena Nasserdeen explains in the video below at The Conference for Administrative Excellence.

Ability to Remain Calm Under Pressure

The office environment can sometimes be high-stress and demanding. An assistant who remains calm under pressure can think clearly, make informed decisions, and manage crises effectively, thereby minimizing the impact of stressful situations.


A proactive assistant anticipates the needs of their executive and the office, taking initiative to address issues before they become problems. This forward-thinking approach ensures that the office runs smoothly and that the executive’s time is optimized.


Authenticity involves being true to oneself and maintaining one’s values in all interactions. An authentic assistant is genuine in their communications and actions with all people without showing favoritism, fostering an atmosphere of trust and respect within the office.

Excellent Calendaring Skills

Effective management of schedules is crucial for ensuring that executives meet their commitments and that the office functions efficiently. An assistant with excellent calendaring skills keeps track of appointments, anticipates scheduling conflicts, and ensures that time is allocated effectively.

Customer-service Focused

A customer-service orientation means that an assistant goes above and beyond to meet the needs of clients, colleagues, and superiors. This focus on service enhances the reputation of the executive and the organization, ensuring that interactions are positive and productive.

Excellent Time Management Skills

Time management is about more than just managing one’s own time; it’s about ensuring that the executive’s time is used efficiently. An assistant with strong time management skills prioritizes tasks effectively, avoids time wastage, and ensures that deadlines are met.

Good Listener

Active listening is essential for understanding the needs and concerns of others. A good listener can accurately capture information, understand underlying issues, and respond appropriately, making them an effective communicator and problem-solver.

Professional Presence

Maintaining a professional appearance and demeanor reassures others of an assistant’s competence and professionalism. This presence is crucial for building credibility and trust, both within the organization and with external contacts.

Keeping Delicate Information Private

Discretion is a key quality of a great assistant. Keeping sensitive information private protects the interests of the executive and the organization, reinforcing the assistant’s role as a trusted confidante.


Staying focused allows an assistant to complete tasks efficiently and effectively, even in a busy office environment. This concentration ensures that work is done to a high standard and that the assistant remains productive throughout the day.

Political Knowledge

Understanding the dynamics within the organization can help an assistant navigate their role more effectively. This knowledge enables them to understand the implications of decisions, anticipate reactions, and act in a way that supports the executive’s objectives.

Anticipation of Needs

Anticipating the needs of the executive and the office means that an assistant can prepare in advance, ensuring that resources are available when needed and that potential issues are addressed before they arise.

Knows What the Boss Needs

Being attuned to the needs of the boss means that an assistant can provide support that is tailored to the executive’s preferences and requirements. This insight ensures that the executive’s time is used efficiently and that their work life is as smooth and productive as possible.

Great Networking Skills

Building a network of contacts within and outside the organization can provide valuable resources and information. An assistant with great networking skills can leverage these contacts to support the executive’s goals and the organization’s objectives.

Analytical Forward-thinking Skills

The ability to think critically and analyze situations helps an assistant make informed decisions and provide valuable insights. These skills enable an assistant to anticipate outcomes, plan strategically, and contribute to the success of the executive and the organization.

From Our Community of Administrative Professionals

Don’t just take our word for it: here’s what some of the executives and assistants in the Office Dynamcis community had to say about the top qualities of a great assistant:

  • “I’d say not only improving processes, but having a regular rhythm of assessing and optimizing them.” -Mackenzie L., CEO
  • “Can I add, a great assistant has a good business acumen and thinks like an entrepreneur leading a business.” -Sandra P., Executive Assistant
  • “I also think a great assistant is continually learning too.” -Kim T., Personal Assistant
  • (This one we found hilarious): “A good assistant brings water, coffee, food, and pain meds when asked; a GREAT assistant has all these items on hand and provides them before the exec asks for them.” -Danielle C., Executive Assistant
  • “Being a great assistant requires continual learning to improve the processes and wishing leaders would recognize the potential in their employees as they do so.” -Angela C.

Identifying Areas for Improvement

So, how did you fare on the list of qualities and attributes of a great assistant? As mentioned earlier, this list can be a helpful tool for identifying your strengths and areas for improvement. For example, do you consistently demonstrate a professional presence, even in difficult or stressful situations? Or perhaps you consider yourself a good listener, but do you sometimes find yourself getting distracted by emails or other tasks while someone is speaking to you?

Remember, we all have room for growth and improvement. Taking small steps toward developing your skills and abilities can help you manage a long list of areas to work on. Consider mapping out your top three strengths and the one area you would like to focus on improving the most. With dedication and effort, you can continue to grow and excel as an assistant.


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