Can you manage the demands of supporting multiple executives?

More and more we are recruiting Executive Assistants to support multiple executives.  What we initially thought was the preferred option due to budget constraints, is actually the preference of a ‘younger executive’ coming up through the ranks, mixed with a bit of forced innovation, thanks to Covid and hybrid working.

This fundamentally changes the way EAs work, and the way we’re recruiting. EAs need to adapt and change to a new demand for their service. 

Firstly, don’t think that you’re doing two people’s jobs.  You’re not.  This is an entirely new role, a new way of supporting an organisation’s leaders.  Trust us when we say, you wouldn’t be in a position to manage two people if you didn’t have the capability to do so. 

The capability standard

When we recruit EAs to support multiple executives, we look for these core capabilities.

  • Superior communication
  • Strategic know-how
  • Project management
  • Executive office management
  • People management

When managing two executives, two sets of business priorities, and multiple projects, the only way you’ll succeed is by being proactive in your approach. The first rule of thumb is that you won’t be able to do everything for everyone at one time. 

It’s paramount you’re a superior communicator and well organised in your approach to work.  Having experience in project management will bode you well moving forward, because it will give you the basis to manage multiple projects, conflicting deadlines, varied priorities and risk.

The ideal EA for these roles, will have strategies for communicating time investment for each executive and ensuring everyone in the C-suite is across the priorities of the office.  They will yield excellent strategies for planning and project management, and they will be excellent at working with people and delegating work across the business area.

You’ll need to know and be comfortable seeking input from executive leaders.  Your executives should be telling you what they require of you, what they have coming up, and any projects which you need to be on top of.  You will also need to communicate back to the same standard.  Actively reporting on updates of projects, time investment for each project, strategic linkages and the outcomes you’ve achieved. 

This will mean you carve out time to connect and calibrate priorities and conflicts and work with each leader to determine overall priority.  After all, you’re on the same team and for a dual support role to work, there does need to be a shared understanding of the full gambit of work.

Is this the future?

No, it’s the now.  The dual EA has been gaining traction for several years, however, the job requirements have developed to a more sophisticated level in the last year. As advocates for the professionalisation of the Executive Assistant role, this ‘new type’ of demand for executive support is pushing forward the need to have high-quality, strategic assistants.  This is a good thing! 

What it is essentially saying, is that the newer executive demands a wing-women/man and not a nanny.  Executives can (and are happy to) answer their own phones and respond to messages. Let’s face it, Covid has forced them to.  What they need is a high-quality support person to assist and do the work. They need an assistant who operates at the strategic level and is outcomes focussed.
In this type of role, you’ve levelled up; and let us tell you, you’ll be in high demand for the higher paying, more exclusive roles.

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