12 Skills You Should Acquire in 2021 as an Executive Assistant 

12 Skills You Should Acquire in 2021 as an Executive Assistant 

12 Skills You Should Acquire in 2021 as an Executive Assistant 

Personalities from the political world, in show-business, or top performers from the sports industry, they all depend on the services of their personal or executive assistant.  

So, what are the differences between a Personal Assistant (PA) and an Executive Assistant (EA)?  Do their skills define which category they belong to?  

These skills are crucial on the way to become a great PA and an EA.   

The main task of a personal assistant and an executive assistant is to support the company´s administration; a role often called “gatekeeping.” This label barely covers the description of the full job task. They also play the role of the person who gets things done, like travel organizing, arranging accommodation, managing invoices, planning the calendar meetings.  

The Personal Assistant can work in a private sector, political sector, in media, public, or sports. Executive assistant, however, has a role that focuses more on the general business environment. Thus, an EA will have more specialized knowledge of the activity sector of the company. This knowledge will allow the EA to support the executive in their daily decision-making about the organization, individual departments, and other services. 

Is Emotional Intelligence the most important interpersonal skill for PA and EA? 

David Goleman's book, Emotional intelligence presents that emotional intelligence accounts for 80 percent of career success.  

Being emotionally intelligent, for a personal assistant or executive assistant, doesn't mean to be polite and friendly to people. It means to show strength in any strategic and challenging moment that may occur, as Daniel Goleman said, "bluntly confronting someone with an uncomfortable but consequential truth they've been avoiding."   

Because the Personal Assistant and Executive Assistant work directly with executives, and they have a stressful life, it's essential to see beyond words.

“people's emotions are rarely put into words, far more often they are expressed through other cues. The key to intuiting another's feelings is in the ability to read nonverbal channels, tone of voice, gesture, facial expression, and the like. This is the most powerful form of listening, empathy, hearing the felling's behind what is being said.”  

(David Goleman, Emotional Intelligence) 

In the book Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman suggests that “a mood can spread through a group with great rapidity.” Therefore, it depends on both assistants, personal and executive, to choose what type of energy they wish to create at work.  

Positive energy will create good vibes, innovative ideas, optimistic approaches, good results, and productivity.  

Or negative, with all the depressive, disruptive, faithless, and sad emotions.   

There is a direct connection between the work environment and productivity. Happy personal assistants are more productive than non-happy ones. The purpose is not to add more pressure on you to be happy and to put a smile on your face even when you don’t have the most fabulous day. But rather for you to be in control of your emotions and know how to deal with them. It is up to you to choose not to pass your lousy mood on to your colleagues and be true to yourself about what is achievable for days like that. 

What other skills should an executive assistant have?  

Diplomacy and negotiation skills 

Being diplomatic as an executive assistant is a key to success in the business. The results reached in this kind of negotiation tend to be more durable. There is a higher rate of productivity, cost-efficient for alternative solutions.   

Pacification as a type of diplomacy is used by PA and EA in various concessions to reach the desired outcome while agreeing with the parties involved in a solution, and compromises are beneficial to all the sides involved, including the company.    

Negotiation skills play a significant role in terms of what you are reaching for as an executive assistant, but first, you have to be clear on what it is you want and how much time, energy, and money are you willing to spend on it.   

Ask first, and then wait for the offer, do not make the offer first. One of the failures in negotiating is to view it as a win-lose situation; the point of it is to see it as a transaction or collaboration accomplished. 

Top-notch communication skills 

As an Executive assistant, communication skills may be the basics skills, but they must be mastered to an expert level.   

The role of the representative of the executive for internal communications requires top-notch talking skills and writing skills. Dealing via email and calls directly on behalf of the manager is not an easy task. External communication, with press or stakeholders, challenge EA with its characteristics that need to be appropriately handled.  

Communication goes hand in hand with discretion, loyalty, and reliability. A personal or an executive assistant knows confidential and private matters. Communicating this information to the wrong people is highly unprofessional and can be a threat to the business.  

