This episode is special because my friend Meagan Strout (CEO of Tack Advisors – the leading provider of management consulting and recruitment for administrative professionals) agreed to share the recording of one of their recent webinars called “Admin Leader in Action!”
Meagan hosts an engaging conversation with Tack Advisors’ Executive Business Partner, Alexa Gundermann and Alissa Stearman, Executive Business Partner to the CEO and Co-Founders of sweetgreen.
Alissa and Alexa discuss the dos and don’ts of developing a strong administrative team to support the co-founders and c-suite executives of a unicorn start-up. Alissa and Alexa worked in tandem supporting the sweetgreen founders and will share their insight into how to work cohesively to keep executives and admins on track.
Thank you Meagan and the Tack Advisors team for sharing this amazing conversation with the Leader Assistant Community!
CONNECT WITH TACK ADVISORS
Alexa Gundermann has experience working for multiple start-ups in Manhattan and Los Angeles with the most recent role as Executive Assistant to the founders of sweetgreen. Alexa is currently the Executive Business Partner to the CEO and Marketing Coordinator at Tack Advisors; a recruiting, coaching, and consulting firm. Alexa is a certified Holistic Health Coach with her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Fairfield University in Connecticut.
Alissa Stearman has over a decade of executive support experience leveraging C-level executives across multiple industries. Alissa started her administrative career in fashion and moved to San Francisco in 2010 for a role at Yammer. While at Yammer, she grew with the company from 30 employees to over 500 when Microsoft acquired them in 2013. She continued her career in administrative operations at ClearSlide, Lyft, and Uber, experiencing the triumphs and tribulations of working in hyper-growth pre- and post IPO environments. Alissa currently supports the co-founders of sweetgreen, a food-tech company based in Los Angeles, CA.
Meagan Strout is the Founding Partner and CEO of Tack Advisors, the only full-service Recruiting and Consulting firm that is dedicated to progressing the role of administrative professionals. Meagan has 6 years of experience recruiting for Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants and Chiefs of Staff to support the world’s most influential leaders. Prior to transitioning her career to Talent Acquisition, Meagan worked in luxury hospitality for over a decade with Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton and The Breakers. While working in hospitality, she provided ‘Five Diamond’ leadership and administrative support to clients and guests around the world; and recruited, on-boarded and trained highly efficient teams.
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Podcast Intro 0:03
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 0:14
Hey friends, thanks for tuning into The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s episode 130 And today it’s a special episode I am excited to feature a webinar recording from my friends at Tack Advisors. So, Megan Stroud is the CEO of tack advisors and Tack Advisors, if you don’t know, is the leading provider of management consulting and recruitment for Administrative Professionals. And Megan and her team have agreed to share the recording of a recent webinar she hosted called admin leader in action. So this webinar features tack advisors, executive business partner, Alexa Gunderman, who speaks with her former colleague, Alissa Stearman. Alissa is executive business partner to the CEO and co founders of sweet green. During this engaging conversation, they discussed the do’s and don’ts of developing a strong administrative team to support the co founders and C suite executives of a unicorn startup. Alissa and Alexa actually used to work together in tandem supporting the sweet green founders. So they are going to share insight into how to work cohesively to keep executives and admins on track. So thank you, Megan, and the Tack Advisors team. Thank you, Alissa and Alexa for allowing me to share and feature your amazing conversation with the leader assistant community. So I hope you enjoy it. Please check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/130 That’s the leaderassistant.com/130 to check out tackadvisors.co and connect with Megan Alissa and Alexa on Linked in and elsewhere.
