Tag Archives: Jan Jones Worldwide

Star Followership: How to Expand Your Influence As An Executive Assistant

In this article, Author Jan Jones, discusses how executive assistants can expand their influence within their organization.

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: In your article on Servant Leadership, you spoke about the relevance of Servant Leadership for executive assistants and how they can develop their influence through a servant leadership role.  Perhaps an even more interesting concept is that of Followership which is a newer area of leadership research. Please share why you consider Followership more relevant for the executive assistant role than servant leadership.

Jan Jones: My article discussed the idea of the servant-leader, a concept created by Robert Greenleaf, which is now a widely accepted business practice. It also discussed the parallels to emotional intelligence, particularly regarding empathy and social awareness.

The concept of Followership and the Effective Follower was developed about 30 years ago when Robert Kelley, a well-known social scientist, concluded logically that discussions about Leadership must also include discussions about Followership, because leaders don’t exist in a vacuum without followers. The Effective Follower complements their leader. So the Followership concept is an ideal model of the executive-assistant partnership.

I’ll lay out Robert Kelley’s five basic styles of Followership, but the style that interests me the most is that of the Star Follower: They are self-managed employees who think for themselves and whose hearts are in their work. Many executive assistants will identify and hopefully aspire to this style of Followership.

Kelley’s article for Harvard Business Review generated some controversy and Followership got the same initial negative reaction as the idea of servant leadership. I think assistants will agree with Mr. Kelley that “Making the assist, is just as important as making the score.” In sports, an assist is the person who passes the ball to a teammate, helping that teammate to score. This is a primary element in the role of the assistant. Making it possible for their executive to “score” – to hit their targets, goals and objectives.

While Kelley’s Five Basic Styles of Followership apply to all employees, assistants will find it helpful in understanding themselves and their teammates. These are work styles we all encounter every day. It is not a personality test and I am not suggesting you label people. Consider how can you use these styles to assess yourself and look for ways to enhance your performance and expand your influence. In whichever description you see yourself, remember it’s not a judgment. It’s simply an indicator that can give you perspective and help you make the leap into more effective, next-level practices. If you mentor assistants, you will find this a helpful guide as well.

The Sheep: Passive people who look to the leader to think and to motivate them.

This description is not a negative if assistants are new to the role and look to the leader to direct them. Without experience in the job, they need to be shown the ropes. Paying attention to what is asked of them, they can develop their anticipation ability. The skills they learn in this initial stage will be the bedrock on which they build a successful EA career. This is a time of learning, observing, absorbing. It can be the genesis of your ability to influence in the coming years, so it should not be taken lightly. As I’ve shared with EAs, the know-how I learned in my first job laid the foundation on which I developed and built over the course of my career. It consistently set me apart from other assistants who were not trained as effectively. If you are a new assistant, don’t downplay this stage of your development.

The Yes-Person: Positive people who support their leader, but look to the leader for thinking, direction and vision. When a task is done, they ask the leader “what do you want me to do next?” Yes-people say “I’m the doer. The boss is paid to think, and I do the work.”  

The Yes-Person has a good attitude and a willing heart, but they have not yet learned to think independently and require guidance. This is acceptable for less-experienced assistants who are gradually honing their craft. Many assistants in this phase see themselves as helpers who faithfully and willingly carry out their executive’s wishes. Ideally, this is the time to also start incrementally developing initiative, the ability to reason, and taking an interest in the business, looking for ways to gradually branch out into independent thinking and acting.

I encounter many assistants who fit the Yes-Person category, particularly if they’ve been with their executive for a while. These are capable people who do their tasks well, but they stop short when it comes to anticipation and resourcefulness, two vital characteristics for an assistant to be fully effective in the role. If you are a Yes-Person who has been in the same job a while, use your job knowledge and find ways to increase your value through participating in your job more. Maybe it’s time to give innovation a try. Offer suggestions, volunteer for projects, initiate employee programs. Spreading your reach will develop your ability to influence. It will give you a new enjoyment and enthusiasm for your job and your life.

The Pragmatics: Pragmatics are fence-sitters, looking to see which way things are headed before they get on board. They do what they must to survive and are invested in maintaining the status quo (whether the status quo is short-term or long-term. For example, prior to the pandemic, Pragmatics maintained a certain status quo around the way they functioned at the office. Post-pandemic they want to maintain the way things were during the pandemic, such as continuing to work from home).

Pragmatics know their job, but are sometimes perceived as mediocre with execution. Many are invested in doing the minimum they can get away with. Most of us have come across such co-workers and felt a sense of frustration having to pick up the slack for them. Pragmatics are lucky if they fall into a job that allows them to have their wait-and-see attitude. My concern is the implication this has on the image of assistants in general, portraying them as lacking gumption and get-up-and-go, resulting in being paid the minimum for doing the minimum. In this time of explosive business and technological growth, trying to maintain the status quo is an imprudent long-term strategy. Pragmatic assistants, please come down off the fence and challenge yourself a little. Start conquering inertia by making small adjustments. Offer to help your colleagues. Take on additional tasks. Communicate more and get comfortable with uncertainty to wake up your senses and lead you to new opportunities.

The Alienated: They think for themselves, but they are disgruntled and cynical. They see themselves as mavericks, the only ones with courage to stand up to the boss. Tending to have a chip on their shoulder, they are viewed as rebels without a cause.

Intelligent, capable and sometimes a cut above the rest, I regret that some assistants are buying into the idea that sullen behavior proves they are important thinkers, generally superior to their EA colleagues, whom they view as status quo and boring. Alienated workers feel angry that their talents are not being recognized and they can feel exploited. If you crave recognition, the executive assistant profession may not be for you, because it requires one to be highly service-oriented and committed to excellence, yet comfortable staying in the background.

Despite their feelings of alienation, many Alienated assistants are visible and appreciated for their talents. They could be major influencers, but they shoot themselves in the foot by being bolshie. I’ve worked with assistants who behaved this way and were hostile towards me because I was getting the recognition they craved. What was the difference? Like them, I was a strong personality, unafraid to speak up, willing to take charge. But unlike them, I brought fresh energy, my attitude was upbeat and positive. My professionalism was always on display. I showed respect and upheld the dignity of my executive, the office of my executive and the organization. I understood that I was there to be of service, a fundamental requirement of the role of the EA. I implore Alienated assistants to let the spotlight be on your performance and not your attitude. Recognition and respect will follow.

The Star Followers: Star Followers are sometimes viewed as “leaders in disguise.” If that isn’t the hallmark of an exceptional EA, I don’t know what is! Star Followers think for themselves, are active, and have positive energy. If they agree with the leader, they give full support. If they disagree, they offer constructive alternatives that will help the leader and the organization. Star Followers are often referred to as “my right-hand person” by their executives.

As described by Robert Kelley, Star Followers are self-starters who can work without close supervision. They are independent problem solvers, who show initiative and contribute well. Star Followers are critical thinkers, highly participative, and habitually exercise superior judgment. Star Followers build their competence and focus their efforts for maximum effect. They take on extra work gladly, but first they focus on superior execution with their core responsibilities. They manage themselves well, they are committed to the organization and its purpose, always striving to collaborate, build relationships and be the best. Like exceptional assistants, they tackle overlooked problems that need addressing and present the issue along with a solution. For this reason, many EAs who are Star Followers wield considerable influence with their executives.

Assistants, the Star Follower is the style that should interest you the most. Many of you are on the way, or are already there. These traits will distinguish you from the millions of other assistants and make you an invaluable addition to any executive suite. This is the caliber of assistant I wrote about in “The CEO’s Secret Weapon.”

What Style Do Executives Prefer? When Robert Kelley asked executives if they could have a mix of the 5 Followership styles in their organization, which would they choose, a large percentage said they would like Yes-People. Why? 1) Yes-People are “doers”. They’ll do the grunt work. 2) Yes-People have limited aspirations and won’t pressure the leader for promotions, or quit for better jobs.

Other executives wanted a mix: Start with a handful of Alienated because they keep the leader honest. Add a small group of Star Followers who would lead the charge, but avoid having too many Stars because they can get demanding and they think for themselves too much. Then split the remaining majority with Pragmatics who serve as a status quo base, and Yes-People who will get the job done.

Very few executives wanted only Star Followers on their teams because they worried they could not keep them sufficiently challenged, or satisfied with their role. They believe Star Followers will get bored and seek greener pastures, leading to high turnover. I see this as a misunderstanding by executives because Star Followers, by their very nature, find ways to keep themselves challenged and motivated at work.

So where does this leave administrative and executive assistants? Which category does your executive fit into? Do they want a Star Follower, or someone who will maintain the status quo and get the job done?

Despite Robert Kelley’s research, I have yet to meet an executive who was happy with their assistant simply doing as they are told. A Yes-Person. They put up with it because it takes too much effort to make a change, it’s uncomfortable to have an honest conversation, or too difficult to push the assistant to step up their performance. They all tell me they want their assistant to show more initiative and interest in the business, in order to take some of the burden off the executive.

Whichever of the preceding styles apply to you, keep striving for excellence. If you identify as a Sheep, look for ways to stand on your own two feet and build your confidence. If you identify as a Yes-Person, try to take yourself beyond relying on your executive for guidance and direction. You have what it takes so start using your talent. If you are a Pragmatic, get off the fence and coax a little disruption into your life. If your style is Alienated, life can be lonely. Try trusting life and remember the world is not conspiring against you. If you are a Star Follower, avoid becoming complacent. Keep adding higher value. Consider mentoring colleagues who might need a sprinkling of your expertise and energy.

The best leaders are also the best followers; it’s how they developed their leadership skills. Know when to wear which hat, and you will smoothly transition when you are called upon to play a leadership role.


©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 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 Tony Robbins, the world’s #1 business and life strategist. Jan continues to champion the executive assistant profession with her writing, consulting and speaking. She offers 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

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

Website: www.flyprivate.com
Email: fly@flyprivate.com
Phone: 1-800-641-JETS (5387)

All flights arranged by Private Business Jets, LLC DBA FlyPrivate are operated by Part 135 Certified Air Carriers. FlyPrivate will act as your agent for the purpose of obtaining charter service.

