In my work as a retained recruiter and consultant, I meet with and represent global CEOs in their search for Senior-Level Executive Assistants, who perform as Executive Life Managers. In these discussions, I learn that they expect these professionals to have a focus on high standards, with a different kind of instinct from which they will be able to connect their role to opportunities in technology, the global workplace experience, and rapid social changes. This means that Executive Life Managers will make effective and efficient decisions, with acute focus and a sense of consequence; thus, are based more in knowledge and competence, than on their position in an organizational hierarchy. This career requires skillful imagination, precise execution, with equal parts of trust and timing, and a range of attributes, perspective, empathy and prior knowledge.
For Executive Life Managers, the present time offers unparalleled professional challenge; yet, it also suggests remarkable opportunities. Forging the relationship with executives to the level of Business Partnership is the value proposition. How do you add value? Shifting this position to this level of accountability requires expanding your knowledge base to increase the role’s distinctiveness.
To claim the level of Business Partner, your expertise will be demonstrated by your ability to incorporate aspects of Management and Leadership into your role of Strategic Support. As these skills converge, it is expected that you will represent Executives in dealings with others by using interpersonal and problem-solving skills. The centerpiece of the evolving role requires that Executive Life Managers provide a source of knowledge to create structures, systems and organization to support the vision of the executive, while aligning those tasks with the goals of the organization. Executive Life Managers must be creative thinkers and must be skilled in business strategy in order to be able to place facts in context and deliver them with impact. The modern paradigm of the executive assisting profession is that this position requires individuals to be very proficient in their practice, not only in the areas of technology but in business acumen.
The most valued Executive Life Manager is the person who aligns his/her strategy with that of the Executive’s and the organization’s mission. You know that the key is in the orientation of the role and that there must be personal chemistry between the Executive and the Assistant. Executive Life Managers’ intellectual and technical capabilities are influences; yet, it is the “personality fit factor” that is the key to sustainable performance, both personally and organizationally. Each must like, respect and trust the other, and have the friendship-based capacity to apply humor to challenging situations. Mutual respect, accountability, trust, and adaptability and a sense of humor must be absolute. Executive/Executive Life Managers’ Business Partnerships will yield successful outcomes when there is mutual respect and the right fit: in executive personality, company culture, and agreed-upon goals.
Professional Assistants, you are not imprisoned by the traditional job description; you know that your position is valuable, and of enviable strategic importance. Let me remind you of the four viewpoints for creating and delivering value: the first is that a new performance responsibility has emerged; the second is that the willingness to change is a key strength; thus, thinking becomes the new commodity; the third is that your role is important as you focus on results and maximize efficiency; and the fourth is that as you accept higher levels of responsibility within your role, your influence will be most critical to creating a high performance environment. Your work will be measured by volume, pace and precision. Your value comes from your ability to analyze and challenge long-standing practices, and to replace such outdated approaches with smarter decision making and improved performance.
Executive Life Managers, you represent a high business function. You are among any establishment’s critical talent population. Why? You provide administrative stability, the discipline to do more things better, and the vital skills of adaptability and resilience to manage the magnitude of systems with consistency and reliability. You are intellectually impressive. You have mastered the science of attention with constructive concentration, focus, which is the science of attention, and self-awareness and self-management that fosters the skill of empathy.
Executive Life Managers, you immediately respond to the high-velocity change in the work environment, to the hyper-speed of technology, and to competitive world events that affect business strategies. Executive success is dependent upon your talent, and your adaptability to change. This role tests your ability to retain the essential and reliable quality of outstanding character, no matter what. This is your differentiation strategy.
Your sense of mission is that you are relied on to make the Executive’s vision a reality. Your purpose is to meet the goals of the Executive and the enterprise you support. How do you add value? You focus on distinctiveness with consistency, creativity and communication.
To achieve balance and strengthen your innovative ability, you assure executives of your proficiency with your Performance Skills (your experience; how you have expanded in the role). Your Expertise (the areas in which you excel). Your Personal Attributes (you reflect confidence and a centered ego; someone who gets it done). Your Knowledge (you have reliable skills). Your Social/Interpersonal Skills (you demonstrate the charisma to manage global relationships) of equal magnitude is what I refer to as CSI:
Character. Professional Courage (the intention to do the right thing).
