The demand for highly skilled assistants has increased the past several years, as shareholders and customers demand greater access to executives.
Among the most desired: assistants with tech savvy and “demonstrated longevity.” In other words, administrative professionals who have built over time a strong working relationship with their executive bosses.
Top-tier assistants say the key is good chemistry and trust, both of which develop over time. Two executive assistants who embody the gold standard:
1. Rosanne Badowski, longtime executive assistant to Jack Welch, the retired General Electric Co. chairman and CEO.
One mark of the solid chemistry and mutual respect between Badowski and her chief executive: She tells Welch her opinion, even when she knows he’s not going to agree.
And she will defy his orders on occasion. “I’m not going to do something inefficiently just because he’s told me to,” she says. “It’s for his own good.”
As for Welch’s part, he values his assistant’s in-the-trenches perspective: “I respect her views of what is working and what isn’t,” Welch says. “Candor is what you want. As an executive, you search for that.”
2. Melanie Delaney, administrative assistant for 10 years to Jonathan Schwartz, former CEO of Sun Microsystems.
Delaney believes having trust and frequent communication with a boss’s family is vital. “You need to partner with your exec’s spouse,” she says.
In addition to supporting him in the office, she helped him to have a life. She blocked out time for him to exercise several times a week and helped make sure he attended his kids’ activities—which she knew about from Schwartz’s wife.
She looked after his health, too, ensuring he took time to eat healthful foods.
What both assistants show is the close-knit nature of a strong admin-executive relationship.
“It’s like an office marriage,” says Badowski.
Jack Welch disagrees: “This is smoother.”
— Adapted from “Who’s Minding the CEO?” Katherine Rosman, The Wall Street Journal.