Meagan Strout 2:11
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Megan Stroud and I am the CEO of Tack Advisors. And today I’m joined by two very special guests. Alissa Stearman and Alexa Gunderman. I want to go ahead and introduce Alyssa and Alexa. And I think it’s important to give everybody here a little bit of background on why we decided to do this session, because this is kind of an interesting scenario where we have like a long standing relationship with Alexa. And now Alexa has been brought into the mix. And there is a method to this madness. So Alyssa has been a coach of ours at top advisors for about a year or so. But our relationship with Alyssa started years before this, she has been an executive assistant and business partner in Silicon Valley and in Los Angeles for 10 or so years. Right, Alyssa? Oh, yeah. Yeah. And has known our VP of Business Development for probably half of that time. So we’ve known each other for a really long time. And about, I guess, a mayor. So I had posted on our website and in our newsletter that I was going to be hiring for my first VA here at tag advisors. And so Alyssa knows us so well, she immediately picked up the phone is like I have the perfect person for you. And so that’s where we meet Alexa, Alexa was previous to joining us at sweet green reporting into Alyssa and working with her as part of an EA team supporting the co founders. And she just moved to the east coast where I am, and has started working for me. And so we’re so excited to have both of you here today and talk about what your relationship looks like when you’re at speaking together because admin leaders and admin teams are very different from company to company. And I think your dynamic is something really special that should be shared with this community. Anything else you want to add to that story? I feel like I mostly summed it up.
Speaker 4 4:16
Yeah, I think you nailed it. I just it was like without a doubt. I was just like, I saw it. And she was sitting next to me and I think I showed her the like, job posting and then I went immediately texted you, Megan. So
Meagan Strout 4:29
yeah, we need to jump on a call. Well, why don’t we first kind of question I have for you both is and really for you Alyssa is to understand when you join sweet green, what did the executive assistant team look like? And how did you kind of come to the decision that you were going to hire an EA to help support co founders.
Speaker 4 4:54
So when I started there literally was pretty much no executive support the person in my role fora was a friend of the founders who admittedly said, I have no idea what I’ve been doing, I’ve just been kind of winging it. And that was reiterated by literally every other person in the company that worked with him. So very quickly, I think I made a pretty big impact with them. They had, so I was hired for the two co founders. And then they had hired someone who started a week after me for the CEO. So we started like, right alongside each other, she only stayed with the company for two weeks. So she decided it wasn’t for her and left. And I was tasked with finding her replacement, and was going through like a bunch of resumes. And I just didn’t see how, what they wanted and a candidate kind of my background in Silicon Valley and how I operated and the people I worked with, I wasn’t really like seeing that translated in the resume as I was reading. And I just like spent a few days thinking about it. And I call the CEO and I pitched him on me supporting all three of them and hiring us, more junior person, like more tactical role under me. And they, they all three talked about it, he was just like, do you think you can handle this? And I said, if I get help, yes, I can. And so they went for it. And I think a month so a month after I started or so Alexa, I believe you started. And she was actually intro to us from the CEOs brother she had known so it was a good references are always have a little more clout. So that’s kind of how we structured it. And it was different than really anything I had, well, I had personally done for and different than anything I had seen before. But I think it worked out really well with us for two years. So
Meagan Strout 6:53
you’re amazing. The power of networking, networking and who you know, right. And so tell me then how you initially structured you mentioned that you needed somebody a little bit more on the tactical side is for the executives. So can you tell me exactly how you delegated responsibilities and what tasks that you manage versus the tasks that Alexa manage?
Speaker 4 7:18
Yeah, so my as I kind of have grown in my career has been skewed a little more towards the strategic end of things and like business initiatives I interface with board and investors and worked very closely with chief of staff so that was going to be my my end of things. And we needed someone that was just like super organized, like, literally a wizard who could do expenses travel, how estate management personal errands. Different like ad hoc projects, there were it was pretty iterative, like and we can discuss more later, but our roles both really evolved. And as mine grew, hers grew alongside. But yeah, my my end of things was a little more like strategic business focused. And hers was very tactical, organizational, like, nothing falls through the cracks with her.
Meagan Strout 8:19
Yeah, a lot. And now that Alexa has been working with me, I’m like, blown away at her ability to kind of keep all the balls in the air because I have sent shifting priorities. And I feel like I’m constantly throwing things. And you and you catch it. And then you remind me later a week later that I completely forgot that I even gave you that task. So I’m certainly very thankful for that. And Alexa fire to joining in with your devices offline to connect
Unknown Speaker 8:47
sorry, that’s my actual
Meagan Strout 8:51
amazing. We’ll call you legs during this so it doesn’t affect the other one. Um, so like jury, before you had joined speaker and started working with Alyssa, have you ever worked as part of any EAA team before?
