The Page Personnel EA of the Year Awards, in partnership with The Executive Assistant Academy, saw over 120 submissions across Australia. The initiative, in its ninth year, aims to shine a light on individuals doing an exceptional job in their role, as well as their dedication to the country’s EA and PA community.

Our national winner, Lucy McLennan from Victoria, and state winners for 2019 are shining examples of those who are continuing to raise the bar in the profession. Below, they share their best tips and advice, key skills that can differentiate you from your peers, and their favourite part of the job.

Push the boundaries to shape your role

Lucy McLennan

PwC, National winner

Top 3 skills you need to be an exceptional EA

Top of the list would be to maintain open and clear communication, and the ability to relate to people on any level whether it be a professional and slick approach in certain environments or maybe just “shooting the breeze” with team members. Being consistent and clear is paramount.

This goes hand in hand with relationships. Being able to build your network and taking the time to maintain relationships will make your role so much more effective. Nurturing these internal and external connections means you will have people who have your back and you can call on them to help get the outcome you need.

Lastly, be confident in the value you bring to your organisation, and don’t be afraid to bring your own ideas and voice to the table.

How to build trust and rapport with your exec

Pay attention to what’s happening around you within the team and pick up on nuances like tone of voice that may reveal other issues bubbling underneath. Once you pick up on these and raise it with your exec, you are already building respect with one another. They’ll appreciate that you are noticing them as a person, and not just as an exec you happen to be paired with.

Once rapport is established, trust and flexibility will follow and then you’ll be seen as a “united front” so others will feel they are speaking to the same person, whether it be you or the exec.

Push boundaries and make the EA role one that you create. It’s not just a template or title you merely fit into. You know you’ve nailed your brand when you’re comfortable with what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

Favourite part of the job

Knowing my exec sees me as his second brain. And to tie in with the confidence element that EAs need, I really enjoy offering ideas on how I think he could strengthen relationships, both internally and externally. I take a step back to see him from someone else’s perspective and make suggestions based off that.

Also being able to swing between EA to “one of the gang”, and sharing stories where the exec and I have been at loggerheads shows the team that we all have differences in opinion and that no-one, even the exec, is perfect.

What does it mean to win EA of the Year 2019?

Winning this award means a great deal not just for me personally but for all PAs and EAs out there. I accept this award with them in mind, to help break the stereotypes that exist in our profession. The notes of congratulations and well wishes from EAs I’ve never met is so rewarding and precious.

National winner, Lucy McLennan

Executing with confidence

Averil Pretty

CBHS Health Fund, NSW winner

Top 3 skills you need to be an exceptional EA

Most of the skills attributed to an excellent EA are not technical skills but rather soft skills around emotional intelligence, stakeholder management and managing upwards. 

A top EA must have the technical skills to back this up and be proficient in a range of computer applications.

Your time and priority management skills also need to be top notch, and in my case, extensive reporting and analytics skills.

Favourite part of the job

The reporting I do that supports my executives. I really enjoy making the data tell a story. I love being able to give my exec an overall view of his areas of responsibility, so he knows where to focus attention on, or where to celebrate success.

How to build trust and rapport with your exec

It’s important you build confidence in your execution of tasks: do what you say you’re going to do and appropriately manage expectations if things change. You must have clear expectations, demonstrate integrity and take accountability. Most importantly, communicate, communicate, communicate.

To build rapport, listen not just to what they are telling you but what their body language is telling you. Take some time to get to know your executive, explore common interests and build this into conversations, respecting any boundaries, of course.

I always ensure the first couple of minutes of our weekly 1:1 meeting focuses on the individual rather than going straight into work tasks. For a Monday morning meeting, ask how the family are, what they did on the weekend, or bring up something positive relating to an interest. This not only gives you a good idea of your executive’s energy levels and focus but also directs them to a positive mind frame. Reciprocate where appropriate and be open about your interests and experiences too, because building rapport is not a one-way street.

What does it mean to win EA of the Year: NSW?

Winning EA of the Year 2019 for NSW is recognition of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into ensuring my executives are operating at their most effective and productive. I know, and my executives know, that I put a lot into my work but having the external parties judging and validating this belief is incredibly empowering. Many thanks to Page Personnel and The Executive Assistant Academy for providing the platform for this acknowledgement.