Servant Leadership: The Key to Executive Assistant Influence

In this article, Author Jan Jones, discusses Servant Leadership, explaining the relevance for executive assistants and the parallel to emotional intelligence.

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: In your book, you talked about Servant Leadership and explained the parallel to the role of the executive assistant. When you discussed this topic with us previously, many assistants had not heard about Servant Leadership, or understood how the concept could apply to executive assistants.

As Servant Leadership is more widely practiced by executives and business today, our readers are showing a growing interest in this concept. Would you help them to understand the specific relevance for executive assistants and how it will help them expand their influence at work?

Jan Jones: I’m constantly reminding assistants to take an interest in the ideas and practices that interest their executives. It keeps assistants in the know, and better able to relate to their executive’s way of thinking. It improves the EA’s understanding of how to work in partnership with their executive, because they understand the psychology behind how their executive is approaching certain issues. 

The concept of servant leadership parallels emotional intelligence in many ways, particularly with social awareness and empathy. Assistants will find servant leadership useful and interesting, because many assistants have a natural desire to be of service. Assistants help their executives and teams to perform to their highest capability, which is one of servant leadership’s foundational principles.

I recently heard my former boss, Tony Robbins, describe his success. He said “I love to serve. Do more for others than anyone else in the industry. When you do that year after year, decade after decade, you build a brand and millions of people come. That’s what happens when you add value. It’s always about adding value – how do I influence someone for a higher purpose?”

Servant-Leader and servant leadership are not new concepts. Robert Greenleaf coined the terms in an essay he wrote in 1970. He got the inspiration from reading Herman Hesse’s book, “Journey to the East.” 

In my book, “The CEO’s Secret Weapon” I told the story of Leo the servant in Hesse’s book. Hesse wrote “In addition to his menial chores, Leo sustained the group (of travelers) with his spirit.” When Leo left the group, they fell into disarray and the journey was abandoned because they could not make it without Leo.

This reminded me of the role an executive assistant plays in an organization. They perform some tasks that are mistakenly perceived as menial, yet “They hold together and sustain the multiple activities and personalities that keep an enterprise going.” This is precisely what executive assistants do in organizations all over the world.

I was introduced to Robert Greenleaf by management guru Dr. Ken Blanchard who is a respected friend of Tony Robbins. When I was writing my book, Dr. Blanchard invited me to his home and spent a full day guiding and advising me. This showed me firsthand who servant-leaders are. They live true to their principles. In my book I’m sure you noticed Dr. Blanchard’s relationship with his wonderful assistant, Dana Kyle, whom he likened to a “soul mate.” Reading his comments, you experience the servant-leader in action. They are leaders who listen closely to their teams, care about them on a personal level, care about their development and value their contributions. Which assistant wouldn’t want an executive like that?

Appreciation for the servant leadership concept didn’t come easily to an individualist like me. I struggled with the term because the words tend to imply the opposite of each other. People don’t want to be perceived as servants, particularly assistants whose role through the years has sometimes been spoken of in unflattering terms, analogous to servant. When I read about Leo in Herman Hesse’s book, I suddenly became clear about servant leadership and how true executive assistants have been examples of the concept for generations. It’s not about self-sacrifice, but about being of service. Helping people to accomplish their goals doesn’t diminish you. It strengthens your ability, elevates you and expands your influence.

In my book, Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why”, said that a huge mistake executives make is “Treating their assistant as a
subordinate. What they don’t recognize is if you look after the
person and look after their growth as a human being, they will want to do everything in their power to keep you healthy, happy and productive.”

Does that sound like what an executive assistant does for their executive and their team? Like Tony Robbins, it’s about having the heart of someone who wants to be of service. That’s how in earlier generations assistants expressed the essence of the role. They were intensely loyal to the executive they served. They understood they served the larger organization, but their focus was centered on the executive whom they were hired to support. They looked out for them, and kept them protected from unnecessary distractions. They were the protector of their executive’s time, so these executives benefitted from that “white space” on their schedules that we hear so much about today. Quiet time to think and strategize, rather than being overwhelmed with doing. These assistants were tuned into their executives. They knew what they needed in order to be productive, and made sure they got it. This is how they were of service and in service to their executive’s objectives. And they were clear that in serving their executive, they were serving the executive’s direct reports, customers and the wider organization.

It is important for today’s assistants to understand the basic concepts of servant leadership because its influence is widespread. Companies such as Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, SAS, Marriott, Zappos, Nordstrom, FedEx have instituted servant leadership practices and offer servant-leader training. With the growing influence of servant leadership, EAs may find themselves working for an executive who is committed to being a servant-leader. It can be a radically different experience and one that takes getting used to, because you are asked to step up and be mindful of your better nature at all times. Embodying what it truly means to be a servant-leader is not easy, and cannot be trivialized as the latest buzzword. Servant leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long-term transformation for people and organizations.

Assistants, let’s be clear. Servant leadership is not about subjugating yourself. It is about claiming yourself, living to your highest purpose while supporting others to do the same. Servant leadership is not a one-way street. The server is as valuable as those they are serving. If you are supporting a true servant-leader, they are also in service to you, helping you to perform at your optimum level.

Servant leadership is uniquely human. No AI, with all its digital efficiencies, data and metrics, will match the assurance and comfort a servant-leader brings to the workplace, allowing colleagues to perform at peak levels in a supportive environment. EAs should consider what developing servant-leader characteristics can do for their career prospects in a VUCA world.

Here are some characteristics of servant leadership as explained by the former CEO of Greenleaf’s organization, Larry Spears, and my take on the relevance for EAs.

Listening: Listening intently and receptively is vital to the growth of a servant-leader, and a crucial characteristic for an executive assistant. Former Popeyes’ CEO Cheryl Bachelder says “Listening well is the path to serving well.”

Healing: The potential for healing one’s self and others is a powerful force for transformation. Assistants routinely come across people who need help and encouragement. Find ways to be of service, without neglecting your core responsibilities, or becoming overwhelmed by other people’s issues. I knew an EA who volunteered for a suicide hotline. She had to stop because she became too depressed and it was seriously impacting her job as assistant to a senior VP. Empathy doesn’t mean taking on someone else’s problems.

Awareness: Not only situational awareness, but self-awareness. Because executives have high visibility, we are more aware of their lack of self-awareness than our own. I found myself demonstrating a lack of self-awareness recently. It brought home the value of vigilance, which keeps us from acting like a high school kid. Be aware of your impact on people.

Persuasion: Using persuasion rather than authority. Assistants should be used to this since many don’t have any direct or positional authority, yet they manage to get things done through collaboration, resourcefulness and treating others respectfully.

Foresight: Understanding the lessons of the past to look ahead and avoid problems in the future. Executives want assistants to develop their ability to anticipate. Being prepared gives you a big advantage in supporting your executive and independently spearheading projects. Your position in the executive suite gives you a bird’s-eye view advantage. Use that data strategically to plan your course of action.

How will you apply these characteristics to your role as executive assistant? Remember servant leadership is for people at all levels, not only for people with a “C” in their title (CEO, CFO). As a servant-leader, the assistant must understand their stewardship to their executive and to the organization of which they are a part. Servant leadership is not asking you to be submissive. You are being encouraged to build and be a part of something. Build something you value and care about.

As much as we speak about “partnerships” and “relationships” it must be remembered that the assistant has been hired to provide the support the executive needs in carrying out the company’s mandate. Your effort must be in service of this requirement. This is not limiting you. It is expanding you. A spirited, resourceful assistant can take the role in many directions if they are looking out for the best interests of their executives and the organization of which the assistant is an integral part. There is much that can be done by an assistant with bold vision and a sense of purpose who wants to take the lead. It is only limiting if “what’s best for me” is your predominant focus.

Ideally, the executive has already adopted the role of servant-leader, so together the executive and assistant are in service and support of each other. I’ve had the privilege of working with a servant-leader executive and I can tell you, you will gladly work your heart out for this person, because you know they have your back as much as you have theirs. You realize they truly see you as a human being, and not merely a high achieving, production machine whose mettle they will test to the point of breaking. When this happens, the executive and the assistant are successfully partnered to deliver superior performance. They are aligned and fully engaged, bringing their best to work every day in the true spirit of servant leadership.


©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 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 Tony Robbins, the world’s #1 business and life strategist. Jan continues to champion the executive assistant profession with her writing, consulting and speaking. She offers 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

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

Website: www.flyprivate.com
Email: fly@flyprivate.com
Phone: 1-800-641-JETS (5387)

All flights arranged by Private Business Jets, LLC DBA FlyPrivate are operated by Part 135 Certified Air Carriers. FlyPrivate will act as your agent for the purpose of obtaining charter service.

Q & A with Jan Jones: The Most Effective Leadership Traits for Executive Assistants

You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.
Henry Ford

In this article, Author Jan Jones discusses the most effective leadership traits to enhance the credibility and status of the executive assistant.

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: What are the most effective leadership traits to enhance the credibility and status of executive assistants?  

Jan Jones: Executive assistants today are constantly being told “Assistants are leaders.” However, those words are not synonymous. Some assistants embrace the “assistants are leaders” mantra unquestioningly, others are not quite sure that assistants are leaders, or if they themselves have what it takes to be a leader.

Is every assistant a leader? No. Does every assistant think and perform like a leader? No. Can leadership be practiced and learned? Certainly. Do all assistants have the potential to be leaders? Absolutely.  

Here are some hallmarks of renowned leaders. Since EAs serve as their executive’s deputy, the goal is to exhibit the same positive traits their leader executives do, even if it is on a smaller scale. Understanding and modeling these traits will benefit assistants throughout their career, whether they stay in the EA role, take on a different opportunity, or start a business. Your objective doesn’t have to be to set the entire world on fire. Making an impact within your sphere of influence may be enough. For assistants with their sights on broader horizons, developing these traits will take you a long way into a promising future.

