Sneak Peak: Strategies for a Successful EA/CEO Relationship and How to Ask for What You Want.
Last updated: April 30th, 2022
Psst! This is just a sneak peak. Read the full interview here.
Dorothy Nolan, Executive Assistant to Henrik Slipsager, CEO of ABM Industries, one of the largest facility management services providers in the U.S., has had a long-and impressive-career in administration and office management.
Nolan and I discussed her experiences returning to the workforce, strategies for a positive EA/C-Level Executive relationship, and developing negotiation techniques.
Here’s a small taste of what Nolan had to say about developing and maintaining a successful relationship between executives and executive assistants, dealing with tyrants and negotiating compensation.
Elle Hernandez: You have a very positive relationship with Mr. Slipsager. How do you maintain that business partnership?
Dorothy Nolan: The person you support has to understand, recognize and value the work you do. I don’t mean the nuances-they don’t need to know how you created a spreadsheet. I learned Henrik’s style quickly, how to best interact with him and when. Henrik likes high-level details, so when we meet to discuss anything, I speak in bullets and only give him the important information. That’s valuable to him. It’s also important that as his Executive Assistant and gatekeeper, I use my best judgment; when anything comes up, I need to know who it is, what it’s for and when he’s accessible to address it. Most people understand this aspect of my role, even if at times, some don’t appreciate it. You have to assert yourself in a way that people both understand and respect what you do.
EH: Have you dealt with any tyrants along the way?
DN: Some of the people I encountered had reputations for being difficult and/or overly demanding, but that’s their right and so I embraced the various styles. I like to be challenged in my roles, and so I saw it as exactly that; a challenge. I was told once by a former boss that he expected me to read his mind. He was kidding, of course, but he did, at the very least, expect me to try to read his mind; so I did. Interestingly enough, I seemed to develop that skill. Read my mind has stayed with me over the years, and I strive to continue that practice. I’ve been very fortunate to work with the people that I’ve worked with. They’ve all understood and respected my role, and I, theirs.
Compensation is a hot topic in administration for both employers and employees. What would you say to each?
Early in my career in one of my roles, I learned that my compensation was not equal to that of one my peers. One day, after a year’s time spent building trust with the executive I supported, I brought it up nervously. He listened to what I had to say and told me that I was absolutely right, and was concerned as to why I hadn’t brought it up sooner.
And in terms of timing, he was right. He basically talked me through my negotiation. This goes back to me being fortunate with the people I supported; it’s not every day your boss helps you through your own salary negotiation. Ask for what you want. That’s advice not only for your career, but in life.
What about employers?
You get what you pay for. It’s like shoes… or a car. You can buy a Honda or you can buy a Mercedes. If you aren’t willing to pay top-dollar for administrative support, the support you get will be sub-par. Executives don’t become successful through mediocrity, so why should their support be anything but exceptional?
CEO, so, once again, duties changed. I truly was an Executive Assistant. For me, it was always about molding myself to conform to the executive in question rather than expecting them to conform to my style. It’s my job to be adaptable. It has to be a hand-in-glove relationship or it won’t be successful.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee, Dorothy Nolan, and do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which she is affiliated. This includes ABM Industries.
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