Hiring an EA: Individual or Team Support?

Do you need executive assistant help in your business?

Perhaps you’re not sure whether you need an EA for an individual, or for supporting a team of executives. In fact, many people don’t realize that’s possible! One EA can support a small group of executives, as long as goals and priorities are in alignment.

Here, we’re looking at a few things to consider before you hire an executive assistant and make the decision about individual or team support:

How much work is needed?

First of all, consider how much work you need someone else to do. Does one person have enough work to keep a virtual executive assistant busy full time, or would that be a stretch? If you’re not sure, our minimum recommendation as a starting point for serving one executive is 40 active working hours per month. Obviously that’s an average of 10 hours per week for one executive, leaving the EA open to more working hours.

We wrote an article about the first three things to delegate to an executive assistant. Calendar management, email taming, and process design and management are our top three tasks, but executive assistants can do more. An EA might be kept very busy with calendars and emails for two executives, leaving little time for other tasks. It’s important to define priority tasks. (And we can help here at Worxbee! Have a chat with us about the needs you’re looking to have covered and we’ll let you know what that might look like in terms of workload).

Hiring an EA

How will workloads be managed?

If you’ve made the decision that you need an executive assistant that is able to support a team, then it’s important to clarify how that will be managed. It’s not a good situation for an EA if they’re always torn between competing tasks and priorities for different executives. Of course, everyone will think that their work is the priority!

We find it best if there is clear division of the workload, including what is done for whom and when. This might be as simple as having the EA work for one executive on Mondays and Wednesdays, and another on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Strong communication is vital. If there is some urgent task and it’s not the person’s day with the EA, there needs to be an agreement among executives about priorities. Your EA will be highly experienced with working at a C-Suite level, but they still don’t want to feel like they’re being torn between different executives!

Where projects and priorities overlap, most EAs will prefer to break them down into smaller, manageable tasks that allow them to prioritize the work for each executive. It’s important to openly discuss how that will work and clarify everyone’s expectations.

What about different leader personalities?

Executive assistants are very adaptable and quick to learn about individual preferences. In saying that, it’s just a fact that some personalities work better together than others. We always prioritize making a good match between executive and executive assistant, taking preferred work styles and personalities into account.

EAs will work hard to learn your preferred communication methods and work with those, and these may be different for each executive they serve in a team. They’ll adapt to how you prefer your schedule, within the bounds of any sharing agreements. 

Most of the time, it can work very well and you find a rhythm with your EA who is working between executives. It can fall down where executives have polar-opposite personalities and work styles. This is another reason to set up clear guidelines and expectations from the beginning – you’ll usually realize fairly instinctively if personalities are so far apart that it’s likely to be difficult to have one EA working for both of you. 

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What characteristics should you look for?

Sometimes people wonder if they should look for different characteristics in an executive assistant that is to serve a team, compared to one that is to work with an individual. The answer is not really, besides that the EA should be comfortable about working in the team environment and prioritizing between different executives.

Hiring an EA

On the whole, you should expect a good EA to display the following traits:

  • Being highly client-service oriented. This is their number one job – to make your work life more efficient. They should be focused on learning how you operate and what they can do to support you as best as possible.
  • Operating at an executive level. This is a lot to do with mindset and ability to think strategically. One thing that sets true executive assistants apart from other assistant roles is their ability to adopt the executive mindset and take on the traits that go with that level of work.
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure. The EA role tends to be fast-paced and isn’t suited to someone who just wants to do predictable work every day. There can be sudden crises or developing situations that put a lot of pressure on all involved, and require the EA to keep a cool head.
  • Being super-organized. The best EAs get to know how their executives operate at a minute level. They often reach a point where they’ve anticipated a need before the executive has thought of it themselves.
  • Strong listening skills. They must be excellent listeners and communicators overall.
  • Adaptability. An EA working with more than one executive needs to be able to adapt to the preferences and styles of each.
  • Strong project management and process management skills. EAs should be deadline-driven and know how to manage several moving parts at once.
  • Strong networking skills. EAs build and work their networks, knowing where they might go for help or connections if needed.
  • Organizational skills. EAs manage calendars, travel and “gate keeping” for executives. They need to be able to do those things seamlessly.

There’s one last thing we’d add – likeability is still a good trait to have! You work closely with an EA and if they’re working with more than one executive, it’s important that everyone gets along well. 

Final thoughts

An executive assistant often works with just one executive, however you can hire them to work with a team. If you’re going to do this, it’s important to set expectations early and ensure that the EA has a clear plan to manage their workload.

Most executive assistants who have been in the profession for a while will have the skills needed to work with more than one executive, so it’s often a matter of preference. Do they want to work with a team or do they prefer one-on-one work?

Does your business need an executive assistant, either to work with a team or individuals? Talk to Worxbee today about how we can find you the right match.

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