How to be An Extraordinary Executive or Personal Assistant

European Day of Languages 2019

Behind every great leader is a great personal assistant. Technologies such as e-mail, voice mail, mobile devices, and online calendars have allowed managers at all levels to operate with a greater degree of self-sufficiency. Combine this with a need for cost efficiency and lower head count, and it becomes more difficult to justify a personal assistant.

Which is why this role has morphed into another new age career – the Executive or Modern Personal Assistant. To justify ROI, an assistant needs to save the executive roughly five hours in a 60-hour workweek. In reality, good assistants save their bosses much more than that. 


“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinary well”

John W. Gardner 

How to Be An Extraordinary 21st Century Assistant

Step 1: Ensure you have the core organizational skills of every great assistant


Providing order



Managing meetings and minutes

It’s your job to make sure you know who, what, when, why the person you are assisting has a clear head for strategy, leadership and decision-making.

Step 2: Develop red-hot chili pepper and cool as a cucumber social intelligence skillls  

Good leaders hate having to ask twice. They want to trust that if something is agreed or requested, then it will happen. 

This where you come in; in your red-hot chili pepper persona, you are there to check minutes have been actioned, requests have been submitted and all is on track as far as boss to direct report communication goes.

In your cool as a cucumber persona, it’s your role to have your ear to the ground, know what’s happening, how employees are feeling. Body language, language cues, tone of email and request – be an expert in reading between the lines and active listening. What is NOT said is often just as important as what is said.

Whether there to chase people for deadlines or be a listening ear for frustrations, get ready to blow hot or cool depending on the situation.

Step 3: Gatekeeper Duties

Learn how to deal with difficult people as part of your gatekeeper duties.  You will need to be assertive but not aggressive, and protect your manager while avoiding a reputation for being impossible to get past. Remember, we want people to approach us and talk to us so we have our ear to the ground! A balancing act of calmness, avoiding sarcasm and actively looking to find a solution with compromise will mean you are an approachable but effective gatekeeper.

Gatekeeper Duties have always been the remit of a good P.A – add to this email and social media management for the 21st Century.   Stopping your boss being bombarded by messages or getting lost down the rabbit hole of emails for the day is your number one priority.

Step 4: In-house Travel Agent

As you are the person who knows the schedule of your boss even better than he does, it stands to reason that organizing travel arrangements comes with the territory. Thankfully, booking travel online is as easy as making (or buying) that perfect cup of tea or coffee

Step 5: Information Expert

As assistant to your manager, you will probably be privy to more confidential information than other person in your boss’s team bar none. Ensuring it stays that way goes without saying. Being up to date on cyber security is also a massive asset.

Step 6: The Food Monster

Often your boss may be to busy in meetings or caught up with deadlines to take time out to eat. You need to be the Food Monster or you will pay the prices with low sugar levels causing bites of a different type! Ensure there are healthy snacks easily available, be prepared to order at the drop of a hat and use bullying techniques to keep hydration and intake levels where they need to be.

Step 7: Greenfingers – Grow As the Business Grows

Be sure you can support the business as well as your boss.

In this day and age, every team member has to contribute to the success of the business and the bottom line. You need to develop broader business skills to remain relevant.

Have extra bows to your arrow, such as interview skills, market research, spreadsheet or basic finance, presentation skills, speech writing. All of these are key competencies that would be a fantastic asset to any level or senior management, and ensure that as the business and your boss grows, so do you. 

As busy as you are bound to be as an Executive Assistant that rocks, keeping up with skills is easy with online, self-paced courses. 

Step 8: Have a Magic Pot of Patience

Whether your boss’s direct reports, customer or even at times your boss him or herself, keep the pot to hand and sip from it daily. You will bear the brunt of all communication to and from your manager and your role is to keep it flowing, and take out any rocks and sticks along the way. 

To conclude, be organized, ethical and at all times, discreet. And make sure you keep adding extra skills – every good Exceutive or Personal Assistant should be indispensable. To the point where we all  know those managers who would if possible prefer their assistant to go on holiday when they do!

Make yourself indispensable – add business skills to your repertoire at cudoo.com


About the author

Sue Brett
By Sue Brett

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