One of the Best Executive Assistant Skills You Need to Know
As an executive assistant, you know that communication with your executive is vital but doesn’t always happen as much as you want it to. Your job as an executive assistant passes beyond the normal “working hours.” A full day’s worth of updates and work can happen overnight and it’s crucial to be in communication with your executive so they—and you!—stay updated.
You understand that a daily debrief would be beneficial, but you know that your executive has a busy schedule and it isn’t always easy to find a few uninterrupted moments with them.
It probably doesn’t come as a shock that we recommend taking five minutes a day to debrief with your executive. Hey, don’t roll your eyes just yet!
“Easier said than done,” you say. “My executive barely has time to eat much less connect with me for five minutes to go over details that could be sent in an email.”
We get that.
You learn so much on the go, but getting five minutes with your executive is a skill you shouldn’t have to figure out on your own. Which is why we took the liberty of putting together everything you need in order to get five minutes of uninterrupted time with your executive.
Even with just five minutes a day, your ability to execute tasks will increase and you can spend more of your time focusing on strengthening your other executive assistant skills (or learning about project management tools to continue streamlining your life).
We have compiled our most trusted, tried-and-true tips on how to schedule a five-minute huddle with your executive every day. In this article, we will go over the benefits of this five-minute sit-down, ways to get those five minutes with your executive scheduled, why it’s important to huddle and the best use of those five minutes. By the time you finish this article, you will be able to walk up to your executive, concisely explain why a five-minute meeting is important, outline what you will both cover and have the confidence to schedule a recurring time with your executive.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about the benefits.
Why are these five minutes so darn important?
Since executives work far beyond the normal working hours of 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, a five-minute brief at the beginning of the day can help align common goals. What is your executive working on? What priorities have shifted in the past 24 hours? Is there anything pressing that needs to get done before any of your other tasks? Connecting before your workday officially starts is the best way to make sure you stay on task.
Getting this level of clarity leads to plenty of benefits that can come from a daily five-minute meeting with your executive. It will help:
- Reduce stress on both sides
- Lessen the chance of last-minute chaos
- Allow for better communication
- Clarify the day’s priorities
- Allow you to get up to date and sync with your executive
- Become more effective when completing work assignments
Miscommunications are the root of most, if not all, issues. Usually, mistakes aren’t made by choice. It was a simple miscommunication! The person making the mistake thought they were doing what was asked. By spending five minutes each morning touching base with your executive, you can make sure you are both on the same page with tasks and execution. Those five minutes a day will help save a lot of time that could otherwise be wasted on solving a miscommunication later on.
Here are four tips to help make the most out of your five minutes with your executive:
- Schedule your five minutes in the morning before work usually starts: We all know how it goes. You start the day with a plan and by the end of that day, if 15% of your plan is accomplished (alongside all of the fires you had to put out), it’s considered a good day. The later it gets, the more chaotic the schedule becomes and the less likely you and your executive will be able to keep a consistent meeting. Issues will come up, meetings will arise and it will become close to impossible to keep a consistent daily five-minute meeting. Get the meeting done first thing in the morning before most people start pulling your executive in a million different directions. It will keep your schedule on track and your executive focused.
- Don’t take no for an answer: Your job is to empower your executive to be the most efficient version of themselves. This is a vital part of your job. If your executive claims they are too busy to take five minutes, remind them that five minutes now might save hours of ‘fixing a miscommunication’ further down the road. These five minutes are an investment in your job, your executive’s well being and performance.
- Establish a consistent scheduled time every morning: If you change the time of your five-minute huddle every morning, it will lead to confusion or cancelations. Focus on finding a time that works for both of you every morning so it becomes part of your daily routine. This is also so your executive can plan accordingly. Perhaps you can both plan to have a cup of coffee in the morning while having your huddle.
- Write down what you want to go over: Having notes on what you want to say will keep you focused and organized during your five-minute huddle. Five minutes isn’t a long time, so you want to make sure you optimize each second as much as possible. You can keep a running Post-It note throughout the day outlining any potential questions or things you want to go over with your executive for the next day.
