5 Characteristics of Exceptional Executive Assistants

December 27, 2016


High-performing assistants are masters of Outlook, Excel, Word and PowerPoint. They’re whizzes at time management, accounting, payroll and social media. They coordinate meetings, arrange travel, choose vendors, negotiate contracts, manage the boss’s calendar, prepare reports, supervise staff—and much more. In short, they’re indispensable. Here are just five of the many characteristics that allow outstanding executive assistants to rise to the top and remain there.

1. Professionalism
Top-flight assistants treat everyone—from the mailroom staff to the CEO—with respect. They don’t play office politics, gossip about coworkers (or the boss), or betray confidences. As a result, when a crisis occurs, they can turn to absolutely anyone within their organization and be assured of obtaining immediate help.  

2. Collaboration with the boss
Exemplary assistants view themselves as their boss’ partner. They routinely anticipate—and fulfill—his or her needs. They work with the boss to accomplish his or her objectives, complete tasks that would otherwise clog up the boss’ schedule, and always strive to make him or her look good. Their loyalty is rewarded with the boss’ implicit trust.

3. Outstanding organizational skills
It’s not by chance that exceptional assistants are calm in a crisis. This ability comes from knowing everything that’s happening with everyone—the boss, the department and the organization as a whole—as well as with being aware of the status of every ongoing project. Being detail-oriented and proactive allows these assistants to remain self-possessed no matter what kind of pressure they’re under.

4. Excellent communication skills
Executive assistants are often the first person to greet clients, customers and vendors. As the organization’s go-to person, the ability to communicate clearly, concisely and persuasively face-to-face, as well as in reports, memos, client communications, even routine emails, is vital.

5. Willingness to go the extra mile  
All top assistants are willing to learn. They stay abreast of new procedures, technologies and software. They’re independent thinkers who never need hand-holding. Should they become overwhelmed, they prioritize, delegate, then proactively follow up. These assistants are tireless when it comes to resolving problems, averting crises, and fulfilling commitments, even in the face of significant push-back.

In short, every high-performing assistant is smart, confident, flexible, reliable, well-organized—and a tremendous asset to their organization. 

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