So I’ve been doing a bit of research around some of the many PAs and VAs that I know. Because we all speak to each other a lot. I mean A LOT!

Booking meetings makes up a large part of my job. And who the PA or VA is at the other end of that call or that email either makes my day easier or harder. Pulling in favours, being helpful when you can, all expected of PAs every day. If I am mid-crisis, often it is a PA I have to call to rescue it!

Boss left the house without his papers? Call the friendliest PA you know in the building he is heading to and sweet talk her into doing a quick print job and running it down.

Don’t know a decent hotel, restaurant, bar in a town – ask a PA that works there.

And, most days, the old diary shuffle of trying to fit stuff in. I call it Jiggling like a Witch but that’s not a technical term! It means a series of delicately balanced calls and juggling many balls, if we can move that half an hour later and then that half an hour earlier we can fit this one in here. All relies on the goodwill and generosity of spirit of PAs!

Most people with decent IT skills could probably, at a push, be a PA. But being an excellent PA is a skill, some might say it at its best, an art form.

In my first “proper” PA job I met (never face to face actually, only by phone or email) the woman against whom I now benchmark all other PAs. Exceedingly busy PA to the CEO of one of our clients, a huge huge UK business (income of around £80 million per annum at present) she was never anything other than sublimely helpful. Even when I was in fact booking salesy type meetings with her looney-busy boss, she never ignored a call or an email and was unfailingly fair. And this was before she got her own 2 assistants to help her manage her vast workload. When urgent meetings needed to go in as a part of the project she would get them in, no matter what. I do believe the word “can’t” wasn’t in her vocabulary! She never answered the phone sounding stressed or distracted. She was flexible and helpful and fully up to date on all things she needed to be to get her boss’ diary inline with his priorities at any given time. When it couldn’t be done, she was honest and didn’t flannel (whole blog on this to follow!). I imagine that if she was with others in the business as she was with me, they all had huge respect for her and I dearly hope they paid her vast sums of money, she was exceptional.

So, top things we love in other PAs

1) Reliable – do what they say they’ll do, by when they say they will. Or if you can’t, let me know.

2) Personality plus – we spend a lot of time at work. It has to be professional but it can also be fun. If you’re pleasant, sharp and fun on the phone I like ringing you. You just can’t beat a personal relationship. Where I know a PA a while I do like to meet them for a coffee or a glass of wine if I can and try to make sure I tell them I appreciate them.

3) Says it like it is when they can. Often we can’t be totally honest. Being a PA is a bit like being a priest, what our bosses tell us in confidence stays in confidence but if you can be honest I’d rather hear a “do you know what, we have our favoured consultants already and won’t take on a new one” rather than 6 months of making and breaking meetings because their boss just isn’t interested. The truth won’t break me and it will save us both a fair amount of time going through the motions. I suppose to sum it up “I’m not as green as I am cabbage looking”!

Are you a PA /VA? What do you admire in others you meet on your travels? Do you employ a VA – what makes one exceptional?

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