What it Means for an Executive Assistant to Think Like a CEO

Several weeks ago I had one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking moments of my life… speaking on stage in Austin in front of 10,000 people on a panel lead by two of the great leaders, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I’m a Chief of Staff, former Executive Assistant, and I have purposefully chosen a career that allows me to be backstage, behind the scenes, behind the leader. It’s where I prefer to be.

Like any great leader, Adam knows this, and therefore pushed me outside of my comfort zone (way outside of it!) and helped facilitate this opportunity for me. And what an opportunity it was! I got to speak about our book, The Founder and The Force Multiplier, and share how Founders and their Executive Assistants work together to build businesses and careers – something I am incredibly passionate about.

Earlier that day, Gary Keller presented a keynote on a fortuitous topic, “Think Like a CEO.” It was perfectly timed. The crux of the presentation was not how to think like someone in a specific position at a company, but how to think as a leader in general (of an organization, your family, your community, etc.). Turns out, this topic is essentially a road-map for how Force Multipliers can show up as influential leaders and ultimately maximize their Executive’s reach.

Why is this essential for Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff to think like a CEO? The faster you can bring your thinking in line with the Executive you work with, the more effective you both will be in your strategic partnership. The easier you will communicate, the quicker you’ll execute, and the faster you’ll see results.

So let’s dive in to what it means for an Executive Assistant to think like a CEO.

I’m going to change the language a bit here and focus on how to “think like a leader” since the leadership we’re talking about isn’t just for CEOs. There are three main components to thinking like a leader: 1) create energy – with a purpose and a plan 2) engage talent – this is all about the relationships! and 3) own results – through profit and philanthropy. Sounds like a tall order for any leader, which is exactly why leaders need a Force Multiplier to help get the job done.

1. CREATE ENERGY

Energy is everything. This is what attracts people to your organization and inspires them to continue to show up and do the work at at a high level. Adam and I talk about this a little differently in our book, but the idea is the same. We believe that the three key things a leader must do is share the vision, provide clarity, focus and direction, and remove roadblocks. Energy tackles two out of three.

Leaders must share the purpose (the vision) and then share the plan (clarity, focus, and direction) on how to get there. Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff are responsible for force multiplying those activities every day. We believe it’s so important, that we wrote a whole chapter about it in the book. You can see a sneak peek of that here.

Remember, the energy of the leader, is the energy of the company. Executives and their right hands must be in lockstep when communicating the purpose and the plan for the organization – frequently and consistently.

What does it mean for an Executive Assistant to create energy?

It means understanding the vision of the Executive and helping to communicate that inside the company and to outside stakeholders. It means distilling the vision into actionable items for your team members and making sure they never forget why they are working on a particular project. It means leading yourself first and making sure you take care of your health and energy, in order to help lead.

2. ENGAGE TALENT

This isn’t just about hiring, though as we know hiring the right people for the right job at the right time is one of the most important things a company does. Yes, engaging and attracting talent to the organization is critical, but so is engaging the people in your organization and building a relationship with them. Are they growing? Do they have the skills necessary to help your business navigate its next growth phase? Do they need additional training? Are they hungry, humble, and people smart? Do they need to recharge? Do you know what is going on in their personal life? Are they having fun when they come to work every day?

These are questions that you should be asking constantly, far beyond the initial hire and first 90 days. Your current employees are your most valuable asset – they are keepers of the culture and your best recruiting source. In fact, employees are your best customers and clients. If you started treating them as such, imagine what could happen to your company!

Sometimes talent comes in the form of external partnerships – vendors, key business relationships, or third party consultants. Regardless, the concept is the same – engage! Leaders must work to cultivate relationships with the people who help build and run the company.

What does it mean for an Executive Assistant to engage talent?

It means connection, communication, follow-up, and follow-through. It is an EAs responsibility to help their Executive cultivate relationships with internal and external stakeholders. You must remember (and document) all details about your employees or other key business relationships, reminding your leader at just the right time. It means managing the flow of communication to cultivate deeper connection with the right people. It means ensuring that promises made, are promises kept. It means setting the tone for your Executive and your organization from the initial job posting, through scheduling interviews, to following up with candidates, to the offer, to on-boarding, and far beyond. Above all, engaging talent means putting people – every individual who contributes to the success of your organization – first.

3. OWN RESULTS

Own the profits and own the philanthropy of your organization, as the leader and as the leader’s right hand. “Ownership” is a powerful word and when we’re talking about results this means you understand everything about how, who, and what got you there. Force Multipliers must understand the implications of all reports, data, budgets, income and expenses, resource allocation, and decisions, while also making sure this information is synthesized and communicated to the leader as needed. That is how you own the results.

What does it mean for an Executive Assistant to own results?

It means understanding and communicating the various metrics that dictate the success of your organization. It also means understanding who is responsible for which key results and helping your leader hold those team members accountable. Sometimes that means stepping in and helping a project get to the finish line, clearing your Executive’s calendar to ensure a team member gets their questions answered, or asking questions of your leadership team to help them flesh out an idea. When you know what results are needed and how to get there, Executive Assistants can help lead their Executive and the team to their goals.

The more success (and profit) your company achieves, the more you can give. What are your leader’s giving goals and how can you, the Force Multiplier, help facilitate those opportunities for your Exec? Own that too.

Thinking like a leader is a sequential process.

You must create the right energy, in order to attract, engage, and retain the right people in your life and business, who in turn will produce the results. Force Multipliers are leaders, and when they merge their strategic business acumen with that of a Founder, CEO or Executive who shares the same leadership mindset, both are unstoppable.

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