Executive Assistants

What does an Executive Assistant do?

Discover what an Executive Assistant does all day, from calendar management to travel planning, and everything in between...

The job of an Executive Assistant (EA) has often been likened to being the Executive's "second brain", right hand, gatekeeper, personal planner and project leader - even an extension of them.

But one thing is certain - they're never short of things to do. Assistant life at the C-level involves more than just taking phone calls, setting up meetings with clients, and arranging schedules. In our recent Goodwings blog series, "Mission: Possible," we interviewed Executive Assistants from around the world to dive into the extraordinary tasks that they do on a regular basis, a lot of which are not be explicitly outlined in the "Executive Assistant job description". EAs gave examples of the types of tasks they've been asked to do - everything from scouting yachts in Monaco to burying a dog in the garden. If it sounds a little crazy at times, it's because it usually is.

This blog aims to answer the question: "What does an Executive Assistant do?" Including what skills are required to make their role a success. So let's peel back the layers to uncover the full spectrum of this indispensable role. 


The Executive Assistant role: founded on loyalty and trust

You don't always need to have a bachelor's degree to be a successful EA to an Executive, but in order to succeed in this field, you need a good understanding of the CEO you're working with, their leadership style, how they best receive information, and any specific preferences they have. The job entails a wide range of different tasks, from preparing documents and making travel arrangements to scheduling meetings and being a bridge to other departments inside the organization, so being able to multi-task is a plus.

Two words commonly used by Executive Assistants to describe what their role entails are 'loyalty' and 'trust', and the foundations of the EA / Executive relationship are built around these two terms. Trust because the Executive Assistant is often responsible for handling sensitive information (both professional and personal) and the executive needs to trust that the EA will always act with discretion. Loyalty because no matter what happens, the Executive Assistant should remain loyal to the company and to their boss. These principles also go both ways - the Executive Assistant will only feel empowered to do their job well if they get the trust, respect and support from their boss. 

Key tasks of an Executive Assistant

When you're training to be an EA, there will be various skills you need to learn. Below, you'll find an outline of some of the common tasks that you'll be responsible for as an Executive Assistant:


One of the key tasks of an Executive Assistant is communication, including liaising with clients or colleagues in other departments. You'll be responsible for screening and managing phone calls, emails, memos and other correspondence, working to prioritize important messages and act as a filter to eliminate unimportant information that distracts from your boss's key tasks. As an Executive Assistant, you should also be able to respond on behalf of the Executive when it's needed. 

You will also need to help the Executive determine what is important and prioritize tasks on their behalf. This will often require you to remind them to follow up with a key person, or resend messages to make sure that no details fall through the cracks. By doing this, you'll be able to keep your Executive on track while maintaining effective communication both internally and externally.  

Calendar management  

One of the key tasks that cannot be overlooked is calendar or diary management. This involves filling the Executive's schedule with important meetings, appointments and events on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. It could also mean saying no to things that aren't important, to make sure that their time is used efficiently. By prioritizing tasks and appointments, you'll be able to ensure that your boss stays productive and effective in their role. 

Helping before, during, and after meetings is also a fundamental the successful Executive Assistant's role. When a meeting is scheduled, you need to make sure that the Executive is as prepared in advance to make sure they get the most out of the time.  Here are a few practical things to remember: 

Online meeting

  • Is there a conference room or venue booked?
  • What is the audio/visual set up - do you need a microphone or camera to improve the quality of the call?
  • What platform will the call be hosted on - does your boss have the software on their computer ahead of time?
  • Are there any documents or presentations that you need to prepare ahead of time?
  • If your boss is dialling in remotely, have you thought about a quiet place they can take the call from?
  • How will notes be taken? Have you installed AI note-taking software like Otter.ai to save time summarizing?  

In-person meeting 

  • Is there a venue booked for the meeting? Have you considered the ambience based on the type of meeting?
  • What are the logistics for getting your boss to and from the meeting - is there a Plan B in case of transport delays?
  • Have you familiarized yourself with the venue, including menus, dress codes etc?
  • How will the follow ups from the meeting be captured? Do you need to attend as well to support your boss?

