Executive Assistant Tips For Improving & Retaining Your PA

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Published on December 10, 2017

The relationship between the executive and their assistant is a partnership like no other.  Regardless if the relationship is focused on the corporate world, the personal or a mixture of both.  The relationship between PA and principal or PA and executive is an intricately woven relationship.

The assistant or PA will often get to know their executive on a more personal and private level and have a core understanding of the needs required to ensure they can provide the highest level of support to them.  Regardless of the stage of the relationship you have, if you are just entering into a new one or your relationship is well developed, these 5 executive assistant tips can help deepen and strengthen your relationship, ensuring that you continually improve and retain your PA.

1. Processes

Regardless of the work your personal assistant will be doing for you, it is likely that you’ll already have a number of processes in place.  This can be workflow and procedural aspects, and routines that you typically follow in order to execute tasks.  It is important that as your relationship grows, you give a safe and positive space for your assistant to develop and improve these systems.

One assistant we know started working for a mature executive.  He kept all his meetings via diary form (as in old-fashioned paper diary) and showed no plans to develop to digital management.  The assistant that started working for him, quickly realised that his client wouldn’t enjoy working in this digital spectrum so discussed with his executive the ability to manage two diaries, one digital and one paper.  The executive agreed.

Over the next few years the executive begun to have confidence and recognised the benefit of using the digital version, and decided to change over.  The assistant doubled their work by having to keep two diaries, but in turn their management of the diary became easier (when dealing with external sources and bookings for the diary) and after a number of years their work then halved when the executive agreed to move over.

No matter how stuck in your ways – always see the room to leave and improve by implementing new systems which your assistant might recognise as being a benefit to you.

2. Motivation

Due to the complex relationship between the executive and personal assistant, it is vital to keep your personal assistant motivated and focused.  Without this motivation, the possibility of retention can diminish.  Therefore if you want to keep your personal assistant for the long term, think of different ways to motivate and inspire.

To keep your personal assistant for the long term, think of different ways to motivate and inspire. Click To Tweet

It may be that you recognise your assistant would enjoy a greater level of responsibility, it may be that they need a personal project that inspires them, or may simply be a bonus structure to reward good behaviour with monetary rewards.  By including your personal assistant in your forecasts and journey plan ahead, you bring into your personal fold the assistant and will inspire them to be motivated to work even harder and be retained for longer.

3. Open Feedback

This should ideally go both ways.  For your personal assistant to feel 100% comfortable and 100% able to provide you clear feedback to improve your processes, you need to develop a system where feedback can be shared openly and honestly.  Communication is part of this journey to open feedback.

One personal assistant started working for an executive whose native languages were different.  The personal assistant mother tongue was German and the executive mother tongue was French.  They both spoke the other’s language fluently.  Yet within a few months it became clear that although they could ‘speak’ the same language, they weren’t able to fully ‘communicate’ in their own language.

Small details like this can be worked on, but its vital that good communication and a safe and open environment to give positive feedback can be gained to help retain your assistant for the long term.

4. Lock Down Reviews

It’s important that regardless of scheduling and last-minute changing of plans, that you take the time to schedule and lock down reviews.  This will allow you to clearly define processes, enable motivation and ensure that open feedback and excellent communication is achieved.

One personal assistant was working for a executive principal in a private home.  He travelled regularly and often last minute, but he ensured that his quarterly reviews with his PA were held to account – regardless of the work or life emergencies that were going on.  This gave his assistant a high level of respect, and in turn they had a happy and lasting relationship for many years.

5. Banish the Barriers

It might seem odd, but removing any ‘faux’ conceived ideas, you’ll create a much healthier working space and retain your assistant much longer.

One principal executive was wondering why her personal assistants were not performing as well as they could, and once she sat down and spoke to them, she discovered that due to the heat in which they worked, they would all feel more comfortable in much less formal dress (not a suit and tie etc).

The principal executive was fine with them dressing down, as there was rarely client-facing work, and as long as when clients visited they were dressed more formally, she allowed them to dress down.  The personal assistants felt appreciated and respected, and by banishing the formal barrier, she retained the commitment of her personal assistants for many years to come.

It is clear that by eliminating any negative environments and ensuring that good communication, open feedback, and mutual respect, the ability to retain your personal assistant and indeed improve your PA will become infinite.  The relationship, once honed and developed will be a precious one, and by care and careful consideration, you will be able to have a successful relationship for many years to come.

Do you need help sourcing or finding your next personal assistant?  We’d love to help – why not get in touch and one of our fabulous consultants will be able to help advise on how to start the search.  


  1. Sam Solo says:

    It would be really nice to have someone dealing exclusively with workflow issues. This would make it easier for me to focus on more big-picture ideas than the menial stuff. I’ll have to consider your assistant information.

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