Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: Guarding the boss


-the strategic role of executive assistants (1)

The Exceptional Administrative Professional is grace, skill, mental toughness, problem-solving, positivity, endless smiles, genius, and desired outcomes in motion” …….Ty Howard

Hello readers, I want to dedicate my article to all the hardworking and efficient Executive Assistants throughout the world. Sometimes I see them as the “unseen angels working behind the scenes at the executive floor. Sometimes they can only go home after the boss or bosses have closed. Their work includes guarding the “Bosses” in the workplaces. Someone would say, “ why do you use the term “ Guard?” Yes, bosses are key people in an organization or institution. You can go on and say “ Are they the only ones who are important? Aren’t we all? Is he/she not a human being? Are we all not part of the wheel? Can he/she work without our input?” Yeah, yeah. It is true. However, the function of bosses is so crucial that an organization can sink without one. I have dealt with several executive assistants in my line of duty and realize that they are easily forgotten as they stay behind the scenes. Before I continue, let me use the opportunity to appreciate a lady I have had interactions with in my line of duty.

Kudos to Madam Doris Oduro-Ntiamoah, Executive Assistant at Opportunity International Savings and Loans Company (OISL)

This lady has shown to be an epitome of soft skills! Sometimes, you know you are a bother, when you call her at odd times. You may think your issue is an emergency, but Doris is unperturbed and always has an open heart for everyone. Such a person makes people who come into contact with her, feel her openness, and her motherly love for all personalities. She is tolerant, confidential, patient, resourceful and hardworking. Doris, I wish you God’s grace and blessings as you continue to shine at OISL as a silent and hardworking support staff for the Executives. Remember, a good name takes one far!

Who is an Executive Assistant?

Gone are the days when these “Guardian Angels” were secretaries whose duty did not include managerial functions. Now the duties of an executive assistant may vary greatly from one company to another. The precise job description for this type of position is based on the structure of the company where the person is employed and the support needs of the executives the individual is assisting. Responsibilities typically include a combination of administrative and managerial functions. Some Executive Assistants serve only the CEO, while in others, they serve all the Executives.

The Boss’s Right Hand?

Executive assistants work with high-level executives at a company to provide top-level assistance. More elite than an entry-level assistant or secretary, an executive assistant is trusted with more high-end or complex duties. In addition to handling incoming and outgoing communication, filing and clerical work, executive assistants might be in charge of scheduling meetings, maintaining complex filing systems and databases, document review and preparation and possibly overseeing other staff. Behind every executive is an executive assistant who makes business happen. Executive assistants provide high-level administrative support, including preparing reports.

The Executive Assistant as a “Gatekeeper”

In my interaction with several executive assistants, I see them playing the role of gatekeepers. Sometimes, friends of the CEO may take advantage of situations and enter the office of a CEO even though he is busy at a virtual meeting or with other persons. I remember a case of a frustrated executive assistant who complained about a client who had no appointment with her boss, and yet found a way to enter the CEO’s office by force. She even wondered why the CEO was very nice to the person, making her feel guilty. I explained to her that CEOs are marketing-oriented and customer focused and would never be angry with a such clients. Perhaps the client was even bringing some business deals!

Balancing the CEO’s conflicting demands

It is the Executive Assistant who understands the CEO’s apprehensions, conflicts, preferred visitors and staff. Due to their emotional intelligence and organizational skills, many CEOs are able to share some personal office issues with their trusted Executive Assistants, who also act as their confidantes and gatekeepers. Executive assistants also  prepare and organize reports, letters, presentations and other documents. When the executive has conflicting priorities, the executive assistant must balance those duties to make sure key projects meet deadlines.

The Strategic Role of Executive Assistants

Office Management

This person’s function is not unlike the Customer service staff in the branch. Individuals who work as executive assistants often have office management duties. These responsibilities may involve overseeing the work of other administrative employees, as well as making sure that everything is in place for the office to function smoothly. Individuals who work as executive assistants often have office management duties.

Schedule Management

Executive assistants are often responsible for scheduling. This may include setting up travel, meetings, speaking engagements and other appointments for the executives they are assigned to work with. In addition to making appointments, this may also involve ensuring there are no scheduling conflicts and making sure executives know where they need to be when.

Managing Communication

Executive assistants often manage the flow of information to members of the executive leadership team. They may screen phone calls, open and sort mail, and summarize reports and memos that are received before passing the information on to the people they assist. Executive assistants are often involved in preparing and formatting information for internal and external distribution. This may include writing letters and memos, compiling data for reports, creating computerized presentations, writing reports, transcribing dictation, editing, proofreading and other information preparation duties.

Managing Records

In these days of electronic correspondence, there must be someone who can reliably put both print and electronic records together for future use. Maintaining company records sometimes falls under the scope of executive assistant duties. They may be responsible for setting up and managing both electronic and paper filing systems, as well as taking steps to maintain that the company is in compliance with all applicable record-keeping requirements.

Confidentiality and Discretion Gone Asunder (The case of the Unprofessional Executive Assistant)

The nature of the work of Executive assistants make them have access to confidential information about strategic plans, possible upcoming layoffs, internal investigations based on employee complaints, company trade secrets and other confidential information. Being privy to so much information that must be protected, executive assistants are usually expected to maintain confidentiality and exercise discretion. This critical quality is essential for success in this type of job. I remember a case of an executive assistant who had “diarrhoea of the mouth”! This gentleman was so unprofessional that he had to be transferred by the new CEO soon after his assumption of duty.  Look at some of his unprofessional acts:

  • Taking snap photos of some confidential documents that involve some staff, which are referred to the CEO. He would then send it to the workers union executives, creating agitation and mistrust between management and staff
  • He eavesdropped on certain personal conversations between the CEO and other Executives!
  • He was sending information about the CEO to the former CEO who had been dismissed by the Board of Directors!
  • He created his own group of “preferred staff” whom he allowed to meet the CEO, while others were always being prevented.
  • He created an air of self-importance around himself and felt more important than even than the CEO himself
  • He did not respect some staff because he knew certain negatives about them.
  • He became a source of rumour-mongering in the company, causing disaffection among workers.

This is how far unethical acts and unprofessional actions some Executive assistants can go. Next week we will tackle the soft skills that executive assistants must exhibit and look at other examples, both good and bad.



Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.


Website www.alkanbiz.com

Email:alberta@alkanbiz.com  or [email protected]

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343

Leave a Reply