What exactly does an EA do, anyway?
I hear this a lot! It is the EA’s job to ensure that their Principals (“Executives”) are the most effective they can be. This can cover a lot of territory and require great flexibility on the part of the EA. Every EA position is different, and will require different skills and experience. An EA’s job description is “doing whatever it takes to get the job done”.
This can mean traditional EA tasks, such as meeting arrangements, making coffee and transcribing letters. More often, it means analyzing and developing systems, acting on behalf of the Principal, developing policies and procedures, creating high level PowerPoint presentations, developing Board packages that actually make Board meetings effective, taking initiative as needed, managing staff, acting as a gatekeeper, troubleshooting problems before they become crises, and so much more.
EAs working within small non-profits and entrepreneurial environments have to be even more flexible and wide-ranging with their skills, as they tend to wear a lot of hats and cover the duties of positions that the organizations can’t afford to hire.
Let’s give a brief example of a standard EA task. Imagine there is a Board meeting coming up in a month. The EA will create an appropriate agenda based on previous meetings, issues that have arisen that need to be addressed and decisions that should be made. The EA will develop briefing notes, supporting documents and suggest motions. The EA may also develop PowerPoint presentations to show at the meeting, charts and documents, etc. Once approved by the Principal, the EA emails the package to the Board via a single PDF package and/or couriers the package to each Board member.
On a more logistical level, the EA may also book the meeting room, arrange for catering and beverages for the meeting (noting any necessary allergies or food concerns), take the minutes at the meeting, distribute the minutes first to the Chair and Principal for approval, then to the Board as a whole, ensure that action items are taken care of in a timely fashion and record decisions for posterity.
For one Board meeting, there are likely to be 30-40 different tasks that the EA performs to ensure that meeting’s success. All of this goes on behind the scenes; the EA works with their Principals, but doesn’t bother them with the details, so they can focus on the big picture.
Great EAs don’t just keep you organized, they lower your stress level and prepare you for what’s coming today, tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. They keep all those balls in the air, not falling all around you. They see the big picture, while excelling in logistical details that you would just never think of, let alone want to deal with. When you have the right EA working with you, they can offer another perspective to solving a problem. The right EA is on your team, protecting you and ensuring that you are successful in all you attempt.
Great Executive Assistants simply make everything easier, simpler, more effective and they do it quickly and quietly.