Developing a Strong Partnership with Your New Executive

Feb 5, 2015 | Career Development

adminpartnerexecutiveThroughout my 20-year career, I’ve had a lot of job titles and supported a lot of executives. I’ve had good bosses and bad bosses. Female and male bosses. Novice and experienced bosses. I’ve supported multiple executives simultaneously who were opposite personality types. I’ve had some who were willing to let me be their admin from day one and others who had to be coaxed, trained, and eventually won over. Along the way, I learned how to quickly identify key indicators to working successfully with these individuals and cultivating a partnership through these stages of development.

In Joan Burge’s book, Become an Inner Circle Assistant, she identifies three stages of the partnership development that create the foundation for working successfully with your executive.

Stage one: Learning to work together. If you’re new to the position or supporting a new executive, this is where things start. It’s the “getting to know you” stage. Depending on your executive’s experience in working with an assistant, this stage may take longer in some cases or fly right by in others. If you’re working for someone who’s a perfect fit, this stage can feel like a blip on the radar, and you’re into stage two quickly. But for others, stage one can take a while. You have to train your executive on how to best leverage your abilities, and that can take time and effort.

In this stage, there are two key things that will make the biggest impact in everything else you do from that point forward. And those two things are building trust and gaining respect. When your executive can trust you and respect you, everything else flows much more easily from there.

Stage two: Partnership development. This next stage involves diving into the more complex components of your partnering relationship. This is where you get to know your executive on a much deeper level. You know what makes him or her tick, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how their personality preferences impact their work and communication style. This stage is where you really start to get into the groove with how to work together and support each other.

To help your partnership shift from stage one to stage two, you have to learn to think like a CEO. You need to gain a deeper understanding of the larger, strategic view from the CEO’s perspective. Start observing more actively what your executive is reading, who she is networking with, which activities he attends, and how she accomplishes tasks. You may actually discover some ways to encourage your executive to expand their perspective as a leader in your organization. Our job as assistants is to get into the details. But it’s also to keep the larger strategic focus in clear view so we are supporting the goals of our executive and team, and ultimately the mission and vision of our company. Learning to think like a CEO goes hand in hand with the habit of developing your business acumen.

Another key component at this second stage of partnership development is learning about your executive’s personality type, strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to understand the inner workings of the members of your team — the personality preferences of what makes each individual think, work, and act like they do. This knowledge base begins by understanding yourself at a very deep level and then getting to know your executive just as deeply. A few of my favorite tools for doing this are the Myers Briggs Type Indicator assessment, StrengthsFinder 2.0, and the StandOut Assessment.

Stage three: Synergy. This is probably the most rewarding stage. It’s when two people really click — even if you have differing opinions or views. This is the stage where your executive swears you can read his or her mind because you anticipate their needs. Joan says stage three is often a by-product that comes from honing the first two stages, and I completely agree. You still have to be actively engaged and working at making the partnership work. But you’ve maneuvered through the rough waters and are now working in concert with your executive. It’s a really satisfying and rewarding stage to reach.

Successful executives need outstanding administrative professionals who are committed to developing and nurturing an ongoing partnership for the success of all involved. There’s an immense amount of time, work, and effort that goes into this relationship. But in recognizing and embracing these stages of development, you’re well on your way to creating the synergistic partnership that is possible!

© 2015 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at

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