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Sue France Trainer, motivational speaker and author - FCIPD INLPTA

If you, as the Executive (boss, manager, CEO, C-Suite director), want your Assistant (EA, PA) to help you reach your full potential and do the most effective job you can, then there is immense value in building a powerful partnership. A proactive Assistant will do all the traditional tasks plus much more as they are a treasure trove of untapped potential.

I have received testimonials from Executives saying how my books have helped them understand what their Assistants are capable of and can aspire to. Here are a few pointers to help you and your Assistant have an exceptional working relationship to exceed and excel in both your roles.

  1. Facilitate open and honest communication. Let your Assistant know the real you and not just the person you portray to the rest of the organisation! Trust them so they can anticipate and pre-empt your needs. Executives need to help Assistants understand what is critical to their day, week, month and year. Have daily catch ups, even if for only five or ten minutes in the morning and evening as things are constantly changing.
  2. Create a system between you so that you know when you need to reply to each other immediately by whatever communication channel you choose. Prioritise each other when it is required, showing that you value and respect each other and important and urgent activities are accomplished.
  3. Respect each other. Respect works both ways and is earned. Remember they are there to “have your back” – they will act as your sounding board and be your confidante. They can help you strategise, formulate your next steps and put them into action. Sometimes you will “let off steam” – your Assistant must learn to not take it personally. However, if you realise that you have done this, then apologise and explain calmly what it was that upset you.
  4. Empower your Assistant to do the tasks that you do not need to do. Are you spending time and energy on something your Assistant can do for you? To empower them you need to give them the permission to do it, power to make decisions and protection if things do not go quite to plan. With ongoing communication, things that may go wrong will be minimised and even eliminated.
  5. Trust your Assistant with your calendar. Managing your own schedule is a waste of your expertise and resources. Having only one person working on it means you will be reminded of your plans on a timely basis and that you are fully prepared. To help your Assistant, let them know which meetings can be moved if necessary and when they (or anyone else) can and cannot interrupt you for urgent matters. Once they understand the way you want to work, they will be able to pre-empt you and ‘time-block’ your calendar to incorporate daily meetings, routines and jobs.
  6. Inform your Assistant of your weaknesses. Your assistant can complement you and make your weaknesses their strengths. For example, if you are a “big picture” person, make sure they know this so they can take the detailed perspective and vice versa.
  7. Inform your Assistant of your goals and vision. Explain the strategy that you are working towards and the mission and vision of your organisation, so they understand and realise how they can help you.
  8. Encourage your Assistant to challenge your thinking. Look at alternative perspectives, think about cause and effect and let them know you value their observations, suggestions and advice.
  9. Ask your Assistant to attend meetings. This will give them a better understanding of the organisation, your roles within it and increase their business acumen. Make sure that you listen and act when your Assistant is prompting you to move on to another point on the agenda so you stay on track.
  10. Keep your Assistant in the loop of your conversations, promises and commitments. If you make a commitment to someone about anything, make sure your Assistant knows so they can either activate or help you keep your promises.
  11. Develop a feedback culture and provide frequent ongoing constructive feedback. Ask for feedback from your Assistant as to what could be done differently, what is being done well and what you can stop doing.
  12. Offer learning and development strategies on a regular basis. Encourage them to grow by attending training, conferences and webinars, and perhaps to gain certificates in related subjects.
  13. Encourage your Assistant to network. Growing their circle of contacts and building relationships may turn out to be very useful through sharing knowledge.   
  14. Let the organisation know that you support your Assistant’s decisions and appreciate their advice. The Assistant is your eyes and ears in the office and colleagues need to know that they have your trust and authority.
  15. Lastly, but importantly, thank your Assistant regularly for the hard work they do. Pay them a well-deserved salary that equates to the value they give you.

A true business partnership helps you contribute to a successful career for both of you as well as making the organisation profitable, but it does not just happen – both parties have to work at it and excellent communication skills are the key. Good luck!

‘The Definitive Executive Assistant & Managerial Handbook – 2nd edition’ is out now on the Sue France website – use code “FAVOUR” (in caps) to receive a 20% discount on all of Sue’s books. If the books are a gift and you would like a personal note written inside, let Sue know at once purchased.

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Sue is passionate about the development of all Assistants having been one for over 30 years and was The UK Times Crème/DHL PA of the Year. She was the training manager at a global firm, responsible for the development of 600 EAs in the UK and has owned her own training company since 2009 working in over 35 countries with thousands of assistants. She is an expert International Motivational Trainer, coach and conference Chairperson.

Sue is an award-winning author of 2 best-selling books: “The Definitive Executive Assistant & Managerial Handbook” – the 2nd edition published 3 November 2021 and “The Definitive Personal Assistant & Secretarial Handbook” 3rd edition.

She is a Qualified Learning & Development Practitioner and coach with a post graduate diploma in Human Resource Management. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, a Certified behavioural profiling practitioner and a Certified Neuro Linguistic Programming Master Practitioner. Sue is a neuroscience enthusiast and loves teaching how to maximise your brain for excellence. She is also an Editorial board member of ‘Executive Secretary’ magazine.



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