Leaders are Visionaries. Leaders have foresight and vision. Envisioning the “big picture”, the possibility, the potential. Visionary leaders take steps to make their vision a reality. As an EA, what possibility and potential can you see – at the level of your routine tasks, or on a bigger scale – that will make a difference to your performance, and lift up the performance of your executive and team?

What about your vision for your own growth and development? How are you developing your prospects? What is your commitment to yourself to bring about your vision for your life? Think big and don’t hesitate to take even small steps in the direction of that vision. Proverbs 29.18 in the Bible says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Don’t perish for lack of vision. Thrive and give yourself the life you deserve.

Leaders are Effective Communicators. Not only do leaders see the big picture, they are able to communicate it clearly. They get their point across and get others to buy in, because they share the Why of the vision. How are you communicating the vision of your organization? Understand that communication is also non-verbal so it’s not just what you say, it’s what you do, how you live, how you show up in your demeanor, in the work you produce. Your words have to mirror your actions, or your communication will be hollow and you’ll lose credibility.

In my book, “The CEO’s Secret Weapon” I say that the assistant is the executive’s “brand ambassador.”  To be a brand ambassador, you must communicate clearly, effectively and diplomatically. You must always be on-message. There can’t be any doubt that you know exactly what you are talking about. You are also a brand ambassador for yourself. Develop a credible air of authority in your aura. Leaders represent themselves as confident and capable. They inspire confidence in others. This is how you build your influence. EA trainer Adam Fidler encourages assistants to develop “executive presence.” This is precisely what that is – credibility, capability, confidence.

Leaders are Experts at Execution. Leaders know how to get tangible results. General Omar Bradley, who led the American forces on D-Day, said repeatedly “Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics.” Remember this when you hear EA trainers constantly pushing the “Strategic Business Partner” narrative. There must be an effective plan for implementing strategy, otherwise strategy is dead in the water. When CEOs are fired for performance issues, it’s not because their strategy is flawed but because of poor execution of that strategy. Expert assistants understand what needs to be done, and they know how to get it done. Disciplined, focused and methodical, they follow through in executing objectives.

Leaders are Motivators. Leaders are able to motivate the team to get behind an idea. They inspire people to believe in themselves and their abilities. At one of my jobs, my boss would urge me to “light a fire” under our executives and teams, because I demonstrated a can-do spirit and a sense of certainty we could achieve our goals. He felt I was an exemplary ambassador for the vision he had for his company. Many executive assistants have access to high places. Pay attention to how executives at that level function so you can develop your stature and credibility. Make your enthusiasm for your job and your company a tangible aspiration for your colleagues to emulate.

Leaders are Passionate. Leaders are all-in with their mission. They know what they want to achieve and move confidently in that direction with high energy and determination. To be a superior EA, bring passion to your job. Love what you are doing and immerse yourself wholeheartedly in it.

Leaders are Focused. Leaders are seldom deterred or distracted from their goal, and if they are, they know how to quickly get back on track. Tony Robbins says “where focus goes, energy flows”. Keep your focus on your priorities and goals.

Leaders are Creative Thinkers and Problem Solvers. Leaders are solution-oriented and find ways to come up with the answers. They remain curious and interested. Leaders are not afraid to ask questions. They know how to troubleshoot and implement solutions by keeping the goal in mind. Leaders approach everything with a possibility mindset. Similarly, creative assistants always find ways to get better and do better.

Leaders take Responsibility. Response-ability: the ability to respond. To do that you must be alert. Assistants often complain they don’t have authority. It could be because they haven’t yet developed the ability to respond to what is necessary. Leaders step up and take charge when the need arises. They don’t hesitate to make themselves responsible for getting the job done and they accept the consequences of their decisions. This is one area where EAs need practice if they want to be considered a leader. Assistants like the idea of being a leader, but many don’t want to carry the burden of responsibility. Develop your response-ability. It shows you have courage, belief and trust in yourself. It will set you apart from others in a hurry.

Leaders are Courageous. Leaders know who they are. They have strength of character that can see them through daunting situations. They stand up for their beliefs and defend those who are in need of their protection. Leaders make difficult decisions and don’t back down from doing what’s right even if it’s unpopular. They are able to withstand the onslaught of unprovoked attacks on their credibility and reputation, and are fearless in the face of adversity. Courageous leaders are powerful influencers because their teams see they don’t hesitate to do what’s right. I’ve seen this first-hand in recent interactions with executive assistants. Courageous leaders stand up for what’s right in the face of mob rule and bullying. They hold themselves and others accountable. They don’t hesitate to call people out for their bad or cowardly behavior. Courageous leaders deal with conflict head-on because they know it builds their courage and problem-solving ability. They speak up even when it would be easier to just go along.

Leaders are Emotionally Intelligent. EI is about how you manage yourself and your relationships. Many EAs have excellent empathy skills, naturally sensing how others are feeling. They excel in the EA profession because they are adaptable. They can juggle numerous demands and adjust well to constant changes in priorities. Daniel Goleman says the ability to empathize and take an interest in others’ concerns is what helps us to get along with a diverse group of people. EAs certainly demonstrate this with the varied groups of executives and teams they support. Particularly strong in inter-personal skills, EAs should be careful not to get caught up in empathizing too much, always trying to please everyone, or trying to be liked. You can’t be in giving mode indefinitely without it taking a physical and emotional toll on you.   

Leaders are Intolerant of Mediocrity. Leaders don’t hesitate to challenge the status quo. As an EA, one of my biggest contributions to the companies I worked for was challenging status quo thinking. I didn’t hesitate to recommend or make changes that were necessary, and I always provided a rational explanation for why those changes needed to be made. Average ways of thinking and doing things that don’t propel you to next-level performance are a waste of time. Keep striving for excellence at all levels. Even incremental changes will help to set you apart from all the other assistants who perform the same tasks you do, but who can’t match the creativity and ingenuity you bring to those tasks to make you a game-changer. 

With leaders there is no one-size-fits-all. Leaders are diverse and multi-dimensional. They bring numerous talents to the table and are a constant source of inspiration to the world. No, you don’t need a title to be a leader and if you are confident about yourself and your ability, you won’t sweat over a title. To influence and lead you need self-belief, integrity, a sense of purpose, courage to take the lead, communicate effectively, accept responsibility and get things done. All these hallmarks of effective leaders take practice. Keep company with peers who are strong, capable and fearless. Develop stamina to keep moving forward. Executive assistants who develop these skills will expand their leadership capability and influence. Here’s to the leader within you!


©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 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 Tony Robbins, the world’s #1 business and life strategist. Jan continues to champion the executive assistant profession with her writing, consulting and speaking. She offers 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

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

Website: www.flyprivate.com
Email: fly@flyprivate.com
Phone: 1-800-641-JETS (5387)

All flights arranged by Private Business Jets, LLC DBA FlyPrivate are operated by Part 135 Certified Air Carriers. FlyPrivate will act as your agent for the purpose of obtaining charter service.

Q & A with Jan Jones: Why is Emotional Intelligence Relevant for Executive Assistants?

In this article, Author Jan Jones discusses why Emotional Intelligence is relevant to the executive assistant role.

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: Why is Emotional Intelligence relevant for executive assistants?

Jan Jones: Emotional Intelligence is about our inter-personal and intra-personal skills. It is typically abbreviated as “EI” or “EQ” (Emotional Quotient). It’s a hot topic, but it’s not a new idea. The term Emotional Intelligence was coined in 1985 by Wayne Payne in a paper he wrote about developing emotional intelligence. Two psychology professors, John Mayer and Peter Salovey wrote a paper in 1990 using the term. In 1995 Daniel Goleman wrote the book “Emotional Intelligence” and an article for Harvard Business Review called “What Makes A Leader”. The article contributed to the topic becoming important for business leaders and business people in general.

EI is relevant for assistants because they perform the tricky balancing act of facing outward towards the client and inward towards their executives and teams, so assistants need to develop all-around expertise in managing a multitude of inter-personal relationships.

So, it is highly relevant, but not in a soppy, touchy-feely way, which is how some assistants perceive EI, in order to vindicate their emotional responses to situations. EI is about bringing a level of emotional maturity that must be developed in order to handle the wide-ranging functions an assistant performs in the course of their day, dealing with an array of personalities, who sometimes are the opposite of each other.

During the lockdown, several EAs have been at the forefront of making sure their executives are demonstrating emotional intelligence. We have heard incessantly how leaders are having their emotional intelligence tested, and what they need to do to convey psychological safety, empathy and understanding to their teams, while remaining optimistic and encouraging collaboration. Since demonstrating emotional intelligence is important for executives, it has to also be important for their executive assistants who serve as their spokespersons.

Interestingly, a just-released report from Korn Ferry is good news for executive assistants. It’s also something I reported in my popular article for Chief Executive Magazine about how executive assistants were stepping forward to make an impact during those early days of Covid lockdown. From Korn Ferry: “There’s been a distinct and permanent mindset shift among leaders that tech skills aren’t everything,” says Esther Colwell. “They saw how people with agility, empathy, and emotional intelligence were the ones who really helped them through, and plan to invest in those kinds of people more.”

With this in mind, I revisited my earlier interview with UK business trainer Heather Dallas, to discuss the work she is doing teaching businesses about emotional intelligence, and more specifically, her work teaching assistants about emotional intelligence.

Jan Jones: Heather, during the Covid lockdown, demonstrating emotional intelligence seems to be a higher priority. Apart from the fact that their executives are serious about understanding and developing emotional intelligence, why is EI relevant for executive assistants?

Heather Dallas: I’ve seen growing interest in this topic over the past few years and during the pandemic, clients are wanting to learn about it even more. I teach a course on emotional intelligence for executive assistants, and have seen a considerable increase in interest recently. Assistants understand that as they serve their executives and the organization at large, they need to develop the vital skills that make up the components of emotional intelligence. Because executive assistants are the public “face” of their executives, it is even more important for them to embody the traits of emotional intelligence.

