Executive Assistants are critical to the smooth functioning of any business. They are often the gatekeepers to the executive’s time and attention, managing everything from their email inbox to their travel itineraries. However, to be successful in this role, EAs need to have a specific set of hard and soft skills that go beyond just being organised and efficient. In this article, we’ll cover the top 9 hard skills that every Executive Assistant needs to have, and some soft skills they should have in order to excel in their role.
1. The Ability to Manage Up
One of the most important hard skills that Executive Assistants need to have is the ability to manage up. This means protecting the executive’s time and focus by strategically coordinating schedules, projects, and meetings. EAs who are skilled at managing up will act as time gatekeepers, ensuring that the executive can focus on their highest leverage work. Managing up can also mean empowering your executive to be your best supporter.
2. Email Management
Great email management skills are a must-have for Executive Assistants. Maintaining your executive’s inbox can be a surprisingly difficult task, and hitting daily inbox zero can be daunting. However, it’s a critical part of the job, and your executive will appreciate you saving them dozens of hours per month simply by keeping their inbox tidy. If you’re not sure where to start with email management, check out this guide.
3. Calendar Management
With your executive’s busy schedule, maintaining a well-functioning calendar can be like playing Tetris. However, it’s a critical part of your job as an EA. Establishing an ideal week framework, creating a system that is beneficial for both you and your executive, and learning how to stay in control when tasks pile on will help you excel at calendar management. Check out this Calendar Management 101 Ebook exclusively for Executive Assistants for more information.
4. Travel Management
When your executive is planning to travel, it’s often the Executive Assistant who takes on the role of an entire travel agency. An EA with strong travel management skills will go beyond simply booking flights, corporate transfers and hotels. They will learn their executive’s preferences and proactively recommend a complete itinerary. If you want to sharpen your travel management skills, partner with Specialised Transport Australia and get great rates on corporate transfers, event transfers and airport transfers and enjoy reliable, efficient and seamless transport bookings.
5. Meeting Management
Another important hard skill for Executive Assistants is being able to properly plan and manage meetings. So many unnecessary meetings happen in the workplace that it's become a meme. As an EA, you can effectively gate-keep against meetings that end up feeling pointless. This is another way to protect your Executive's time. Ensure every meeting has a clear purpose, and all attendees are aware of the ideal meeting outcome. Attend the meeting for your Exec, then share the highlights with them after (instead of vice versa). With the exception of brainstorming, meetings should have clear agendas and a clear owner who will ensure all topics get covered. Meetings should always start and end on time. If an attendee is taking up more talk time than they should, great EAs know how to corral the conversation back and tee up quieter contributors into the discussion.
6. Project Management
Executive Assistants are often already experts at project management, even if they don't know it yet. That's because at its core, project management is simply breaking larger, complex goals down into smaller ones, and ensuring that everything (and everyone) stays organised and on track to meet the goals—and most EAs already do this every day! If you want to excel at project management, start with streamlining both the tactical work and the communication of the teams involved. This will cut back on the amount of time an Executive would normally spend answering questions, tidying up loose ends, and going over the details themselves.
7. Systems and Process Management
Systems and Process Management is a critical skill for Executive Assistants. You need to be able to create and manage Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and align them with your organisation’s strategic goals. SOPs are essential for ensuring consistency in the delivery of high-quality results for tasks that recur frequently, like invoicing, customer service, and reimbursements. Experienced Executive Assistants are familiar with various systems and processes and can identify areas where improvements can be made. They also have a good grasp of the digital tools available that can help streamline processes and save time.
8. Event Planning
Event Planning is another crucial skill for Executive Assistants. Whether it’s a small board meeting or a larger company retreat, event planning can be one of the more enjoyable assignments for an EA if done well. Many companies do not have the resources to hire a full-time event planner, and that’s where an experienced Executive Assistant can come in handy. The best assistants know that attention to detail is key when planning an event, and they understand that it’s the little things that can make a big difference. To make sure your event transport is one of the reasons you get cudos for your event planning, partner with Specialised Transport Australia and get all the support you need to make booking event transport a breeze.
9. Written Communication
Written Communication is a vital skill for Executive Assistants as much of their work is written. From travel itineraries and agendas to event programs and email replies, top-notch writing skills are essential. As an Executive Assistant, you may also be required to ghost-write for your Exec, and this means you need to have exceptional writing skills. Best practices for improving your written communication include double-checking your deliverables, reading your work out loud, having someone else check your work, and using tools like Grammarly to help check for errors.
The Softer Skills
An exceptional executive assistant is one who possesses a wide range of soft skills. These skills are just as important as technical abilities, and they help the assistant to perform at their best. Here are some of the crucial soft skills that an executive assistant should possess:
As an Executive Assistant, you are the backbone of your organisation. You need to have a range of skills that go beyond administrative duties to support your executives and ensure the smooth running of day-to-day operations. Mastering these skills will not only make you a valuable asset to your organisation, but it will also help you advance your career.
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