What Force Multipliers Should Look for When Partnering with a Leader

Last week, Adam shared what leaders should look for when hiring a Force Multiplier. That information is solid whether you’re looking to hire your first assistant or if you are considering making a change to your current staff. For Force Multipliers, it’s just as important for you to find your match by interviewing prospective leaders (and companies) and carefully considering who you choose to align yourself with.

I often get asked what Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff are looking for in a leader. After all, if a leader doesn’t possess several (if not all) of several important characteristics, then they are never going to attract the level of strategic partner they want. Leaders want to know who they need to be in order to hire and retain a top EA or COS. And Force Multipliers want to know what a great leader looks like so can create a mutually beneficial relationship that lasts years (or decades!).

The question to ask yourself is this – is your leader the right fit or the wrong fit for you? Ideally, you would determine this before accepting a position, but that doesn’t always happen. You could have been assigned to an Executive or be supporting your Executive’s replacement. Even more common, you and your Executive have grown (or not) or have had some big life events that change the working dynamic. It’s time to reassess whether or not you are working for the right leader.

Here’s what I believe Force Multipliers should look for in a leader:

  • Growth Opportunities – If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Cliche? Perhaps. True? Absolutely. When you’re looking to partner with a leader, find out how previous EAs or Chiefs have grown in their roles. What are they doing now? How did the role evolve and responsibilities change over time? Are there opportunities to take on interesting projects or join committees? What sort of continuing education and training is supported by the company and, perhaps more importantly, the Exec? How have they grown in their career over the years? That will be a tell-tale sign about whether or not they are invested in growth in general – theirs or any of their team members.
  • Challenges Your Thinking – One of the most impactful things I have experienced working with Adam over the past (almost) 10 years is that he is constantly challenging my thinking. This ranges from offering a different perspective, pushing me to consider a problem from another angle, asking me pointed questions to get to the root of an issue, or questioning my limiting beliefs. I’m not talking about just playing Devil’s Advocate here for the sake of being a contrarian (though there is some value in that too!). What I am talking about is getting me to think differently about myself, the challenges in front of me, and the world. It doesn’t’ mean we always agree. But it always keeps me on my toes and curious about the world, our industry, other people, our team members, etc. That is growth.
  • Teaches You How to Lead – First, a leader must lead by example and role model the behavior they wish their staff to embody. But beyond this, a leader who is intentional about teaching their Force Multiplier how to lead is invaluable. Having access to your leader is imperative to making this happen. Make sure you find out how an Exec plans to communicate with you and how often. Will your weekly meetings take priority (or even happen at all)? How much access will you have to their email, calls, Slack, and meetings? Listening to how your leader communicates and how they handle challenges is one of the best ways to learn. Are they not only sharing the decisions that they made but explaining why and how that decision came to be? Are you even able to ask those questions? You need to be able to in order to have a true strategic partnership.
  • Pushes You Outside of Your Comfort Zone – Great leaders are going to push you to get outside of your comfort zone – often. You will likely love your leader and hate your leader for it at the same time. But nothing breeds loyalty like someone who has helped you become a better version of yourself. A leader should be that for their assistant. I feel like the list of ways Adam has pushed me outside of my comfort zone is endless. They range from really minor experiences, like going on my first real roller coaster, to bigger events like speaking in front of 10,000 people, shooting a video for a world-wide virtual EA summit, and hosting my first webinar series. I much prefer to be behind the scenes and Adam knows this. Which is why he doesn’t allow me to stay there. I’ve helped facilitate classes and had to jump in on calls that I didn’t think I was ready for. But Adam knew I was and above all, had faith that I would figure it out, even if I failed a little along the way. Were these things incredibly uncomfortable? Yup. I think I’m still sweating from some of them. Did I learn and grow from these experiences? Absolutely. More than anything, I learned that challenging your team and influencing their personal and professional growth is the mark of a true leader.
  • Honesty, Trust, & Integrity – These may be harder to spot when interviewing and trust, of course, comes with time. But do your research and listen between the lines to the Exec, as well as current and former employees. Many leaders will hand out their references to candidates, but if they don’t, ask. The answer in and of itself could be an answer.
  • Constantly Raising Their Leadership Lid – Leaders must continue to grow and lead themselves first. If they don’t continue to increase their leadership capital and lid, their Force Multiplier may outgrow them (or a talented EA may not partner with you in the first place). There are so many amazing Force Multipliers who want more, but their Executive or organization is just not growing fast enough or is not ready to take the business to the next level. Ultimately those assistants leave for different opportunities with Executives who have much bigger visions, who are taking action and implementing. If leaders want to keep that top talent, then they have to work on growing themselves every day. Find out what books they are reading and what classes they have recently taken. Find out what they are curious about right now and how they are investing in themselves. Then, make sure it aligns with where you want to go and grow in your life and career.
  • Provides Autonomy & Freedom – Force Multipliers need the freedom and flexibility to manage their work. They also need the latitude to make decisions and act. Leaders who don’t allow Force Multipliers to do their thing probably shouldn’t have hired one in the first place. Ask questions to get a feel for an Exec’s leadership and decision making style. What issues do they want to know about and what can simply be handled by you or someone else? What tasks or projects do they like to handle themselves and does that mean you will be free to handle everything else? Find out what challenges they have hand in the past with EAs and what they did and didn’t like. If you are their first Force Multiplier hire, staying in curiosity and figuring out their triggers for micro-management may help alleviate issues down the line. But, at the end of the day, leaders have chosen to hire a Force Multiplier to do what they do best – handle the 80% of an Exec’s day to day, so they can stay in their 20%. You both need to stay in your lane and have the autonomy and freedom to just get shit done. The right leader will not only understand this, but will get out of your way so you can achieve more together, faster.
  • Visionary – Force Multipliers want to work with visionaries. Someone who has a plan and the passion to make a mark on the world. Someone who is driven, has a growth mindset, and is playing the infinite game. A visionary who can see the future crystal clear and understands the need for a tactical genius and strategic partner to help them get there.

I’ve found these to be the most common things EAs look for based on my experience of staying with the same Executive for so long and based on what I’ve learned through coaching many other Force Multipliers and Executives. But like all relationships in life, every Force Multiplier and leader relationship looks a little different based on the needs of both individuals. Have any others you think should be on the list? I’d love to hear – let me know below!

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