Work ‘for’ or ‘with’ someone? That is the question

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There are two main types of relationships that can be developed between an executive and an assistant. This is the subject of the presentation by Joan Burge, Founder and CEO of Office Dynamics International.

Firstly, she states that there is a team type of relationship. Here, the assistant accepts assignments and just gets the job done.

In a strategic partnership, the assistant asks questions while building a working picture in their mind to get a task done. With this information, the assistant anticipates the next step and eventually make decisions on the executive’s behalf.

It is not just being an executant. It is a matter of being proactive and managing the executive’s time. The assistant knows what is happening, why and is focused on the future. Not just dropping a date in a calendar, but also studying what is happening all the time.

Strategic Partnerships

Business coach Adam Hergenrother suggests five ways to create a strategic partnership with an executive assistant, namely:

  • Give up control
  • Bring them into your inner circle and do not keep them at the periphery
  • Meet and communicate regularly (have some time for reviewing, planning, etc.).
  • Set clear goals, expectations and wins, and
  • Make building trust a priority.

Communication between executive and assistant is of paramount importance and it should not be viewed as a waste of time.

The reality

As commented by a viewer underneath Joan Burge’s video, it only works if the executive is willing to have a strategic partnership. The executive also has to welcome the assistant’s questions while she or he is building their own work overview and priorities.

Most of the time, a mix of both types of approach exists. Assistants will have to work out for themselves the best path to forge. This should always be done with open and easy communication.




Francoise Baroffio Francoise Baroffio

I am an accomplished assistant with over 30 years of experience in various fields, including finance, for fiduciaries, banks and asset management companies - biotechnology and internal control.

My natural curiosity drives me to learn about the responsibilities and roles of a position in depth, so people can fully rely upon me. At the same time, it also means there is nothing I like more than meeting new people and immersing myself in new cultures, something which has lead me to not only master English, but also to spend over 10 years learning Chinese!

There are three main sides to my character :

- As an altruistic person, I am a team player and client satisfaction is paramount for me.

- I strongly believe that the key to good communication is to listen attentively and to provide clear explanations. This is another strength.

- At the same time, I can see the big picture. If given specific directives, I can foresee the problems which could arise and suggest or bring alternative solutions autonomously and pro-actively to my manager so we can have the best results possible.

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