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Partnering with your Executive: Unlocking the 10% CEO within


In today’s difficult and challenging business landscape the Executive Assistant role goes far beyond traditional administrative support; in your role, truly partnering with your Executive is critical, as is actively and positively influencing the trajectory of the C-Suite. In simple terms, your existence enhances the bottom line…

Sarah Howson, Director and Founder of Strategic PA Recruitment, draws insights from the wisdom of a former CEO she worked successfully alongside. She has compiled advice specifically for you, Senior Assistants, who are there to propel successful leaders to be more efficient, more professional, and ultimately, more successful in their business journey…

Master the basics to build trust

Begin by mastering the fundamentals – this is extremely important, especially at the beginning of a partnership. Seamlessly manage your Executive’s diary, decipher the purpose behind each meeting, and approach tasks strategically. These small victories in mastering the basics will lay the foundation for a strong and trusting partnership. Be curious and don’t be afraid to ask ‘why?’.

Humanise your approach

It is easy to forget that everyone is human, even the Executive you are working for. Forge a genuine connection by creating unconventional opportunities for interaction. Whether it’s joining the CEO at the tail end of a lunch meeting or catching a ride during investor meetings (both examples of what I used to do), the moments together you can make happen outside of your usual working environment humanise the relationship. Empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ) become your allies in fostering a stronger, more meaningful bond.

Elevate communication – the basis for effective partnering with your Executive

Communication is the linchpin of success when it comes to a strong partnership. Failure to work out how to communicate together openly will not create an environment conducive to success. Facilitate open dialogue, encourage feedback, and structure one-on-one interactions thoughtfully.

Inquire about improvement areas and understand the challenges faced by your Executive’s direct reports. Your ability to discern pain points and present viable solutions demonstrates your commitment to advancing your Executive’s objectives. Executive Assistants can be phenomenal problem solvers.

Be 10% CEO yourself

You’re not just an assistant; you’re a competent high performing strategic partner. Dive into the intricacies of the business, from marketing and sales to finance and research and development. Get to know competitors and build relationships with internal and external stakeholders. Actively seek opportunities to sit in on leadership meetings, ask to listen to crucial client calls, and immerse yourself in the broader business landscape.

Your deep involvement in understanding the business positions you as a seamless extension of your executive, enabling you to contribute at a strategic level. Always remember that you are integral partners steering the ship. Your adaptability, strategic insight, communication skills, and leadership qualities make you inherent to the success of your Executive.

I will never forget these words from the CEO I worked alongside: “Embrace the 10% CEO mindset; it transforms your role into a strategic force significantly impacting the business.” As we celebrate those working alongside the C-Suite, remember that every thriving Executive has an EA who is 10% CEO.

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We were pleased to have the Sarah expertise as part of our panel of judges for PA Life Start Awards 2023.  Nominations for The Star Awards 2024 will open in early September.