qualities of a great assistant

Qualities Of A Great Assistant

Are You a great assistant?

Many times in my live workshops and seminars for executive and administrative assistants, I ask the participant to create a list of qualities, attributes, and attitudes of star-performing assistants. Over the years, I have collected more than 300 ideas that I want to share.

As you go through it, check off the ones that describe you. This might give you an idea of areas that need to be developed.

Qualities Of A Great Assistant

  • Good communication skills
  • Organization skills
  • Team player
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Positive, can-do attitude
  • Flexible
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Honest
  • Helpful
  • Accountable
  • Trustworthy
  • Confident
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure
  • Proactive
  • Authentic
  • Excellent calendaring skills
  • Customer-service focused
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Good listener
  • Professional presence
  • Keeps delicate information private
  • Focused
  • Political knowledge
  • Anticipation of needs
  • Knows what the boss needs
  • Great networking skills
  • Analytical forward-thinking skills

Well, how did you do? As I mentioned, you can use this list to identify your strengths and areas of need. For example, professional presence. Do you demonstrate a professional presence every day, even when someone has upset you?

Or maybe you checked good listener. But do you always “listen” or do you distract yourself with reading emails while someone is talking to you?

Each of us can do better each and every day. Taking baby steps is a good way to manage a big list of “must get better at” areas.

Start by mapping out your top 3 qualities and the 1 area you need to work on developing the most.

Good luck!



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36 thoughts on “Qualities Of A Great Assistant”

  1. Maybe it’s because of my military experience, but I strive to be like Radar on M*A*S*H. He anticipated, acted and was genuine and true in everything he did.

  2. Adaptability has been a lifesaver throughout my career, till this day, I found that there’s no better attitude that the one of being able to adapt to changes in your work environment.

  3. I wrote a pretty good reply yesterday morning and don’t see it listed,so I was wondering if there is a delay in things being posted, or maybe I am just overlooking it?

  4. on of the things I started doing when I get interrupted is I create a “parking lot” to capture the desire or need of the person in front of me. This way I can listen intently, capture what they are asking about, get back to what I was working on and return to the list to make sure I take care of the things that sometimes just pop up. With that I would add to the list an innovator. Great information so far on the blogs, keep up the great work.

  5. technology is huge as I get back in the working administrative world after 3 years. Your boss expects you to know it all, google docs, google drive, apps for blogging, apps for merging with facebook and linkden, just about everything that has to do with the internet. I feel that is all part of networking, as most of the assistants these days network through the computer and through the internet. Without having these skills applying for an administrative position at this time, your interview may go sideways.

  6. I have been an Administrative Aide for 3 years and it has been an interesting experience trying to get in sync with my boss. We get along really well, he just has a tendency to keep to himself. I have to ask him every morning what his schedule is like or he just leaves his office for extended periods and I have no idea where he is. That’s extremely frustrating when higher-ups are calling for him. Slowly but surely he is getting better. I love my job! It’s extremely rewarding and fun.

  7. Two really popped out as things I need to focus on – political knowledge & analytical forward thinking styles. Thanks, Joan!

  8. My view is this…A top assistant needs to have a good base to build on: Honesty, Trustworthiness, Authenticity. All the other listed attributes are valuable and necessary, and can be grown. Learning something new every day can be accomplished by striving for one or all of them. I think I’m going to put this list in my journal and measure each day which attribute I have built upon and possible next steps to keep growning.

  9. I think willing to learn or knowledgeable should be added to the list. It’s amazing how much easier a job can become when you are willing to learn about the position and/or department. I find this is something I need to do more of so that I can better serve my boss and myself.

  10. Good communication skills, excellent calendaring skills and organization skills are a must when working for an officer. I need to prioritize the needs of the 3 additional managers I work for in order to balance the work. I absolutely love being an executive assistant as it is a life long learning process. You can always better your game, find new ways of doing things and taking short cuts. I don’t operate like I did 30 years ago — so much technology change.

