Dynamics of the Team at the Top

The importance of creating a Dynamic Team at the Top of any organisation cannot be underestimated.  It goes without saying that the effectiveness of the Board will rely ‘good governance guidelines, structures and processes as set out in the organisation’s guidelines.  Board members will be high functioning professionals who understand the importance of their role and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table. 

The Management Team, headed by the Executive Director or Chief Executive Officer, comprising of ‘department ‘heads’ ensuring the wheels of progress are evident within their particular scope of expertise, effectively managing their department or group.

As with the Board, and Management Team, ‘good governance guidelines, structures and processes’ should be par for the course as with another important team to be considered, that of the Executive : Executive Assistant Team, what I like to refer to as the Dynamic Duo. This particular team is often overlooked and undervalued by both the Executive and their Assistant, resulting in lower than anticipated productivity by both parties as without the right structure, neither party will be performing at an optimal level.   What is the solution?

From the Executive’s perspective, unfortunately they are not always aware of the immense support a high level Assistant is able to provide.  It is often a misconception that Assistant’s are there to manage diaries, take phone messages and make the ‘tea’, or even worse, and do not fully comprehend the value of having a competent Assistant.  This lack of understanding has stymied many an aspiring EA to fulfil their career aspirations.  It also stymies the Executive’s ability to be totally effective in their role.  I feel this misunderstanding is the result of the increasing level of IT expertise that Executives display, and therefore feel they are able to manage their own administrative needs, but at what cost?

From an Executive Assistant’s perspective, they can sometimes be intimidated by their Executive’s position and lack the confidence to ‘MANAGE UP‘, therefore failing both themselves and the person they support.  

If EAs took responsibility for how they manage their position, they will become much more productive and confidence which will see a renewed energy utilising the plethora of experience and skills they know they are able to bring to a position.  Ultimately they will be able to provide a much higher level of support to their Executive.

If we look at why an Assistant’s role exists, it is to provide the highest level of  support service to an Executive, enabling them to have the time necessary to concentrate on the high level issues associated with their position.  Time being an Executive’s most prized possession.  As they say Time is Money!

If both the Executive and their Assistant invest their time and energies into what they do best, utilising their expertise  built over many years, what a phenomenal outcome that would be.

Time invested appropriately would see the C-Suite become a dynamic operation, where these two positions consistently work ‘hand in hand’ to achieve the organisations goals, which will create a positive environment in which to work.


The key to building a strong working relationship is of course effective communication, the basic ingredient which enables these two roles to work effectively together.  Communication is the responsibility of both parties, however it should be the EA who should initiate the process.  Why I hear you ask, well it is the Assistant who has the key to the Executive’s time through their diary, and it the Assistant who can place themselves in front of their Executive each day at a designated timeslot.

A designated DAILY appointment of between 10-15 minutes should be a standard occurrence, this is to keep the Executive briefed on what is important for the day, the coming week, it is also a time that the Executive is able to update the Assistant on any pertinent information they feel will assist them to ‘manage up’ over the coming days, week.

Once a WEEK, an appointment of say 15-20 minutes is to be set to review or plan for the following week or month.  Without this constant referral system, assumptions will be made about important issues, which will considerably reduce efficiencies as there is no clear understanding of what is and what is not considered important or critical.

At no time should the EA relinquish their appointment with the Executive and hand over to another person, as this is diminishing the importance of their role.  Other than emergencies that may arise, this time is specific to the EA and should be highly valued as such.

The Executive must also value this allocated time with their Assistant, as it will be the most productive way of ensuring the productivity and smooth running of their office.

As we would all agree, information is Gold, without it, one can only assume a person’s requirements.  I have heard Executives say “I want someone who can read my mind”.  I would say in return they need someone who can pre-empt their requirements, which an Assistant can ably do if they understand the issues at hand.  Having the most up to date information to hand empowers an Assistant to make informed decisions on how something or someone should be managed.

Including an Assistant in management meetings, whether as an observer or to take notes, will give them the opportunity to gain a quick overview of business issues pertaining to the department or organisation.  This also allows the Assistant to take on more responsibilities in regard to managing the C-Suite on behalf of their Executive plus, be involved with and manage a variety of projects, all of which leaves the CEO to deal with the  higher level responsibilities of the organisation.


  • You wouldn’t think it needed to be said, but mutual respect is essential from from both parties.  Respect builds rapport and rapport builds a brilliantly effective working relationship.  Remember, THERE IS NO ‘I’ IN TEAM, sounds corny, but so true.  Respect for the position, but also respect for the person.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate, the basis for any team.
  • Honesty, integrity are essential components of any working relationship.
  • Having a sense of humour works well when the going gets tough.
  • Being supportive of one another, after all, even those who reside in the Executive Suite are human beings who deal with all the usual pressures of everyday living.  It is therefore essential to show empathy when things go awry. 
  • The Executive should be open to ‘listening’ and supporting an Assistant’s ideas, as it is the EA who has the administrative expertise that will keep the wheels effectively and efficiently turning within their office.
  • Working within the C-Suite, Assistants can sometimes be perceived to be aloof by stakeholders.  It is therefore important to portray an approachable though professional image which will reflect a mutual respect philosophy.

To achieve this level of operational excellence, certainly takes a common commitment to make it work, as when the going gets tough and demanding, it takes a special TEAM to pull together to combat the obstacles that are constantly arising, but as they say, if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.  GOOD LUCK.

If after reading this article, you would like to have a discussion on how this could work within your Executive office, please send me a message through my contact page here on the website and I will be in touch to set up a meeting.

Kindest regards

Catherine Middleton

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