Take Your Seat … At The Executive Table

<Guest Post by Debbie Gross>

Take Your Seat…At the Executive Table
Administrative Professionals leading in the 21st-century

Business today is changing so rapidly that it is hard to keep up or keep track! With new technologies (apps, devices, office environments) and globalization, restructuring, downsizing and flattening of top heavy organizations, as administrative professionals, if we are not careful, we could literally get run-over!

It’s time to reinvent ourselves and the roles we play.

I feel strongly that the administrative profession must evolve to continue to be seen as relevant to our organizations in this changing business environment. In a profession that is challenging for even the best of them, to be valued, recognized and indispensable to the organizations we support and to the companies we work for, we have to show our worth. When we walk in to the conference room, there should be a seat reserved for us at the executive table!

It is an exciting time and an opportunity for us to grab hold and embrace the strategies that will elevate our profession.


I would like to share with you what I think will be some of those key strategies we will need to have to be a 21st Century Administrative Professional. It is a unique role that only we can play, and requires bold moves.

To gain a seat we will want to embrace qualities like critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation. We will need to be entrepreneurs, risk takers, more importantly results driven.

What are the new skills admired and soon to be required of administrative professionals:

  1. Digital Savvy: learning semi-tech and self-publishing skills
  2. Data Analysis: learning how to collect, analyze and synthesizing information to create solutions
  3. Virtual Engagement: learning how to be an effective virtual partner
  4. Leadership: stepping up and out of comfort zones
  5. Critical Thinking: using information to innovate and create win/wins
  6. Collaboration: going global
  7. Communication: embracing and encouraging change
  8. Adaptability and Resiliency: constantly reinventing ourselves
  9. Innovation: harnessing creativity
  10. Global Citizenship: identifying ourselves as part of a global community
  11. Entrepreneurship: running with new ideas

Some of us are doing these things already. Are You?

If not, are you making plans to develop yourself in some of these areas? This might involve making yourself visible or mentoring with others who are already subject matter experts. It could mean that you gain the experience by asking for a project that takes you out of your comfort zone. Maybe there are training programs or webinars that can give you the educational edge?

What a wonderful opportunity we have ahead of us! Just imagine the new fundamental growth opportunities we can embrace as students of the future!

The administrative professional should be considered one of a company’s most valued assets.

In the 21st Century let us change the view others have of our roles and the perception of the Administrative Profession – let’s gain our seat at the executive table and be welcomed there!

Debbie Gross, CEA, has over 20 years of experience in the administrative field. She joined Cisco Systems in March, 1991 as the executive assistant to John Chambers, then Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations. As the company has grown from $1.2 billion in annual revenues to $46 billion, her responsibilities have grown together with Chambers’. In 1995, when Chambers became President and CEO, Debbie Gross assumed the lead role leading Cisco’s broad 1000+- person administrative team. Learn more about Debbie Gross.

See Debbie at The Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence this October. Learn more at The Resilient Assistant.


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13 thoughts on “Take Your Seat … At The Executive Table”

  1. Debbie, thanks so much for your great insights. You are a true role model. There is indeed a place at the executive table for the mature, intelligent and curious EA, who shows a keen interest in the company’s business, the evolution in its industry and the world at large. She is willing to acquire new skills and will ask for it. Most EAs supporting the C-Suite have influencing skills, often acquired on-the-job throughout the years or simply because it is in their nature. I hope that top executives in Europe will follow John Chambers’ example and invite senior EAs to leadership development programs for managers. I applaud Victoria Rabin’s initiative ‘Behind Every Leader’, aimed at EAs to keep on developing themselves, focusing on the challenges they are facing while supporting very smart and highly stressed business leaders. I look forward to the launch in Europe in the near future. OfficePal’s free webinars on You Tube, featuring your training sessions aimed at Cisco’s support staff, are valuable resources for anyone seeking inspiration to set up support staff training. Star Achievement Administrative Programs, developed by Joan Burge of Office Dynamics, can for sure also be implemented outside of the US. Europe was hit hard by the on-going recessions, leaving companies with little to no room whatsoever to fund its administrative staff’s continous learning efforts. If we don’t keep on re-inventing ourselves, we will sign our own death warrants. I feel as strongly as you do.

  2. Sandy Middleton

    Thank you Debbie! Fantastic reminders as always. I truly miss working with you and the ALF team. I’m looking forward to seeing you, catching up and hearing more inspiring messages from you in October!

  3. Debbie Bridge, CAP-OM, MOS

    Like this article. All of them so far have been great. I love seeing all these tips and suggestions.

  4. Victoria Prestia

    Excellent article. Office professionals today need to continue their education by attending conferences, webinars are seminars. Also belong to a professional organization and volunteer at work and community.

  5. Data Analysis is new for me in my current position but it has helped me to develop some measurable learning & service outcomes for our support staff. I think this is something that is going to be growing in importance for Admins. Thank you for putting it in your list

  6. I do agree that the administrative assistant has come a long way to be seen as part of the team. I think knowing who the group is that you would be working with needs to be taken into consideration. There are still some who see the administrative assistant as a ‘secretary.’ I would not suggest all of a sudden you start speaking up in meetings but speak alone to the chair or your supervisor to see if it is appropriate for you to comment or share your knowledge and/or experience. Being tactful is highly suggested at the start. Also you need to be respected and your voice needs to be respected by those around you. You also need to be careful what you say does not reflect that it is your boss’s opinion/statement (unless directed to do so); your position in the company or organization could be seen as you are speaking on behalf of that person.

  7. Thank you for sharing, I agree, we must grow with the company, changing world, etc., if we are to remain valuable and not just that. I think we should also keep growing for ourselves. To do this for ourselves, that we remain sharp and keep up, because of the rapid changes, we just don’t know what is going to happen anymore in this fragile world as it is. We need to remain in the know. Ignorance is not bliss. Happy Administrative Professional’s Day to Everyone!!!

  8. I’m doing some of the things on her list; and need to actively start doing the others. As I become more acclimated in my new position I’m seeing a number of possibilities where I can make a huge difference; not only for my boss but just as importantly for the other administrative support staff not just here at the agency headquarters building; but at all the program sites.

  9. Gail Wright, CAP-OM

    I agree with continuing our education so we are well rounded and have the knowledge to assist our supervisors with a variety of tasks. Things are changing every day for us with all the new software and procedures we must know.
    Gail Wright, CAP-OM

  10. My boss encourages learning and accepts new ideas. She helps expand y critical thinking and communication. It is great having an excecutive that supports you.

  11. I’m seeing this more and more – EAs being invited to sit at the table and it’s such an AHA moment for me! I see it as executives & managers realizing how much we can assist them in their roles. They are becoming more aware of how much value we bring into our roles as assistants.

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