When you are a busy CEO or senior executive, the pressure is always on. That’s why you’ve got an executive assistant. They manage your schedule, provide administrative support and ensure your day runs smoothly. But are you using them to their best ability?
When you’re used to doing it all yourself, it can be challenging to trust your EA with important tasks.
I’ve been an EA myself, and worked with EAs for decades. So, I have seen first-hand the amazing results that are possible when leaders encourage their EAs to step up and take more responsibility. Instead of a boss/subordinate relationship, it becomes more of a partnership, with the EA acting as 2IC across several areas of responsibility. In turn, you find that the pressure eased. The old saying, “a problem shared is a problem halved” is certainly true in this case.
Firstly, you need to speak with your EA outside of the daily check-ins to see how interested they are in stepping up. It’s likely they have skills you aren’t utilising or ideas on how things can be improved. Schedule a monthly ‘big picture’ catch up with your EA. During this session, you can set goals together and prioritise ways you can improve your working relationship.
A generous training and development budget for your EA is worth every cent of the investment. Not only does it foster loyalty in your EA, it ensures their skills are up to date. Technology is changing rapidly, so your EA needs to be abreast of the latest trends in diary management, project management, productivity and more. Furthermore, invest in the online tools they need to be as efficient as possible. Using automation frees up time for your EA to move to more strategic support responsibilities.
Slowly is the key. You’ll know what’s appropriate. By setting your EA a challenge (that they’re enthusiastic about), you can gradually increase their responsibilities. Be careful not to give your EA too much pressure. You may need to reduce administrative tasks with online tools or using a part-time entry-level support staff. (This is also a good way to introduce your EA to directly managing a staff member.)
Often, the EA is not sure about their capacity to take on more senior responsibilities. Confidence takes time to build. By giving smaller challenges, guiding the EA through the process and providing constructive feedback, the gradual process of building confidence can deliver great rewards for both parties. Embrace regular habits to build confidence in your EA, such as:
Show your EA plenty of encouragement. Emails or words of thanks and praise cost you nothing besides a moment to write or say. But the sentiment will be appreciated. Pay attention to your EA’s life and how they are motivated. Some might like more time off or more investment in training and upskilling. Simple praise or gifts don’t go astray either!
Some CEOs are reluctant to invest in their EAs, because they’ll be at greater risk if the EA decides to depart. I argue that the opposite is also equally true! If an EA is not challenged, appreciated and given the chance to step up, they are at greater risk of resigning. If you invest in your EA and give them more, you’re likely to secure more loyalty, rather than less. People leave from time to time, and that’s true of all your staff. By accepting that possibility and investing in your EA, you’re likely to create a better working relationship for both of you.