An assertive executive assistant plays a critical role for the business leaders they support and across their companies, taking charge and tactfully raising important points in the best interests of the company when necessary. An aggressive executive assistant, even when they have the best intentions, may push things too far or create turmoil by being too forceful in their actions.
How can you be sure you have an assertive approach to your own work without crossing the line into aggressiveness? Consider these four tips for developing a confident and assertive approach that doesn't go too far.
When you want to be assertive but not aggressive, it helps to have an easily remembered definition of each type of behaviour. Assertiveness is about recognising and standing up for your wants and needs while respecting the wants, needs and rights of others. Aggressiveness, meanwhile, is a selfish focus on your own wants and needs at the expense of others.
Assertiveness has a clear place in a corporate culture. Aggressiveness doesn't.
A dependable executive assistant has to consistently and successfully interact with an incredibly broad range of colleagues, Executives and other stakeholders within the company they work for - not to mention individuals outside the organisation.
When you make decisions in your professional role, you do so with your company's best interests in mind. Assertiveness means you value the interests you represent and communicate them directly. The difference from an aggressive approach is that you promote your interests without dismissing someone else or making them feel unvalued. Assertive communicators focus on the best solution. That means clearly stating issues and possible solutions, but also empathise with others and keep them in mind when working toward that resolution.
Saying "no" is uncomfortable for many people, whether personally or professionally. Knowing when to recognise that discomfort and move past it to respectfully address a real issue or concern is a cornerstone of an assertive mindset. An aggressive approach will simply lead to a "no" without taking the situation, nor respect for other viewpoints, into mind.
An assertive approach means knowing when to say "no" with a degree of compassion and being comfortable taking that action when it's required. Saying "no" to a request that goes against company policy or could harm the Executive you support, even if it's very beneficial otherwise, is a hallmark of an assertive and effective executive assistant.
To do the best work possible, you may have to ask for additional information or support. No one can anticipate every need you have as an executive assistant - even the Executive you closely work with on a daily basis.
Being assertive means taking ownership of your projects and tasks, recognising when more input, clarification or resources are needed. In these situations, review what is immediately available or easily accessible and speak up when you make the careful determination that those assets aren't enough to complete your task. Highlight why you need that support and, if necessary, detail how it will support the end result. The alternative can mean building resentment that eventually leads to aggressive, and potentially harmful, behaviour.
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