An executive assistant is holding communication for one or a few executives. Extensive knowledge and experience in the specific domain are necessary to communicate within and outside of the company effectively. Negotiation skills play a significant role in terms of what you are reaching for as an executive assistant, but first, you have to be clear on what it is you want and how much time, energy, and money are you willing to spend on it.   

Ask first, and then wait for the offer, do not make the offer first. One of the failures in negotiating is to view it as a win-lose situation; the point of it is to see it as a transaction or collaboration accomplished.  

Communication for a PA or EA is the most crucial requirement for this profession. It allows them to properly understand how to convey ideas as well as listen to the tasks at hand, a two-way street. Communication tasks can include a wide range of things like taking urgent calls, emails, greeting visitors, verbal and written communication, and networking.   

An administrative assistant is continuously communicating with the whole company, supporting the company’s employee requirements, in various tasks: like office supplies, incoming calls, as well as the digital presence, organization. 

Amazing organizing skills 

For all types of assistants, a personal, executive, and administrative, staying organized is crucial and can easily be considered one of the most valued skills in an organization. You need to be able to prioritize tasks over periods or immediately. It requires you to be a good planner, to be able to manage calendars of the executives properly, answer the phone, book and arrange travel, and even help with the implementation of new organizational procedures. 

Organizational skills as EA depend on specific duties, responsibilities, and functions. It's vital to stay up to date with the latest handy technology tools, widen your horizons via online courses, and participate in conferences.   

Proficiency in the latest software will help with efficient scheduling of appointments, tasks, travel booking, also with reporting or managing the team. Knowledge of the 2020s most used software is considered an advantage, and it counts when you are looking for a new job. 

Skills list to acquire as Executive assistant  

Join Executive Assistant Conferences in 2021 & Start Networking  

Conferences are always a good reason to expand your knowledge and to find how your peers are getting things done. When you are working, you barely have free time to discover what is new in the executive assistant world. At a conference, you gain access to unpublished data, knowledge from the best leaders in your field, and have the opportunity to ask them questions regarding your skills.   

Networking is one of the main reasons why Executive Assistants attend a conference. Conferences bring like-minded people together, from all over the world, that share the same desire to build on their careers and who understand the power of networking. At a PA or EA conference or summit, the main goal is to keep yourself updated and enjoy the new ideas and propositions you receive and bring them back to your workplace.  

If you are looking to get a jumpstart in your assistant career, here is a link to our upcoming Executive assistant Online conferences 2021.   

Use the #VLAssistantArticle code and benefit from a 50€ discount at our next event. 

At the 2nd EMEA Executive Assistant Online Summit, our experts will not only inspire you to be the best version of yourself, but they will also offer you the proper tools to help you achieve it. On March 4-5, 2021, you will get a chance to connect with like-minded assistants who want to add new skills to their professional portfolio, grow their network, and learn useful techniques.

Join us and meet new friends for an experience that will leave you inspired, informed, and empowered!

Develop your excellence! Join us at this two-day Online Summit with training sessions from the world’s top coaches

  • Keynote Presentation by Lucy Brazier
  • Meet Amy Tez, an actress turned Communication Trainer, to learn practical techniques to start making a real impact at work
  • Unleash the power of delivering an effective presentation with Shawn Fair
  • Stephanie Gasche, independent Agile Coach, will teach you how to stop juggling tasks and be more agile
  • Empower your virtual and remote teams with this comprehensive and timely new methodology with Peter Ivanov, author of "Virtual Power Teams," which is translated into six languages and is Amazon's Top 3 in the category - international management.
  • Take control of your work and personal life learning more about attention management with certified coach Liz Van Vliet
  • Address future trends, technology, and team dynamics with Amber Vanderburg, a multi-award-winning international business person
  • Explore Emotional Intelligence and how it can impact you and your organization in the keynote session of Alan Vanderburg, Author of the book EQ Killed the Radio Star: How Emotional Intelligence Can Crush Or Crash Your Organization


Anticipation skills  

Anticipating requirements for an executive assistant are fundamental. This power of anticipation requires the EA to have a high level of emotional intelligence. Being able to see ahead and prevent small issues that could develop into real problems cannot be overestimated. Anticipation skills come from a real job and life experience.  

