Many years over, executive assistants’ roles, responsibilities and skills may have varied with changing time and the rapid upgrades of technology. According to Wise geek, defines executive assistants as “professional’s who functions as aides to corporate executives while the responsibilities associated with work as an assistant of this type will vary depending on the corporate culture that prevails within a given company.” Executive assistants work for a company officer and possess the authority to make crucial decisions affecting such organizations, and are therefore a resource in decision making and policy setting. The executive assistant performs the usual roles of managing correspondence, preparing research, and communication while also acting as the “gate keeper”, understanding in varying degrees, the requirements of the executive and with an ability to decide upon the most important scheduled meetings and events. They may also represent executive at meetings. Executive assistants should be able to motivate and influence people and mange projects. IAM study guide 2011 by Kathleen Stalker
“In some cases, the executive assistant delegates work to the administrative assistant based on competence, experience, and knowledge of the context, confidentiality, priority, urgency and availability” according to www.trisatatedomestic.net.
There may also be drawbacks or problems that will associate themselves with executive assistances.
Examples for this assessment will be drawn from the Ministry of Finance of Trinidad and Tobago. It is an organization that prepares annual budgets and carries out the government’s financial transactions. I have been employed under this Ministry for the past two years.
The skills of an Executive Assistant
Executive assistants in today’s’ world demands are huge. They must possess outstanding skills that every executive wants for the success of their business. As an executive assistant at the Ministry of Finance, the skills that I pose make me unique. These skills are: planning, directing, coordinating, organizing, budgeting, having a wide range of technical, analytical and assertiveness skills, conflict management skills, leadership skills, being an outstanding problem solver, efficient and effective decision maker, excellent communication skills, interpersonal and negotiation skills whilst at the same time knowing the culture of the organization and the business strategy.
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At the Ministry of Finance, I use all these skills on a day to day basis when bombarded with the challenges faced. For example, being able to analyze a given situation and make the right decision that will ensure it is contributing to the overall success of the Ministry. With this type of situation your communication skills are in use in transmitting information to stakeholders, leadership skills are pivotal so that the staff does not see fear, this way you can motivate them to move forward. Problem solving skills are imperative for situations that pose serious threat to the organization.
I also possess skills such as being able to coach e.g. training, allowing for development of staff, and having a skill to discipline when necessary. One major skill that I have is the ability cope with different personalities in the work place. This was shown through the handling of three executives work amongst other employees at the same time. This in turn brought with it different styles of management that I had to adopt myself to.
Another skill that stood out for me as an executive assistant is my ability to undergo continuous professional development. This in turn assists me in managing the challenges faced.
As an executive assistant there are many responsibilities that are associated with its portfolio. These include:
Roles and Responsibilities of Executive Assistant
There are many roles and responsibilities that are associated with the executive assistant. At the Ministry of Finance, as the Executive Assistant, I must be able to assist the Chief Executive Officer efficiently and effectively. The major responsibilities that apply for most executive assistants and myself are, scheduling, which will be fully, discussed later down in diary management, travel arrangements, an integral responsibility that executive assistant must keep up to date with. At the Finance Ministry, our Chief Executive Officer always on board meetings in and around the Caribbean, therefore, his travel plans is always updated.
Administration, that is, keeping an excellent track record of all documents at the ministry, liaisoning and communicating with other executives in the building. There are also the need for taking dictation and managing his day to day correspondence. I also prepare Management Information Systems- answering mails both electronically and via postal, prepare, edit and distribute itineraries, letters, memos and meeting minutes and keep track of for events and meetings making sure that things are not overlooked. (See Appendix for full job description of Executive Assistants- inclusive of roles and responsibilities)
Executive Assistant in Supporting Systems and Processes
A system is “a group of related functions, elements and procedure which work together to ensure that tasks are accomplished and objectives met”. Processes are “procedures that convert resources into results which have a valuable for the organization, customer and stakeholders” IAM study guide 2011
There are many skills that are engineered for me, the executive assistant in supporting systems and processes, these include; being able to adapt to changing technology example, computer literate, Information Communication Technology, excellent communication skills, being able to lead and motivate staff, handling huge amounts of files at a single time with its processes, good filing techniques, control, planning, organizing, coordinating, motivating etc.