Strategic Competence. Knowing how to do the right thing.
Imagination. Intellectual Integration (the ability to deliver and execute the right thing).
Executive Life Managers, your workplace mandate is to provide the basis for Executives to make the best-informed decisions possible. You conduct due diligence in order to assure that all relevant information, with the right level of detail, is available to aid in the decision process. You are a high verifier of all information because preparation of such materials, and for their thoroughness and balance, confirms your competence.
Smart businesses will compete for your talent because you are intellectually impressive. You can serve as advocate and strategist, and thereby influence policies, processes, and corporate decisions. You encounter vigorous tests as you meet assisting protocols; yet, you persevere and reshape your role with ideas that are truly innovative. Experience and acquired knowledge allows you to make smarter decisions which thereby improve your performance. Your brilliance is captured by your ability to distinguish between cause and effect, and to understand the impact of change on executive and organizational priorities. This is your differentiation strategy.
Charles Darwin tells us that “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” So doing produces learning. The key is to welcome the challenge offered by change, while we find a way to integrate the things we love into the work that we do. Professional Assistants meet this challenge.
The key to creating a sustainable, thriving career as a Professional Executive Life Manager in these challenging times is to know what new and expanded skills are required for you to assume even higher levels of responsibility, then to acquire those skills and design a career strategy that supports your expertise as Indispensable. Your personal strategy is essential.
I believe that you have to be the architect of your own career. I believe that you have to create your own opportunities. I believe that you have to continue to invest in your education to sustain business partnership accountability. I believe that to support your role as Executive Life Manager new learning should focus on a combination of the following essential Pivotal Roles:
Leadership. As Leader, you exemplify the qualities of leadership as you cope with change, push through obstacles, finish what you start and build commitment through collaboration. You exercise judgment in decision-making and foster group cooperation and teamwork. You efficiently handle difficulties and emergencies. You manage confidentiality. Character is your #1 attribute.
Management. As Manager, you direct individuals and routines through organizational adaptability. You conserve and reinvent new competencies; you execute. You devise systems to measure and monitor implementation. You assess the parameters of a particular situation and decide what ideas and actions will work in that context. Your Management skills bring structure to day-to-day routines. You constantly look at the way you do things and adjust the process to reflect goals and resources. You create global relationships as you move forward.
Global Communication. As Communication Expert, you serve as liaison, translate key messages, ask the right questions and listen well. Misunderstandings and false expectations are eliminated. Schedules are clarified. Personal preferences are explained. Compromises are worked out.
Technology. As Technology Expert, you work in a world that is massively interconnected. You are spontaneously reinventing systems and processes to adapt your technological skills to create and manage time-saving solutions. You are systems focused and structured; you put the pieces together to move across boundaries. C-Suite Executives prize technologically adept Executive Life Managers, with flawless execution.
Business Partnership. As Business Partner, you are strong business allies, with a real share in the purpose and mission of the organization. The Executive/Executive Life Manager Business Partnership is sustained both personally and organizationally when mutual expectations are established. You provide administrative and technical support; you keep your indispensable skills competitive.
Costs and Benefits.
Are these skills necessary? The Executive/Executive Life Manager Business Partnership is a well-understood dynamic that is critically important to the success of any organization, anywhere in the world. The dilemma is that there can sometimes be a diminished emphasis on the role; yet, these skills are the source of improved worldwide executive efficiency. While professional education is required to introduce and sustain these skills, financial and time-off requirements are the obstacles and difficulty the Executive Life Manager population encounters.
I believe that knowledge in these areas of business acumen is essential in order to sustain the impact that the new demands in your position will have on your performance. Acquiring knowledge that will leverage the lessons learned will offer you recognition and influence.
I have a rising optimism for members of this profession when I consider the relevance and strategic importance of this role, wherein opportunities abound. Upon the hire of a Professional Executive Life Manager, matched with the right personality and the right mix of skills, CEOs report that these professionals represent an authenticity that is unrivaled. Congratulations, Executive Life Managers. Here is the formula for the superb role of Assisting: Management + Leadership + Strategic Support = Business Partnership, which leads to Chief of Staff. Yours is a great career choice.