Speaker 5 9:07
No, I had worked for startups. But prior to sweet green, I was at Aston Martin. And so that was like a totally different world, I was always really the only admin where I’d been. So this is a whole new thing for me. But it was amazing to work with Alyssa and to really evolve the admin team and to be really, you know, from the ground up, it just felt like organic for both from both of us, because Alyssa didn’t come from that either. So it kind of just like with every startup, it’s just you roll with the punches and you, you learn from your experience, and every day is a new day. So
Meagan Strout 9:43
and So you started a few months after Alyssa. And I’m curious to know what did that sort of onboarding process look like? And, you know, how often did the two of you meet in the beginning to sink on tasks and responsibilities? And tell me about that list? And,
Speaker 4 10:01
um, our, our onboarding was very different than it is now. Especially because I was so new. Alexa, I think you started like, a month or six weeks like it was very short. Yeah. So I was still learning and I don’t even, I don’t remember onboarding you to be quite honest, I think it was just like, This is how like, literally like, here’s your computer, this is what we’re working on, like go. As far as like how often we met and spoke, obviously, pre COVID was different. So we sat right next to each other, pretty much started every day with text, either like tacking on from the night before continuing the conversation or just like texts in the morning. Emails slack. I like to joke like carrier pigeons, SOS signals, like literally all the ways we were in constant communication. During COVID, we, we lived like two miles from each other. So we would have like a standing Monday meeting where we would check in and just go over initiatives, because I didn’t have a lot of insight into the things that the guys were giving her, because they kind of learned to separate the requests, but we would have that standing meeting. And then we would still like go on walks just to stay connected, obviously, like constant text still and calls. But we were to that really big because we work so like symbiotically, we really tried to like see each other at least once a week, safely distance, but just try to keep that kind of like well oiled machine running.
Meagan Strout 11:43
Okay, great. And tell me a little bit about what it looks like now. Because my understanding is your team’s supporting the founders. And working together, you’re almost kind of like a little team within your team. And then you have other executive assistants now extremely support other sea levels. Is that right? Can you tell me? What kind of looks like?
Speaker 4 12:06
Yeah, so I’ve worked with our chief people officer and some VPs in HR to kind of break out the leveling of the org because I think a lot of times this this role is very misunderstood even by executives like they don’t really know and even when I broke out like admin assistant executive assistant, executive business partner, and I was presenting it to three co founders and our with our chief football officer on the call. And one of the co founders with the role breakdown in the job descriptions even said, Well, what’s the difference between EA and EVP? So it was a big, like, educational journey for me. And it was pretty cool to work on honestly with it, you know, heads of HR and so now we have we backfill the Lexa. So I still have that
Speaker 4 12:59
God Okay, I’ll I will remember. So I still have that role under me. And then we have been hiring for we basically have a two to one ratio right now with EVPs to our C suite. We just so we have one other EVP we just onboarding, onboarding one this week, who supports our CFO and our new CTO, and then we have one that starts next week as well. So we’re quickly building out that team. I think as we continue with our growth, we’ll start filling in EA roles for the VP levels. Has that is a little strapped? But yeah, it’s been it’s kind of evolved since we started a little over two years ago.
Meagan Strout 13:46
So Right. And so tell you mentioned earlier that both of your roles really evolved since you initially started and what it look like, you know, two years and what four lakhs flashed. So can you tell me a little bit more about the additional source of responsibilities that each of you have taken on and what that look like? Yeah, Alexa, do you want me to? Do you want to?
