and here’s what we learned
TOPIC: You’re Interviewing Your Next Executive Assistant…
More and more we hear our Clients talk about wanting a strategic EA. What does being a strategic partner mean to you?
“Being a strategic partner means filling in the gaps your Executive didn’t even know existed. It means looking at the organization at large and having the courage to speak up in a profession where you’re supposed to be invisible... but that’s the old world! When you do something, how does it help change the bigger picture? Are you creating static solutions or are you operating for scale? That’s what a strategic partner is to me.” - Annie, Postmates
Being strategic means exhibiting “proactive versus reactive behavior. Are you just doing what’s asked of you? Are you just thinking transactionally and checking boxes off your list, or are you thinking ahead and being proactive? For instance, what does my Executive’s whole week look like? What does their month look like? Who do they need to be checking in with? It’s about owning your role and having the managerial courage to make decisions on your own.” - Beth, First Republic Bank
Taking a different spin on the question, Alex Silverman of Founders Fund made the important observation that “some [EA] roles are strategic, some are not. Not every administrative role we have at Founders Fund is necessarily strategic.” She went on to say that whether a role is strategic or not in no way negates the value that person brings to the table. Being “strategic” is not the only barometer for measuring value in a support relationship.
You’re interviewing your next EA. What’s most important to you?
“I want to see the raw, authentic and unrehearsed YOU.” - Alex, Founders Fund
“Writing. Granted, hiring a former journalist [to be my EA] was the ultimate cheat.” - Eric, Mapbox
TOPIC: You’ve Hired Your EA. Now What?
What’s impressive to you about how an EA onboards and gets up to speed in a relationship?
Knowing how to “navigate or manage something yourself, and then when to ask for help (and who to ask for help from). This is a situational awareness type of skill... high EQ. Being able to decipher what you can execute right off the bat and what you need more information for.” - Alex, Founders Fund
“I don’t analyze by 30-day, 60-day or 90-day... I actually don’t care about that at all. I care about how a new EA engages with their immediate team. It’s important that before you reach out to me, you have the courage and initiative to get some context outside of me. Ask a co-worker to grab a cup of coffee and get the download for how things run and how they can be better. This sideways context is HUGE. When I see someone take the initiative to learn from their team as opposed to sitting back and waiting for me to give them context... my heart sings!” - Annie, Postmates
What are the daily practices that you and your EA have established that allow for a successful partnership?
“If you get specific enough, it’s impossible to not be aligned. One of our tricks is Dropbox Paper. You look at it and it’s like, what do I owe you, what do I owe other people? If I’m going to push one thing at any point during the day, it’s this paper. The cool part is, you can edit it all. I can highlight it, ask questions, delete stuff throughout the day. It’s a constant context piece we can pull up which radically reduces my need to ping others throughout the day because I know what I need to do [….] it’s all right there. It allows me to change context so much faster and that allows me to stack a lot. It also allows me to contribute – it really is a two-way conversation. Dropbox Paper is magical for many reasons.” - Eric, Mapbox
“Never discount the power of a collaborative document. I created a dashboard that serves as a foundation for everyone coming in. It gives them context and resources immediately at a glance. I created this because at the time, I was solo, and I was afraid that if I got hit by a bus the entire leadership team would fail because they were leaning on me and I’m a single point of failure. [It] gives someone the ability to gain the context.” - Annie, Postmates