Clutter-free offices 

The latest studies by The New York Times show that running things in disorder either in the office or home has a significant role in the well-being of employees. These studies show that clutter can increase the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the workplace.  

Having an organized office helps to create a functional environment. A pleasant work atmosphere for an executive assistant is essential. If there is no harmony and usefulness, it could lower productivity and motivation in the long term. 

It is recommended to have plants in the office, there are several benefits of having plants in an office such as lower stress, noise reduction, filter the air, enhance the workplace, boost productivity & creativity and decrease sickness. An executive assistant is always good to come with solutions based on the latest discoveries and find ways to improve. 

The Sansevieria Plant cleans the air better than most other indoor plants as it has the ability to absorb excessive amounts of carbon monoxide. 

Additionally, it emits oxygen and filters other toxins from the air such as benzene, xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde, clearing up the air, protecting you from air allergies.  

Technology and software skills  

As a personal assistant or executive assistant, having access and familiarity with the latest company management tools is a must. Each company has its own specific needs, yet basic knowledge of Microsoft Office is required across the board. Here are some tools that you should familiarize yourself with. 

  • Google G suite is similar to Microsoft Office and is generally accepted in most businesses giving you access to Google’s version of the word, excel, PowerPoint, or notes.  
  • Trello, an organizational system that allows management to see the progression of projects and tasks, like Microsoft Planner.  
  • Calendly, an intuitive software, ideal for small and middle-sized businesses. Using phone and email tags, it connects to key prospects immediately. The starting price is $8, and you have a free trial.  
  • Slack can replace email, text messaging, and instant messaging for your team, and keep all those communication styles together in one app. With both desktop and mobile versions, Slack can help your team collaborate and coordinate their work no matter where they are. Its free version allows up to 10 users and has a limit of up to 10000 messages, while the full version starts at around $6.67 per active user per month.  
  • Hootsuite is useful for personal assistants that manage the company’s social media. Here are some of its benefits: it can monitor multiple social media profiles at once, schedule posts in advance, track analytics data, manage customer service. There is a free and pro plan depending on your requirements, and costs start from $9.99.  
  • Salesforce is one of the most innovative tools used in big companies. The 5 most important benefits are customer information, account planning, time management, team collaboration, accessibility. You need to be certified as Salesforce Administrator in order to work efficiently.   
  • TripIt organizes all your travel itineraries and documents, so you have everything in one place before you even get to your destination. Also, there is a Pro version with alerts, alternative flights, fare trackers, seat trackers. TripIt Pro offers users a 4 months free trial.  
  • Dropbox is used for storage backup, sharing big files,   
  • Monday is totally customizable to fit your needs, can be used as a project management tool, event management, task management, progress tracking, etc 

Taking an initiative is always an appreciated skill for an executive assistant 

One of the main requirements of an EA is to take the workload from the executive and get things done as efficiently as possible. Even with an extensive list of assignments, competent executive assistants must be able to prioritize their tasks and handle them over time, but also on a minute by minute basis.   

Take ownership of the tasks and your work. Nobody likes to see you blaming others for not getting things done. As an executive assistant, you need to take control and use your energy and motivation on tasks you can accomplish. EA’s understand the importance of taking the initiative, properly going above and beyond while collaborating with a team, not waiting around for anyone to tell them what to do. 

Add new assets to your portfolio   

As an EA, sometimes, you are asked to find a solution to issues outside of your area of expertise. To avoid this, you should make an effort to learn daily. Taking free online courses or reading the latest books and articles in your profession can work wonders. As for immediate answers to questions outside your expertise, simply use Google. Proper research techniques will help you solve problems in a timely manner. 

