Should an Executive Assistant Be Part of the Leadership Team?

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I find it interesting that on most organizational charts, the Executive Assistant and/or Chief of Staff are always hanging out on the side by themselves. They don’t necessarily have any direct reports, nor are they a part of any one business function (that is, except for the function of handling the Executive’s business). In some organizations, these Force Multiplier positions run administrative teams or manage the Office of the CEO. In other companies, Executive Assistant positions are more siloed, with the primary interaction being with their Principal.

Regardless of how these roles show up in the company, one question always emerges with my EA and Executive Business Partner clients: Should an Executive Assistant be part of the leadership team?

I wish there was a cut and dry answer to this question.

Of course, my knee-jerk reaction is a resounding, “Yes!” But, I do understand there are various nuances to consider. I will, however, say this—an Executive Assistant or Executive Business Partner is more effective when they know what their leader knows, when they know how they think, how they solve problems, and what they have decided and promised (so that they can follow up and deliver).

Do not keep your assistant on the periphery, assigning tasks that have no context or meaning. I have found that Executive Assistants will be far more invested in their Principal’s success when they are a part of the entire process, and eventually part of the big decisions or even making decisions on their leader’s behalf.

When you bring an Executive Assistant into the inner circle (i.e. the leadership team), everyone wins.

Why should Executive Assistants be part of the leadership team?

A better question is, why not? What benefit does it bring to the Principal or the company to keep an EA or EBP from being part of leadership discussions?

Force Multipliers are uniquely positioned to identify gaps, connect the dots across various pieces of information, understand the personalities of team members, track action items and follow-up, bring solutions to the table, offer strategic input, etc. Unless there is an extremely confidential or sensitive issue (which is rare), then you should make sure your right-hand partner is by your side.

Furthermore, a lot of information can be lost in translation. If you’re on a call as a leader you’re usually immersed in the conversation or making decisions, not paying attention to the CFO who seems slightly hesitant about the decision, or considering whether the CMO has the staff to move forward with the deadline you’re hoping for. You assistant is your eyes and ears in the meeting, observing, taking notes, and planning how this information is being tracked, organized, communicated, and executed. They help you hold your team accountable for executing the plan and make you aware of anything you may be missing.

If you want to move faster and more effectively as a strategic partnership (and as a company), then having your Executive Assistant involved in leadership team meetings is imperative.

So, why aren’t more Executive Assistants part of the leadership team?

In the past, Executive Assistants were primarily relegated to the background, handling routine administrative tasks. However, today’s Executive Assistants are business-savvy leaders and are not content to sit on the sidelines.

They want in on the action.

They want to know that what they’re doing is a value-add to their Executive and to the business as a whole—because it is.

If an organization operates with a more traditional and hierarchal view of the Executive Assistant role, there may be some limiting beliefs about the necessity of including them in leadership team meetings and discussions. This can make it difficult to dispel the perception that Executive Assistants are primarily there to serve the needs of the senior executives, rather than be an active part of leadership discussions. In order to do this, leaders need to understand that the best way for an assistant to serve their needs is to be part of the leadership discussions.

They go hand in hand.

In situations like this, the title alone is often the roadblock. An organization may only “allow” VPs and up into leadership meetings. But, a roadblock can give way to a convincing suggestion… if navigated correctly. 😉

Time to invite yourself to the table

If you haven’t already been invited to the “leadership table”, don’t take it personally. A lot of times it’s simply because of the unconscious bias or current perception of the role, like we discussed above. But don’t let that stop you!

The first step is to ask.

Don’t wait to be asked. You see where your Executive is going to be and when. You know that the information discussed and the decisions made will most likely impact your work directly. Make the case that you will be an even more effective EA when you can get the information and context first-hand. Let them know that this helps you not only stay on top of things, but will help you be able to see around the corners, and perhaps even offer information and suggestions that the leadership team didn’t even know they needed.

At the very least, suggest to your Principal that you give it a try… and then make sure you deliver.

For more ways to get your Executive and leadership team to share their knowledge and work, click here.

Are you an Executive Assistant or Executive Business Partner? If so, are you considered part of your leadership team?

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