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Does success hinge on the ‘X Factor’?

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Do you aspire to work in the C-suite? You can safely assume that top executives will require a prized package of skills: spreadsheet fluency, a strong communicator, e-mail reviewer, PowerPoint creator, calendar keeping.

But most high-level execs say they also want assistants who have the “X Factor.”

Love it or hate it, high-ranking executives want employees who can read minds, anticipate needs and supply that indescribable “something” that propels an executive toward success.

Find out why style — rather than performance — is the key factor in determining who makes it to the boardroom.The Black Book of Executive Politics

Here’s what execs say it takes:

Do more than asked.
When Joanna Coles, editor in chief of the U.S. edition of Marie Claire, was in Paris on business, her assistant called to check in. At the time, Coles was standing on the avenue Montaigne in the rain, there were no cabs and she was late for a meeting.

“Yes, you can get me a cab!” Coles exclaimed.

She was only joking, but eight minutes later, a cab pulled up and the driver asked, “Are you Joanna Coles?”

Track down answers behind the scenes.
Not long ago, Pamela Liebman, CEO of New York-based real estate firm Corcoran Group, had an important meeting and asked her then assistant Amy Roeder to bring in two cups of coffee.

Later that day, Liebman’s visitor called to say, “Did you know that your assistant called my assistant earlier to ask how I take my coffee?” Liebman says, “And you know what the other assistant told Amy? ‘I have no idea, my boss gets her own coffee.’”

The Black Book of Executive Politics tells you how to progress from merely competent to outstandingly effective.

Evolve with the boss. A personal assistant’s tasks often cross over into the personal realm, especially as the boss gets married or has children. Linda Kaplan Thaler, founder and CEO of ad agency Kaplan Thaler, has worked with her assistant, Fran Marzano, for 26 years, even longer than Thaler has known her husband.

“I have two kids now, and my needs have evolved,” says Thaler. “There are a lot of personal things I just can’t get done during a day, so often it’s about keeping my daughter’s calendar for the year, and could you order this book from Amazon for my parents, and remind me to RSVP for this or that?”

Be ambitious about excelling in the role you’re in. Execs are all too familiar with the story of the perfect assistant who leaves after she isn’t promoted quickly.

“I would much rather have someone who sees this as the job they want, who doesn’t see it as a stepping-stone,” says Jamie Raab, executive vice president of the Hachette Book Group. “And if you find such a person, you try to hang on to them, because training someone new about your likes and dislikes takes a long time.”

Bottom line:
Be upfront about your career goals.

In The Black Book 'Z' — a 25-year veteran of the corporate battlefield — reveals his secret maneuvers in the game of executive politics...
book cover
  • How to arrange an immediate 35% salary jump for yourself and leapfrog across the company's formal salary structure
  • How to look like the "person of status" in a group — regardless of your actual job title
  • Shrewd alternatives when you're faced with a big problem: bypassing your boss
  • The virtues of letting your ideas get stolen — on purpose
The Black Book of Executive Politics


— Adapted from “Office Life: A Great Assist,” Irina Aleksander, Forbes

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