Article taken from the Australian site Altitude.
Over recent years, more and more business partner executive assistants are stepping into senior leadership teams. Progressive CEOs recognise that the executive assistant plays a vital role in the delivery of their KPIs and broader company goals, and empowering their EAs to be part of the senior leadership team brings considerable benefits to CEOs.
So if you are a CEO wondering if your EA should be part of the senior leadership team, consider the benefits below.
Better decision making
By having an EA step up as a senior member of the leadership team, there is more space and freedom for the CEO. EAs can take more off the CEO’s plate, allowing more time to focus on vital issues, without impairing productivity. When CEOs have more time to process and deliberate (and a sounding board in the form of a business partner EA), there is more time to make better decisions. A senior EA takes on more responsibility, giving the CEO large chunks of time free from commitments, where creative thinking and solutions often arise, leading to better, more confident decision making.
The eyes and ears for the senior leadership team
The executive assistant is a unique touchpoint in the organisation. Because all departments and divisions have contact with the CEO, they all encounter the EA in that process. A top-level EA will strategically position themselves as an open door on behalf of the CEO, giving an opportunity to be eyewitness to the subtle machinations and moods within the organisation. Often the EA is first to spot potential issues, conflict or cultural problems. Therefore a savvy EA can be quick to alert the leadership team, ensuring petty matters are addressed before they develop into deeper conflict. Provided they are given a voice and empowered to do so, the EA can play an integral role in forging connections between teams and ensure strong flow of information from and to the CEO’s office.
An advocate for the CEO (and teams)
EAs can play the advocate role two ways — championing issues that need attention to the CEO, and vice versa, by ensuring teams understand the leadership’s perspective and viewpoint. This advocacy benefits all parties. As a member of the senior leadership team, the EA can share insights that other leaders may miss, purely due to the seniority of their position. Also, EAs have the ability to filter down messaging from the senior leadership team throughout the organisation, ensuring strong comprehension of company goals and broader organisational cohesion.
The ability to act on behalf of the CEO
When an EA joins the senior leadership team, they are more across the inner workings of management and therefore more empowered to make decisions on behalf of the CEO. When EAs take this responsibility, the CEO is empowered to concentrate only on core priorities — the EA stepping in on their behalf allows projects to continue, decisions to be made without causing a bottleneck and excessive workload for the CEO. This ensures business continuity without compromising adherence to company policy, goals and direction.
The ability to lead projects
Similarly, an executive assistant who is part of the senior leadership team who has gained an appropriate level of trust is able to lead particular projects on behalf of the CEO. This yet again frees up the CEO to focus attention on more important responsibilities and fosters a culture of decisiveness, action and prioritisation.
More insight leads to better support
As the executive assistant’s core focus is making time, processes and decisions more effective for the CEO, it makes sense that the EA has a seat at the table. Without it, EAs are unable to understand the dynamics of important business decisions and this hinders their ability to advocate on behalf of the CEO. Being a part of the senior leadership team ensures that EAs have visibility of the company strategy at senior level, which allows the EA to use that insight to support the CEO’s priorities, time and decision process.
The key to success: empowering EAs
It’s not just about letting EAs attend meetings to listen in — that has been happening for decades. Instead, the senior leadership team needs to recognise the unique role of the business partner EA and empower them to step into that leadership position. If the EA is not championed and supported at senior level, then their effectiveness will be stifled. The EA can only effectively represent the CEO if each has a solid understanding of the other’s skills, commitments and priorities. Letting EAs speak and contribute is potentially a challenge, particularly for any senior leaders with a more traditional viewpoint, who still see EAs as being responsible for taking minutes and fetching coffee. Therefore it’s important for the EA to feel supported and encouraged with simple actions like inviting them to speak, giving them agenda items to present and ensuring all leaders treat the EA in a respectful manner.