During the meeting, you may be required to support, for example by recording the key actions, or performing other tasks as needed. After the meeting, you'll need to follow up on the decisions that have been made and assign tasks and time frames to stick to. If a follow up is scheduled, you may need to reach out to the relevant parties to communicate the details.


Discover the AI tools transforming key tasks for Executive Assistants 

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Organization and Administration

One EA we spoke to said that one of the most boring tasks she had to do on a regular basis was upload and organize files in Google Drive. It's repetitive, but necessary work. That goes for general administrative work, such as preparing and organizing documents or handling expense reports. Beyond specific tasks for the executive, there may also be other tasks such as supervising the stock of office supplies and equipment as well as managing the office in general, which will ensure a smooth operation across the department and company.   

Project Support and Steering 

The Executive Assistant plays an important role in supporting the Executive's projects by coordinating and communicating across teams, as well as tracking project timelines, and ensuring timely progress towards goals. Every project is different so you must be able to support in a lot of different scenarios, as well as be able to work with a lot of different stakeholders at the same time across the company.  It may also be necessary to do research to understand what skillsets, knowledge or expertise will be needed for different parts of the projects. To do this, you must be able to quickly understand a project's scope and what it will take to make it a success. 

Going beyond the Executive Assistant Job Description

There is no hard and fast line between Executive Assistant and Personal Assistant tasks, so you may also be asked to help with personal jobs that aren't necessarily part of your job description. This could include, for example, communicating with your boss's partner, liaising with the kids' school, or researching holiday locations. Based on your relationship with the Executive, you may become a confidante, or a great sounding board for new creative ideas, while still juggling the day-to-day tasks that make your boss's life easier. 

Travel Planning 

When executives need to travel to other cities or countries for business meetings or conferences, it's the Executive Assistant's job to take care of planning and booking these business trips. Coordinating any business trip is a complex task that needs several different components to come together. Overall, the trips need to be planned so they're as productive as possible, while still taking into account the Executive's personal preferences. Here are some tips for how to do it:

The art of seamless travel planning 

Travel planning is where the bulk of your work will take place, requiring you to think through every single scenario of getting from A to B, not to mention having to make last minute changes to itineraries and schedules. But whether you’re coordinating small or big trips involving one or multiple executives, meticulous preparation is key. In addition to booking flights, hotels, trains and cars, smaller but important details need to be factored in such as emergency contact information, visas, restaurants and other documentation that might be needed on the trip. 



During the travel planning process, you should:


  • Check the travel policy

Even if your boss has specific preferences, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the company’s travel policy. A travel policy is a document that states what is permissible and what is not for corporate travel. It also may provide some guidance on sustainability measures that a company has put in place to reduce emissions.


  • Check your travel budget

Before you start to book, you need to understand what’s in budget, as well as what can be classed as a business expense. For example, for trips where your client is paying, you will need to have transparent documentation to back up all the expenses and be able to answer any questions about why specific options were booked over others.


  • Get all your documentation in place: 

Make sure that you have all the documentation you need to ensure a smooth arrival in the country. This includes an up-to.date passport (with at least 6 months validity), any necessary visa requirements, or vaccinations.


  • Book all your flights, accommodation, transfers and restaurants:

With all the research on the options done, it's time to book your travel. Make sure you take into account distances to/from the main venue or office location at the destination to make sure that your boss is not traversing the city every morning. With business travel, convenience is key.



Before your boss leaves, you should:


  • Prepare a detailed itinerary:

Outline the journey from the office to the airport, covering transportation details, check-in procedures, gate and lounge information, and any relevant contact details in the case of emergency, or if they need to make any changes to a booking out of hours.


  • Plan time outside of meetings:

Transform travel downtime into productivity (or leisure!). Find out whether your boss wants to spend time exploring the city, or whether they’d like for you to arrange conference calls or catch-up sessions during transit or waiting periods.


