Much more than a gatekeeper, a good executive assistant can double or triple a boss’s efficiency by staying one step ahead of him or her.
The more an assistant can predict an executive’s needs, the less he or she will need to interrupt.
Rosanne Badowski, longtime executive assistant to former General Electric leader Jack Welch, writes in her book Managing Up, “Am I a mind reader? No. But I pay attention to what’s happening.”
Prep material so the boss can “gun and go.” Badowski says she might spend two hours working the phone, reviewing files and attacking an analyst’s report with a yellow highlighter so it would take Welch only 30 seconds to handle. Simply passing an issue along doesn’t create time.
Proactively suggest next steps. After excising what’s relevant, use Post-its to suggest follow-ups, such as “Should I schedule a meeting next week?”
Filter e-mail better than an Outlook wizard. Badowski made a habit of reading Welch’s incoming e-mail, deleting extraneous messages and prioritizing hot ones. Being familiar with a subject can allow you to respond to phone calls, rather than interrupt your boss (if that’s an arrangement your boss is comfortable with).
Eavesdrop and snoop. Badowski often silently listened in on Welch’s phone conversations, with his blessing. That way, Welch wouldn’t need to fill her in after hanging up. To find out the status of paper documents she’d handed him, she even went through his office trash can to see which ones he’d already tossed and which were still in his reading pile. That’s how implicit the trust was between the two.
Welch wrote in the foreword to Badowski’s book that her loyalty is what made her so effective. He says, “I wanted a secretary so loyal to the GE way and GE people that she could read my mind.”