Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: Guarding the boss…the strategic role of executive assistants (2)


“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card. How you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”……Jay Danzie

Dear Readers, last week we looked at the role of Executive assistants in companies, the usual functions they perform and their role as the Guard of the CEO. We also looked at an example of an unprofessional executive assistant who was given the sack for his negative acts which caused disaffection among workers.

Once again, here is a summary of the roles of executive assistants depending on the type or structure of the company:

  • Administrative support
  • Managing emails and correspondence
  • Travel arrangements
  • Liaison on communication
  • Scheduling appointments and events
  • Project management
  • Financial management support
  • Information gathering
  • Managing documents
  • Crises management
  • Business continuity follow-ups
  • Training and development issues
  • Report writing, etc

The Soft skills of Executive Assistants

The most effective Executive Assistants share skills in communication, organization and technology. They also have sound judgment and understand the importance of teamwork. Executive assistants work as partners with their executives to accomplish key goals. Overall, an executive assistant in banking plays a vital role in supporting the executive team and ensuring the smooth operation of the bank’s administrative and managerial functions. They are often a key point of contact for internal and external inquiries and play a central role in maintaining efficiency and organization in a fast-paced banking environment.

The Transformational role of the Executive Assistant

In some institutions, efficient Executive Assistants can easily transform their roles into that of strategic partners. Their contributions can go beyond administrative tasks and have a direct impact on the organization’s success and its ability to achieve its long-term objectives.

Here are a list of several soft skills that all executive assistants need in order to be unique and efficient in their roles:

  • Good communication skills: Professionalism in handling people, correspondence, good telephone etiquette, choice of words and good body langage.
  • Good organizational skills: Sometimes CEOs have back to back appointments, especially in this era of virtual meetings. Executive Assistants must ensure the CEO stays within his time frames and prompt him or her gently, as time goes on.
  • Teambuilding: Cooperating and collaborating with all stakeholders to achieve the goals of the company.
  • Efficient time management: Juggling multiple tasks, scheduling appontments, booking travel arrangements and monitoring events. Good multitasking is an advantage.
  • Confidentiality: Maintain confidentiality and discretion in all affairs and dealings that the bosses encounter.
  • Empathy: Good listening skills is a key attribute needed to be empathetic and appreciate the concerns of others and discuss with the CEO or Executives is a good bridge to build easy flow of communication between Management and workers.
  • Meticulous and attention to details: CEO can refer some critical report before a presentation for proofreading. Catching even the smallest errors can make a significant difference in maintaining their professional image
  • Problem-solving skills: Your executive has a last-minute change in travel plans, and you need to reorganize the itinerary, hotel reservations, and notify all relevant parties. Being adaptable in such situations is essential.
  • Proactiveness: For example, an Executive Assistant can prepare an agenda for a meeting without being asked, ensuring everything runs smoothly.

These attributes collectively contribute to an effective and successful executive assistant. They play a critical role in helping executives focus on their core responsibilities by handling various tasks efficiently and professionally

Managing Different personality types

Managing various personalities is a crucial aspect of being an effective executive assistant. Navigating through the maze of complex personality types comes with its own issues. When conflicts arise in the company, a good executive assistant can pave the way for conflict resolution to be effective since both parties have respect for them. Being open and humbly listening well to all parties, an efficient executive assistant will appreciate the differences in the various personalities and facilitate good conflict resolution while maintaining neutrality.

 To conclude, I wish to refer all Executive Assistants to some extracts from an article published by Adam Fidler, Principal, Adam Fidler Academy | Author of The Strategic Executive Assistant and ‘The Executive Assistant Manifesto’ on 14th April 2022.

“Ten fatal mistakes Executive Assistants (still) make_ Adam Fidler

“I’ve been teaching Executive Assistants (EAs) since 2011, and time after time, I see the same errors, which even done inadvertently, really affect the perception of an EA, their credibility and professional status.  Here are the top ten mistakes that EAs need to avoid.  Don’t feel offended!  Use this as a development tool and take a self-critical approach to your EA career.    

Lack of writing skill.  Developing the ability to write, and draft documents (not merely type them!), takes time, practice and confidence.  The best EAs I’ve seen are good writers; they not only format a document for their Executive, but write it.  If you never write anything for your Executive, then you’re not offering a real skill that will save your Executive an awful lot of time. 

Unable to think strategically.   EAs are naturally able to think operationally, and even tactically – but also need to think strategically and see the bigger picture.  You may be in the weeds most of the time as an EA, but taking that helicopter view, and proving you can do so, is essential for supporting your Executive more broadly. 

Poor self-perception.  The way we see ourselves has a direct correlation on how others see us.  Perception is projected.  I still see too many EAs who view themselves as secretaries or low-level admins.  If that’s your internal perception, believe you and me, that’s how others will see you and how they will behave towards you. 

Staying within the EA bubble.  It’s amazing how many EAs are happy to stay within traditional expectations, and don’t want to look outside of their role – and broaden it.  If all you’re doing for your Executive is diaries, travel and traditional duties (is that really EA?), you aren’t future-proofing and adding wider value.  Acting and thinking independently is key.

Being passive.  Let’s not get this mixed up with being diplomatic or having a pleasing personality.  Yes, your role is to work with people, and fit in.  But too much sitting on the fence, not saying boo to a goose, nor having an opinion, really steals credibility.  To influence, challenge the status quo and speak out occasionally. As repeatedly I have said in my training programmes: no opinion = no influence! 

Having a fixed mindset.  Being agile and adaptable are the hallmarks of a solid EA; in fact, it’s all about the Growth Mindset, according to Carol Dwek.  Success is not about being clever or rich – it’s about being open minded to try new things, and even if you fail, you bounce back and keep trying.  “It’s not my job,” or “I can’t do that,” means you’ll be overlooked for promotion, or an increment in your performance review. 

Lack of professional qualifications.  Shoot me if you want to, but I’ve got to stress again, that in every other industry, whether you’re a bricklayer or a hairdresser, you’d be expected to be qualified in what you do”

Adam Fidler is a leading authority on the role of the true Executive Assistant.  His perspectives on The Strategic Executive Assistant™, EA Success Factors for a Modern Age™ and the EA Manifesto: What I Am™ have influenced the perception and educational attainment of EAs.  

Becoming a strategic partner as an executive assistant is a valuable way to contribute significantly to your organization and the executive you support. I wish all Executive Assistants to continue to be strategic in their thinking, updating themselves and be partners in the strategy of the company they are working at.


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

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