Assistants serve a unique role, and they need to ensure that they are familiar with all aspects of the job. In this regard, Assistants Nation has complied ‘’10 commandments of executive support’’, a sassy, fun yet factual guideline for all aspiring elite assistants.
- Thou shalt know the business
The number one mistake many assistants make is to not get involved in the business side of things. This affects their ability to deliver accurate information, coordinate schedules and keep up with daily tasks. An assistant’s primary role is interpersonal support which includes knowledge of the executive’s schedule, contacts, relationships and industry issues. Unlike two or three decades ago, when an assistant was just a typist or secretary, today, an assistant is more of a strategic business partner and is expected to contribute to the business.
- Thou shalt be an expert communicator
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, assistants are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Assistants must be able to adapt their communication style to ensure they meet the needs of different people (regardless of who they may be). The best assistants are those who can adapt their communication style to work most effectively with each executive, peers and clientele.
- Thou shalt be proficient in business etiquette
Without proper etiquette, assistants can do more damage than good. Assistants must know how to behave in any environment, especially when the boss is present. They should not interrupt conversation unless invited or needed and should avoid political discussions that may offend colleagues or executives. The assistants’ communication style can either enhance or detract from the executive’s image.
- Thou shalt be creative
Assistants need to always think outside the box, as many situations arise that they must resolve without consulting their bosses. Creativity is the key to problem-solving; assistants should be able to think on their feet and come up with innovative ways of implementing ideas or resolving issues.
- Thou shalt not covet thy peer’s job
This is very important; assistants should never compare themselves to or envy other assistants. Variety is the spice of life, and every executive requires something different. Unhealthy rivalry and competition amongst assistants create animosity within the office; assistants must understand their place in the company hierarchy and work towards climbing up, not down.
- Thou shalt love thy work
In today’s business environment, assistants must be more than just order takers. They need to actively contribute, be proactive and suggest innovative ways of improving processes, procedures or services offered. This means assistants must love what they do so they can spend the time necessary to research and implement new ideas while still maintaining their core responsibilities.
- Thou shalt know how to handle difficult personalities
There is no place for assistants with “attitude”. Assistants must ensure they serve all executives professionally and positively. Assistants must never back talk, undermine or disrespect their executives. They should not share work-related information with outsiders and should always remain professional even in difficult circumstances such as when dealing with a demanding executive.
- Thou shalt be well-groomed and presentable at all times
Assistants who look unkempt or shabby can make their executives look bad. The assistants’ appearance should reflect the image of the executive, company and organisation they represent. Assistants must understand that their grooming affects not only how they are perceived but also how their bosses are perceived by others.
- Thou shalt know time management and prioritisation
Many assistants find it challenging to manage their time while maintaining a professional attitude and still deliver on all tasks that need to be executed. Several assistants fail because they lack the skills to effectively manage projects and workflow, prioritise their day and be punctual. Assistants must not only manage their time but also their boss’ schedules when they’re on vacation, away for meetings or leave for conferences.
- Thou shalt have a sense of humour
This final commandment does not mean assistants can joke around at will; assistants must keep their work fun but professional. Assistants should not only charm the executives they support but also their assistants. Assistants can use humour to diffuse tense situations and help them connect with others on a more personal level.
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