Executive Assistants: How to Anticipate Your Executive's Needs

November 29, 2021


As an executive assistant, you need to have a sharp skill set and work well under pressure. Your proverbial bag of tricks needs to include soft skills like strong communication, discretion, prioritization, and problem-solving strategies as well as hard skills like meticulous calendar management and a strong computer application know-how.

While a long-standing business relationship with your executive helps you to anticipate his or her needs more quickly and intuitively, there is always a learning curve when working in a high-functioning and often fast-paced supportive role of an executive administrator.

Below we will outline some helpful strategies and practices you can employ to help you establish a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with the executive you support.

Managing Expectations

One of the most important things you can do to start this relationship off on the right foot is to have a conversation about what each of your expectations are. Even if you’ve been working with your executive for a while, it’s also a good idea to have a refresher check-in to see if any adjustments need to be made.

As an executive assistant, you can only excel at your job if you are clear on what that job is, especially since that role and scope of work can vary greatly from one position to the next. Some executives might use their assistant for heavy administrative work while others might need them to handle personal matters, too. Clear guidelines need to be drawn. Many times, relationships break down because a lot of things are assumed or implied. Ask your executive to sit down with you and outline what their expectations are so you can establish some parameters. It’s also important that you share any expectations you have with your executive as well, keeping the lines of communication open.

The Devil Is In the Details

Often, execs are big-picture people. They are intelligent and driven but can be hyper-focused on the end game. This is where an executive assistant can be a huge asset. While your executive is making big picture moves, it’s up to you to fill in the gaps. They rely on your skills to keep them organized, on schedule, and relieved of the nitty-gritty, the red tape, or the tedious leg work so they can focus on larger-scale operations. Familiarize yourself with his or her way of thinking and go over their planning with a fine-tooth comb. An effective assistant knows the devil is in the details and preparation is key to helping your executive bring his or her vision to fruition.

Make Their Goals Your Goals

Adopting a goal-oriented mindset will serve you well in an executive administrator role. Think of yourself as a liaison between your executive and his or her goal. Clearly define those goals in measurable ways and put those meticulous planning and problem solving skills to work. Whatever they are set out to accomplish, consider yourself a team. Make it your priority to ensure their success.

Remember that a hallmark of a good executive is emphasizing your professional development. You want to support someone who supports you. If he or she takes an interest in your goals and has a desire to help you realize your professional potential, you're poised and primed for success. And in turn, you want to strengthen your executive assistant skills so you can become more effective and qualified to better serve them.  

The Trifecta

Being able to anticipate the needs of your executive quickly and efficiently separates the average from the exceptional. When your expectations are managed properly, you focus on the details, and adopt your executives goals as your own, you will establish a long-standing mutually beneficial relationship.

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