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Balancing gumption and grace to become a sought-after assistant.

I often felt a push-and-pull effect supporting a senior leader. I needed to be seen as approachable yet professional, friendly yet assertive, respected yet relatable, fun yet graceful. I was often the one delivering the bad news when a brief wasn’t up to scratch, but then needed to be everyone’s friend to ensure the Christmas party was a roaring success and remain as a cultural touchpoint between the team and boss.

You’re an extension of the person you support.

You want to be taken seriously.

You want to be seen as a trusted team player.

You don’t want them to shoot the messenger.

You want to be seen as approachable.

There’s a trick to striking the balance between gumption and grace; both such pivotal traits of a highly successful and sought-after admin professional.

  • Listen but don’t engage in gossip. It’s important you understand the murmurings, listen to any concerns, and know where the politics lie however, engaging in chatter at the water cooler is absolutely off limits. Listen, ask your colleague a few questions to assist them in reflecting or considering their behaviour, and then move on.

  • Invest in becoming a cultural touchpoint. Know what colleagues’ hobbies or kid’s names are. Ask how weekends were. Walk to someone’s desk to discuss a brief, task or deadline instead of emailing.

  • Avoid joining any cliques. This isn’t high school. You are a professional, discreet and graceful extension of your executive, and you should always act so.

  • Promote and protect. At all times, promote and protect your executive. Don’t grumble about a deadline he or she has passed on, don’t break the façade of supportive and professional EA. You can relate to your team without throwing anyone under the bus.

  • Liaise with and include everyone. Don’t make yourself an island or just chat to a chosen few. Hold inclusive meetings ahead of an event, ensure everyone is on the same page, encourage your executive to acknowledge a colleague in an all-staff email.

Being a sought-after admin professional doesn’t have to mean ‘choosing sides’ - by sticking to these tips, it’s more than possible to navigate the push-and-pull effect and establish your stellar reputation across the entire office.


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