Executive Assistants: Why you should be Setting Goals with Your Executive — And How

Executive Assistant objectives should always be discussed with your executive. You are an extension of your executive, her right hand. Her goals are your goals.

Understanding where you are going together will improve your work efficiency and your relationship. The most effective Executive Assistants (EAs) are the ones who really understand what their executives are trying to achieve; you will be even more effective if you share her goals and have been involved in setting them.

Have you ever had a day where you weren’t quite sure what to do next or how to prioritize your huge list of to-dos? It’s understandable! It’s tough to prioritize when it isn’t clear what’s most important to the executive you support or the company. Maybe your executive wants to focus on putting their people first and driving team culture? Perhaps she wants to be in closer contact with her satellite campus leaders? Maybe they want to drive the organization forward by going up for awards in their industry?

Being a part of setting goals like these with your executive will give you projects to help make these goals become realities, and make it easy to decide what tasks to do next.

Ok, you get it — set goals with your executive, but how do you actually do this?

Take the initiative and schedule a meeting with your executive. You may have an executive that is really goal-driven and will lead these conversations, but you may also have one that doesn’t realize the value you can add in a particular situation. Respect your executive’s time, but also show her why discussing executive assistant objectives is a valuable exercise for you both.

How to approach team goal setting: Go into this meeting prepared, ready to drive the conversation and show your intended outcomes.

You have the meeting set; now what do you need to be prepared to ensure this meeting is productive? Be ready with a goal planning process you two can work through together. Providing a few executive assistant OKR examples will also be beneficial in letting your executive in on your personal objectives.

When goal planning with a group (two or more), I like to approach it from the top down:

  1. Mission: Define your team’s big mission — your big goal for the quarter. This can be overarching, or it can be time-based (quarterly, yearly, etc.)
  2. Strategies: What strategies will you use to achieve this mission?
  3. Activities: What activities will you perform to drive those strategies? (You should have at least one activity to match each strategy you’ve listed.)
  4. Obstacles/Risks: What obstacles will stand in your way? How will you overcome these?
  5. Measurements: How will you know you were successful?

Let’s take a simple look at this method for one of our goals mentioned above:

  1. Mission: Become a leader in our industry.
  2. Strategies: Be recognized by leading trade organizations — both regionally and nationally.
  3. Activities: Research organizations that recognize best in class/give awards/etc., assess our organization against the criteria, apply for awards.
  4. Obstacles: Putting other priorities ahead of the application process.
  5. Measurements: Identify and apply for 3 regional awards and 3 national awards. Make it to finalist status in at least 3 of the 6.

The activities in this plan are perfect for you to take off of your executive’s plate — while driving forward the organization’s goals.

This 5-step method ties everything into your big mission, while still giving you actual activities to complete. Assessing potential risks will help you to find ways to mitigate those together, and coming up with appropriate measurements help you to track the goals along the way and see whether or not you were successful in the end. Use this process to engage your executive into a big-picture discussion, and plan what you can do together to ensure you are working in the right direction.

You have your plan, now what?

You and your executive have met and created this 5-step vision of your quarterly goals. What do you do next? This is where your skills as an EA really come into play. You will have this plan to refer back to on all decisions and activities you do this quarter to ensure both you and your executive are staying on course and reaching your executive assistant objectives.

Report back on the progress you are seeing in your measurements at a regular cadence. Do you need to re-strategize around any of the goals that aren’t moving forward as successfully?

Are you or your executive letting other activities come before the vision? You and your executive created this together and agreed on your goals and priorities; you can be each other’s accountability partners. Make sure that this vision is always top of mind when making your decisions and for the decisions your executive is making.

The plan you have made together will give you a tool that you can use time and again to show your executive how valuable you can be to them and the organization.

Finally, review the success of your plan together when the time frame has closed. Schedule a review meeting to discuss what went well and what didn’t. How can you re-strategize to overcome the obstacles that still got in the way? See if you can make a new set of executive assistant OKRs based on these objectives.

Once you have debriefed, set your plan for the upcoming quarter (or set cadence).

Making a practice of goal setting and planning together will not only allow you to have the information and tools you need to be an effective EA, it will give your executive the information and tools she needs to be an effective executive.

Take a look at my previous article on goal setting, “Go Get ’Em: Goal Setting for the Executive Assistant”.

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Written by Bryn Smith

Bryn is the Senior Manager of Brand and Product Marketing at Base, where she is on a mission to build a world-class EA community by connecting them with top-notch thought leaders, invaluable resources, and cutting-edge insights.