Attributes of a Personal / Executive Assistant

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Leadership > Forum > Attributes of a Personal / Executive Assistant

Attributes of a Personal / Executive Assistant
Toy Radebe, Coach, South Africa, Member
I'm interested to learn from members that serve on either executive committees or boards of global companies: what are the common attributes you look for when planning to employ a Personal Assistant? (not a secretary).
Which 3 are a must and why? Do you personally brief the recruiter or the head of HR? Why?

Requirements for a Personal Assistant
Loh Tean Hin, CxO / Board, Indonesia, Member
I was thinking of PA but got a secretary instead.
Some common attributes to PA are: accounting experience, good social values, superior memory remembering dates of appointment etc, think-out-of box of what the superior misses, report attributes of all staff, works well as a team.

Executive Coordinator
David Wilson, Manager, Canada, Premium Member
You may be looking for an "executive coordinator" or "board secretary" to assist the board in completing work through interaction with the various groups across the company. The position analyzes issues, writes briefing notes, coordinates budget compilation, interprets board policies, coordinates client/customer/employee surveys, develops internal procedures, etc.
The seven competencies required (based on my order of preference) are analytical thinking, relationship building, effective communications, results orientation, process management, service orientation, and conflict management.
The role will also vary based on the size and complexity of the company and board operations.

Personal Assistant to an Executive
Augustus Chuks Valentine, Analyst, Nigeria, Member
I quite agree with the above mentioned requirements for a personal assistant, but I don't think having accounting experience is a compulsion; it could only be necessary. The most important thing is being grounded, to a reasonable extent, on the boss' job, being able to read his mind - know what he wants, when and how he wants it, in order to reduce his (boss') stress load.

Personal Assistant to an Executive
Toy Radebe, Coach, South Africa, Member
Loh, David, Augustus - thank you for your contribution on the matter. I continue to try and learn what makes a world class PA that provides a seamless quality service in different industries. Will share findings soon...

Qualities of a Personal Assistant
robin umiom, Entrepreneur, Nigeria, Member
One basic quality for the personal assistant is to be a step ahead of the CEO in information, in the particular business, and in the business environment. Another is interpersonal relationship as the obvious mouthpiece of the CEO. Unfortunately CEOs are generally more knowledgeable than their PA's and they end up as secretaries and errand boys.

Attributes of a Personal Assistant
Andrew Blaine, Business Consultant, South Africa, Member
My PA must have the following attributes:
1. Tact - to handle both me and the other people with whom I interact on a business level;
2. Discretion - to know when to question and when to accept my decisions;
3. Fortitude - to take appropriate action thereby ensuring that I remain true to my vision and business aim;
4. Understanding - to be able to respond when I wish to stray from the true "path";
5. Integrity - so that I know my PA will always defend their personal position and principles, thereby making them indispensable to my organisation; and
6. Sense of Humour - so that we share our triumphs and failures with equal aplomb.

The Importance of a Personal Assistant
Olayemi Jayeola, Manager, Nigeria, Member
I believe the position of a personal assistant to a Chief Executive Officer of any organization is highly important and should be treated as such. In most cases it is not, and the personal assistants are paid poorly for their services.
I think the personal assistant to a chief executive is likely to have a clearer view and understanding of the vision, goals and mission of the chief executive more than the Chief Financial Officer of the company.
A personal assistant could sabotage the growth of an organization if he or she feels maltreated and decides to be disloyal. What do you think?

The Personal Assistant: the CEO's Sharp Pencil
Tom Wilson, HR Consultant, United States, Premium Member
The operative phrase of business is "busy" and, in the case of the CEO of any dynamic organization, that includes operational supervision over a multitude of vital agendas, including the management of his own office and the institutional memory of his/her organization.
As they say, a sharp pencil is better than an long memory and, in the executive office, the personal assistant is that sharp pencil.
Very often these people are grossly underpaid because the work they do is work their boss doesn't like and/or doesn't want to do, so its importance is classified with window washing and janitorial functions. When, in fact, it is the functional equivalent of the Librarian of the Library of Congress for that organization whose rational function, in the short term, and legal and strategic importance must survive successive generations of executive leadership.
The executive assistant is a bit like the manager who is content to leave the vision to the boss.

4 Behaviors of Executive Assistants
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Executive Assistants (EAs) have a key role to protect their very busy CEO / CXO from distractions and unnecessary activities. Their main role is to ensure the time of the person they assist is used well.
This does not mean they should aim to always have a full agenda. It does mean that they have to be proficient in time management and in particular at saying no to various people asking for a meeting while on the other hand ensuring that their boss remains available for the things that truly matter. Porter and Nohria found 4 key behaviors of great EAs:
1. Understand the leader's agenda and priorities.
2. Include all relevant players at meetings to allow the CXO to delegate quickly.
3. Recognize the value of spontaneity, always leaving some room for the CXO to walk the hallways, have some informal interactions, and reacting to unanticipated events without having to constantly reschedule appointments.
4. Zealously protect personal (exercise, recharge, reflect) and family / friends time.
Source: Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria, "How CEOs Manage Time", HBR Jul-Aug 2018 12-9-2019


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