Q & A with Jan Jones: How Assistants Lead by Collaborating

In this article, Author Jan Jones discusses leading by collaborating as it relates to the Executive Assistant position.

FlyPrivate is a proud partner and associate of Jan Jones. Jan brings
valuable, actionable information to EAs across the globe. We hope you enjoy her blogs as much as we do! 

FlyPrivate: How does collaboration between assistants help to meet company-wide goals and objectives?

Jan Jones: This is where assistants can play a natural leadership role, because communication and cooperation are essential attributes of an effective executive assistant. Assistants collaborating with each other to facilitate communication and information flow creates a powerful alliance that any company would welcome. The role of the executive assistant includes being a facilitator and a communication channel for their executive and their organization. Assistants play a vital role in reminding the organization that everyone must stay aligned and committed to the best interests of the company.

We know that fully engaged employees have higher productivity levels, resulting in reduced absenteeism and higher profitability.
Collaborative assistants can have an impact in this regard. It could be as simple as engaging in regular conversations with assistants in other departments. Without breaching confidentiality, talk about how your division is functioning. What strategies are you
implementing? What challenges are you experiencing? What projects are getting bogged down? Which team members need
encouragement? Who are the star performers on the team; can they mentor someone who is struggling, or needs coaching?

Research shows that most managers don’t engage in strategy
discussions with their colleagues in other departments. An assistant who engages with fellow assistants can serve to close that
information gap. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be about work. Take time to connect on a personal level. Being part of an
organization means you have common goals. Collaborating to achieve those goals is smart business. 

At the height of the Covid disruption last year, I wrote a widely read article for Chief Executive magazine sharing how some assistants have taken their role of connector and conduit to new levels of
importance. This is a natural outcome of the role the EA plays as a gateway and facilitator in making their executive more accessible to those with a legitimate need to connect.

EAs often have access to more insider information than other
stakeholders within the organization. The WFH environment is
perfect for EAs to share appropriate information with other
assistants who can channel it to their departments, and keep their team members up-to-date with relevant goings on. This one small act can help assistants who aren’t usually included in the action, to become a resource to their department or manager. It gives them visibility within their team and could help them to be brought into new projects, or areas of responsibility from which they were
previously overlooked. From my position as assistant to the CEO, I loved sharing relevant information with EAs across the organization, to make them a beneficial resource to their executives. They would be all smiles when I saw them in the corridor because of the kudos it gave them with their boss.

Assistants are known for playing a role in bringing groups together. They work across boundaries and promote cross-department
collaboration. They don’t buy into petty jealousies and suspicions. As a channel to top management, they can help far-flung departments and locations feel less isolated. This has been particularly valued and welcomed during the 2020 work-from-home mandate, where entire organizations have been distanced from each other. Executive
Assistant Dorothy Connell told me her CEO “Encourages me to be an added bridge of communication to our executive assistant and administrative assistant community so we stay connected as a team.”

Sometimes assistants tell me that sharing information isn’t always welcomed. People feel threatened, or disloyal to their team if they share what’s going on. In these circumstances, trust needs to be built. If you use the information they share to get results for them, or improve their circumstances, they will certainly start to trust you and work with you. Without betraying confidentiality, share
information that is needed to get the job done, or make life easier for others. If you know a way to make a situation better, then do so.

Jesse Egeonu, EA to the executive vice-chair at Globacom in Nigeria shared with me that even though assistants are reluctant to share issues across departments due to confidentiality concerns, recently he was able to assist one of his colleagues who is working remotely. The assistant had a hard deadline and was struggling with a
document her boss had sent her. Her boss had saved it as a Mac Pages file and the assistant was operating an Android device. Luckily Jesse was on hand to help her convert the document to Word, proofread, fix the layout and get it onto company letterhead, before sending it back to her boss for signature in time to make the
deadline. This led to them having discussions about how they could collaborate on projects that need to be managed in the WFH
environment. The trust that was built will help them work together remotely and when they return to the office environment.

An assistant I know told me about starting a job at a technology
giant. The culture of the organization encouraged people to be fiercely competitive, vying to get ahead at someone else’s expense.  She said no assistant would help her for fear that she would look better than they did, or get ahead faster than they did, so you were on your own. Imagine what a breath of fresh air a capable, confident assistant who is not threatened by others and wants to cooperate would be to an organization like that? It would cause a huge
paradigm shift. It might feel like a herculean task, but such an
assistant would catapult themselves into a higher level position the minute the company felt  the effects of this assistant’s outreach.
Believe me because I’ve done it. It takes supernatural amounts of passion and energy and not everyone is up for it, but if you are, don’t hesitate. The personal and professional rewards are immense, and you’ll grow in stature and ability.

In an article discussing strategies for being a successful assistant, EA trainer Adam Fidler wrote, Share all your best tips and experience with another EA. Being secretive and defensive creates the wrong energy and if you take the time to share information, and work as a team-spirited EA, you’ll command respect and be seen as a true professional.” 

The nature of the EA role is to act as a hub. This means assistants are poised to share information, facilitate decision-making and help avoid bottlenecks, whether it is inter-department, or company-wide. Helping someone in another department gets the job done faster. It facilitates transparency, gives you insight into how they function and where inefficiencies may lie that you can help overcome. When
executives see you working with their assistant, or if they know they can finally get a long-awaited answer simply by their assistant
picking up the phone to you, they’ll notice. They’ll talk about you in the boardroom as someone who gets things done. This is how,
step-by-step, you land that sought-after seat at the table.

One thing that may affect assistants performing this function of
facilitator is the number of assistants who say they don’t read their executive’s emails, and who meet with their executives (virtually or actually), once a week or less.  If you are working like this, you are subject to only knowing what the executive shares with you, or
picking up information indirectly. If you are to serve as a conduit throughout the organization, you must be on top of what’s going on, otherwise you will not be as effective in that role. Another factor is assistants who are too widely focused on interacting with the
organization at large, they forget who they are in place to support.  Don’t neglect your responsibilities to your primary team members in your quest to be a company-wide champion. Your immediate team must remain your first priority. Keep them supported, assured and strengthened in the knowledge that you are firmly invested in the partnership.  With this assurance, they will support and encourage your efforts to be a company-wide collaborator.


©The CEO’s Secret Weapon. The ideas expressed in this article and any text extracted from “The CEO’s Secret Weapon” are the
intellectual property and copyrighted to Jan Jones. All rights
reserved. No unauthorized usage or duplication by any means is permitted without the express consent of the author.

Author: Jan Jones

Want more from Jan Jones? Check out her Q & A Series!

Jan Jones is the author of “The CEO’s Secret Weapon How Great Leaders and Their Assistants Maximize Productivity and
Effectiveness”. The book debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New
Releases in the Office Management Category. It has received
widespread acclaim from executives and executive assistants worldwide. Jan spent 20 years as an esteemed international
executive assistant to well-known business people, including
personal development icon and author Tony Robbins. Jan is
passionate about the executive assistant role and continues to champion the profession through speaking, mentoring and offering timeless, practical advice that is relevant to the day-to-day role of the executive assistant.

Jan Jones Worldwide

Visit Amazon to purchase Jan Jones’ book and visit her website:
The CEO’s Secret Weapon.

The CEO’s Secret Weapon: How Great Leaders and Their
Assistants Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness

Jan Jones

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