2018: ummm, an interesting year. Can't say that I liked it very much personally, but I did learn a ton about myself and, especially, the communities I'm a part of and identify with. As I perform my annual review and retro of the year one of the most poignant lessons I've learned is that we don't treat ourselves with nearly the care that most of our executives treat their Ferraris. An expensive, inanimate object, that some would literally shoot another human in the face to preserve or keep from harm. And that's really sad commentary.
I won't let 2019 be a repeat of 2018, especially for the community of highest quality Executive Assistants I coach, teach, and mentor. We're not "doing this" next year. In 2019, we will be Ferraris to the executives we support, the families we anchor, and most importantly, to ourselves.
A Ferrari is an exotic car. It's fast. It's nimble. It's Italian. It's highly sought-after. It's timeless in its design, but modern in its execution. It's instantly recognizable among any other vehicle in a crowded parking lot. It's expensive, but it brings an immense amount of joy to the person lucky enough to have one and makes even the simplest task a joyful and prideful endeavor. If you loosen your grip on the wheel, it will naturally go where you want it to and surprise you with its remarkable composure. Yes, they have problems from time-to-time. Yes, they're expensive to fix or replace. But those who have them happily accept that cost of ownership and are willing to do whatever it takes to keep it running, well-maintained, and looking/working as well as it did the second it left the showroom floor.
So, question: Why should we be treated and treat ourselves with any less care, respect and adoration?
Highest quality Executive Assistants are like Ferraris to the executives they support, but are often treated like a decently-equipped Dodge at best. And we allow it. We often have the keys to the kingdom, but only use them to open the supplies closet to grab more Post-Its. By default, we have the ear and attention of some of the most influential executives in the world simply by being cc:ed on the numerous, lengthy email chains we navigate each day. But we skulk in the shadows and remain invisible, choosing not engage in any way for fear of reprisal or "overstepping" our perceived authority. The company often looks to us as a barometer for how things are really going in the C-suite, yet we leave an incredible opportunity to increase our influence (and personal brand) within the organization on the table by being "so busy" and acting like dickish "gatekeepers," often adding an additional layer of complexity to a precarious Exec/Team communication loop instead of owning, maintaining, and simplifying it. And worst of all, we bitch, moan, and complain about being treated like a Dodge by our bosses when we know we're Ferraris, yet we've done nothing to assert ourselves in such a way to make it clear that we are.
How you're being treated is how you're being perceived.
I'm sure you've seen me say this at least a hundred times, but I'll keep saying it until it sticks. What your boss or your company thinks of you should be no grand mystery. It should be pretty fucking obvious, in fact. If your company or your boss won't contribute (financially) to your career development, it means that you're not that important to them. If your boss continues to reschedule, ghost out, or refuse to give you their undivided attention during your hasty one-to-ones, know that you're not a priority. You're a Dodge. If your boss can't respect your time off and refrain from blowing up your email while you're on your ONE vacation each year with bullshit excuses like, "Oh, I didn't expect your to answer...I just wanted to log it so I didn't forget it," you're a Dodge, boo. If the roles were reversed and you were blowing up his email while he was with his family on the Amalfi coast I assure you he wouldn't be so congenial in his reply.
This role has evolved. Everyone needs to wake the hell up and realize it. Getting coffee is no longer a requirement of the role. For me, it's a perk...governed by whether or not I'm going to the kitchen or to Starbucks at that moment. You payin'? Okay. That's incentive enough. I could use the exercise. But, as Executive Assistants, it's important that we start pushing back on the ancient, ridiculous rituals and treatment by executives still stuck in the '90s and start cluing them in on our influence within their companies, our influence among the same executives they run with, and our ability to wrangle and manage their teams and information in such a way that allows them to be hyper productive in growing the company while their biggest fan right outside the door keeps everyone happy, informed, and supported as the ultimate proxy of the C-suite.
This is a revolution. Let's be clear. We've sat on our hands for about 10 years too long and now we're flirting with obsolescence. We've allowed the Dodges within our Executive Assistant ranks to set the bar and executives have been eating it up and treating us like the second-hand cars we've allowed ourselves to become. Well, no more.
We are Ferraris. And we will treat ourselves accordingly. We will get the training we need to be at the top of the game and master it. We will learn and recalibrate our processes so that we're nimble, fast, and worthy of a monicker along the lines of "the best EVER." We will capitalize on every opportunity to put our brand in the mouths and minds of everyone who matters and not allow ourselves to even engage the phonies who walk the Ferrari showroom in shorts and flip flops. We will hold ourselves and our community to a much higher standard which also means holding those who "teach us" to a standard so high that most will no longer cut it. (Would you take a Ferrari to your local gas station mechanic for repair? Exactly.) And we will start running conversations about our employ by showing up with detailed proposals outlining our vast experience and worth vs. having that dictated to us by a 20-something, hair twirler with no clue how a Ferrari actually operates and all of the years of trial-and-error, innovation, and evolution that went into who we are as career professionals, not "job seekers."
AI will eat our lunch. That is, if we continue being treated like a McDonalds Happy Meal. Highest quality Executive Assistants seek and feast on filet mignon now, and are excited to finally hand off the Happy Meal to AI. We obsess on those opportunities to take real shit off our boss' plates, not just a bunch of busy-work tasks. We kick the door in and sit at Leadership Team meetings, especially when we know the information we glean from those meetings will help us manage the gathering herd outside the door looking for direction that we can handily provide. Sure, we gatekeep at times, but our mission is to remove complexity and soften hierarchy so that our bosses shine and, at least, appear completely approachable, though we know that 90% of employees would much rather engage with us than our bosses to get the critical information they need to keep their teams' OKRs alive and on schedule.
Executive Assistants: let's OWN the narrative in 2019, not continue to allow it to be dictated to us. Read the email chains and glean the context. Ask/demand to sit in on meetings that give you the context you need to help keep the team apprised and moving forward. Insist on your executives' undivided attention at least once per week and SHOW UP not with a bunch of questions whose answers you should have figured out yourself, but with suggestions and solutions to help them make yes or no decisions on-the-fly.
Most importantly, let's treat ourselves like the Ferraris we are and stop behaving and allowing treatment worth of a Dodge. Level up. Get a coach. Tribe up. Do whatever you need to do to shed the Dodge monicker and become a Ferrari in the eyes of the people who matter most. Let's be clear. Not everyone can afford or appreciate a Ferrari. If you're in a situation with an executive who treats, empowers, and compensates you like a Dodge, LEAVE. Simple as that. It's no grand secret that our self-worth as Executive Assistants is often tied to how we're treated day-to-day in our roles. Even I've been in situations where I've been treated as "the help" or prevented from growing in-position or accused of overstepping my bounds. And it took a toll on my self-confidence...because I allowed it to. Once I realized the game and how I was being manipulated in order to fit into it I flashed deuces, went and found another opportunity that allowed me to start from scratch, set the rules of my employ, and truly present my worth as a prospective employee to an executive who needed someone exactly like me and supported my growth, ambition, and ideas. Those have been the most rewarding roles of my career.
I'm a Ferrari. And I now coach, train, and mentor the Ferraris who will yank Executive Assistants (and executives) from the jaws of mediocrity, mistreatment, and ancient perceptions into the 21st century where we can have a very tangible, quantifiable impact on the professional and personal lives of the people we support and the companies who look to us as "the glue" and harbingers of what's to come. That's who we are...already. Now, it's time to beat the drum.
Happy Holidays, everyone. 2019 promises to be a bit of a rollercoaster year, but one that will change us all for the better. Remember: Be a Ferrari. Not a Dodge.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.