How Do Exceptional Assistants Become That Way?

Even the most accomplished assistants will tell you that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing

Think, for just a few seconds, of two or three of the best assistants you know. What is it you admire and respect about such people?

Is it a sense of calm professionalism amidst a storm, consistent application of good judgement, or ability to shift gears and adroitly maneuver even the most delicate of situations?

anticipation, communications, creativity, discretion, flexibility, initiative

Perhaps these assistants demonstrate grace and integrity under pressure, capacity to speak truth to power, or commitment to the team and the greater good of the organisation.

Do these assistants seem to somehow always be a step ahead of most of the crowd, having anticipated what’s needed and then acted upon such insights before others are even aware of such needs? They may be thoughtful, or generous with their knowledge? Are such people  particularly literate technologically, or do you admire their capacity to say “no” as appropriate?

integrity, judgement, loyalty, organisation

While it may appear that some counterparts were simply born this way, and you either have integrity or you don’t, many characteristics or competencies can be developed through time and effort. Even a backbone may be strengthened, and the best executives value an assistant who will diplomatically speak truth to power. So, how to develop or enhance those attributes you admire in the best around you?

professionalism, teamwork, technological literacy, time management, work ethic

Earlier today, reading the thoughts of Maryellen Weimer, PhD on characteristics of good learners, it occurred to me that such characteristics could be applied to assistants. While I’ll come back, in the weeks ahead, to competencies honed by the best assistants, you may be interested in a look at Weimer’s Seven Characteristics of Good Learners.  This is a quick read, and those who know this writer may be unsurprised to learn that I found particular resonance in the sixth characteristic.

You may also be interested in …

Public Speaking: Painting to the Ear (

Journaling As Career Development (

Ready to Begin Journaling? Here’s a Template (

Introvert, Extrovert or … Ambivert? Know Yourself, and Those Around You (

7 Comments on “How Do Exceptional Assistants Become That Way?

  1. I look forward to reading of ways to develop those skills so crucial to our role. I am (unfortunately) one of those who believes that those exceptional PAs were just born that way! But half the battle is in believing you have the capacity to learn. Thanks for a great article and I’ll keep an eye open for your new posts!

    • Saba,

      Thanks for taking the time to write and for your kind words; my pleasure.

      Agreed; I believe that making a conscious decision as to how we frame or view challenges (as well as opportunities) is half the trick!

      Thanks for reading, and watch for more. – Shelagh

  2. Pingback: Becoming Exceptional: Establishing Vision and Direction | Exceptional EA

  3. Pingback: Becoming Exceptional: Speaking Truth to Power | Exceptional EA

  4. Pingback: Becoming Exceptional: Commitment to the Greater Good | Exceptional EA

  5. Pingback: How to Empower Others | Exceptional EA

  6. Pingback: Speaking Truth to Power: Exceptional EA Encore | Exceptional EA

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: