How Executive Assistants Can Lead During Organizational Change

May 10, 2023


Coworkers around a table discussing organizational changes.
Executive assistants are well-equipped to be organizational leaders.

"A lot of people overlook how important we are." - Charmmie Park, Executive Assistant

A fireside chat at EA Ignite Spring 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland centered on how executive assistants can prove their value as leaders through organizational change and overcome roadblocks along the way.

The panelists included:

  • Michele Brooks, EA to the CDO of JP Morgan Chase
  • Penny Sands, EA at Vertex Ventures HC
  • Zynetta Canning, EA and culture leader
  • Charmmie Park, EA for a climate tech startup and panel facilitator

Read on for some high-level takeaways from their conversation.

Partner with Your Exec

At its best, the relationship between executive and assistant is a true partnership. Ideally, the exec and EA not only work well together but are perfectly aligned. This is especially important for navigating, communicating, and implementing organizational changes.

Thinking of your exec as a partner, rather than just your boss, might require a mindset shift. However, this framing is crucial to achieve mutual goals.

Charmmie shared about how a strong partnership with her executive created a mirror effect, increasing her own confidence and resolve at work.

"It was incredibly empowering and very validating to be with her and run the ship with her," Charmmie said. "Even amongst all the waves and the storms, we still kept that boat going and going. When you have a great exec who knows your skills and strengths, and knows that you are a leader in tandem with her, the sky's the limit. You can do anything."

A good executive assistant is more than just a task master, Charmmie reminded the EAs and senior-level assistants in the audience. You're a human who also sees a lot of potential. You have a key role and responsibility of leadership during organizational change, and you deserve to be empowered by having a real partner in your exec through this process.

Executive assistants training during EA Ignite 2023 in Baltimore
Executive assistants training during EA Ignite 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Know Your Worth and Make It Visible

When you know what you bring to your organization and leadership team, you will be able to communicate your value and be recognized as a leader, too.

Document all of your weekly tasks and wins. Take photos of what you accomplish. Share your achievements on LinkedIn. Understand the importance of optics for yourself as an EA—how people perceive you and the power that you hold—and that you can change the narrative: to not be a gatekeeper for power, but rather a gateway. You have the power, skills, and opportunity to be a leader and changemaker within your organization and beyond.

Realize that Change Starts with You

Administrative professionals are the backbone of their organizations. They run the day-to-day operations, set the tone, and often maintain organizational morale. 

Ask for what you're worth and connect with other EAs and admins to ensure your roles are appropriately valued and compensated; the 2023 ASAP State of the Profession Report is a great resource for this.

Advocate for yourself as a strategic partner with a proven track record of leading an organization through change. Learn how to tell a compelling story and back it up with evidence, such as data and feedback you collect through surveys about a successful project, meeting, or event.

Attendees in conversation at EA Ignite Spring 2023.

Focus on the Win-Win

The panelists also encouraged the value of open communication and positivity. Even when change is good, it can be difficult for most people to understand, get on board with, or even accept. Show through your words and actions that you are the kind of leader who brings people together, from C-suite executives and other administrators at different levels across the organization to various other internal and external stakeholders. 

You will likely encounter a lot of big egos in your role as an EA; and sometimes, getting them to work with you on something as simple as filling out an HR form can feel like pulling teeth. When you get flak from your colleagues, Charmmie said, ask them: "What do I need to do to help you help me right now?" 

At that point, "I speak to them not as an EA, but as a human doing my job, who is not trying to make their job harder," Charmmie added. "We work at the same company; we work on the same team. Let's help each other."

Prove Your Value as a Strategic Partner

Ready to expand your skills and influence? Join EA Ignite, a high-precision training and networking event for executive and senior-level assistants. Registration is open now for EA Ignite Fall, November 6-8, 2023 in Austin, Texas.

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