Top 7 Skills Every Topnotch Executive Assistant Should Have
Some people think that administrative assistants and secretaries have easy jobs. After all, they only need to greet guests and answer the phone, right? Wrong.
The truth is, these people serve as the foundation of businesses as they enable other employees to get their jobs done. For this very reason, it is safe to say that behind every successful company is an EA who keeps it organized and focused on what’s important.
This article aims to shed light on the many different roles these professionals take on as well as the top seven skills every effective executive assistant should have.
The Roles of an Executive Assistant
The primary role of an executive secretary is to make the life of a company executive and other employees easier. Also called executive administrative assistants, they perform both organizational and clerical tasks, like:
- Filing and typing documents;
- Routing mail; and
- Scheduling of appointments.
On top of that, they may also shoulder more complex responsibilities, such as:
- Organizing staff schedules;
- Communicating memos and orders on behalf of executives; and
- Keeping contact lists updated, among others.
In some cases, they are also tasked to prepare reports for senior staff, conduct research, and even perform supervisory roles.
What Makes a Good Executive Assistant?
Considering the scope of their job, being a competent executive assistant might be difficult without the necessary knowledge and skills to do it. In fact, if you want to become insanely effective in this supporting-yet-highly-important role, you must make sure that you have the seven most-needed skills, as listed below:
Stellar interpersonal skills is a must for anyone who wants to apply for an executive assistant position.
Keep in mind that secretaries often deal with different people from various levels of the organization. In some cases, they also face partners, business associates, and even competitors.
In order to be effective not only in conveying messages but also in making a good first impression of the company, they must have a pleasing personality. Aside from being friendly and approachable, other interpersonal skills they must have include tact, patience, and the ability to stay composed even under pressure.
Although this can be considered as part of one’s interpersonal skills, communication deserves to be listed as an item on its own because of the gravity of its effect on how an executive assistant performs his job.
An executive assistant with excellent verbal and written communication can do wonders for the company. Aside from ensuring clear communication, having a way with words is also crucial in resolving conflict, leaving a good impression, and conveying difficult messages without inciting unnecessary negative emotions.
Organizational skills and coordination capabilities
When you’re supporting the entire team, your organizational and coordination skills should be on point every single time.
This is why executives want secretaries and administrative assistants who can manage electronic files and keep databases organized. They also want someone who serves as a go-to for information when needed, while acting as a coordinator for projects to make sure everything is done in an efficient and timely manner.
Aside from managing other people’s schedules, time management skills can also become handy in dealing with your own workload. This is why secretaries, who have multiple roles and perform several different tasks at a given time, need to master this skill.
An executive assistant essentially serves everyone in the company, not just the boss. Because of this, it can feel as though his time is stretched across different roles.
To ensure efficient performance in all of his tasks, an executive assistant should plan his tasks precisely every single time. When doing so, the estimated time of completion should always be included to determine whether other items on the to-do list can be accommodated.
While the final decision still lies with the company’s president or CEO, their executive assistants must still be able to help the company achieve its goals through strategic planning.
Strategic planning is essentially knowing how to prioritize tasks according to their importance. It can also cover planning processes that the company will follow to ensure the efficiency of task execution as well as having a contingency plan for any foreseeable changes that may occur.
Attention to detail
Another critical skill that exceptional executive administrative should have is a keen attention to detail. Since they will be handling sensitive communications and planning processes for the company, an executive assistant needs to be detail-oriented.
An A+ secretary should be able to spot potential typos, errors, and inaccuracies in the documents they are handling. They should also be able to consider every detail that may affect the outcome of a process before laying it all out on the staff. Overall, paying close attention to all related information — no matter how small — can help executive assistants avoid making mistakes in the process.
Scientifically speaking, the human brain can only handle one complex task at a time. This is the reason why some people consider multitasking as a myth.
However, executive assistant jobs require a certain degree of multitasking since it encompasses many different roles.
The key is to classify tasks according to their difficulty level and pair simpler ones together. For example, if you’re on the phone but was put on hold, you can do some data entry tasks while waiting for the other person on the line.
Of course, never do more than one task if you have one that requires intense focus lined up. Focus is vital in successfully accomplishing multiple tasks at a time. In fact, you can accomplish more tasks by distributing your attention evenly.
When doing so, you can try the Pomodoro Technique to get through your to-do list to complete everything without tiring yourself out. To start, choose a task you wish to do and set the Pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes. Stay focused on that task until time runs out. Once the timer’s alarm sets off, take a break.
Repeat this cycle with every task you need to do for the day until your shift ends. This way, you get your focus directed on a single task at a time while still accomplishing multiple undertakings. It also gives you more time to get a break to refresh your mind for better quality output.
Hone Your Skills
Everyone has a certain level of proficiency in the skills listed in this article. But to become the best of the best, a good candidate for an executive assistant position needs to hone them. This can be done through enrolling in training courses, researching newer techniques, and seeking out mentors for help.
AUTHOR BIOJerrin Samuel is the Executive Director at Regional Educational Institute (REI) in Abu Dhabi. Since 1995, REI has been at the forefront of education by delivering quality corporate training courses in the UAE, helping many businesses and organizations achieve greater productivity and higher customer satisfaction levels.