Working as an Executive Assistant in a digital world, you should also be familiar with the latest tools and innovations.   

In the digital world, learning has become much easier and accessible. Even more so, you can learn from anywhere in the world. Here are some online platforms that are great for career development. 

  • LinkedIn Learning - dedicated to businesses, creatives, and those looking learn tech skills, the online platform is full of video tutorials, from leading experts. On this platform, when you accomplish a course, you can instantly share the certificate with your social network. 
  • Udemy - has reasonable prices compared to the market, and they always have sales, keep an eye on the course you are interested in.   
  • Open Classrooms - is available in 2 languages, English and French, to find out what course you are interested in and if you wish to improve your French “Maintenant ç'est le moment 
  • - they also have free courses, each dedicated to training personal and executive assistants.    

And there are many other online platforms where you can find new exciting courses. If you find some, let us know so we can add them to our list.    

Use Kanban to show the progress of your tasks   

Kanban means signboard or billboard in Japanese.

Index Cards or visual stickers on this board relating to tasks are a fun way to visually keep track of projects for the office and the entire team. For better understanding, see the images below, sometimes a picture says more than 100 words.  

Kanban was created to help people be more organized while keeping tasks set in stone as they are being completed. One of the main challenges that an executive assistant can encounter is real-time changes to set tasks; if not properly organized, this can lead to significant issues. 

Kanban can be easily used to track all employees' performances and discover where the issues are in order to implement new changes. Also, it helps you as EA to visualize your workflow, making the process more explicit to everyone. See the video for a better understanding.  

Efficiency comes from the delegation. A tool like this can help you improve the requests you make. That’s why when a task starts, you should be present to make sure that there are no flaws in the request. In time you’ll be better, and the other company employees involved will be more efficient. 

Trello is one tool that Kanban implemented in it. It’s a project management application that is easy to use and track multiple tasks or projects in real-time, and it allows the collaboration between team members. 

 Embrace other perspectives and make the right choices 

We spend 80% of our days at work. Behaviour is the main factor in creating a healthy environment. A wise approach is to be able to look over differences and develop long term beneficial relationships with your team. Being aware that there are other perspectives on the same issue can be very helpful for an EA. Considering that an executive assistant deals with a high number of people every day, it is vital to have a broader perspective when it comes to finding solutions. Each person's disposition, attitude, mood, feelings, have an impact on their level of effectiveness, ability to make productive choices, their creativity, and their ability to work with others.   

Let's dive in deep and see what the harmful behaviors are, and how to stop them. Rude executives' behavior not only makes the work environment unpleasant; they also lower productivity. Their co-workers tend to make more mistakes than usual, explains Jennifer A. Bunk, a West Chester University professor and member of the Society of Industrial & Organizational Psychology.   

 Executives should be aware that this type of toxic behavior harms productivity and lowers job satisfaction. Considering those facts, employees usually leave the company because of their managers' leadership behaviors and lack of communication skills. If there is no improvement in your manager, don't waste your time, you should look for other positions as an Executive Assistant.   

Gossiping is a big no-no to do at work. First, it distracts your attention from work and performance, and the second thing you must realize that if you participate in this type of discussion, the person who started this will always gossip about you with other people. 

Gossiping breaks trust decreases morals, creates miscommunication, and creates conflicts. The best thing to do is to avoid it and keep a professional relationship. On the other hand, working in a motivating environment with great leaders has shown to boost productivity and creates a long-term bond. As an executive assistant, sometimes you are the bridge of communication between the executive and the team, why not try to create a healthy, pleasant work environment?  

Hope you have enjoyed reading this article, if you know other skills that should not be missing on our list, let us know, we appreciate your opinion. Feel free to share this article with your peers on LinkedIn, forums, or other social media. Let us know what subjects you are of interest to you, as an executive assistant, so we can ask the experts in this domain and come back to you with good quality content.