My chief of staff, Hallie Warner, just celebrated her 10-year anniversary working with me. She started as a listing coordinator, then moved to executive assistant, and is now my chief of staff. Ten years by my side is no easy feat! I’m not always easy to work with, and I know it (so does she!).
I have high standards and a heightened sense of urgency. I expect resourcefulness and a “figure it out and get stuff done” attitude. I have many ideas and projects that need to be sifted through, strategized, triaged and executed. I expect a rapid response, adaptability, flexibility, quality work and creative problem-solving. I like being unfocused. Hell, I started a career in real estate, and later several companies so that I could be unfocused and have my hands in a lot of different things.
So, I need great people beside me to diligently stay focused on a task or project until it is done. I live in the big picture, in the vision, and I can see the end result crystal clear. I need someone else beside me to take care of all the details, keep me organized, remind me when and where I need to be, help me clearly communicate the vision, maximize my reach and more.
So, why would someone want to be my assistant? Or yours, for that matter?
I’m not the only CEO, entrepreneur, or real estate agent who has asked this question. When I’m talking to Realtors or entrepreneurs who are debating whether or not to make their first assistant hire, they often ask, “How will I find someone who will want to do that job?”
They genuinely cannot understand why someone would willingly (and happily!) take on the miscellaneous 80 percent of the day-to-day details and minutia of leading a busy executive and helping manage the business. Furthermore, many execs don’t understand that being an executive’s assistant is a career. A career that very successful businessmen and businesswomen choose.
In the early years of working with various assistants and probably the first year or so working with Hallie, I didn’t really get it either. It was a job. Stuff needed to get done. So, I hired someone to handle the “stuff” without giving it much thought. But Hallie did give it a lot of thought.
Within a few months, Hallie had figured out that being an executive assistant was not a stepping stone to another position but a dynamic and fulfilling career all on its own.
Here’s what Hallie has said about being my strategic partner, “This is what I am meant to do. I am meant to be a leader, but don’t like the spotlight. I am entrepreneurial but risk-averse. I have leadership skills but could never/would never want to lead a team of people (I am more suited to ‘leading’ one person: the founder).
“At my core, I get immense satisfaction from helping a visionary be more successful — whether that’s helping them write an email, speech or book, coming up with an idea for the organization, helping rearrange divisions, hire other leaders for the company or tell him about a great book to read to help him grow.
“Being a ‘Force Multiplier’ isn’t for everyone. You have to be 100 percent OK being behind the scenes and not getting credit for your work, but at the same time getting fulfillment from knowing you have a massive impact on the leader and the overall trajectory of the organization. I could go on and on …”
She really could, so let’s pause there. Years ago, Hallie leaned into the role of executive assistant (and later chief of staff) and owned it. And I leaned (OK, sometimes pushed) back. Together, we started to challenge each other, take on various tasks within our strength zones, and grow as leaders, professionals, and people. And so did the organization.
I don’t get any joy or fulfillment from being in the details, planning, organizing or force multiplying; that’s why I hired an EA in the first place. And I bet your EA doesn’t get any fulfillment from making sales calls, negotiating with clients, taking huge financial risks or pitching to potential investors.
If she or he did, that person would have chosen a different career path. Suffice it to say, that’s why we call it a strategic partnership. You both need each other to survive and thrive. It is a tremendous job and responsibility to lead a team or an organization, and it takes two people to get the job done.
So the lesson is this: Stop putting limits on the position! When you approach the assistant role as a subservient, menial, “why would anyone want to do that job?” position, you are significantly downplaying the opportunity.
And I guarantee the caliber of candidates you are meeting with live up to your very low expectations.
Flip the script! This is a massive career opportunity. The chance to work alongside and learn from a successful Realtor or entrepreneur while using all of their skills, experience, leadership, and being perfectly aligned with their natural behavioral style? Yeah, this is what force multipliers want and need. And you need them, too.
Why would someone want to be your assistant? Because it is a killer career opportunity, but only if you also rise to the occasion. You must be the leader who attracts a leader — a force multiplier. Are you up to the challenge?
Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality. Learn more about Adam’s holistic approach to business here.