Real Careers: Advice for Execs (3)

Throughout April, I’ve been highlighting Real Careers alumni’s insights.  We’ve looked at time management, how and when to say no, and celebrated individuals’ career accomplishments.


We’re again turning the tables, and looking at advice for executives who are new to working with an assistant. Here are some more recommendations from Real Careers alumni.


Menekşe Ahbab, Turkey: Overall, we are business partners to our executives. It is pleasing to see more and more executives starting to realise the importance of this vital position.

Mirella Autard-Catherine, Mauritius: In my opinion, trust, communication and respect are the key words. You have to fully trust your assistant, communicate as much as you can, and show respect even though you are the boss. Feel comfortable talking to each other about professional as well as casual matters. This is what creates the bond between the executive and the assistant.

Nicole Blanchette, Canada:  Be open and honest. Keep the assistant in the loop at all times, and build a professional partnership with the assistant. S/he can be your life line, confidant, advisor, and “go to” person, if treated with respect and confidence.


Jane Brazzill, England:  Get to know your assistant as a person, and not just as an employee – once you find some common ground or interest, your working relationship will run much smoother.

Bethany Fovargue, England:  After working together for a short period of time, try “horns and halos” – what are each other’s strengths and weaknesses? This is insightful as, if I think I am efficient and my boss finds me pedantic, we have a mismatch in expectations and outcomes. Getting a handle on this early will allow you to grow together as a team.

Maria Gottberg, Sweden: Involve your assistant, be open and have confidence.


Catherine Marshall, USA: Open communication is really the key to making any relationship work. As an assistant, I truly value getting clear direction from my supervisor, and knowing what the vision is for what we are accomplishing. Having that communication really helps an assistant learn who the executive is, as well. This makes it less challenging for the assistant to meet and exceed your expectations.

Cindy Moeser, Canada: Take the time to fully immerse your assistant in your business world, as this is key for her/him to be able to fully support you and your goals. Trust is developed over time, and once established, do not be afraid to tell your assistant what is troubling you or what challenges you are facing. You may be surprised by how s/he may be able to help or how supportive s/he can be. Work closely to develop processes and routines that decrease your stress and workload and be very clear on your expectations. It is important to communicate how things are going, and feedback (both positive and constructive) will only help strengthen your partnership.

Lisa Olsen, USA: Take time to get to know her/his strengths; be willing to be inclusive and never underestimate what a good assistant can do. Recognize the value of regular check-ins and always take time to introduce your assistant to others. Be an example to others of how to respect the boss/admin partnership. Recognize the value of professional development and ask about conferences and training.


Helen Rees, England: Have an open door; include your assistant in as much as possible. Develop a healthy respect for each other, and also respect each other’s responsibilities. If you have an assistant, let her/him manage your diary and (if you both agree) your email inbox. Avoid duplication; always let your assistant know when you have responded directly to something that s/he may usually handle for you.

Listen to your assistant; s/he may be your eyes and ears in the organisation. An assistant may bring you information you won’t otherwise learn, or observe things you don’t get to see. Work as closely with your assistant as you can – s/he could be your greatest asset.

Julia Robertson-Avenell, England: Listen, be patient and be honest.

Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito, Brazil: I would recommend that the executive let the assistant be free to do his/her best work with confidence and creativity, and act as a real protagonist of administrative process in organisations. I also would say that the executive assistant is a potential talent at the office and s/he can manage and figure out strategies for the business. It is just a question of opportunity.


Chantal Sneijkers, Belgium: Be open, be transparent, give confidence.

Carla Stefanut, Italy: Communicate with your assistant as much as you can, in order that s/he understands exactly what you want – this will enable your assistant to readily anticipate your needs.

Matthew Want, England: I would say your relationship with your assistant is key, you must build a bond of trust and transparency. Make sure you keep your assistant up to date with training, as this in the long run will save you and your assistant hours of time. Once the relationship is formed and held, the rest in time should easily fall into place.


Teri Wells, South Africa: An assistant is the single most valuable asset to your office. You need to allow the assistant into your world. It will take time while you build the trust and dependence, but it will be worth it. See your assistant as an extension of yourself. If you employ someone with the basic skills required but the right attitude, you can teach her/him anything you need to. Given the opportunity, s/he will improve your life substantially.

Treat your assistant as an invaluable resource, confidant and partner and learn to let go; delegate.

Louise Whitehead, England: Be open, communicate and share. The more you share with us, the more we are able to help you. Build that bond – the closer your professional relationship is with your PA, the more s/he can support you and make your life easier.

Liza Young, Scotland: Two-way communication is of utmost importance – tell us your preferences, keep us informed of what is happening in your business life (and bits of personal life), so we can make the best use of your time.

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