assistant and executive partnership

The Assistant as a “Center of Influence”


I created the above visual as an image of the ideal situation between an executive and their assistant, especially when it comes to communication. Because of all the technology today, assistants have a very hard time staying “in the loop.” When an assistant is aware of what is going on or what is on the horizon, she or he can better anticipate, be proactive, plan better, foresee barriers, look more professional, and reduce stress. I know this from being an executive assistant for 20 years before starting Office Dynamics.

Some executives resist this concept for a few common reasons. Executives are independent. They certainly can manage many of these items on their own, but should they? Is that where their attention rightly belongs? In some cases, they add confusion and overlap by being involved in things their assistants should be managing. They can even create embarrassment when it becomes clear to others that they aren’t on the same page.

By allowing everything to flow through you, your executive can use you as a buffer or filter—a conduit for collecting information, processing it, and sending it back out in the appropriate fashion. It frees your executive to focus attention where it is needed. It allows you, the assistant, to truly be involved in all aspects of your executive’s business, giving you a more holistic point-of-view. Over time, you develop the ability to anticipate needs and truly act as an “alter ego” for your executive.

Being the Center of Influence requires a deep level of continual communication from and to both parties. Your executive must freely and promptly share information. You must clearly and accurately do the same.

This concept creates deep interdependence between the two parties.

The benefits of being the Center of Influence for the assistant:

As an assistant, being the Center of Influence can have numerous benefits for your professional growth and development. By being involved in all aspects of your executive’s business and proactively anticipating their needs, you can take on more responsibilities and demonstrate your value as an asset to the team. Additionally, being the Center of Influence can allow you to develop a deeper understanding of the company and its goals, giving you a more holistic view of the business. This can be especially beneficial if you are looking to advance in your career or take on more leadership roles. Overall, being the Center of Influence can help you become a more integral and essential part of your executive’s team, and can lead to increased job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Tips for implementing the concept of the Assistant as a “Center of Influence”:

  1. Communicate openly and regularly with your executive: It’s important to establish regular communication with your executive in order to stay informed about their priorities and needs. Consider setting up regular check-ins to discuss upcoming projects and any changes in the pipeline.
  2. Be proactive and anticipate needs: As the Center of Influence, it’s your job to anticipate your executive’s needs and take action to address them before they become problems. This can involve things like researching solutions to potential roadblocks, coordinating with other team members, or making sure all necessary materials are in place for upcoming meetings or projects.
  3. Streamline communication and information-sharing: To be an effective Center of Influence, it’s important to have efficient systems in place for sharing information and communicating with your executive. This can involve things like setting up shared calendars and document folders, or using project management tools to keep track of tasks and deadlines.
  4. Develop strong organizational skills: As the Center of Influence, it’s important to be organized and on top of your executive’s schedule and tasks. Consider using tools like to-do lists, task management apps, or personal productivity techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to stay on top of your workload.
  5. Seek feedback and be open to improvement: As with any new role or responsibility, it’s important to seek feedback and be open to improvement. Regularly check in with your executive to see how you’re doing and ask for their thoughts on your performance. This can help you identify areas for growth and ensure that you are meeting their needs and expectations.

Example of how the concept of the Assistant as a “Center of Influence” has been successfully implemented by an executive assistant:

As the executive assistant to the CEO of a large technology company, Sarah was always looking for ways to streamline communication and improve efficiency. When she learned about the concept of the Assistant as a “Center of Influence,” she was intrigued and decided to try it out with her boss. She began by setting up regular check-ins to discuss upcoming projects and priorities, and made sure to always be proactive and anticipate his needs. She also streamlined their communication by setting up shared calendars and document folders and using project management tools to keep track of tasks and deadlines.

Over time, Sarah’s boss came to rely on her as a crucial member of his team and a valuable source of information and support. He appreciated her proactive approach and her ability to anticipate his needs, and it freed him up to focus on more high-level tasks and strategic planning. Sarah, in turn, felt more fulfilled and engaged in her work, knowing that she was truly making a difference for her boss and the company.

Potential challenges or pitfalls to be aware of when implementing the concept of the Assistant as a “Center of Influence”:

  1. Resistance from the executive: Some executives may be resistant to the idea of their assistant taking on a more proactive and influential role. They may be used to managing tasks and information on their own, or they may be hesitant to share information with their assistant. It’s important to approach this concept with sensitivity and to be open to your executive’s concerns or reservations. You may need to reassure them that you are not trying to take over their role, but rather to help them be more productive and focused.
  2. Communication breakdowns: Effective communication is crucial for the concept of the Assistant as a “Center of Influence” to work. If information is not flowing freely or if there are misunderstandings, it can lead to confusion and frustration for both parties. It’s important to be clear and concise in your communication and to actively seek out information from your executive if needed.
  3. Overload: As the Center of Influence, you may find that you are taking on more responsibilities and tasks than you did before. This can lead to feelings of overload or burnout if you don’t manage your workload effectively. It’s important to set clear boundaries and prioritize your tasks to ensure that you are not taking on more than you can handle.
  4. Role confusion: It’s also important to be clear on the roles and responsibilities of both parties in order to avoid any confusion or overlap. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what is expected of you and what tasks are within your purview.

By being aware of these potential challenges and pitfalls, you can take steps to mitigate them and ensure that the concept of the Assistant as a “Center of Influence” is successful for both you and your executive.

One of our VIP trainers, Julie Reed, for our World Class Assistant™ designation and certification course adds:

  • Do you have the right tools and are you using them effectively?  (i.e., email, calendar, phone lines on your desk)
  • Develop a healthy curiosity.  Make time to investigate. If your executive is not bringing you into the conversation, then insert yourself. Do not be afraid to ask questions.
  • Have an active mind – be observant, alert and engaged.

I highly encourage you to discuss this visual with your executive. At first, they might be resistant so ask them to try disseminating information to you for three weeks and see what happens. If you can get your executive to stay with this process for three weeks, I believe you both will see the benefit.

The concept of the Assistant as a “Center of Influence” can greatly benefit both executives and their assistants by increasing productivity, reducing stress, and improving communication. By allowing information to flow freely and proactively anticipating needs, assistants can become an invaluable asset to their executives and truly make a difference in their work. We encourage all executive assistants to consider implementing this concept in their daily work and to discuss it with their bosses. With a little effort and patience, the results can be truly transformative.


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