Enjoy today’s Day in the life: Kara Tanenbaum, EA at Lakeside Project Solutions which is full of Executive Assistant Tips and Tricks.
What are the main aspects of your role?
I am the Executive Assistant to the President/CEO of a Facility Maintenance company and my primary responsibility is helping my Executive manage her 20% to ensure the objectives, goals and vision of the company are being executed. Part of the responsibility of making her life better is knowing her overall objectives and immediate priorities, so I can take that information and integrate it into what I do every single day. In this way, I can act as an extension of my Executive by handling all of the miscellaneous responsibilities, tasks, and administrative duties that allow her to stay focused on leadership, strategy, and communication.
What is your morning routine before you get into the office?
I have an hour commute each way because I work just outside the city. I’ll admit, which I initially started working for the company I thought the long commute would get old — fast. But it has actually become my favourite part of the day. It’s my time. I’m a big fan of podcasts, mainly for their entertainment value but also for episodes that teach and inspire. My go-to’s are: “The Productivity Show”, “Tell Em’ Steve Dave”, “Stuff You Should Know” and “Ted Talks”. It turns my commute into mini-mental escapes.
What time do you get into the office and what time do you leave?
While I get to work around 8:00 a.m. and leave anywhere between 5:30–6:00 p.m., being an EA is not a “9-5” job; I regularly work through lunch, in the evenings and on weekends. It’s the nature of the position.
What does an average day look like?
Oh wow, every day is different and never a dull moment (which is why I love it!) When I arrive in the office, it’s typically the same — get my coffee, turn on my aromatherapy diffuser, launch classical music on YouTube and start tackling my emails. That’s the first half hour or so; the rest of the day is working through my active “to do” list, meeting with the leadership team, preparing my Executive for her next day’s meetings, processing emails, complex calendar management, meeting daily with my Executive to capture action items from meetings, special projects and everything in between.
What do you do for lunch?
I typically eat lunch at my desk while working. There is a sandwich shop in the area that delivers, which has, fortunately (unfortunately for my wallet) become my go-to. I’ve been getting better at bringing my lunch and once a week, going out with my colleagues. It’s certainly not expected that I eat while working but most of the time, it’s just easier not to get away. I probably need to work on changing that!
What is the hardest part of your day?
I joke that my Executive’s calendar is “just a suggestion”, as it changes constantly, despite my best efforts to plan well in advance. The difficult part of managing her calendar is when I need to somehow find availability in an already packed day/week and it feels true like I am, in fact, inventing time!
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I always say that being an EA is the “best seat in the house”. You are side by side with the top decision maker in the organization. What a wonderful opportunity it is for us to learn leadership skills from the best of the best! My Executive and I have a solid partnership and it’s extremely rewarding to me that I am helping her build, organize and execute the vision for the company. I love that I’m working alongside such a visionary and enjoy the aspects of the role that make me a crucial “right hand”: a professional problem solver, trusted confidant, executing project tasks and strategic partner. In addition, the challenges of the role are also the most rewarding; I never know when I will be asked to make the impossible possible or turn a chaotic situation into an organized one.
What has been your career highlight?
The role of an EA has changed dramatically within the past ten years and I have embraced it, both personally and as a mentor to other Executive Assistants. Our role is complex and for good reason — it encompasses so many different responsibilities and can differ greatly depending on the industry or the Executive. I have worked hard as an experienced EA to provide exceptional value for my Executives and their companies. I not only practice it personally but I advocate for other EA’s to see how crucial we are as a leader, an influencer and an invaluable resource. But in the words of Benjamin Parker in Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility”. We must constantly elevate ourselves to the highest place to be the very best service provider that we can. This is a thrilling time for Executive Assistants and my career highlight is not only being an integral part of the management team but empowering other EAs to change their mindset and advocate their value. I am hoping to do more with the EA community when I launch a podcast but for now, it is on hold; I’m hopefully gearing for a launch at the beginning of 2019.
What do you do in the evening with your spare time?
At the beginning of this year, I started an EA Mastermind group in my city of Charlotte, NC. So throughout the month I’m preparing for those and attending the group meetings. Other than that, I’m usually catching up on my DVR while cleaning or organizing my home. I recently got into colouring when a coworker bought a few of us each a pack of brilliantly hued fine- point markers. It is so therapeutic filling in those mosaic illustrations and has become a nightly ritual.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to other assistants?
Constantly learn and fine-tune your skills as an EA, so you can always bring your “A” game.
What would you do if you were not an assistant?
I’ve always liked the appeal of a professional organiser – coloured files and typed labels are the stuff of dreams!
What is the one piece of technology, app or website you could not do your job without?
The Getting Things Done methodology by David Allen
Can you recommend any events, books, publications, websites, training programmes for other assistants?
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- Pomodoro technique (it’s a great tool for staying focused)
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek
- Brene Brown (anything and everything)
- Michael Hyatt’s podcast “Lead to Win” and blog, www.michaelhyatt.com
- High-Performance Habits and The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard
- Phoenix Normand — blog posts on LinkedIn or www.phoenixnormand.com
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
- The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy (I’ve also heard his online course, “Insane Productivity” is amazing but I’ve not invested in it yet).