Who’s the Boss? Part 3 – Be the CEO of Your Executive Assistant Career

This is the final installment of a three-part series that explores the complex role of a Force Multiplier (Chief of Staff or Executive Assistant) and how they are called upon to lead and assist various stakeholders across an organization.

If you like this topic, read Part 1 – How Force Multipliers & Executive Assistants Juggle Multiple Stakeholders, and Part 2 – Impostor Syndrome Between Strategic Partners.

The business world is a fascinating petri dish of personalities, egos, growth, leadership, friendships, rivalries, and competing agendas. It’s why Adam and I believe that business is nothing but a conduit for your own personal growth. What better place than a company to hone your communication skills, to let go of the ego, to grow your leadership capital, to flex your emotional fitness muscles, and to navigate high-stakes decisions? From vendor partners, to board members, to colleagues, clients, and co-CEOs, if you’re a business professional, you are constantly called upon to navigate the company culture and help others get what they want, so you can get what you want.

If you’re a high performer (and I know you are), then no matter what role you are in – CEO, Executive Assistant, Marketing Manager, VP, Chief of Staff, Director of Public Relations – at the end of the day your career satisfaction and personal and professional growth is up to you.

So, when the question of “Who’s the boss?” comes up, the answer is ultimately you. Surprised? You shouldn’t be! Sure, you may not write the checks or have your name on the building, but you are the CEO of your life and career. It’s a powerful place from which to approach your job and career challenges. It puts you in the driver’s seat.

“Your career is your business. It’s time for you to manage it as a CEO.”

– Dorit Sher

Now, more than ever, there are endless opportunities to find the right Executive, the right “right hand”, the right company, and the right job – for you.

Too often I hear Executive Assistants and Force Multipliers complain about the leadership in their company or the lack of growth opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, the complaints could be completely valid. My first instinct is to work with them on leading up, refining their own communication skills, and having the tough conversations with their Exec. But neither you, nor I, can change anyone, and that’s okay. You can either spend your energy trying to change someone or lamenting your situation, or you can spend your energy freshening up your resume, networking, and interviewing for a job at a company that meets your needs. There is pain associated with staying in your current situation and there is going to be the pain of being uncomfortable and starting a new job. The pain is part of life. The great thing is, you get to choose your struggle and which pain you are willing to tolerate!

Let me say it again, you are the CEO of your career. This goes for Founders and Execs, too! Adam lives by the philosophy (and teaches others), that no one has the right to dumb up his life. Execs may be assigned an EA who is not the right match. They need to speak up and make a change, otherwise they are just doing a disservice to themselves and their EA. Leaders make bad hires and poor decisions. They need to be vulnerable and share their mistakes and what they are going to do about. Founders may have external pressures that conflict with their vision for their organization. They have to stand their ground and have tough conversations. Those are the leaders that I (and I’m sure, you) want to follow. And if you aren’t working with the right leader, go back to the paragraph above and make your move.

I know it’s much easier said than done. There are bills to pay and families to support. I’m not advocating for quitting your job right. this. second. But I am saying that the only way it will change is if you have a conversation with the leadership at your company or start putting a plan in place to find a different job. Just the simple decision of knowing you will be leaving once you’ve found a different opportunity can alleviate stress and empower you. Remember, you (and your career) are entirely up to you.

Being the boss of your career starts with self-awareness. Self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own knowledge, feelings, motives, and desires. Self-awareness is knowing what you are good at (for me, that’s supporting an Executive’s vision), and knowing what you’re not good at (in my case, financials and buying gifts), and owning that. Self-awareness is knowing what you want and setting clear goals and plans to get there. It’s about understanding your motivation (personally, I want freedom), what drives you to be accountable and knowing how you like to work (for me, it’s on my own terms, with a flexible schedule, and lots of autonomy). A lack of self-awareness can be caused by a lack of internal clarity. Does that sound like you? Then you need to STOP (which is scary in this fast-pace world we live in, I know!) and get to know yourself and what you want and need in order to be successful.

Here are a few places to start to get to know yourself better:

  • Behavior and Personality Assessments (e.g. DiSC Profile, 16 Personalities, Myers-Briggs, CliftonStrengths Assessment, The Enneagram)
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Therapy
  • Future Self Worksheet
  • Coaching

From there, start putting this knowledge into action with daily success habits (such as a morning routine of meditation and exercise), creating space outside of work for you to explore just being you (find an activity you love or a new creative pursuit!), and creating a personal growth plan.

As the late great F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be.” You don’t need your boss, your HR department, your partner, or your mom to tell you what’s next for your career. You’re only five years way from wherever you want to be, but you can change who you are today. No matter where you are now, no matter what happened last year, no matter what challenges are ahead of you, you can make a choice today (right now) to create whatever life you want. You are entirely up to you. How cool is that? Now, don’t overcomplicate this, like I tend to do! Every small decision you make (every minute, every hour, every day) will determine whether you move closer or further away from the career and life you imagine. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a series of small, purposeful, daily actions over an extended period of time. Consistency is the name of the game.

So, who’s the boss? You. Now, what are you going to do about it?

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