JJ: I heard Daniel Goleman speak at a conference. He said that
basically emotional intelligence is how we handle ourselves, manage ourselves, lead ourselves, and how we handle our relationships.

HD: Yes, and here are a couple of theoretical definitions I use to explain emotional intelligence:

– The ability to understand how emotions affect behavior, and do something with that information.

–  Developing awareness of your emotions and behaviors through self-reflection and noting feedback from others.

JJ: I like the idea that in addition to understanding how emotions
affect behavior, that there is guidance on what to do with that
information because we need to put the ideas into practice every day.

HD: Exactly. In summary, it’s inter-personal skills, meaning how you relate to others, your rapport skills, which are the central pillars in communication. Your relationship management, your intra-personal skills, meaning how self-aware you are, how authentic you are. What buttons are you pressing in others that you are not aware of?

JJ: How self-aware you are leads you to understand the effect your words and actions have on others. This is especially important for executive assistants who often have to relay messages from their executives to team members and employees across the organization. If the executive is tone deaf, the assistant must make certain that they finesse the message in order to make it easier for others to digest. In my early days as an assistant, I thought I was supposed to mirror the tone of my executive. This sometimes caused problems until a colleague helped me to understand that I could convey the message just as easily and effectively, if I took the edge off. It was an early lesson in EI about building business social skills.

Heather, what are some elements that can help executive assistants develop and expand their EI, in order to increase their effectiveness in the EA role?

HD: Some other building blocks that make up emotional intelligence are:

Self-Awareness: Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, needs, what drives you. Being authentic, aware of the buttons you are pressing in others. Do you perceive yourself as others perceive you?

Motivation: Level of energy, passion, personal drive and enthusiasm for work, and commitment to goals. Being optimistic and positive. The desire for achievement and challenge.

Empathy: The ability to recognize, be sensitive to and consider
others’ feelings, needs and perspectives. Being able to understand, help and work with others and take an active interest in their concerns.

Decisiveness: Willingness to make decisions. The need for control and the level of comfort you have with decision-making responsibility.

Influence: The drive to influence, inspire and persuade others. To be heard and have an impact.

Adaptability: The desire for, and enjoyment of, variety in the workplace, the capacity to keep an open mind and be flexible with different and creative approaches. Being willing to make adjustments as necessary.

Conscientiousness: The need to plan and have structure, be diligent and meet deadlines, the level of comfort with conforming and following the rules.

Stress Resilience: The capability to relax and deal with the day-to-day pressures of work, the level of comfort with showing and managing emotions. For example, controlling or hiding your temper when provoked.

JJ: It has to start with self-awareness. The statistic is that the average person experiences emotions 90% of the time. Even though we are emotional beings, we don’t typically make much effort to become aware of our emotions and there are times when we actually indulge our emotions, like we see with bullying and hate speech on social media, for example.

HD: We have to become aware of our emotions in the moment they are happening and understand the effects those emotions are having on ourselves and others. When you are experiencing emotions such as anger or frustration, just slow down for a moment.

We have to learn to consciously control our emotions so we can respond appropriately. And there are times when there is no need for a response. Awareness is enough. Self-regulation shows discipline. It is a sign of maturity. There are some EI habits we are already good at and others will require practice.

JJ: I was surprised when I first heard of Motivation as being part of EI. I’ve always thought of motivation as an internal drive, something that is propelled by my personal passions and desires, pushing me to high achievement. I thought of EI as being external, influencing my inter-personal actions, how I related and acted with others.

HD: You are spot-on about motivation, Jan, but remember, EI is not only about the social side (our behavior with/towards others), it’s also about our behavior with ourselves. Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation and Motivation are the Self side of EI and Empathy and Social Skills are the Social side, the inter-personal, people skills side of EI.

Note: I’ve deliberately highlighted this response from Heather, because it is key to assistants staying engaged and motivated. To elaborate on your comments about motivation, Jan, it is important for assistants to have a regular personal check-in to examine what they need to do to keep motivated. Reminding yourself of your purpose is one way to rekindle your passion. What are you passionate about at work? Is it appreciation, more involvement, power, authority, intellectual stimulation, the culture and working environment, promotion prospects? Whatever it is that keeps you motivated and excited, find ways to do more of it. One daily exercise my clients find useful for motivation is to list “3 Good Things that Happened to Me Today.”

JJ: I hope assistants will take note of this, Heather, because there are assistants who wait for their executive to motivate them. They expect their executive to provide exciting projects for them to work on, or find ways to keep them happy and challenged. When assistants tell me they need more challenge in the job, my response often is that they should look for ways to challenge themselves. What can I do to keep interested and motivated? What’s not getting done that I can do? What initiative or project can I take on that doesn’t rely on my boss for direction or approval? What task will help excite me to stretch my ability and thinking, so when it’s done, I can truly appreciate myself and the effort I made?

Can you share an example of how you have worked with EAs on EI?

HD: Sure. A good example is the work I’ve been doing with an executive assistant who, even before the pandemic, was remotely managing other EAs in her company’s European offices. When we started working together, Elizabeth’s Empathy was an 8 (out of 10). She needed to bring that down as she was spending too much time on not offending her team and giving them feedback in a sensitive way. This linked in with her Stress Resilience that was only 2. Through awareness and coaching, Elizabeth is now a 7 on Stress Resilience, a 5 on Empathy and a 7 on Decisiveness.

JJ: What I like about the work you are doing is how EAs can learn to increase their EI, not only in developing their talent for management and leadership within their role, but also to make them more effective in growing that ability to take on additional opportunities.

HD: In my 30 years of experience working with EAs all over the world, I’ve seen a lot of under-utilized EA potential. My work with emotional intelligence can give assistants a framework to develop their skills, their awareness and fine-tune their communication ability.

JJ: Thank you Heather for sharing these specific tools for executive assistants to develop and refine their emotional intelligence skills. Now that we know the principles of emotional intelligence, we can start responding to life in emotionally intelligent ways.


Heather Dallas: A former executive assistant, Heather Dallas’ last EA role was at Deloitte UK. In 1990 she was asked to move into a new training role to introduce inter-personal skills training for the 1500 support staff at Deloitte UK, as well as many of the Deloitte offices globally. Heather left Deloitte in 2000 to set-up her own training and coaching business. After 19 years, Heather is proud to say she is still running programs for Deloitte.

Heather offers a range of programs for executive assistants in the UK and internationally.  Jan Jones Worldwide has proudly presented Heather’s training skills for events in numerous international training locations, including The Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.  Heather has been passionate about developing the role of the executive assistant for nearly 30 years and has an outstanding record with satisfied clients. To book Heather Dallas for your event, contact www.theceossecretweapon.com. www.dallasdevelopment.com


©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 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 Tony Robbins, the world’s #1 business and life strategist. Jan continues to champion the executive assistant profession with her writing, consulting and speaking. She offers 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

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

Website: www.flyprivate.com
Email: fly@flyprivate.com
Phone: 1-800-641-JETS (5387)

All flights arranged by Private Business Jets, LLC DBA FlyPrivate are operated by Part 135 Certified Air Carriers. FlyPrivate will act as your agent for the purpose of obtaining charter service.

Q & A with Jan Jones: Executive Assistant Compensation

In this article, Author Jan Jones shares ideas for determining your compensation 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: When interviewing for an EA position, how do you determine how much you would be worth in the position and what salary is warranted based on the responsibilities of the job?

Jan Jones: A good place to start is by benchmarking against your current or recent position. How similar is it to the position you are pursuing in terms of location, commute, job responsibilities, industry, for example?

If possible, ask other assistants who are in a similar role if they would be willing to share some numbers with you. Sometimes people are reluctant to share their salary so you could share your current salary, or the new job salary, and ask if they would be satisfied with it for the job they are doing.

One assistant who thought she was not well compensated was surprised to find out, after checking with EAs she met at a networking event, that she was being paid almost $5,000 more than they were for an equivalent position. Another assistant told me she was “disgusted” that she’s been paid several thousand less than a good friend of hers whose compensation also included generous benefits from her company. She’s known this woman for a long time and has changed jobs twice during their friendship, while her friend has stayed in the same job. This is why it’s important to stay updated and informed, even if you are not looking for a job. Ask questions, read and research. Know the current market and how you measure up. It will help you to know where you are on the skills spectrum and whether you are on track to be viable in the role, long term.

In addition to asking others directly, there are numerous resources online where you can do research. Even if some salary ranges tend to be broad they can be a good reference starting point. It’s important to get a good feel for the salary range of your job so you can accurately ask for what you are worth.

Glassdoor and Payscale are two companies most people are familiar with. For the UK, Adam Fidler, the UK’s leading trainer for executive assistants recommends the PA and EA Salary Guide, released each year by Hays. Adam provides the commentary for the Guide and recommends all UK EAs download this guide before negotiating their salary. 

Keep in mind that salaries vary based on many factors. Locations like San Francisco and New York pay higher salaries because the cost of living in those areas is astronomical compared with small cities and towns. I remember meeting an EA in Silicon Valley who told me her salary is not sufficient to cover her living expenses so she uses her credit cards to make ends meet. This is probably not the case in cities where the cost of living is more affordable. So assistants, please don’t look at areas such as Silicon Valley, Seattle or Boston, where some companies pay premium salaries, and think that an assistant in a small town should be making that kind of money. I’m not saying you are not worth that amount of money, but local economic realities most likely will preclude it.

Leni Miller, President of EA Search in San Francisco says there is a nationwide shortage of support professionals who can support the most senior executives. The more specialized job knowledge needed, the higher the salary. The longer an assistant supports their executive, the more valuable they are because of their specialized body of knowledge.

It’s the law of supply and demand so the more people there are available to do the job, who have the right skills, education and experience, the lower the salary on offer will be.

Other considerations include “Combat pay” if the job is 24/7, or the boss is difficult and demanding. Does the job have “meaning” such as a non-profit? People take less pay for a job they consider to be more meaningful, if they can afford to do so, says Leni.