It is my duty to ensure that everything is secure because of the vast valuable information that is prevalent. At the Ministry of Finance, as an executive assistant, I still use the paper base or hard copy filing system. Filing in every organization is important and it serves as a track record for the organization. At the Finance Ministry, the filing system is functional and easy to use. The files are simple and quick to retrieve. It is done in an alphabetical order and executive assistants has a more efficient and effective use of this system. However, there is a variable drawback to this Ministry with regards to its security. It’s safe but if a natural disaster to have strike, for example, a fire, then the problem may arise of loss of all hard copy information. There is also room for improvements within our system, for example the introduction of technology-computerized systems. This way paper would be saved. The executive assistants have many roles and responsibilities. When supporting a process, my job is dependent upon the structure of the organization. If the organization has a specific department for example Human Resources, then the executive assistant task would be limited.
However, in an instant where the organization needs to employ Managers, Chief Executive Officers for the strategic level, then it will be assisted by the executive assistant for the executive manager. In this case I will be recruiting and advertising of the vacant post, short listing and acknowledging of the selected candidates of the date and time of their interviews and keeping of the personnel records of the staff.
Executive Assistants and the Office Environment
The environment is the physical layout of an office or its space, building structure and its contents within its structure. There are many skills that are needed for the executive assistant such as; should be aware of the Health and Safety Legislation, be able to budget and costing, there Human Resource and there comfort, risk assessment, reporting etc.
I have a responsibility on advising my line managers on how appropriately they should develop an office environment to ensure that staff is satisfied and comfortable for work. Before any recommendations can be made, I must be able to distinguish the type of building that is present and then assess my work force. Employees want a safe and healthy work environment, so I need to take those factors into consideration when choosing an office environment. Normally, at a new age building, I would recommend with the new technology steel columns and trusses and reinforced concrete frames have liberated space which can be , if necessary be partitioned but lend themselves to open plan office layouts.
However, at my office at the Ministry of Finance, our department is one of an open plan, where everyone work in one huge open space regardless of status and grouped together in logical work groups. At the Ministry of Finance, being an open plan, it brings everyone together, communication and decision making is improved. Teams absorbs knowledge across the area, music is played making work comfortable and enjoyable. It is very cost effective for the Ministry and all noisy equipment are placed at one corner of the department, example photocopiers, faxes etc.
However, the disadvantages to this type of work environment is the traffic flow, people like their own space to personalize, there is the thought of no privacy and the lighting or heating they have no control over. An executive assistant needs to look at this to ensure that they create the right environment for their employees.
Executive Assistant Managing Meetings and Events
An executive assistant has one of their many duties, the role of organizing meetings of all kinds for their executive manager(s).A meeting is “an event involving a group of people getting together to discuss and or decide,” an event “is a planned happening that occurs in a certain place, at a certain time and date” IAM study guide 2011. The meeting will vary in size, but for its success or not, it will depend upon the efficiency and effectiveness of the executive assistant. A significant amount of skills I would need when comes to managing meetings and events are my strong planning, implementing, monitoring, evaluating with leadership skills.
There are many different meetings that can occur within the organization. It is the executive assistant role to identify which one is most important with regards to the situation at hand, For example, there are board meetings, annual general meeting, inaugural meetings etc. The executive assistant at the Ministry of Finance ensures that the following qualities or attributes are present at all events or meetings.
Who will be attending the eventmeeting
What documents will be needed
How many attendees
What equipment will be needed
This type is done internally and externally within the organization. This way the executive assistant job role has been expanded, leaving no room for errors.
Executive Assistant Project Management
In order for me to support my line manger in the planning and conduction of projects independently, they must first understand what a project is? “It is a temporary undertaking to produce a unique product, service or result” IAM study guide 201l.
There are many skills that are associated with executive assistant that will be required to perform their jobs. These skills include; clear objectives, able to cope with risk, excellent planning, good training and an astonishing team, clear scope and objectives, good communication skills, and good control of time and budgeting.
