The REAL Remote Work Blog

Why You Need an Executive Assistant

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In a recent McKinsey study, executives were asked to share the most important themes of the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 eras. The study revealed what executives already know: leaders need to be resilient and fast-moving to navigate what’s around the corner. This is an unprecedented time that requires new levels of focus, foresight and innovation. But despite all the resources at their disposal, too many executives lack the one thing that moves the needle most: time.

Now more than ever, productivity is worth its weight in gold. Luckily, there’s a simple yet effective solution for executives who lack the support they need: the right executive assistant. Whether you’re launching a business, navigating what’s next for your current venture or simply need to reprioritize and refocus your energy, now is the time to invest in an EA. Today’s EAs are raising the benchmark for value, helping executives delegate better, be more productive and gain the consistent, quality support that they need to be their best selves.

The shifting role of the EA

At the beginning of 2020, the Wall Street Journal published an article that sparked a heated debate across the web. Although you’ll need a subscription to read the full article, its headline alone—”The Vanishing Executive Assistant”—sums up the author’s argument fairly well. The article described a business landscape in which EAs are becoming less prevalent, and less relevant, as automation and technology take hold. We couldn’t disagree more.

Since the WSJ article was published, many executives, EAs and coaches have written articles of their own—arguing that EA roles are not disappearing, but instead are changing to reflect the new business dynamic. The signs of this evolution are everywhere: in business leadership programs that empower EAs to expand their skill sets; in the ever-increasing qualifications for top EA positions; and in the demonstrated value that EAs show on the job day in and day out. These wheels were already well in motion when technology and automation began eliminating many manual administrative tasks. But EAs deliver far more than administrative support, and their value has never been more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic, when executives need extra support as they lead their organizations into the future.

We’re in an unprecedented situation in which executives face critical challenges: spotting new efficiencies to help their venture navigate the pandemic, making the right strategic decisions for their business’ future, and adjusting to the new reality of remote work. In each of these areas, EAs are helping executives rise to the challenge through far more than administrative tasks—and redefining the EA role in the process.

The value of the right EA

A decade ago, the Harvard Business Review published its case for the executive assistant. In the article, numerous executives were asked about the value of their EAs. One prominent executive described the role like this: “A spectacular executive assistant can defy the laws of the physical world. … She [or he] can see around corners.” Summing up her research, the author concluded the article with an ode to the EA’s dynamic role: “Simply put, the best executive assistants are indispensable. Microsoft will never develop software that can calm a hysterical sales manager, avert a crisis by redrafting a poorly worded email, smooth a customer’s ruffled feathers, and solve a looming HR issue—all within a single hour, and all without interrupting the manager to whom such problems might otherwise have proven a distraction…. . [EAs are] troubleshooters, translators, help desk attendants, diplomats, human databases, travel consultants, amateur psychologists, and ambassadors to the inside and outside world.”

Every executive is different, and so is every EA. But regardless of your venture’s size, stage or sector, a high-quality EA can help you maximize your time and prioritize your most important responsibilities.

The power of delegating

In 2015, Gallup studied the leadership skills of the 143 CEOs on the Inc. 500 list. The researchers found that companies led by executives who delegated effectively grew faster, created more jobs and generated more revenue. This is just one of countless statistics that illustrate the importance of this quintessential leadership skill. Simply put, if you’re not reassigning tasks that others can perform at a high level, then you’re watching productivity slip away. Consider your EA your gateway to delegating smarter.

Proven productivity

Gone are the days of simply scheduling and taking notes during meetings (though EAs must also be proficient in these areas.) Today’s EAs are multitaskers who continually identify new ways to enhance efficiency, streamline processes and, as a result, boost your productivity. In any market situation, productivity is a key measure of success. In today’s dynamic, it’s more critical than ever. EAs use their productivity to fuel yours.

By operating with a high level of precision, efficiency and business acumen, EAs can save busy executives numerous hours in a given week. What could you accomplish if you had an extra hour every day to devote to your most important leadership initiatives? With the right EA, it’s possible.

Strategic expertise

Experienced EAs understand the dynamics of business operations and administration firsthand. Many come with business degrees, and most have gleaned invaluable insights from previous work with accomplished executives. In addition to their efficiency and organizational skills, EAs can lend strategic insights only possible from someone with firsthand knowledge of your priorities, responsibilities and approach as a leader. As strategic partners, EAs can lead meetings and discussions, work with key stakeholders, manage budgets, contribute to hiring and onboarding, and execute many other roles that redefine traditional EA stereotypes.

Reliable support

As the Dean of Harvard Business School has said, “CEOs are accountable for all the work of their organizations. Their life is endless meetings and a barrage of email.” In one study, emails were found to take up 24% of a CEO’s time, while the average CEO attended 37 meetings each week. What does this heightened level of responsibility add up to? For many leaders, it can trigger loneliness, exhaustion, frustration and other wellbeing issues that keep them from operating at their best. The demands of an executive role make reliable, consistent support all the more critical.

Automation platforms can execute transactional tasks. But true support requires clear communication and a dynamic approach; in other words, the human element still matters. EAs are skilled communicators who make it their job to help you be better at yours. And although EAs wear more hats than ever before, their primary goal is to help you show up every day as the best version of yourself. That can include everything from reducing your email overload to ensuring you use your time wisely overall.

Why you should consider a remote EA

EAs help executives free up more time for the most critical tasks. They save organizations money by paving the way for smarter delegation. And they continually spot new opportunities for enhancing efficiency and driving value. But what if a full-time EA is more than you need or more than you can afford? Just as the EA role is evolving, so are the models you can use to secure the support you need.

At REAL, we help executives find the right EA for their needs. Our remote EAs deliver the best of both worlds: the dedication and domain expertise of a full-time employee, plus the efficiency and flexibility of a remote resource. Our REAL Partners are helping executives across the country achieve all the benefits of a high-quality EA, from peak productivity and reliable support to strategic expertise that can only come from years of experience in this dynamic role. And thanks to our flexible pricing and contract terms, it’s never been easier to rightsize your support.

If you’re looking to enhance your productivity as a leader, then it’s time to find an experienced EA. And we’re here to make the process easy every step of the way. Remote Teams. REAL Results. Start Today.