6 Key Communication Tips for Executive Assistants

We don’t all have Superman’s super-hearing abilities, Spider-Man’s “Spidey” sense, or the Black Widow’s multi-linguistic and mind-reading abilities, but every office hero can hone their communication skills to near super-human levels.

1. Determine the best medium — and timing — for your message.

Executive assistants have multiple ways to share important news, directives, or tasks with workers. There are messaging programs like Slack, email, phone calls, or face-to-face communications.

With so many ways to shoot off a quick message, it may be tempting to keep your workers informed at every turn. But is it necessary?

Even if you are up late Sunday night thinking about Monday’s meeting, that may not be the best time to send a Slack message or a text. Some people keep their phone on overnight for various reasons — including to make sure they can receive emergency calls from loved ones. Evening or late-night work texts can disrupt leisure time.

If something can wait until work hours, type up an email while it’s on your mind but schedule it for distribution in the morning.

Likewise, determine the best way to send your message. Email is best for a paper trail, but a phone call or in-person meeting might be better if some explanation or extensive back-and-forth is necessary.

2. Tighten your message for short attention spans.

Millennials are expected to make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. These digital natives grew up on Twitter, Instagram, and 3-minute YouTube videos. They take an on-the-go, multi-screen approach to life.

What’s worse, only 29 percent of millennials report being “engaged” at work. If you don’t catch their attention within the first 30 seconds of any communication, your message could get lost.

Keep texts short. Break emails into bite-size chunks of one or two sentences per paragraph. And share the most important details near the beginning of your communication.

3. Write it down.

When you know you’ll be speaking, take a few minutes before the meeting or conversation to jot down the key points you want to convey. If you get off-track, take a deep breath and refer to your notes.

4. Exude confidence.

Your body language speaks volumes. Even if things aren’t going your way, speak with your head up and make eye contact.

Even when you’re on a voice call, smile. The person on the other end of the line can tell.

5. Learn the communication styles of your boss, co-workers, and employees.

Not everyone absorbs information in the same way. Some people prefer interactive Web conferences where they can see pie charts and diagrams to better understand the subject. Some people like a written email with detailed instructions. Some prefer quick texts, while others like a phone call.

You may already know your executive’s communication style and deliver reports and information in the way they prefer. But it’s worth it to get to know the communication styles of other stakeholders and that of employees you work with. Once you figure out their preferred style, use it whenever possible. In meetings or communications with many people, try to use a blend of words, images, and video to reach everyone in your audience.

Write so it engages all the senses, too. You can use phrases like, “You can see…,” “I’ve heard that…,” or, “It may feel…”

6. Remember the “two ears, one mouth” rule.

Greek philosopher Epictetus was the first to say, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Listening is a key role in an executive assistant’s job description — whether it’s taking directives from your boss or listening to the concerns and ideas of employees. Just giving someone else the floor is not enough, though. Give that person your undivided attention while they are speaking, rather than planning what you will say next. If your boss has issued a complicated task, repeat the steps back to show you understand.

Communicate Like a Superhero

Whether it’s following the same battle plan or listening to tips from an artificial intelligence assistant like Jarvis, communication is key in virtually every superhero victory. And when communication falls apart … you have Avengers: Infinity War.

Since we all, presumably, want to avoid office cliffhangers, it’s important to build a culture of communication in your workplace. As the executive assistant, you’re on the frontlines of this important mission. Embrace these six tips to help lead your team to the top.

Let’s keep the conversation going. Sign up for the Office Heroes League newsletter for more tips on increasing your superpowers in the office.


Genevieve Burke
About author

Genevieve is an administrative assistant currently working at an exciting start-up in the technology industry. In the past, she's worked for an array of companies ranging from global entertainment companies to local businesses. At the University of Chicago she studied Business Administration while working with a local bakery that has since grown into a wide spread Chicago mainstay. Outside of work she enjoys kayaking and volunteering at her local animal shelter.
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