Speaker 5 14:13
Yeah, I’ll go. I’m sure. I mean, as with any startup, right, it’s always evolving. You think you’re signing up for one thing, and then you have like 10 other job duties, six months later, but pre COVID For me, you know, as time went on, and trust was built, I was able to ask for more projects, ask for more responsibilities and get more involved. And then post COVID I, you know, because of all the org changes and all the structural changes, I was able to support other executives who you know, for whatever reason, their assistants left or we’re on maternity leave and so I really kind of got more involved with the other executive teams and that really prepared me for the Executive Business Partner role at TAC now so um, super grateful for that. And you know, at the time, it can seem overwhelming when it’s like all this is on your plate and especially during COVID When you think like, the world is ending, but really, you know, in the long run, it was such a blessing. I’m so grateful for the experience and all of that it taught me during that time. And having Alyssa, by my side was definitely, you know, key. And I’m grateful for you and your support and your leadership and showing me how to take initiative and to level up in times of crisis or just the startup hustle mentality, which is, you know, so necessary for startups, especially during the pandemic.
Meagan Strout 15:39
Well, is there anything to add to that? Yeah, I’ll
Speaker 4 15:42
just say like, as we continued working together, and she very, really showed me that she wasn’t going to drop any balls. And literally anything I gave her she like, took and ran with. So the trust was built pretty quickly. And that enabled me like, as my role was evolving to give her new projects or, you know, ad hoc things that came down the pipeline, I was like, can you take this and just own it. And I think it was important for her growth and development to give her things to fully own. And to not micromanage and just, like, have quick check ins, but I knew that whatever I gave her like she was going to be successful with.
Meagan Strout 16:26
Okay, great. And so how do the two of us stay organized? Did you use any tools? I know, I’ve seen sort of how Alexei keeps track of all the things I throw at her at any given time. But I’d be curious to know how you guys sort of followed up with each other and kept track of all the projects and initiatives that you were both running for these founders?
Speaker 5 16:49
Yeah, we’re big on G Suite. So Google task lists Excel spreadsheets, text, Slack email, like every form of communication, really Alisson our attached at the hip for the most part, but yeah, weekly syncs, daily syncs constant communication was really just the key. We were just so in tune, like, we can literally just speak without speaking.
Meagan Strout 17:14
Yeah. And and you were both regularly in communication with the founders, did it ever get confusing for them to know? Like, who to ask for what tasks or did all information flow through you Alyssa, and then go to Alexa, tell me about that.
Speaker 4 17:29
I think so the first month, I remember, everything flowed through me just again, because I was new as well. I wanted to kind of manage the requests and be able to know what was really happening. And then with time, and you know, both of us, building trust with them and each other, they understood kind of the different things to come to us with. I will still say the only time I think I got confusing was travel was a project I gave her to fully own. And I think as we were transitioning that her there were some like, confusion, but they would just reach out to both of us. So I never really remember it being an issue. I think it was like pretty
Meagan Strout 18:11
clear. Yeah, let likes any additional thoughts on that? Or did you agree with Alyssa?
Speaker 5 18:19
I would agree. I mean, because there was a lot of overlap, it didn’t really matter. At the end of the day, we were both kind of like involved in their lives, like you’ve downloaded all three of their lives. So
Meagan Strout 18:33
and what do you think, like made it, you know, your relationship and success? And not only between the two of you, but also with the founders? Do you want to start Elissa?
Speaker 4 18:43
Yeah, I think I mean, my relationship with her was so special and unique. So this isn’t going to translate to everyone but we just formed such a deep friendship. And I think that stems from just being open and good communication, but also like seeing each other as humans and not just machines. You know, we both everyone has lives. And we both have had a lot of personal things going on both that the same time and also at different, like similar things at different times. So we’re able to relate to each other in a lot of ways that I think helped us form a very strong working bond and friendship. You know, so there were times when like, I remember I was hospitalized in a foreign country and she completely like took over and that was, you know, probably like six months after she had started completely like covered for me for like two weeks or, you know, times when, you know, get off a phone call on she has tears welling up in her eyes and I’m like, what’s going on? And she’s like, blah, blah, blah. And I say, go home, take the rest of the day off. And I go in and tell the guys like please leave her alone for the rest of the day. So I think just a fundamental on Understanding of like, we’re all humans, we all have a lot of stuff going on. And having some empathy in the workplace. I haven’t had that in the past. And I think I’ve learned a lot of what not to do from past managers I’ve had. And I also didn’t have a mentor, I actually had a very, like, strange relationship with a past female boss. And I just remember thinking, like, if I was ever in that position, I would never do that. And I think I came back to that a lot. In my, in my interaction with Alexa, just like what would I want from a manager and trying to extend that to her?