You now understand the benefits of getting five minutes with your executive, and four different tricks for establishing the huddle, so now…
What do you go over?
There are plenty of details that take more than five minutes to go over. Obviously, the tasks will vary from day to day so you don’t need to touch on each one of these points every morning. This list is here to provide you with an outline or ideas to discuss with your executive if you need some inspiration.
- Weekly Calendars, Updates, Etc.: Technology is not perfect and neither are humans. It is easy to place the wrong time or date on a calendar. Or because so many executives are independent, they place events on their own calendars and forget to inform their administrative partner. Going over the day’s events together before they happen is a great way to make sure your executive is prepared. Let them know what big meetings they have and any pertinent information. Sending an email with this also works, but in this day and age, one person can receive hundreds of emails in one day. Don’t let your executive get caught unprepared because they didn’t see an email. Bring important things up in person.
- Discuss Email Communications: As you know, there are various approaches to email management. This point differs depending on whether your executive wants you to read through their emails and respond, or reads their own emails and just forwards necessary emails to you. If you read through all the emails, this is a great time to get answers to any pressing questions. Let your executive know about any outstanding communications, or ask for clarification on specific emails. You can take this time to update your executive on anything else regarding online communication.
- Visitors Coming in Town: Perhaps your executive has some VIPs or family coming into town that they have forgotten about. This is a perfect time to discuss any events that external visitors will attend and anticipate actions to be taken before and during their visit. Does your executive have any insights they need to share with you? Food allergies, activity preferences, information on the out of towners? Get the detailed information you need to help you prepare for such events or give a face-to-face reminder to your executive about their visitors.
- Department Issues: Have there been any discrepancies within the department? This is a great time to go over any departmental problems that need your executive’s input. As the executive assistant, you have the ability to listen and hear more from within the department and can alert your executive to potential problems or personal issues. You can bring up any problems in person during the five minutes with your executive.
- Status Updates: You can use this meeting to give your executive updates on projects, meetings, items you are working on and any other pertinent information. One of the best executive assistant skills you can have is never waiting for your executive to ask for an update, but rather to provide one. Executives don’t have the time to track your projects. Anticipate their needs by giving them updates instead.
- Upcoming Travel: The sooner you know about upcoming trips, the sooner you can create schedules and prepare necessary travel materials. You can use this time to write down travel information or go over upcoming travel with your executive. Find out about upcoming trips so you can anticipate schedules and prepare accordingly.
- Follow Up Items: Is there anything that you are waiting on your executive for? Information for the staff or something else? You can bring all of this up to your executive’s attention.
- Training and Development: Being an executive assistant takes skill and skill takes time to build. Are there any upcoming seminars you’re interested in attending? (We hear there are a few coming up, wink wink.) Or perhaps you just got back from one. Take some time to talk to your executive about what seminars and workshops you want to attend and why. If you recently attended a seminar, share some of the ideas you would like to incorporate into the office and what value it would bring.
- Special Projects: Are there any special projects your executive is working on? Find out what special projects are coming up in the next few weeks and see if there is anything you can do to help.
Now that you have an idea of what you can talk about, we can focus on the most important step: Getting your executive to buy in and agree.
Here is how you build up to getting five minutes with your executive every day:
- Discuss this process and its benefits with your executive. If your executive is skeptical about keeping it to five minutes, start with a timer.
- Tell your executive how to best prepare for the meeting. If you both bring notes, you can stay on task.
- Start with meeting one morning a week. You might start with Monday or Friday to discuss the upcoming week. Let your executive see the benefit.
- Gradually increase meetings to two days and then three days, and so on until you’re at one meeting a day. Sometimes it won’t be possible (travel time zones, etc.), but having it built-in as a habit is helpful.
- Pick a location for the meeting (easiest is the executive’s office). If your executive is traveling, over the phone is also a possibility.
- As you continue to hold these meetings on a regular basis, they will take less time because the communication will be consistent.
Now, how to talk to your executive…
Remember, you are in this job for a reason. Your executive believes in you and trusts you. Be confident, state your reasoning and don’t take no for an answer. Good luck out there!