5 Performance Multipliers that Will Enable Your EA (and You) to Achieve Maximum Impact in Minimal Time
This article is adapted from The 29-Hour Work Day.
No high-performing executive works in a vacuum. Having a good team under them is crucial for their success, and their executive assistant (EA) is often one of the most vital members of that team.
At a minimum, by taking on the traditional office-support responsibilities of handling phone calls, scheduling meetings, and organizing travel arrangements, EAs put more room on an executive’s plate. That time and mental space can then be focused on other aspects of the business.
But you do not want to find just any assistant. You want to find someone you can partner with and who you can enable to leverage their superpowers so you can be an executive who accomplishes great things and achieves maximum impact in minimal time.
We call such EA skills “performance multipliers.” Below, we’ll dive into the five main performance multipliers and discuss what you can do to be sure your EA is empowered to execute each one.
1. Business Partner
Rest assured, we’re not suggesting you should sell half your company and divvy up the profits with your executive assistant. Instead, we are suggesting you look at your executive assistant as someone who shares your concerns about your company, who knows how you think, and is loyal to representing your vision.
One way you can empower your executive assistant to be your business partner is to equip them with the background and information necessary so they can sit in for you at board meetings, fundraising functions, and even the occasional team meeting.
Another way an EA can serve as a business partner is that they are often the perfect person to bounce ideas off of. Not only do they understand what needs to happen to meet your objectives, but they also have their own perspective.
The fact that your EA may be closer to your team than you allows them to be that business partner who runs interference for you, too. And finally, as a business partner, your EA can populate your LinkedIn page or company Facebook page with information for you. Similarly, they can monitor your online reviews and, should any negative ones come in, they can bring them to your attention and offer a solution.
2. Chief of Staff
Traditionally, a chief of staff is someone who is hired at the direct report level to sit on strategy and C-suite meetings. They are expected to track progress and push toward quarterly and yearly goals. That is not the kind of chief of staff we are talking about. When we talk about relying on your EA as a chief of staff, we mean making them a singular point of contact for you. In that sense, they know who is responsible for doing what and what you expect out of them.
From both within your organization and from without, you have an enormous audience of people who will want your attention at different times but may not exactly need it. Instead of providing your contact information to everyone, give your EA’s; let them be the gatekeeper and determine who can actually reach you. That will cut out many hours of your week—or day, even—spent on calls that are unnecessary for you to handle personally.
As chief of staff, your EA represents you and is the receiver of the information that comes at you from all directions—including people from the mailroom, to the chairman of the board, to the people outside of the office who interact with you in any way. Your EA receives the information, filters it, distills it down into digestible and applicable pieces, organizes it, prioritizes it, and then involves you only if need be.
You can also be proactive about this by looking over your to-do list and transferring anything to your EA’s plate that does not require your personal attention, such as reaching out to check in on people, following up, or providing quick answers.
3. Project Manager
When we speak of your EA being a performance multiplier as a project manager, what we are talking about is giving your EA ownership of a project or an event. As project manager, your EA can take on annual events, like setting up for a vendor show, and handle the one-offs.
Let’s say you want to have a board retreat. As project manager, you EA looks at the timeline available to pull the event off and then follows through on taking care of everything. They manage the attendees’ flights, arrange car service from airport to hotel, and reserve all the lodging. They make sure the meals fit any specific dietary needs. They collect items for and fill the swag bags, coordinate the entertainment, and create agendas and board books. If there is a theme for the event, they ensure the decorations are in alignment with it.
In short, they will manage every facet of the retreat and make sure it’s a success. Meanwhile, you get to enjoy the retreat with your board. You’ll be able to think a little more clearly during any meetings because there will be no interruptions from hotel staff with last-minute questions or concerns because your EA will be the contact person throughout.
In the area of assistant/scheduler, your EA takes on the traditional role of assistant, with the added bonus of being a master at playing calendar Tetris—managing time slots on a calendar filled with shifting priorities and projects, doing whatever is necessary to line things up just so.
Such time engineering requires detailed, precision scheduling. That includes more than just entering the time and date of an event in your calendar. Your EA can log pertinent information on your calendar invites or in an email to you with a link to the calendar invitation.
If the event is a call with a client, a bulleted list within the calendar invitation between you and the client can serve as an agenda and include the key points for discussion. If the meeting is for a consultation or sales call, your EA can send you the link to the calendar invitation in an email, as well as providing background information or a dossier on the potential new client, any relevant details about the nature of their business or competitors, and so on.
Because your EA knows your priorities and goals as well as your overall day-to-day routine, they can pencil in times to hold slots for potential events, then rearrange those in accordance with your priorities. Their mastery of the velvet no will enable them to make the necessary calls or emails, with grace, to get everyone involved in sync with your scheduling needs.
5. Personal Assistant
It is relatively difficult to define what a personal assistant is as the job varies according to the expectations and needs of the principal. In general, a personal assistant is someone who helps a principal manage their life outside of work. They could be closely tied to the household and oversee the grocery shopping, schedule appointments, pick up dry cleaning, and run other errands, ensure any household staff members are performing their job duties, sort/answer mail, respond to emails and phone calls, and an assortment of duties required for vehicle or property management.
We have fulfilled personal assistant duties as EAs on a multitude of fronts. We’ve helped an executive’s horse trainer figure out how to extend his visa to stay in this country. We found and purchased numerous pairs of bamboo underwear for a client’s father. A desperate principal once needed an immediate appointment with Apple’s Genius Bar, and, eleven phone calls later, we found one.
Does any of this have anything to do with a principal’s success at work? Absolutely! When life outside of work is running smoothly and efficiently, it helps the workday run equally well.
The Golden Ticket
Expanding beyond that traditional role is where a top-level EA’s support truly becomes a performance multiplier for you, the principal or executive. That expansion includes applying exceptional organizational skills and a precise eye for detail to projects and initiatives that you want managed in alignment with your vision.
Yes, it seems like we are promising a golden ticket to high productivity, exceptional time management, and even greater success for you. And perhaps we are—but that’s because we know the true power of EAs. That is what our business is all about.
For more advice on performance multipliers, you can find The 29-Hour Work Day on Amazon.
Ethan Bull is a co-founder of ProAssisting, a next-generation remote executive assistance firm for business owners and C-suite executives. With a background in hospitality and expertise in the EA space, Ethan has held a variety of senior positions, including Director of Administrative Services and senior EA to the president and CEO at Rochester Regional Health.
Stephanie Bull is ProAssisting’s co-founder and the former EA for J. Crew’s CEO and the CEOs of two multibillion-dollar hedge funds. Before developing ProAssisting, Stephanie proved herself an expert in the field and a vital addition to the C-suite by fulfilling a variety of roles, including chief of staff, estate manager, and investment liaison.