Staying Relevant: Keeping CEOs Sane

Meet Joanne Linden, CPS, CEAP, CWCA President and Master Trainer

So much is changing and evolving, it is enough to make anyone’s head spin – even a powerful CEO. Now is the time to have a steady and confident partner to be at your side supporting you flawlessly.

At the end of the day, the main goal for an Executive Assistant is to give the CEO the gift of time to do things that are important to him or her outside of work. To make this possible, EAs must fully understand the Executive’s professional priorities. With hundreds – often thousands – of people depending on a CEO to make the correct decisions to keep his or her company afloat and progressing, most Executives feel enormous amounts of stress daily. Now, with COVID keeping them at home, responsibilities outside of work blur together with means that must be met when (?) leading an entire company. Two out of three of the suggestions from chiefexecutive.net in an article called How Not To Burn Out In A Time Of Crisis instruct CEOs to “delegate with trust” and “listen to your people.” Delegated tasks begin with the Executive Assistant, who must keep business running smoothly during the current crisis by using communication and thinking outside the box.

Constant Communication

During this time of chaos, Assistants have the daunting task of keeping up with the daily changes in a CEO’s vision while he or she is adapting to working from home. First and foremost, EAs must insist on consistent interactions with the Executive through different logical mediums like Skype, MS Teams, Zoom, etc. Dorothy Connell, EA to the CEO at Agilent Technologies claims that she and the CEO, Mike McMullen, must communicate more regularly since they work remotely and no longer have spontaneous interactions. She must complete her normal tasks of reading his messages, forwarding them to the correct people, and reminding him of his deadlines. Now, she must also set up virtual meetings for him to speak to his key customers. Their communication takes place through email, text messages, and WebEx meetings.

During this time of fully remote communication, not only do CEOs need to communicate their priorities with their Executive Assistants they must also communicate with their employees and staff. Using technology like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, EAs have been arranging weekly and sometimes daily briefings for the CEO’s teams. For example, Mike McMullen updates his employees of the company’s progress, reassures them of their job security, and does his best to provide them with prospective dates for coming back to work through weekly video messages made from home.

EAs have even found themselves in a position where they must take over speaking with employees. Janet King, EA to the CEO of L. Keeley Construction is accustomed to keeping up with a boss that is constantly on the go but now finds herself adapting to remote communication with the staff of all Keeley companies as well. Through Microsoft OneNote and Teams, other Assistants met with their staff twice a week and record the meetings for members of the staff who cannot make it. Some even hold weekly mentoring team calls to check on everyone, answer any questions, and make sure each employee maintains a healthy balance between work and life at home.

Backup Plan

With common duties like scheduling travel temporarily on hold, Assistants are now looking for other ways to be resourceful enough to keep the CEO’s priorities in check. According to another article on Chiefexecutive.net entitled How Exceptional Executive Assistants Are Keeping CEOs Thriving In This Crisis, the Assistants of CEOs are “using this time to undertake self-development and learning activities,” and Ratna Sreerangam, EA to the CEO at MakeMyTrip.com is no exception. He decided to take this time that has been especially difficult on the traveling industry to implement a customer service initiative for people who were having difficulty getting refunds for canceled trips and people who were stranded away from where they live when the global lockdown took place in March. He even leads an entire team now. 

Simon Segars, the CEO of ARM Holdings, began to experience meetings piling up when various industry groups were requesting information on his organizational approach to the changes of the pandemic and suggestions for best practices. Being in such high demand, Mr. Segars was not always able to make it to every single meeting so his Executive Assistant, Nikki Edwards, took the initiative to step in. She would take very detailed and lengthy notes and intentionally listened to the technological and financial experts to begin speaking with so she could accurately update Simon on the global economy.

Persistent communication between the CEO and his or her Executive Assistant is necessary when keeping companies running smoothly during times of being apart. By choosing to take on new territories, the Assistant can act as the greatest asset to an Executive, consequentially adding to the progress of the entire company and staff.

Meet Joanne Linden, CPS, CEAP, CWCA President and Master Trainer