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In 2024, as CEOs navigate a changing workplace landscape, many are missing an opportunity to empower their executive assistants as strategic supporters.

The corporate world is witnessing a paradigm shift in how leaders and their executive assistants interact and operate. The role of executive assistant has evolved far beyond traditional administrative tasks; they can now be pivotal in driving strategic initiatives and fostering a culture of efficiency and innovation.

However, a recent global report by the World Administrators Alliance found that 58 percent of administrators and assistants feel under-utilized, and 73 percent believe their organizations do not capitalize on their full potential.

The Role of Executive Assistant

Executive assistants in 2024 are not just managing calendars and emails; they’ve got the potential to be strategic partners who contribute significantly to decision-making processes.

Their role can include managing complex projects, driving change initiatives and serving as a liaison between the executive and other stakeholders. For executive assistants to fully embrace their roles in this shifting landscape, CEOs and business leaders may need to change their mindsets to recognize and harness their diverse skills.

The key is for organizations to empower both leaders and their assistants, so they can both do their best possible work.

In many cases, there’s a disconnect between how CEOs and leaders understand the role of their assistants and how assistants understand the potential for development and progression within organizations. Many executive assistants are hungry to learn and eager for growth. Others aren’t aware of what might be available to them beyond their traditional transactional responsibilities.

The key is for organizations to empower both leaders and their assistants, so they can both do their best possible work.

Getting the most out of your assistant isn’t just about giving them more to do. Many assistants feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, as they juggle work requests without understanding the ‘how and why’ behind the ‘what’ on their to-do list.

In my role mentoring and coaching executive assistants, I see many struggling with the weight of the tasks they’ve been assigned, but not understanding how they could work smarter in getting tasks done. For example, have you encouraged your assistant to communicate when they are at capacity, or empowered them to delegate so they can increase their capacity?

Creating a Partnership

The relationship between you as CEO and your executive assistant is unique and can significantly impact the overall success of the organization. Think about building a strong trust-based relationship with your assistant, with regular open communication, which will empower them with the knowledge to help you achieve your vision.

In practice, it’s like splitting your role into two parts. Your executive assistant can take on the parts of your job function that are tactical, so you can focus on the big picture vision for the business.

Access will mean your assistant can be across key issues, will better understand your decision-making process and even preempt follow-up actions.

Get them on board with this vision by sharing it. Clearly communicate to them where your business is heading in 2024 (and beyond) and how you plan to get there. Invite them to meetings with your board, your executive team and your key customers – and not necessarily as a minute taker, but as your trusted partner in business.

This access will mean your assistant can be across key issues, will better understand your decision-making process and even preempt follow-up actions. Such a relationship allows them to elevate how they support you, rather than waiting to be drip-fed information and tasks.

Leverage Your Assistant’s Capabilities

Here are three considerations for making the most of your executive assistant in 2024:

Communication: Establish a robust communication channel, and include regular briefings so they are fully aligned with your vision and priorities and in a position to become more proactive than reactive. This might be as simple as a daily check-in via a shared dynamic to-do list, an email or a chat on the phone to ensure you’re both clear on the top priorities for that day. Ideally, I would suggest speaking multiple times a day for 10–15 minute bursts, rather than relying on just a standard weekly catch-up, if you want to make the most of the partnership. Business moves quickly, and you need your assistant to have full visibility as priorities change and opportunities arise.

Leverage technology: Encourage your assistant to experiment with and champion cutting-edge technologies that can streamline processes and improve efficiency. Their unique position allows them to identify and implement tools that can benefit the entire team, and there are endless software options that can free them up from tactical tasks, meaning more time to support you with strategic work.

Professional development: Invest in continuous learning and development opportunities for editorial assistants. This investment could include informal on-the-job training or more formalized options such as coaching and mentoring, management and leadership training programs or industry-specific education. These will not only enhances their skill set but also increases their value to the organization. Alongside this, it’s important to provide your assistant with opportunities to embed the theories they’ve learned through practical implementation in the workplace. Speak to your HR team so that they can educate you and your assistant on the available options, which will help them create a tailored development plan.

Space to Grow

If your assistant is so overwhelmed by their task list that they have no time for big thinking or on-the-job learning, you’re missing out on their potential for growth.

Building time into their calendar for learning and ideation means your executive assistant will have the space to think about ways they could be more strategic, or even get involved in projects they could add immense value to.

The 20 percent concept (made famous by Google) could be applied here. Could you free up 20 percent of your assistant’s time, if it means they can be more strategic and productive as a result?

When Talent Goes to Waste

Under-utilizing your assistant not only hinders their potential for growth, it also impacts the effectiveness of you and your organization.

An executive assistant who’s not fully engaged, challenged or given opportunities to grow will potentially look elsewhere for their next move, meaning you lose one of your most knowledgeable and well-connected people.

Under-utilizing your assistant not only hinders their potential for growth, it also impacts the effectiveness of you and your organization.

Ideally, you want to keep their talent within the organization, so that if they’re ready to progress, they can do so in your business, and also be in a position to help with succession planning for their role. If you make clear to your executive assistant just how much you value their contribution and your willingness to support their continued career growth, they’re more likely to make themselves available for training and transition support for their replacement.

The Future of Assistants

As we step into 2024, it’s crucial for CEOs and business leaders to recognize the evolving landscape of executive assistants.

By fully leveraging the capabilities of your assistant, you’ll not only enhance your effectiveness but also drive greater innovation and agility within your organization. The future of successful leadership lies in the dynamic and strategic partnership between a leader and their executive assistant. Are you ready for it?

Ruth Kilah

Contributor Collective Member

Ruth Kilah is an international executive coach and mentor and the Founder of Hoxton Hyde, a one-to-one and group program provider for experienced and ambitious executive assistants. A former senior-level executive assistant working for major organizations and C-suite executives in Australia and the United Kingdom, she now works with assistants to help them achieve continuous career fulfillment through intentional development and progression. As a recognized member of the World Administrators Alliance, Ruth is a speaker and thought leader in the professional administration space, regularly sought out for her progressive and insightful views about the future of the administration industry. Find out more at https://hoxtonhyde.com.au/

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