Thriving on the role’s changing nature

Kellie Elia

West Australian Ballet, WA winner

Top 3 skills you need to be an exceptional EA

A passion to serve others. To be successful in this role I truly believe you need to have a passion and desire to serve others.

Supernatural resourcefulness. You must possess an uncanny ability to pull rabbits from hats, on any given day, under any time frame, under any given circumstances. This predisposition to find solutions through creative methods will make you an indispensable EA.

Steadfast loyalty and commitment. No technology will ever outweigh the value of a loyal assistant. Your ability to act as a trusted confidant is the key to a strong, successful partnership with your executive. 

Favourite part of the job

Being able to witness the world class performances of our incredible dancers, knowing that a small part of what I do behind the scenes contributes to enriching the lives of others. As an EA, holistically, I absolutely thrive on the changing nature of the role and how no two days are the same. I start the day as if I’m entering a tennis match, and I love to end the day knowing I’ve returned every ball that has come my way.

How to build trust and rapport with your exec

It’s important to remember it takes time to build trust and rapport, and that this also comes in different stages for personal and professional trust. Be patient and consistent, and you will see results. Acting as an extension of your executive and being able to reflect their style is a great way to build trust, as is leading by example and setting the cultural tone in your organisation with your own behaviour.

What does it mean to win EA of the Year: WA?

Winning an award of this calibre in WA is a huge achievement not only personally but professionally – for my entire organisation.

It is important to me that I am providing a level of service to my executive that’s equally as competitive and comparable to all industries. To win this award as an EA at an NFP organisation is high acclaim and evidence of how arts organisations are thriving and attracting the best talent the state has to offer. 

Learning different dances

Cheryl Slender

Swissport, QLD winner

Top 3 skills you need to be an exceptional EA

Take initiative and be proactive. Take an interest in your job, company and industry as if it were your own business. Research, learn and immerse yourself in knowledge, trends and inspiration to stay ahead of the game. Don’t be scared to be creative – you can be professional and still add your personal flair.

Time management. Having a flexible and adaptable mindset is essential. Working for a global company, we operate across different time zones and receive emails 24/7. Having a can-do, will-do attitude with a plan to prioritise and organise efficiently, you can take on the world.

Learn to do different dances. Let me explain: Everyday, you’ll deal with a variety of internal and external stakeholders of all different personality types. While still being yourself, you need to be able to communicate with these different people in different occasions. Some people are like ballroom dancers, so you need to ballroom dance with them, while some people might be break dancers, so you need to break dance with those people. You would never ballroom dance with a break dancer.

Favourite part of the job
I love the diverse range of projects I am trusted to lead, from events, staff reward trips, concept and design of commercial fit outs and airport lounges to liaising with suppliers. No two days are the same. It may sound cliché, but I get excited coming in to work every day, seeing my work family’s faces and having fun while working hard to create something special together. The Swissport team is truly unique and I am very blessed to have a supportive boss and team.

How to build trust and rapport with your exec

It’s always important to be honest with your executive about the office, business and yourself, as this builds credibility. Have the confidence to back yourself with any ideas you think may benefit the company. Have a sense of humour, be professional and be yourself. Be someone you’d want to deal with. Be approachable and most importantly, smile.

What does it mean to win EA of the Year: QLD?

I’m absolutely blown away and truly grateful to be the EA of the Year 2019 for QLD. I am so humbled to be considered for this award, as I’m aware of the number of super talented EAs in our beautiful state. It is so wonderful for the lovely team at Page Personnel and The Executive Assistant Academy to recognise the work that we do. I would also like to acknowledge the support of my epic boss, Glenn Rutherford, and the Swissport team in Australia, New Zealand and globally. They are the most amazing group of humans that I am lucky enough to call my work family.

If you’d like to discover our latest EA and PA roles, get in touch with a specialist consultant here.

QLD winner, Cheryl Slender
Join over 60,000 readers!
Get a free weekly update via email here and help kick start your career.

Advertise Your Role With Us

Advertise Your Role With ReachTalent