  • So some local research:

If your boss has never been to the destination before, it’s a good idea to give them some guidance on any local customs, or provide some simple phrases that will help them get by. 


  • Get a handle on expenses:

Finding a way to efficiently manage expenses will save you a lot of paperwork and time when your boss is back in the office. If you have a travel management system, you can store everything in one place by linking your company’s expense software to the platform you’re using.


  • Get some local currency:

While credit and debit card payments are accepted in most places now, there are still a lot of countries where cash is king, so make sure your boss has local currency if it’s needed, as well as an idea of the exchange rate and the average cost of a cup of coffee for reference!



During the trip, you should:


  • Stay updated:

Stay updated on your boss's journey, so that you can address any potential issues promptly and even before they arise. With a travel management system, you can keep an eye on everyone that's traveling with a handy map feature.


  • Make the most of your own time:

When your boss is traveling, you should take advantage of the time, to prioritize tasks that are simply not possible when they're there. This could be anything from the more mundane task of filing and organization, to challegning yourself to an online course to develop your skillset. 



After the trip, you should:


When the trip is over, it's important to follow up on the trip to evaluate and eventually report what went well and what can be improved for next time. This may involve gathering feedback from your boss or other participants to identify areas for improvement. It's also important to handle and follow up on any expenses to ensure that all invoices and receipts are correct and reported according to company policy. 



thunder iconHow to handle the unexpected with finesse:


Even if you plan a trip down to the last detail, there will always be things that even the most senior EA can't control. This could be, for example, weather conditions, delays in both travel and meetings, broken or lost items, language difficulties or perhaps even culture clashes.  This shows the important and ability to be flexible and able to handle any problems that may arise, such as delays or changes to the schedule. Acting quickly and effectively is essential to ensure that the trip still goes smoothly. During the trip, the EA can also assist with booking restaurants or excursions, and ensuring that all meetings and events run according to plan.


Ready to take your travel planning to the next level?

Download our free guide for everything you need to know (and more!) about travel planning.  

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Qualities you need as an EA

Vector-1Be able to think outside the box

EAs need to think creatively to solve problems and find solutions to complex tasks or situations. Thinking outside the box enables EAs to offer fresh perspectives, identify opportunities for improvement, and provide valuable insights to the Executive, ultimately enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of their support role.

Vector-1Be a problem solver

Being a "yes-sayer" means being proactive and willing to take on new challenges or tasks. EAs who possess this attitude demonstrate initiative, resourcefulness, and a commitment to supporting the executive's objectives, contributing to a positive and productive work environment.

Vector-1Good networker

Networking with people within the company and externally is also important. EAs need to maintain relationships with stakeholders, colleagues, and other EAs.


Flexibility is essential for EAs as they often encounter unpredictable situations and shifting priorities. Being adaptable allows EAs to respond quickly to changes, handle unexpected tasks, and maintain productivity in dynamic work environments.

Vector-1Organization  management

Executive Assistants need excellent time management skills to juggle multiple tasks and prioritize effectively. Time management ensures tasks are completed efficiently, deadlines are met, and the executive's schedule runs smoothly.


Willingness to continue learning is crucial for evolving in the role of an EA and staying updated on professional development. This not only enhances your ability to support the executive effectively but also ensures you remain adaptable and well-equipped to handle the evolving demands of the role.

Summing up

We asked the question, 'What does an Executive Assistant do?', but after reading this, the question should be more 'What doesn't an Executive Assistant do?' Executive Assistants are involved in almost every aspect of their boss's lives, both professionally and personally. They are responsible for the communication, synchronization of calendars and meetings, steering projects, travel planning and generally engaging in processes from beginning to end. To be a successful EA, you must always be one step ahead and help navigate essential tasks, always being the bridge between them and other departments in the company. Despite all the to-do's, checklists, policies and responsibilities, EAs describe their passion for their work, believing they make a difference in their company's growth. We believe it!


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