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What are the main challenges an EA faces? Q&A with Michelle Roch – 2013 EA of the Year
15 October 2013
At the time of winning the award Michelle was an executive assistant within the Development team at Colonial First State Global Asset Management, supporting seven senior managers. The company has since gone through an M&A and she has herself been promoted to a Development Manager at the new entity Vicinity Centres.
Here are Michelle’s solutions to some of the main challenges an EA can face:
Challenge 1: Managing a big load/work-life balance
Managing a large workload is one of the main challenges we face, particu-larly when you are supporting a large team as I did (I had seven team mem-bers to support).
Solution: Set boundaries and stick to them
It is really important that you set clear boundaries early on with the people you work with and stick to them. Saying yes to everything is a recipe for dis-aster. Pre-empt what priorities will be and discuss this openly with the peo-ple who are not at the top of the list. Make sure you take the time to switch off when you can to ensure you don’t burn out.
Conflicting deadlines were one of my biggest challenges. With a large team there will always be individuals with different priorities. C-suite level execu-tives especially will always think they should be at the top of the list! You need to make sure you can juggle everything effectively, particularly if you are involved or want to be involved in additional project work.
Communicating and managing expectations about how your workload is impacted by new tasks is essential with the delegating manager when you receive them so everyone knows where they stand.
Make sure you communicate consistently at all times and remain professional.
Challenge 2: People issues – dealing with difficult people
It is inevitable that you will come across difficult individuals during your tenure as an EA. But what is the best way to deal with it?
Solution: Don’t take anything personally
It is really important to be resilient if you have a high pressure job as an EA. Don’t take anything personally, as it isn’t. Just because you may not get along with someone, that does not necessarily reflect on you. There are many different personalities in the corporate world and they won’t all get along.
Make sure you communicate consistently at all times and remain professional. Try not to show your frustration, even though it can be frustrating at times!
Challenge 3: Dealing with ambiguity
If you’re not sure exactly what a task entails you can be left floundering in the dark. Senior management can often issue very sparse instructions, so what can you do to see through the fog and get clear direction?
Solution: Have healthy workplace relationships with your team
Having healthy relationships means you are comfortable enough to ask if things are unclear. The golden rule is to always ask if you are uncertain. Break down your query simply and make the manager see that you are ask-ing because you want to get it right for them. Ask why a task is important and what they are trying to achieve. That way you can be absolutely clear about what needs to be done.
Often as an EA you can be used as a conduit to more junior members of the team. For example if your boss wants to communicate a company an-nouncement they may ask you the best way to go about it, because having great relationships with the team means you can recommend how the mes-sage is best delivered.
Now you’ve read Michelle’s advice on overcoming the three biggest challenges faced by an EA, do you have anything else to add? Let us know in the comments box below. If you’re looking for your next executive assistant role, browse our current jobs.
As an EA you will face many challenges in your career, keep Michelle’s advice in mind when facing these three challenges:
- Managing a big load/work-life balance - Set boundaries and stick to them
- People issues, dealing with difficult people - Don’t take anything personally
- Dealing with ambiguity - Have healthy workplace relationships with your team