The EA role varies considerably from position to position. There is no one size fits all. You should factor in your years of experience and your expertise in the role. (Longevity by itself is no indicator of how good the assistant is in the role). If you are a top-level EA with 10+ years of experience, if the position requires a self-starter who will be working long hours, if you are required to manage projects, perform executive-level duties and make executive-level decisions, you will command a higher salary than a mid-range or entry-level assistant who does tasks as assigned and isn’t required to make complex decisions, or routinely work overtime.  

If you have established a track record of working for senior executives where you have demonstrated exceptional skills  and you can accomplish executive-level tasks without supervision, your salary expectations would be higher and warranted.  

Do you have supervisory or managerial experience that would be a bonus for the job? Do you have any degrees or diplomas that add to the value you bring to the job? Take all these items into consideration as you are preparing to evaluate your salary requirements.

How about when to bring up salary when applying for a job? I asked HR recruiter and industry veteran Carla Block this question. While this should not be the first question you ask, Carla says that it’s better for both the recruiter and applicant to be upfront about salary. You can share a range or a threshold you will not drop below, for example. I’ve had phone interviews where the recruiter opened the conversation by saying they were impressed by my resume and immediately asked “what kind of salary are you looking for?” What Carla suggested is exactly what I had done. I provided a salary range. My experience is if they ask that question right at the outset, they likely think they can’t afford you.

Be flexible in your negotiations and consider what benefits are being offered which might offset lower salary compensation. If you are being asked to accept a lower salary than you would like and you feel the position is worth it, I recommend asking for a review in 90 or 120 days, after which you would expect them to meet your salary requirements. That amount of time would be sufficient to demonstrate your value and worth to them. Within that time you, too, will know if that’s the place for you.

You should take an in-depth look at the job description. Often it is written by someone who hasn’t done the job. They can’t anticipate what else goes along with that bullet point description. You may need to expand on it for them and explain why a higher level of compensation is warranted. At the right time in a job interview or performance review I have done this, and it has been an eye opener for the recruiter and the executive. They are surprised by what it takes to do the job, and the level of detail I used to educate them.

Be prepared to make a case for yourself and the value you bring. The best way to do that is to use the resources available to you and prepare for the conversation ahead of time. Remember, these suggestions are useful beyond going for a job interview. You can also use them for your performance and salary reviews, or when you are asking for a bonus. The more informed and prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be in your negotiations. The more confident you are, the more professional you will come across. It will be an indication of how you’ll perform in your job and could just clinch the deal in your favor.


©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

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

Website: www.flyprivate.com
Email: fly@flyprivate.com
Phone: 1-800-641-JETS (5387)

All flights arranged by Private Business Jets, LLC DBA FlyPrivate are operated by Part 135 Certified Air Carriers. FlyPrivate will act as your agent for the purpose of obtaining charter service.

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

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

Website: www.flyprivate.com
Email: fly@flyprivate.com
Phone: 1-800-641-JETS (5387)

All flights arranged by Private Business Jets, LLC DBA FlyPrivate are operated by Part 135 Certified Air Carriers. FlyPrivate will act as your agent for the purpose of obtaining charter service.

Q & A with Jan Jones: Consequences of Poor Attention to Detail by Executive Assistants

In this article, Author Jan Jones discusses attention to detail 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: Our recent interview on Multitasking produced many
conversations about how the digital world is creating distractions. Not only is productivity decreasing, people are having trouble paying
attention, so the percentage of mistakes is growing. You say in your book that assistants should be “scrupulous about details.” What are the consequences of poor attention to detail by executive assistants?

Jan Jones: “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.
Autograph your work with excellence.” – Ted Key, Cartoonist

Attention to detail is a cornerstone of the executive assistant role. It’s what differentiates superior executive assistants from those who are content with average performance and not too particular about the quality of their end product.

I like the saying “Quality is non-negotiable.” Poor quality will destroy your credibility. If you are a freelance virtual assistant, it will destroy your business. Your work is your signature. It says this is the very best I can do. That being the case, we must make delivering a quality product a priority.

Steve Jobs insisted that the Mac should be as beautiful inside as it was on the outside, even though the inside was rarely seen. His wife said “Steve and Jony (Ive) would talk for hours about corners.”
Corners of the iPhone, how they should look, feel and function. If you are familiar with Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, which uses Apple as the example, this is the “How” Apple does what it does, (“Our products are beautifully designed.”) This fanatical attention to detail is why people line up overnight waiting for the release of a new Apple product. People will pay a premium for products that radiate attention to detail. Owning such a product says something about you and how you wish to be perceived. That’s why people willingly pay for designer labels that exude quality.

I remember a client taking me to lunch at a restaurant with a stellar reputation. When I declined dessert, she insisted I try one of the
signature desserts. After one bite I said to her “now I know why this dessert costs $30.” The attention to detail in the presentation, the precision of execution, the mastery of blending and balancing flavors that leaves your mouth dancing, it was stunning from start to finish. It didn’t just round out the meal, it eclipsed the main meal and turned the lunch into a transcendent experience.

In your role as executive assistant, what’s your version of these
examples? How is your end product demonstrating your attention to detail so that your executive and team members are ecstatic you are on their team, and that they get to work with you every day?  If
assistants truly value their reputation, if they wish to establish their credibility and be taken seriously, then they must make sure to
consistently put out a quality product that exceeds expectations, or at the very least is free of errors and done right the first time. If you have a reputation for being meticulous and paying attention to
detail, small transgressions will be forgiven. If not, it will be one more example of you not being invested in excellence, or caring about how you are perceived. Such a reputation is hard to live down.

No two ways about it, exceptional executive assistants are
scrupulous about the details. They know that sloppy output, typos, poor grammar, avoidable mistakes, don’t only reflect poorly on the
executives they support, it’s a negative reflection on them
personally, and no professional executive assistant wants that
reputation. Forget all that talk about your brand and the image you are trying to project of being a leader and strategic thinker, if you don’t produce work that is thorough and complete. Check your work. Your finished product is your autograph, your reputation, and credibility.

Careless work has real consequences. Close to 80% of recruiters say that typos or bad grammar on a resume are immediate deal
breakers, because they show a lack of attention to detail.

My first boss was an absolute stickler for the details. As an
inexperienced but ambitious secretary, I was itching to jump into big-picture activities, without even knowing what it meant, or what it took to operate at that level. How could I pay attention to the
details when I didn’t even know what those details were? My
inexperience would have caused me to drop the ball, and create problems for my company. Thankfully, with an eagle eye executive looking out for me and smartly capitalizing on my drive to excel, I grew to understand that the big picture is made up of smaller pieces, little details that meticulously build upon each other to create the big picture, just like the big picture comes into view as you build a jigsaw puzzle. As I learned and matured, I understood why I needed to get it right and get it right the first time. Obviously, if you’ve never done something before, it’s possible you won’t get it right the first time. But once you’ve learned how to do the job, pay attention to how you execute because you will be expected to turn in quality work.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the statement “Never time to get it right, but always time to do it over.” There is a cost to business in time and money when we don’t pay attention to the details, when things are missed or wrong, and the work has to be re-done. Do you know that lack of attention to details impacts employee morale? It frustrates your colleagues. These are the people upline and
downline who are relying on the job you do – you are that vital
component that allows them to complete their project on time and on budget. If you make mistakes it decreases productivity, wastes their time, and could result in delays that cause your company to
upset their customers, or even lose them. Worst case, there could be legal or compliance ramifications from inaccurate work.

In one fell swoop, your credibility is lost if your work is sloppy, or brands you as functionally illiterate. An assistant colleague asked my opinion on a survey soliciting input from EAs. The survey questions had some unsubstantiated assumptions and the EA didn’t want a
repeat of that infamous Wall Street Journal article from earlier this year. I sent a private message to the woman with the survey, asking a few questions and entreating her to be careful how she positioned the role of the EA because the last thing we need is another
magazine circulating misconceptions about the role. Here’s the
response I got from her:

“If any of the EA’s that you reference to are at the level to support my research then they would of all ready knew me and what work I have been doing while in Silicon Valley supporting my CEO to now being a business owner.” 

Can you imagine the shock people might get when they receive
correspondence from her? I’m always driving home to EAs that you are your executive’s face and voice to the world. What image is this woman projecting on behalf of her executive? She assisted a top
executive in Silicon Valley, where, we hear, they are demanding EAs have degrees. Yet, there exists a top executive there whose assistant seems barely literate in her native language. Not exactly modeling Steve Jobs’ passion for “how” we do things.

One group of assistants proudly displayed a newspaper
article that said they were a team of rock star assistants. The
problem is the article had a glaring typo in the big headline, which none of those EAs addressed, so instead of being celebrated, they were being ridiculed. Even if one of them had offered some
explanation (most likely the newspaper was at fault), things could have been different for them. Assistants, you have to get out ahead of things and head them off, or quickly set them straight with an
explanation. Leaving things to languish and hoping they go away is not a good strategy in protecting your reputation for being
scrupulous about the details.

Another area where assistants must pay more attention to detail is on social media. It’s a low-key environment, but that doesn’t mean you lower your standards. Recently, there have been postings where people meant to say “a part of”, as in they are happy to be a part of a group. They wrote it as “apart”, which means separate from. One memo we received said the caterer’s signature tamales are
“Handmaid daily.” These are examples of easily avoided carelessness. Pay attention and don’t let hasty work tarnish your reputation for reliability.

Proofreading, especially lengthy pieces, is not easy. That’s why it calls for your special attention. Read your work, then set it aside. Come back to it with fresh eyes. If possible, run it by someone else to get another set of eyes on it. If my bosses prepared their own
documents, they always gave them to me to read before sending out. If they were lengthy or complicated, I printed them out to proofread. Studies show, and for me personally, I know that reading on paper is more effective in detecting errors that get missed onscreen, not to mention being easier on tired eyes. Another tip is to read your work out aloud to yourself. Sometimes what we intend to say, and what we actually write, are not the same. Reading aloud lets you discover the errors more easily.

