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.

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.


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6 thoughts on “The Assistant as a “Center of Influence””

  1. I am truly blessed to have a strategic partnership with my executive. That being said, I am not only an executive assistant, but also the Director of Office Operations. I know how to manage up, if you will; my downfall is building that strategic partnership with my own assistant. Thank you that I can continue to grow and learn through these articles.

  2. I am leaving my job as executive administrative assistant because of this exact reason! I was left ‘high and dry’ and only saw him or communicated with him like once a week! Quite a few embarrassing moments. He asked that I be moved to another department when he started with the company about 9 months ago?

    1. Why would he ask that you be moved when you are there to assist him? I hope that you find a place that you feel wanted and a part of a team.

    2. Sounds like he came into the job not wanting to give you a chance and perhaps wanting to bring someone he previously worked with on board. It seems he did not even give you a chance. Better off without him. He seems rather unreasonable and not able to adapt to change. Pretty sad for someone at his level. You will find the right fit and be better off without him.

  3. I wish my executive would comprehend this, although it would not make much difference! She is the worst for not keeping me in the loop. Can’t count the number of times I have felt like an idiot when someone comes up and starts talking to me about something that I should know but haven’t been told about. She is retiring the end of the month, but has totally ruined this job for me, so I am hoping to move on as well.

    The first manager I had when I started working with this company was the total opposite, I always knew what was going on, he was happy to have me take things off his plate. Sure makes the job a lot easier – for both of us!

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