Working as an executive assistant in a fast-growing company can be exciting — but it also comes with many challenges. The ability to pivot and scale at a quick pace is essential, and often means putting the company’s needs before your own professional development as an executive assistant. However, if you’re willing to take on the challenge, there are many opportunities to grow and develop within a rapidly scaling business.
As EA to the President and COO at Salesforce, and previous roles supporting C-level executives at Dropbox, Pinterest, and Lucasfilm, Amy Sherman knows what it’s like to scale quickly. Her journey to a top-level EA has been anything but easy, and she shares some great insight on how she grew both personally and professionally as an executive assistant in these high-growth environments.
Amy shares some of the most invaluable lessons she’s learned about communication, setting boundaries, and building confidence as an executive admin, including how she manages the responsibilities of her role in a company of over 29,000 employees.
Finding Your Confidence Through Failure ⭐️
As your company scales and the to-do list feels like a mile long, it’s easy to feel like you are failing. But it’s not YOU who is failing, Amy reminds us, and while it’s easy to let it hurt your confidence, it’s important to remember the value you bring to your company and executive. The process of growing and learning can often feel like failure, but in reality, you are developing your skills as an executive assistant to better serve your executive and team members. When we learn to set aside our feelings of insecurity and thoughts of our own ambition, we become better team members. And by becoming better team members, we gain back our confidence and are better equipped for that promotion or new opportunity.
Setting Boundaries and Learning to Say “No” 💪
In a fast-paced environment, boundaries are essential. But when everyone is pitching in and working late into the night, it can be extremely tough to say “no”. Amy points out that boundaries do not have to be hard lines or walls, but rather a pathway for communication. If your gut reaction is to say “no,” then you should. But make sure you frame it positively and provide context and reasoning. Learning how to set boundaries and communicate effectively are essential skills for executive assistants who want to work in startup and high-growth businesses.
Rather than: “I don’t have time for that today.”
Try: “I would love to be able to do that for you, but there is not enough time with X, Y, and Z. Would you like us to re-prioritize things?”
Becoming a Better Communicator 💬
As the business grows — or you transition to working remotely — you will likely find yourself with much less 1:1 time with your executive. This is normal, Amy says, but requires you to be more efficient and proactive. When you do find time with your executive, make sure you are not just asking questions, but also bringing answers (Tip: Decision Stream is an awesome tool for this!). You should also work to have more frequent communication with your executive’s stakeholders and direct reports so you can gain insight from them and, in turn, enable yourself to make more informed decisions for your executive. These communication and decision-making skills are invaluable as you develop professionally as an EA.
Interested in More Tips from Leaders in the Assistant Space?
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