Do you know that a key factor of CEO success is their attention to detail? Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom says “CEOs are unbelievably detail-oriented. That’s one of the big ingredients of their success.” This is an executive success habit that assistants must absolutely mirror. Bloom says that when he teaches students, they get “over excited about the big-picture, sexy stuff of long-term
strategy and skip over the small details which turn out to be
critically important in business.” This is something I learned at the start of my assistant career, and can’t emphasize enough, especially to younger assistants today. If you can’t perform well in the small things, you won’t do well with the bigger critical tasks, and no
serious executive is going to take that risk. Would you if you were in their shoes? You have to practice excellence and demonstrate it
daily before you’ll be given entrée to inner circles, or invited to take that seat at the table you may feel entitled to. As UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Little things make big things happen.”

If you’d like to brush up on making big things happen through your attention to detail, here are some suggestions:

  • To produce error-free work start by focusing on what you are
    doing. Slow down and give yourself time to think. When you rush, the finer points get missed.
  • Prioritize your workload so you don’t forget about a
    time-sensitive project and then rush to complete it.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum, especially if you are doing work that requires high levels of concentration.
  • Make sure you are clear about expectations. How much time do you have to complete the job? What are the deadlines? Is the
    entire project due at one time, or are there milestones you need to meet?
  • Analyze and understand what’s in front of you. Ask if you don’t understand so you don’t waste time re-doing things.
  • Plan your work. What’s the end result you need to produce and how will you go about it? It’s helpful to understand how your task fits into the broader picture with your team, or company. When you view it from that perspective, you get a better understanding, the details become clearer and you can make sure not to miss them.
  • Certain jobs that you do on a regular basis might benefit from a checklist that you can use to make sure no details are overlooked. For smaller or easier jobs, I would sketch out in my mind what needed to be done. But for bigger projects, I created a detailed checklist and crossed off each item or segment as it was completed.
  • A big project with many elements can be intimidating, so break the job down into manageable segments that will make it easier for you to review and catch any omissions or errors.
  • Remember, get the right things done and get them done right the first time. Check and re-check your work. If possible, get a second set of eyes on a project that is more involved.
  • Have confidence in yourself and your ability to get the job done.
  • Be passionate and proud of what you do. The way you present yourself matters. In the words of the poet, Kahlil Gibran, “Work is love made visible.”

©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

_________________________________________________________________________

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

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Q & A with Jan Jones: Can Executive Assistants be effective working remotely?

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.


For the past three years, FlyPrivate has been 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!

Want more from Jan Jones? Check out her Q & A Series: Part 1-10!

FlyPrivateCan executive assistants be effective if they are working remotely?  What about virtual assistants? Can executives have their business needs met by using remote or virtual assistants?

Jan Jones: As the old saying goes, “there’s horses for courses”.
Meaning depending on the circumstances or conditions, assistants can be effective working remotely and many executives can have their business needs met by using remotely-located or virtual
assistants. We should take a closer look at the circumstances under which executives could function effectively using assistants who are working remotely, or are virtual assistants, to determine how
effective they can be.

Let’s take working remotely first. Actually, this is not something new. I was recently speaking with a former CEO of an international fast food organization. He told me that in the 1980s, within a few months of each other, several of his company’s assistants became pregnant, or wanted to leave due to their childcare situations. Since they had been with the company a long time and he didn’t want to lose their years of experience, he set them up with computers in their homes. He told them, “I don’t care when or how you work, just get the work done and deliver it on time.”  Technology today makes computers affordable and the internet gives us immense freedom to work from just about anywhere we choose, so it makes sense that remote and virtual assistants are gaining in popularity.

But how suitable is it for an executive who needs a certain level of support from an assistant? I checked in with two of the best, most celebrated executive assistants I know: Penni Pike former assistant to Sir Richard Branson for 31 years and Debbie Gross who spent over 25 years as assistant to John Chambers, former CEO and
current Executive Chairman of Cisco Systems. Both ladies are
featured in my book “The CEO’s Secret Weapon”.

Penni told me “Richard included me in everything”, which is how she came to know and understand the Virgin business and what
mattered most to her boss. When I asked her about assistants
working remotely she said, “I can’t understand that because I always worked so closely with Richard. He needed his assistant by his side. People at the very top have to have someone who works with them like that. Otherwise, if they need something urgently, the assistant is not there. Richard needs someone with him all the time.”

Debbie Gross said, “For administrative professionals, working
remotely has become more of the ‘norm’ in today’s business world partly due to the change in business models.  Many administrators support teams that are based around the world and are never
actually in a traditional office.  With the advance in video
technologies, it has definitely become easier to work remotely.

“That being said, one of the key roles I believe an administrator plays is their ability to build relationships across all levels and be the eyes and ears for the people they support.  Harder to do effectively from a ‘home-office’ environment. This was a critical component of my role supporting a CEO making working remotely not really an
option. John always expected me to be the ‘face’ of the office
especially when he traveled.  When he would check in while on the road he always asked how things were going at the office, so I felt it was key that I be present there. It was about noticing what was
going on around me with other members of the organization and
being able to feel the pulse and morale and share that with John.  He was pretty adamant that executive assistants be in the office, so I am not sure I would have been hired to support him if one of my
requirements was to work from home. Many senior level executives prefer to have their executive assistants in the office, especially the higher they are in their organizations.”

This has also been my experience in my career as an executive
assistant. My jobs were much too interactive with my boss, staff, clients and vendors for me to be outside the office. Like Debbie Gross, my executives counted on me to be their ‘eyes and ears’ and their ‘face’ to the world. Situations were constantly arising that needed my immediate attention. Leaving my desk to go pick up a sandwich at lunchtime could prove tricky. When I worked for bosses who were constantly traveling, on the rare days they were
scheduled to be in the office, I brought my lunch to work so I would not have to be away from my desk for more than a few minutes. Meetings were being set up, canceled or moved at a moment’s
notice, people would drop by unannounced, phone calls were being made, sometimes I was holding 2 or 3 calls at the same time, project approvals were needed, documents required signature, and there were always more travel arrangements to be made, changed or
canceled. Most executives I worked for were constantly calling out for me and I tried to always be within earshot, or have my assistant or someone listen out and let me know if I was being yelled for.  How would I have managed all this remotely?

I am currently working on a project with an assistant who is located remotely and I find it arduous. Work that should take 2 days is taking 5 or 6 due to the back and forth across international time zones. Yet, I am constantly meeting assistants who say they’ve negotiated with their executives to work remotely. Perhaps these executives have become accustomed to doing many tasks their assistants should be doing, or much of the work their assistants do for them is not of an urgent or time-sensitive nature.  Their assistants probably aren’t functioning as their liaison or deputy as I did, or as Gross and Pike did for their executives.

A big negative with the arrangement of assistants working remotely is the burden it places on assistants who are working at the office. I hear complaints that the remote assistants show themselves as “available”, but when they are contacted they don’t respond for hours, sometimes even an entire day goes by when they are not
responding to emails, texts or phone calls.  The urgency arises to schedule or re-schedule meetings, for example, but the assistant can’t be reached. If the executive is traveling, neither the executive nor their assistant can be reached and too much time is being spent by other assistants trying to contact them, cover for them, or
wasting time putting their own tasks on hold waiting for a response. I’ve inquired why these assistants don’t insist HR or the remote
assistant’s boss does something about it. HR tells them the boss agreed the assistant could work remotely when they hired them, so there’s nothing they can do. This is a cop-out by HR and the
executive. They must step up and consider the overall effects this situation has on the company. If this arrangement were impeding my workplace productivity, I would actively agitate for it to be changed. I would lobby HR not to allow executives to agree to letting their
assistants work remotely, but instead offer it as an option with
certain conditions, mainly that the assistant proves they are mature and responsible enough to warrant that privilege.

The bigger concern I have for assistants working remotely is how do they learn the business? How do they grow and expand in the role if they are not there to witness the daily ins and outs of the business environment? How do they develop a relationship of trust and
familiarity with their executive if they are not in physical proximity to each other? Ultimately, are they setting themselves up to become redundant? With warnings about A.I. and virtual assistants stepping in to fill many of the routine tasks assistants do, I would pay close
attention to developing skills and processes that make me more valuable and available to my executive.

The exception to this is assistants who have been with their
executive a long time, have built up a strong relationship with an
understanding of the business and each other. If the business is in a mature phase, or the executive’s role is such that they can be gone for periods of time, their assistants have the freedom to work remotely.

Penni mentioned that she thought assistants working remotely might get lonely. Debbie also addressed this from her experience at Cisco. “3 years ago I came to recognize that at Cisco, there was a whole administrative community that worked remotely and in
talking with several of these administrative professionals it became clear that they all felt a sense of isolation from the broader
administrative community.  As a result we pulled together this group and created an initiative known as G.R.A.C.E. – Global Remote
Administrators Connecting Effectively.  This is a group of remote
administrators who come together once a quarter to discuss the challenges they are facing, as well as review of best practices that help them feel connected.

“One of the key areas discussed was the challenge of developing a relationship with the leader because they were remote.  I strongly encourage administrative professionals who are working remotely to make it a point to travel to the corporate office at least once a year and even better, quarterly if they can, in order to ‘connect’ with their peers, meet the people they interface with across the
organization and become ‘visible’ – putting a face to the voice.  I also always suggest that remote administrators attend networking events and administrative conferences to learn and engage with
others in their profession. Working remotely certainly has its
advantages. However, administrative professionals can be even more effective by not isolating themselves. I feel that it is in our
administrative DNA that we connect with others and build strong relationships and that means we have to get out of ‘home-office’
environment to do that.  Many of Cisco’s G.R.A.C.E. members are now coming to the corporate office and networking with their peers, enriching their relationships and friendships and growing their knowledge and ultimately being of greater assistance to the leaders they support.”

