Executive Assistant Tips

Level Up as an EA: How to be an Excellent Executive Project Manager | Maggie Olson

As a Chief of Staff or a top-notch Executive Assistant, you can also be a pivotal Executive Project Manager. When you serve as a leader’s right hand, you help guide strategic direction and ensure alignment with broader team goals. Juggling hundreds of priorities, both large and small, an EA must discern the most critical tasks at any moment and make decisive calls on high-stakes projects. So, how do you continue to hone best practices as a project manager to take your skills to the next level?

Here’s some guidance we share in our Nova Chief of Staff Certification course.

The Essentials of Executive Project Management in the C-Suite

What distinguishes excellent project management in the C-Suite?

1.      Understanding the Leader’s Key Initiatives: Regularly schedule time to learn and review your leader’s significant goals. This knowledge will ensure you’re aligned with their vision.

2.      Adapting to Changing Priorities: Be prepared for frequent shifts in focus. Flexibility is crucial in managing dynamic executive environments.

3.      Utilizing Effective PM Tools: A robust project management tool or tracking document is vital for staying organized and on top of tasks.

4.      Establishing Update Processes: Develop processes to ensure your leader receives timely status updates on projects.

5.      Leading Key Initiatives: Take charge of one or more of your leader’s major initiatives, showcasing your leadership and project management skills.

6.      Eliminating Distractions: Keep workflows efficient by removing distractions and keeping leaders focused.

While specifics vary by project, goal, leader, and company, the core skills of a top-notch Executive PM are essential for a proactive and organized Executive Assistant.

Tips to Sharpen Your Executive PM Skills

Looking to truly add value as an Executive Project Manager? We suggest having regular “download” sessions with your business leader about everything on their mind. Yep! Everything. During these sessions, you will listen, take notes, and then organize what you hear into a “president’s priorities” document. We suggest:

·       Set up the meeting and stick to it: Finding time on an executive’s calendar is tough, but this project is important.

·       Record the conversation: Recording meetings provides a reference point for future review.

·       Take great notes: Supplement the recordings by noting key ideas, connections, and reflections during the meetings.

·       Ask good questions: Be inquisitive and seek clarity on the process when needed.

·       Use a PM template: Leverage available tools to stay organized. You can use the Nova project management template as an example!

·       Get organized: Develop a robust organization system to manage projects efficiently.

·       Determine your role: Strategically decide which parts of the project you can lead and delegate the rest.

·       Build processes: Create, document, and adapt processes to keep projects on track.

·       Keep the team focused: Maintain team focus on collective goals, much like a coach.

·       Review consistently: Regularly review progress, identify gaps, and seek areas for improvement.

Continuous Improvement and Resources

Project management is inherently challenging, and the EA role adds layers of complexity, requiring finely tuned skills. Fortunately, numerous resources are available to streamline PM processes and maintain organization, regardless of the project.

For hands-on practice in Executive Project Management before taking on high-stakes projects, consider our Chief of Staff Certification course. This online course allows you to hone your skills using relevant examples and digital tools from real EA experiences at your own pace. To start, you can view the syllabus here to see if the course would be a good fit for you.

Mastering Executive Project Management as an Executive Assistant is a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. By leveraging these tips and resources, you can excel in your role and drive your leader’s strategic goals effectively.

Still looking for more info? Check out our upcoming live virtual Nova Chat on June 20, when I will dive into All Things Chief of Staff, answering common questions about EA overlap, who makes a great CoS, career progression, and more.

Maggie’s bio

Maggie Olson is the Founder of Nova Chief of Staff, the premier destination for Chief of Staff education and development. As the first Chief of Staff to a president at a Fortune 40 company — who led a multibillion-dollar business with 5,000+ employees — Maggie built the president’s Chief of Staff model from the ground up. Maggie has 20 years of experience leading large teams and has spent her career focused on both customer and employee experience at companies including T-Mobile, Nordstrom, and Starbucks. In addition to operating the Nova Chief of Staff Certification course, Maggie is a fractional Chief of Staff focused on helping mission-driven, for-profit startup founders scale their businesses quickly. In her spare time, Maggie loves spending time outside with her husband, their dog, and their 1-year-old, Max!  

To learn more about Maggie, please visit her website: Nova Chief of Staff or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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