All projects have four stages for its lifespan which include; starting the project, organizing and preparing, carrying out the work and closing the project. Projects have four controls that I know when designing, implementing and coordinating projects. These include, time, cost, scope and equipment. The time is when the project will deliver, the scope is what the project is expected to deliver with a description, and the cost is the amount of money needed to complete the project.
For example at the Ministry of Finance, I have projects such as coordinating sports days, conventions, creating accounts for the yearly fiscal budgets with teams, and doing small external projects such as fixing the pavements in front of and around the building. It’s my duty to develop and allocate its time; cost and what will be delivered in its respected amounts.
Few projects may have failed due to the lack of clear objectives, the lack of risk management and senior management, no team building, understated scope, unrealistic resources, no change control, poor planning, no training and most of the times because of poor communication. This is prevalent within organizations and most times with the executive assistants. The executive assistant must keep those aforementioned risks in consideration always for the prevention of project failure.
Executive Assistants Managing Diaries and Events
According to Sue France 2009 “Executive assistants support their executive manager by not only managing and organizing their own time but that of their bosses”. Maintaining diaries is very useful for an executive manager and it is essential that the executive assistant does this.
Diaries can be hard copy or the normal old fashioned style or more modern day style of electronic diaries. Electronic diaries have many advantages that are associated with it that will allow executive managers and there assistants work more efficient and effective. I can access electronic diaries with Microsoft Outlook which makes the handling of multiple entries easier and shared with executive managers and other staff.
Advantages associated with electronic diaries include; the accessibility from any computer or mobile device, sends reminders of meetings, be easily edited, once involved in any project can track the project status, entries can be shared, information can be integrated with other data proportion.
However, at the office that I am presently employed, the Ministry of Finance, I currently use the hard copy diaries that are on their desks. It is my responsibility to ensure that my line manager attend all his meetings on time as scheduled. Throughout projects, for example, scheduling dates for manager to attend budgets planning, to ensure that the executive gets there with all the necessary paper work up to date and on the specified date and time.
Executive Assistants and Communication
Although there are all the aforementioned roles, responsibilities one of the major skills of an executive assistant is their ability to communicate effectively.
I communicate via telephone, internet or even face to face. According to Sue France, she says that an “essential criterion of executive assistant with regards to communication is their ability to network.” She describes networking as “about listening and strong knowledge and helping each other achieve their respective goals”. Executive assistants should be able to evaluate the most appropriate communication channel or tool to ensure the effective passing on of information.
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At the Ministry of Finance I am able to communicate effectively and efficiently in order to get the job done. If communication is not done properly, then the work will not be up to standard for the achievement of the organizational goals. In order for this to happen, I am able to identify qualities such as, body language, how people interpret information, writing correct style of emails, use of Information Communication Technology and adapting to different cultures.
Skills will also be needed from the executive assistant for the use of telephone etiquette, being able to listen, and being able to communicate throughout the organization form strategic level through to the operational level both horizontally, vertically and diagonally.
Poor communication can shatter or bring down a business to a loss, for example, with the case from the IAM study guide entitled “Communicating with stakeholders” Bernard Mathews did not speak up to defend his turkey producing industry against the bird flu disease. Thus, resulting him and his company to lose sales by 35% and went into a loss position. Since then in 2008 the company went into a turnaround communication perspective that gives the consumer more attention.
In conclusion, Executive Assistants roles and responsibilities go a long way in nurturing the success of the business. It is not only supporting systems and processes, maintaining an appropriate office environment, organizing meeting and events, project planning or managing diaries and communication. It is all of the above and many more associated with this portfolio of the executive assistant that the selected incumbent must possess.
Now that the role, responsibilities and skills of an executive assistant have been examined, it shows what attributes are required for an efficient and effective executive assistant. For the individual to be able to cope with all challenges faced within the organization he or she must adapt to change and allow room for continuous professional development. In this way the executive assistant would learn new and improve techniques to cope with situations.
IAM Level 4
Diploma in Business and Administrative Management
Qualification Handbook (2011 Edition)
Administration for Executive Assistants
Written By- Kathleen Stalker
France S (2009)
The definitive Personal assistant and Secretarial Handbook
Published by- Kogan Page Ltd
Mullins, L.J. (2007)
Management and Organizational Behaviour
Harlow, Financial Times Prentice Hall
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