Virtual Assistants: I often meet assistants who tell me they are
toying with the idea of trying out being a VA because they perceive it as a freeing experience. The purpose of including information about the VA profession in this article is to help assistants understand what it takes to survive and thrive as a VA.

Thanks to technology, there is a role for virtual assistants in the
business world. I remember from the pre-internet days, a friend of mine who worked at a large university would earn extra money
using her home computer to type students’ assignments, or
professors’ presentations. It stands to reason then, that with the freedom the internet offers us, that the virtual assistant profession would flourish.  Originally, this was a service that many
single-operator or small businesses used, but it is becoming more common for established businesses with ample resources to seek out the services of virtual assistants.

Penni Pike is an advisor for Time, etc., the virtual assistant service started in the UK, but now successfully established in the USA as well. Penni was brought on board by the company’s founder,
Barnaby Lashbrooke to guide them in setting up the business. He said Penni provided invaluable insight into how the EA-Executive
relationship should work and what kind of support executives need. Assistants chosen to work for Time, etc., go through a thorough
vetting process, not only for administrative skills, but for
inter-personal skills such as a client-focused viewpoint,
responsiveness to clients requests, attention to detail and so on. Their VAs are a mix of mid-to-high level, offering a range of skills that are “not all admin based, but include the strategic management side of business as well” said Barnaby.

He says the VA role is not suited for everyone. Many assistants are better suited to working in an office, so Time, etc., probes the prospective assistant’s reasons for wanting to be a VA. This is an
important aspect of the vetting process because it would be
disruptive if clients like working with a particular assistant and
develop an effective working relationship, only to find out the
assistant has moved on. Quality assistants with young families who need the flexibility of working from home, yet still need to bring in an income, are the most typical profile of a VA.

Anita Armas of Anita D. Armas Administrative Services from West Covina in California told me she started her VA business because she needed freedom and flexibility when she was looking for a way to be at home with her young children while still earning an income. Anita said, “I knew there was a way to use my skills and experience to do just that but wasn’t sure how, then I heard about virtual
assistants. My husband’s business was hit hard by the financial crisis of 2008 and I needed another way to bring in additional income, so I officially began marketing myself as a virtual assistant and I soon gained my first client.”

I asked Anita what mindset a person needs to be successful as a VA. “Aside from skills, in order to be successful as a virtual assistant one must be confident, resourceful, thick-skinned, adaptable, a great communicator and have a servant’s heart. As a VA business owner, my business success depends greatly on the success of my clients. A successful VA will not just be a “doer” but will be innovative and strategically invested in his or her clients business, in order to know how to best support their client. A willingness to learn and grow are key,” says Anita. She added that some of the pitfalls a VA can
experience include the client not seeing the VA as an autonomous business owner and leaning towards an employer/employee
mentality. The client feeling a sense of exclusivity, thinking they are the only client the VA has, and lack of communication between the VA and the client.

When assistants tell me they are considering becoming a VA, I
caution them that before they leave a secure, well-paying job with benefits and career advancement opportunities, they should
consider how the uncertainty of not immediately having a steady
income might impact them. They should consider whether or not they are cut out for working alone and whether they are sufficiently disciplined to get down to work every day when they have the
option to work at their own time and pace. It’s easy to romanticize being your own boss when you are operating from the safety of a
secure job. The reality of being self employed can be a wakeup call when you have to prospect for business, deal with unhappy clients, pay bills, collect payments and furnish your own healthcare. Many VAs thrive in the role and others, after a mild flirtation with
independence, gladly return to the security of a full time job.
Evaluate your skills, your disposition and your self-discipline
thoroughly before you venture into the VA world. It is not for
everyone, particularly if you decide not to work through a platform such as Time, etc., preferring to source business on your own.

What’s exciting about all this is the many options assistants of all
calibers and experience levels have at their disposal today.  When you get excited about the opportunities, be sure to think through the potential downsides, not just the upsides. Use this article to make a Pros and Cons list for yourself. I wish you success in whatever you decide.

Author: Jan Jones

©Copyright Jan Jones, 2015 “The CEO’s Secret Weapon”

Jan Jones Worldwide

Visit Amazon to purchase Jan Jones’ new 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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Q & A with Jan Jones: What Makes Assistants Successful at Multitasking?

In this article, Author Jan Jones discusses multitasking 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: We’ve been hearing that “multitasking” is a myth and we should stop trying to do multiple things at once. But I recall you saying that being good at multitasking was vital to your success as an
executive assistant. Can you clarify? 

Jan Jones: Yes, I did say that and I fully believe that multitasking – as it pertains to the role of the executive assistant – is a fine art that many executive assistants have perfected. But I should make the
distinction about what I mean regarding “multitasking” as it pertains to the executive assistant, as opposed to executives and others.

We now have scientific evidence that multitasking is impossible for our brains and that, in fact, when we think we are multitasking what’s happening is that our brains are almost instantaneously switching back and forth from one task to another. It happens so fast that we think we are doing more than one thing at a time. This is easy to prove. Try giving your full attention to reading an email at the same time you are trying to pay complete attention to a phone call you are having. You will soon become aware that both tasks are suffering and you have to stop doing one of them.

So when I say that being good at multitasking was vital to my success as an EA, it comes down to that ability to switch back and forth
between tasks at a remarkably rapid pace, and then quickly
regaining laser focus. It takes discipline and practice and is not something everyone can do effectively. But for me, and some
assistants I’ve observed, it seems to be less arduous. My opinion is that because of the demands of the EA role, assistants are
constantly multitasking and as a result have mastered the ability to switch from task to task very quickly, along with the ability to regain focus. Obviously, some are better at it than others. The key is not to multitask with projects that require 100% of your concentration. That will result in you making mistakes, doing the job poorly and
taking longer to do it. It helps to batch similar tasks so that it’s easier to switch back and forth, but realistically, EAs don’t always have that option when requests are piling up, so you end up devising your own system and style of working in order to get it all handled.

I think another part to the talent of multitasking as demonstrated by assistants is revealed in an article published in Scientific American in April 2010. The article says that the brain can keep tabs on two tasks at once, even though we can’t actually do two tasks at once. I think this ability to keep tabs on two tasks at once is crucial to EAs being successful in their job. I liken it to sleeping with one eye open. You’ve always got your eye on all those balls you are juggling, to make sure nothing gets dropped. Nothing escapes your attention. This is a
desirable talent and one that is highly developed in goal-oriented executive assistants.

The world of the EA is one of constant interruptions, and if you
support more than one executive, that’s even more applicable to you. But that’s the nature of our job. We don’t have the luxury of
taking ourselves off to some quiet corner where we can focus on one thing at a time, as the experts are constantly advising executives to do. Assistants have to operate in the thick of it all day and everyday, so we must get better and better at recovering our focus as our brains rapidly switch back and forth between tasks. I don’t know of any scientific evidence to back up my assertion, but I know from
personal experience that I’m quickly able to adjust back and forth. I’m sure other assistants have this capability as well, and I’d be
interested to hear from them about it.

Multitasking can be tiring and one clue to help reduce the stress it causes is to give your brain a re-set if you’ve been doing a lot of
multitasking. Take a break, or focus on one task only. I know this sounds like wishful thinking to assistants, particularly with the
current Covid lockdown, which is forcing assistants to multitask business and homelife demands. So you must allow your brain even a brief rest. Reduced stress allows your immune system to function better. I was just reading a conversation between a medical working group that includes surgeons and neuroscientists. This comment caught my eye. “Threats fire up the immune system. ‘Threats’ are all sorts of stuff. Viruses, bacteria, a bully, a difficult boss, your thoughts and repressed emotions. Thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain the same way as a physical threat. Anxiety also fires up the immune system.” So, please take a break and calm your nervous system.

Another clue to successful multitasking is to have a priority list. It will help you to meet your objectives. Sometimes, the most
important task may require the highest amount of concentration and time for completion. Knowing this, you can quickly knock off a bunch of lesser items that don’t require a lot of time or
concentration, and then get down to uninterrupted time with your key projects. With those lesser items completed, you’ve probably satisfied some of your stakeholders, and you won’t be anxious about all those other things you have left to do, while you are trying to
focus on the complex, big-ticket items.

It’s true, science has shown you lose time when you multitask. Time is lost as your brain switches back and forth between tasks. (Studies say as much as 40% in some cases). But you can learn to make up for those precious lost seconds by quickly regaining your focus. The ability to focus and not give way to needless distractions is a skill
assistants must develop, especially during these times where smart phones and social media platforms are purposely designed to
distract us by keeping us addicted to checking them constantly.

This is not a joke. Some brave souls in the technology arena are
finally speaking up about the way devices are programmed in order to addict us. We need to be vigilant about this so our devices don’t rule our lives in a negative way, destroying our ability to focus and putting us into overwhelm and overload.

EAs may wish to view the 60 Minutes piece on “Brain Hacking” where former Google product manager, Tristan Harris (also in the Netflix film “The Social Dilemma”) discusses how Silicon Valley
exploits neuroscience to keep us addicted to technology.
Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker says Facebook is designed to exploit human vulnerability, by creating things like the “like” button, which give users “a little dopamine hit” so they continue to upload content. These revelations are an eye opener and should give pause to every assistant to examine if they are using technology, or if
technology is using them. I repeatedly say to assistants that
technology is a tool to help you get better at what you do. It can’t be a substitute for the human skills the job requires. In this case the skill is focus which technology is inadequate for, because it
constantly distracts your focus and robs you of time. However, don’t overlook that technology may provide a solution if you are able to automate some of those repetitive tasks that slow your productivity.

Multitasking, even as we understand it scientifically today, will
continue to be an essential component in the arsenal of exceptional executive assistants. It’s not feasible for assistants to stop
multitasking, so get really good at it. Develop your ability to switch back and forth rapidly between tasks and quickly regain your focus. The benefits of learning to focus go far beyond multitasking. It
dramatically increases your productivity and the quality of your work. The partnership of focus with multitasking is a paramount skill for time-pressured assistants. Once you master this combined skill, you won’t resent interruptions because your remarkable ability to focus will help you to quickly get back on target again. And this
ability is why I say, despite the science, many executive assistants have multitasking down to a fine art.


