For the following articles on executive assistants (EAs) and respect, I will use the personal pronoun “she.” Most executive assistants are women, though I acknowledge that some men do pursue this career. The qualities I will write about apply to both male and female EAs.
As an executive and leader, you may not know that your EA is watching you all the time. She studies your behavior in every situation. She examines your motivations and preferences. She is interested in what makes you happy, frustrated, satisfied and angry. She watches your habits and listens for hints about your moods. Your beliefs about the world in general and especially about the workplace and your colleagues are subjects of her steady contemplation. Her focus on learning who you are, what you need and what you expect is intense.
She will study you subtly, quietly and diplomatically. You will not even realize she is scrutinizing you, and you will not feel threatened by an invasion of your privacy. A good executive assistant may know you better than you know yourself. She can anticipate your thoughts, reactions, and courses of action.
These qualities make her one of your most valuable resources. Her insight into who you are, how you behave and what you want to accomplish is cultivated to provide you the highest quality of support and service. The focus, depth of concentration, and attentiveness to minute details that develop this insight are skills she offers in service to you and the advancement of your goals. Respect and value them as important components of your partnership.
For instance, her insight into your priorities, whether stated or simply observed, enables her to manage your time, avoid interruptions and help you accomplish your goals. Her insight will guide her as she makes appointments, shuffles meetings, carves out the time you need to breathe, think, write and plan. All this will happen in the background, perhaps without you giving direction or guidance. You will feel confident in the unspoken understanding between you. That understanding will help you to relax and feel assurance in your interactions with other colleagues. You will be productive and be viewed as an important contributor to your organization, in part because you know she has got your back.
While she is studying you, she will also study the organization you both serve. She will seek to understand its priorities and goals; she will have insight into the social atmosphere, any hierarchy that exists, who the important players and stakeholders are, and their preferences and habits. These insights can guide and balance your own. Rely on them and respect them. Encourage her to offer them to strengthen your partnership.
Not all executive assistants can develop such depth of insight. It takes maturity, skill, practice, and patience. If the EA does not focus on gaining insight into you and your organization, she will find her job harder, and you will find her less helpful in navigating workplace systems and politics.
Her insight will enable her to respect you, and you, her. You are partners.