  11. Focused, ability to remain calm, and analytical forward thinking skills. I would also say that is something to work on as well, since I can also over analyze which can hinder my success as well.

  12. I’ve found that writing things down and creating a check-list is a good way to manage details, especially for larger more complicated projects. I use OneNote for my projects. If you haven’t gotten to know this software I would highly recommend that you do. It has been an invaluable tool for me in my work.

  13. I’m working on my listening skills. More specifically, not interrupting with what I think is going to be said (finishing their sentence). I know it’s enthusiasm for the topic or desire to please but . . . no less impolite.

  14. Since I work in city government, I am constantly working on the majority of the list but the one I should work on toning down is honesty. At times I can be too honest and we don’t always need to hear it.

  15. I definitely need to work on political knowledge. I usually avoid that all together, but I can see the benefits.

      1. Hi Patti, our daily paper has a business section (local) and I make a point of at least scanning it each week. A separate publisher puts out a “business times” bimonthly. Again, I try to at least scan the issues. These two things help me with the local politics. National politics . . . well, I just filter out my hubby’s rants. :o)

  16. My strong areas are honesty, accountability, flexible, helpful, team player and professional presence. I do, however, need to work on remaining calm. When things are stressful I appear to be flustered and scattered, although what I’m attempting to do is to get everything in place quickly, often due to not getting the information I need until the last minute. So what I really need to concentrate on is more thorough follow-up skills. Even after 30 years of supporting C-Level executives I’m amazed at what I still have to learn!! Thanks to Office Dynamics, I’m finally getting the tools to help me be a better assistant for my Executive!

  17. This was a great list to be able to look over and see where I need to put some focus. I feel that I am great at a lot of these, but everyone can always improve not matter how great they think they are. You don’t stop coaching the athlete when they win the gold, so you should never stop developing yourself.

    To answer the question: What are your top 3 qualities and the 1 area you need to work on developing the most right now?

    I would say that if I had to pick 3 at the top they would be trustworthy (which would include being honest, accountable and confidential), good listener (this is a must if you are an assistant, you have to listen even when you aren’t listening) and I would say team player (for me this includes customer-service focused, my executives and my associates are my internal customers)

    One thing that I need to work on is professional presence. I don’t mean in my office, but overall as an admin and getting more involved with organizations, blogs, events, networking, etc.

  18. Top 3: Organization skills, Detail oriented, Excellent time management skills.
    Need to work on: Calendering skills

  19. Top 3 qualities: team player, detail oriented, and excellent calendaring skills. Area to work on would be analytical forward thinking skills. Great list!

  20. Thank you for this list! I was just promoted to Executive Assistant. I have to work on being detail oriented… not an easy task! Any pointers would be helpful!

  21. Great list! Looks easy enough but it’s not. A lot of these attributes I work on every single day. Thank you for sharing.

  22. I have recently been promoted, so starting with a new boss and a new (unfamiliar to me) department; I am challenged with the fact that I don’t know the answers like I did in my old position. My boss appreciates my positive, can do attitude and the energy that I have to dig in and find the answers. My priority that I am working on is anticipating his needs and knowing what he needs for the various areas of position. We are a work in progress at this time but I got the promotion due to the reputation that I’ve built with many of qualities you’ve listed. It’s a new day and a new beginning and I’m having fun.

    1. Gina Van Dusen

      I will be starting a new job soon as well after almost 7 years in my current position and 4 years with my current director. I know I too got this promotion due to my skills and reputation but I am nervous about starting up in a new department and with a new director. I am currently reading a book called Building a Partnership with Your Boss by Jerry Wisinski and the second book on my list to read is Who Took My Pen Again by Joan Burge and others. I am so thankful for sites like these and professionals who write these books – they are so helpful and so encouraging!

  23. My top three skills:
    Good communication skills; detail oriented; and organized. I need to work on being a good listening. I have been working on that skill and I know that I am becoming a better listening. Great post!

  24. Knowing what the boss needs, being trustworthy and being flexible. We can all always work on learning to listen better!

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