©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

_________________________________________________________________________

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

Website: www.flyprivate.com
Email: fly@flyprivate.com
Phone: 1-800-641-JETS (5387)

All flights arranged by Private Business Jets, LLC DBA FlyPrivate are operated by Part 135 Certified Air Carriers. FlyPrivate will act as your agent for the purpose of obtaining charter service.

Q & A with Jan Jones: How Executive Assistants Get Their Executives to see Them as a “Business Partner”

In this article, Author Jan Jones discusses how Executive Assistants can work to be seen as a business partner to their Executives.

 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 can executive assistants get their executives to see them as a “Business Partner?” What are some things executives do that show they respect their assistant as a business partner?

Jan Jones: I’m repeatedly asked “How can I be a secret weapon if my executive doesn’t see assistants that way?” “I can’t get my executive to notice me and acknowledge my contribution.” “My executive doesn’t know how to use me.” “How can I be a business partner to an executive who wants to do everything herself?”

The answer to the first part of your question is not straightforward, and these questions from assistants clearly demonstrate that. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about the term “business partner”, that present a barrier to the title being widely acknowledged and used, with respect to the EA role.

A major hurdle in that effort is that many executives – across the age spectrum and across the world – are reluctant to bestow the title, or consider the idea that their assistant is their business partner. When I’m consulting with those executives, I allay their concerns by
suggesting they view it for what it is – a collaboration, an alliance
between the executive and assistant, rather than seeing it as an
assistant giving themselves airs, or trying to presume an authority, or legitimacy they don’t have.

While there is a strong push by EA advocates in western countries for the title, I hear from our EA colleagues in other parts of the world that their executives won’t countenance such a title for an assistant. Indeed, in parts of the world assistants continue to be called
“secretary”, although that may be because the title is closer to the job being done, rather than disrespect towards the person
performing it, or the profession as a whole. I know cultural norms are a source of dismay for assistants in some countries. But our EA colleagues in exotic lands should take heart because Adam Fidler, the UK’s premier EA trainer, says that many UK executives also
resist calling an assistant a business partner. It’s not only a cultural impediment, other factors are in play. But that’s a lengthy discussion to be had at another time.

As we see from these EA questions, too many executives are
unaware about the caliber of assistance an assistant brings to the table. And the truth is, a percentage of executives don’t require or want that level of assistance. Often, it’s the executives who are
conversant with technology, but have yet to determine how they can widen the scope of their own jobs, beyond the task-based way they are currently doing it. They are so deep on their treadmill of
churning it out and getting it done, that they can’t stop for a moment to delegate, collaborate, or consider there may be an alternative. Many of these executives have never had an assistant before, they’ve never seen assistants who are role models of effectiveness, they’ve never been taught the purpose and value of an effective
assistant. So they can’t immediately see how an assistant can be of service to them.

Assistants: You’ve got a job to do educating your executives on the role you play and what you can do. Just because they’ve hired you, doesn’t mean they know how to use all the features that come with a product like you. They’ve bought something and have yet to read and understand the how-to manual.

My unending mantra to assistants is: Showing is Better Than Telling. Show them what you can do. Until you show them, they won’t know. Many have no idea because they’ve never seen it done. They don’t know that it can be done, let alone how it can be done. It’s up to you. Realize that partners don’t wait to be told what to do. They know what the business requires and they do whatever it takes. Business partners have an investment in the business. They have financial skin in the game. What’s your stake in the business in which you work? How are you helping to grow and build that business the way a financial business partner would? What are you bringing to the partnership in return for asking to be called a “partner?” This is an important question that you should be asking yourself. How are you stepping up to the role of business partner?

Showing is Better Than Telling. That’s why I wrote my book for
executives and not for assistants. It’s deliberately called “The CEO’s Secret Weapon How Great Leaders And Their Assistants Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness.” I did that because executives need to be educated on what an assistant can do. They need to realize they have a secret weapon ready for deployment right beside them. And it’s the job of every assistant to demonstrate every single day, just what an assistant can do. If you don’t teach them, how will they learn? That’s what I did with my executives. I showed them more and better ways to utilize the depth of my expertise. I demonstrated that I clearly understood the business, what they were trying to achieve and how I could add value. You can do that by speaking intelligently, using the language of the business or the industry. Make pertinent suggestions. Bring relevant matters to their attention. If you can
relieve them of making one more decision, do it. You have to play the role of educator. You can’t sit back passively and wait for people who haven’t got a clue, to magically get a clue. People believe what they see more than they believe what they hear. So let them see what you can do.

One highly experienced assistant was struggling to get her
executive’s attention to discuss how she could help this new
executive. Every time she tried, her executive would push her away with some excuse. And then it was another, and another thing that she just could not look up from. I suggested the assistant make a list of all areas she saw where she could take tasks away from the
executive. Give specific examples: Here are some areas where I
notice… Let them see exactly where they are getting bogged down, and how you can help them to reclaim that precious time. Give them the list and let them look it over at their convenience. Let them know you’d be happy to discuss when they are ready. Meanwhile, you keep performing to the very best of your ability and keep siphoning off things that you can handle to make their load lighter.

At one point in my career, while I was deciding on my next move, I did temporary work. I covered for assistants who were on vacation, maternity leave, sick leave, or while the executive was interviewing for a new assistant. Guess how many job offers I got. When I arrived at those organizations, I didn’t sit back and wait for the executive to give me tasks to perform. I immediately set about finding out how I could make it an easy transition for them. Some EAs, particularly the ones going on vacation, who didn’t want to come back to a mess, left helpful directions. But not always. I would start by checking out what was in their In-tray to see what action needed to be taken, and the Out-tray to see what had been completed and what needed to happen next. I looked at the correspondence. I went through the files, their contacts, everything that would get me immediately
familiar with that EA’s job. Then, with my list of questions, I would ask for time with the executive so I could get some direction and get down to work. Many were surprised at my proactive stance and most welcomed it. I heard repeated whispers that they were getting more work out of me than they got from their assistant. Those
executives got a long-overdue lesson in how an enterprising
assistant takes charge of her role. They needed to be shown – this is what I can do for you. For the middle managers who didn’t want to use me (their work was too important to give to a mere temp), I showed them the meaning of important. I would go to the chief
executive’s assistant, introduce myself and ask if I could help them. 99% of the time, their grateful answer was “sure”.

Here are some examples of how successful business leaders utilize their assistants as business partners. This is how you want to train and develop your executive. This is how you’ll partner with your
executive, by knowing what the best leaders do and gradually
coaxing your executive into doing the same.

Access: Smart leaders give the assistant full access. This access
allows the assistant to understand the business, their executive’s priorities, what they like or don’t like. The assistant learns by directly observing the executive’s decision-making process, their style of communication, their values and interests. This perspective will give you a compass for how to act on your executive’s behalf. Assistants who are granted access to their executive don’t hesitate to act as their proxy when required. Get around your executive. Show
interest. Ask questions. Make suggestions. Encourage your
executive to relinquish tasks to you. If you have to start small, then start small, but start.

Autonomy: Good leaders know when to become immersed in the details and when they should let someone else take the lead. They hire the right person and trust them to get the job done. These
executives share the vision, mission and goals and trust their
assistant to use their experience, skills and creativity to take it from there. If your executive hasn’t been loosening the reins, ask yourself why. Is it because they are micromanagers and mistrusting, or have you not shown any inclination or ability to be autonomous and make good decisions? If you are waiting for your executive to “let” you, you’ll be a long time waiting.

Confidence: Strong leaders boost their assistant’s confidence and give them opportunities to show initiative and learn new things. They notice what you do and give you credit. If you make a mistake, they guide you towards a better way. The best way to gain
confidence is to start taking on projects and working independently. The more you do, the more confident you’ll become. Don’t hesitate to ask for guidance if you don’t know, or if you run into trouble. Get accustomed to speaking up and sharing your opinion. Easy does it at first. Test the waters before you start dishing out advice or
suggestions, unless you are certain of what you are talking about and how it will be received. Even if your executive doesn’t respond to your initiative, keep practicing how to expand your reach, work independently and get involved. It will increase your value and help you as you progress in your career.

Kudos: Smart leaders champion their people and recognize their
efforts. They understand the caliber of performance you are
delivering and never take you for granted. They don’t hesitate to say thank you, or praise you for stellar performance and reward you with increased responsibility, remuneration, or something more
immediate like time off. Even in my first job, when I was a junior
secretary, my boss would once in a while give me an “early mark”. That’s Aussie-speak for leave early. A consideration so appreciated by a young woman who was working hard to learn the ropes and
impress her employers. It told me my efforts were being noticed and rewarded.

Respect: Top business leaders show courtesy and consideration to their assistant – in public and private. They listen to you. They value your input. They treat you as a professional.

Gratitude: Tuned-in leaders acknowledge the immense job their
assistants do on their behalf. Time after time, leaders have told me they could never do what they do without their assistant. In my book, management guru Ken Blanchard remarked, “Assistants give you the capacity to do so much more.” Great leaders remember to express their thanks, show consideration and once in a while, look for ways to reward their assistants.

These are some habits that for generations have enabled
extraordinary leaders to function at optimum levels, working
effectively with their exceptional assistants. If a mind shift is going to happen, it’s going to come from you and through you, dear
assistant. How successfully your executive makes the transition to seeing and accepting you as a “business partner”, is in your hands. The goal is to be treated as a professional, a respected business partner, with or without it being your official title.


©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

_________________________________________________________________________

We’d love to hear from you! Please follow us on:

Website: www.flyprivate.com
Email: fly@flyprivate.com
Phone: 1-800-641-JETS (5387)

All flights arranged by Private Business Jets, LLC DBA FlyPrivate are operated by Part 135 Certified Air Carriers. FlyPrivate will act as your agent for the purpose of obtaining charter service.