The following article is all about increasing your professional productivity by improving your relationship to time management. #ProductivityHacks


Have you ever looked at some of the most successful CEO’s around the world and asked yourself just how are these people able to achieve their goals and possess a sense of ease?

The answer is a secret to some but widely known to the many who work closely to these women and men.

We’re talking about a person

and not an app or some online resource. Not just any person but an incredibly skilled individual sometimes known as the “gate keeper” to the boss. I prefer “Executive Assistant or “Administrative Assistant” because that is what they do – assist the executive(s) in their productivity (as well as a slew of other support items).

For more productivity insights:

There are a number of resources online for any senior leader to visit to broaden their people, technical and leadership skills. When I Googled this topic, I was shocked to see there were close to 58 million results.

Fact: not all CEO’s are created equal. 

Who exactly are EA’s and what do they do?

Highly educated, ambitious with off-the-map “soft skill” IQs and EQs and are equipped with the talents and political savvy needed to thrive in a role that many would see as beneath them. The reality is that similar to a secret service agent protecting the president, their role is to protect their leader from the non-important stuff. During this,q they also provide the necessary diversions to elude, evade or escalate a situation, or schedule.

EA’s increasingly attend top schools for undergrads and even have advanced degrees — MBAs, masters, even the occasional Ph.D. – Nicole Budovec, Recruiting Manager at GoPro

Currently, nearly 11 jobs per 1,000 in San Francisco are executive assistants, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For San Jose proper – the epicenter of the tech world, the number is 8.36 per 1,000. Executive assistants in these areas are also among the best paid. Employees in San Francisco earn an annual mean salary of $68,850. Women dominate this profession. Close to 95% of the nation’s 4.1 million executive and personal assistants are female, according to the Executive Assistants Organization.

Executive Assistants can wear many hats and their work is largely unnoticed and not publicized. However, without them, many of the benefits you (as an employee) enjoy are only possible with the input, insight or follow through at one point in time that EA provides. Their worth is sometimes only known by those select few who they support but the results are plentiful.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review Article:

  • Ensure that meetings begin on time with prep material delivered in advance.
  • Optimize travel schedules and enable remote decision-making, keeping projects on track.
  • Flter the distractions that can turn a manager into a reactive type who spends all day answering e-mail instead of a leader who proactively set the organization’s agenda.

For anyone who is fortunate enough to have the support of an EA, there are some actions you should always be doing to ensure a healthy partnership is cultivated:

  • Include your Executive Assistant in strategy meetings.
  • Listen and pay attention to their needs and keep a scheduled weekly touch base outside of your day-to-day interactions as this will ensure their time is valued and allotted for them versus shared by anyone else.
  • Keep them informed about important business issues.
  • Use them as a sounding board and not an ironing board. Meaning, they are not there to do household errands.

You may be thinking that’s nice but how can this help my career and me? Good news for you – even if you aren’t the CEO of a large company, you can still reap the benefits of having an EA. There are some great resources online to find support. Here are some popular companies that offer EA benefits to get you started but I would advise you to do your research before engaging:

Make sure when screening people, you are looking at your present and future needs based on the following criteria:

  • Communication:What do you need them to do or say on your behalf? Is this person articulate and understand your needs? Can they be forward facing or speak to your type of clients if warranted?
  • Organization:What’s the current and future size of your company? Does this person or online tool support that? What’s their experience in working with a company of your size and aspirational growth?
  • Technology:Do they use and/or understand what your company uses? What’s their proficiency level in that program? Are they current and savvy with what’s happening in the industry?
  • Culture Fit:Even if your company is you and your dog, that still constitutes a culture. Do they like dogs? If this person (although virtual) is managing any part of your company or tasks, you want to ensure they are true extension of yourself or your culture. Here is one of hundreds of articles on the topic to get you started:
  • Teamwork:If you are working with a virtual EA and/or company, you still want to make sure they work well with you and others. An excellent EA understands they are part of a larger machine and their value and worth is appreciated and acknowledged. Screen for the same (type of) level of respect and engagement.
  • Pay: This is a no-brainer but many people seamlessly get it wrong. Know your budget first before your worth. EA’s whether in person or online are providing you a service, which is not free (sorry). Know what your spend is and your needs before engaging as this will save time and also present you and your company (and possibly a dog) in the best light possible.

Final Thought:

There is no denying the power and impact the EAs of the world possess and rightfully so. You should always strive to stay in the good graces of these individuals. Recognize the pressures that they experience is real and as important as your needs. Treat them with the professionalism and respect – the way you would want to be treated. When it comes to being successful, strategically aligning with the right people can be the difference between success and failure. The next time you need something from your boss, make sure you take a moment to first acknowledge their EA. Remember they are much more than just a “gatekeeper”.

What do you think? The floor is yours.

With Leadership,

Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a creative leader and impactful executive coach.

His career spans both the advertising world and the world of leadership. In advertising, he was the creative lead, responsible for the campaign strategy for Fortune 100 brands. Today, he is an innovator. He’s supporting the executive development and change management for many of the same companies.

Joshua studied at Syracuse University, NYU and Stanford. He combines that background with his deep knowledge of organizational behavior, performance and change management. He focuses on the analysis, design, development, delivery, and evaluation of scalable and global talent development solutions programs.

Joshua is a Master Certified Coach. He trained with the International Coaching Federation and CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).