Just the Secretary

Mia L. Hazlett

You would think the archaic idea that an assistant is “just the secretary,” would not continue to circulate in our modern world.  WRONG!  For over 15 years I coffeehave worked for C-level executives and people jokingly assume, not in their heads, but verbally, that I’m running around getting my boss coffee and his dry cleaning. Really? With Keurigs and pick-up/drop-off services?

This is for both the C-Level Executive (CLE) and the Executive Assistant (EA). Both of you must think of the EA role as an extension of the CLE.  The EA is the detail-oriented version.

For example, think of the CLE as the child and the EA as the parent.  CLE wants to take swimming lessons.  Their basic job is to make the decision to go and then …go to swimming lessons.  The EA’s initial job is to determine when the swimming lessons are, where the swimming lessons are, and consider any conflicts if CLE commits to the lessons. If CLE gets the green light, EA now has to get them registered, pay the deposit, submit the medical form, and make sure CLE has a bathing suit, towel, ear and nose plugs, and a ride to and from the lessons.  That’s how the CLE/EA relationship works.  One makes the decisions; the other brings them to pass.


But it’s not just about the details and the EA having CLE prepared at all times. As CLE you must ensure your company knows, getting an email or voicemail from your EA is the same as getting it from you.  You’ve asked them to either email or call them on your behalf.  They are not requesting the annual report for the board meeting. Why would they?  That is your request.

I once worked for an executive who was friends with many of his VPs. Unfortunately; they did not take him seriously 70% of the time.  In turn, they did not take me seriously 100% of the time when I would request information.  He would ask me if I received a response to one of his requests, if I didn’t, he would spend his time chasing them.  Not an effective leader.

On the flip side, one of my bosses made it known at his administrators’ meeting that all emails and phone calls from me were to be responded to the same day, no exceptions.  He had his exceptions, but his point was taken. It made my job much easier and allowed him to do his job effectively.

As CLE, you were put in a position to lead your company.  But at your level, you cannot run your office single-handedly.  Your EA represents you and it is your job to make sure everyone is aware of it.  When they get an email or call from them, it’s from you, not “just the secretary”.

© 2016 Mia L. Hazlett

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