Confessions of an Executive Assistant

Afew days ago I was honored to have some great conversation over lunch with three women whom I respect very much: Linda Eggers, who is the executive assistant for author and speaker John Maxwell; Cina Gailey who assists Bob Funk, co-founder of Express Employment Professionals; and Diane Brown whom I’m honored to have as my executive assistant.

I wish I could have given these ladies microphones and a stage so people could learn the inside scoop about how to serve their leaders. I loved hearing their stories and insights into how they lead, so I wanted to share a few of our discussion topics and what I learned from our time together.

Leading Up

While their nature is to respectfully serve, each one of these leaders have learned to lead their boss very well. I say “boss” lightly because we all know who’s really the boss! Sometimes they lead humbly and quietly in the background, and sometimes they lead by approaching their boss with alternate ideas or insight.

Leadership Take Away: Executives (or anyone with an administrative assistant for that matter) should always be open to additional insight. Administrative assistants can offer a new perspective. It’s the leader’s responsibility to be available and approachable so they feel comfortable leading up. I know I don’t always have to agree with Diane’s opinion, but I’d be a fool not to hear her out. This is how we both learn.

Communication Needs

Communication is the most common challenge companies face, and it’s also a big frustration to teammates when things aren’t communicated. The same is true for these three executive assistants. Communication is crucial to them being able to be more efficient as they serve.

Leadership Take Away: Never assume your assistant doesn’t need to know something. When you allow your assistant to be “in” on everything from what your vision is to what you’ve agreed to do for a teammate, you enable him or her to coordinate and maneuver around a potential train wreck that you don’t see approaching.

Dealing with Change

We laughed about this topic because every one of their leaders was guilty of making last minute changes. What I loved to see was the attitude they have in dealing with change. They don’t really mind it. They accept it. They have adapted to their leader’s tendencies, so change isn’t a problem; it’s just part of the fun in serving. It was so neat to hear Linda Eggers say, “I don’t mind dealing with all the change that caring for John demands because he shows his appreciation for my extra work in adjusting. He cares, acknowledges, and apologizes for last minute changes. This makes me want to serve him all the more.” That’s POWERFUL!

Leadership Take Away: When you make last minute changes that may rock you assistant’s world, make sure to show your appreciation and understand that you’ve created additional work for this person outside of his or her already busy schedule. This idea seems so simple, but I know most of us can improve in this area.

It was really rewarding for me to learn from these three leaders, which brings me to some questions and a challenge for you. Who do you learn from? Do you intentionally learn from those who work for you or report to you? You may be the boss, but the insight of those who work in your wake can be very enlightening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Connie says:

    As an Executive Assistant I wish this article would be incorporated into all Leadership Training and meetings. I think this provides exceptional insight that leaders sometimes seem to miss and forget.

    I will be posting this article in my cubicle at work to Remind me that true leading edge leaders do want our honest, feedback.

    It seems even with having an MBA I was drawn back into the realm of supporting executives on all levels because I love the ongoing change and being able to make an impact.

    Again thank you for an amazing article.

    • Linda Sasser says:

      Connie thanks for your comments! This is one of my favorite topics to discuss because I feel it’s over looked by so many. Sometimes as leaders, we are in such a rush we forget to express to those around us that they are a huge part of why the leader is successful… our assistant deserves much of that credit.

      I love your passion to serve. What an incredible asset you must be to those that get to benefit from your talent.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to this conversation.

  • Jennifer says:

    I enjoyed this read Linda! I learn from my staff all the time and also my daughters.

  • Doris Breslin says:

    I truly believe that assistants need to be in on all ideas( spoken or mumbled)— many
    so called “potential train wrecks” have been avoided because of the open communication
    between the ‘boss’ and the the assistants . Its amazing how a smile and an honest “thank you” can make an assistant want to work even harder.

  • Lindsey says:

    You know how they say you can judge a potential boyfriend/girlfriend on how they treat a waiter? I think the same could be said of how a leader treats their assistant. Are they willing to treat them like a partner? Bring them into conversations and value their opinion? Or do they treat them like a slave who is only good for fetching coffee and typing notes? I think that speaks volumes about what type of leader they are, and if I would want to work for them or not.

  • Annie says:

    Thank you for pointing out the value that administrative assistants bring to the table. I think so many people view this type of position as very menial, when in fact this type of position often plays an important role in the leader’s success.