Speaker 5 20:38
Yeah. And I also think it speaks volumes about, you know, companies like sweet green, who their culture is embedded in our culture is to be you know, transparent, have good communication and to value work life balance, and just seeing people as a whole humans that we have lives like, and we’re here for the common mission, you know, for to make a positive impact. And so for that alone, like it sets the ground, to have these open, you know, safe space, safe spaces at work, and in relationships with your manager and setting goals and all that stuff. It’s just such a beautiful experience to have. But the empathy piece for me is huge. And that was like, my biggest takeaway from working at Spreaker. And with Alyssa directly, is just really seeing people on a human level and knowing that, like, you know, we have lives and hearts and more and more to us, like, we’re an onion, it’s not just produce make money. Like, there’s so much more.
Meagan Strout 21:39
I 100% agree with you. And I’m seeing some, you know, stuff in the chat about this. And, you know, one of the questions somebody said is, do you have any practical tips that Bas, and A’s can apply to foster good working relationships? And, you know, one of the questions I was gonna ask you is about feedback and communication. So so maybe we can dig into that a little bit right now. What do you think Alyssa? Um, yeah, as
Speaker 4 22:04
far as the first part of your question, I just think being open, I quite candidly was going through a very big life change when I moved to LA and started out sweet green, and I was very open with every single person. And that enabled me, I think it was the first time in my life, I really was just like that, you know. And that enabled me to form really like deep meaningful relationships with coworkers. And a lot of people opened up back to me and said, The only reason I told you all this is because you were so open. So I think, being you know, we talk a lot about this now of being vulnerable. Like, it’s, it’s hard, but I think it gives you such different relationship dynamics, which a lot of times are important in the workplace, you know, we’re we are trying to steer in that direction. But the past decade, and you know, time before that was very much like, we’re all performers, we’re all machines, like you just come to work and you like, shut the world off. And not just, it’s not feasible. It’s not how we work like we are, we’re souls. As far as feedback, I remember when Alexa started ice, we sat down in one of our earlier meetings, and I said, I want our relationship to be like really iterative and honest and open. And so I think we should do constant real time feedback. You know, in tech, we do this twice a year, performance feedback reviews, I have seen them do a lot of harm, honestly, you know, because they’re tied to comp adjustments and bonuses. And it becomes more about that I think how you learn and grow is real time feedback, because you’re not going to remember something you did six months ago, if, if a manager gives you an example of it, you’re going to if you’re told when it happens, it’s going to click in your mind and you’re going to adjust and do things differently the next time and I told her I was going to do that with her and I expected the same from her I think feedback should be a two way street managers are not immune should not be immune from receiving feedback. And so I think we gotten a good practice of doing that I just asked her if I do something or say something that you don’t like or you don’t appreciate, like, please tell me and she did and I think it helped both of us grow and again form like a really special working relationship.
Meagan Strout 24:27
And it reminds me of so when Lex came and joined us I put her through sort of our onboarding process and tack that we also like train our clients on and one of the first things he did the first day was go through a list it’s like a page long questions for her to get to know me and my preferences and how I operate because I think it’s super important in your AAA to get out right out, you know, right out the gate. And what was it looks like one of the first questions is How do you like to give and receive feedback and or Are you okay with your EA pushing back on you? And I was like, Oh, absolutely, you can totally tell me if I’m wrong. Let me know you will not hurt my feelings. I have a really thick skin. And I think you continue to do that. And kind of, I say this very kindly put me in my place. You know, we I have like a vacation coming up, and I wasn’t going to take a vacation because I like you Alyssa came from the background, like hustle, hustle, hustle, don’t take a break. You know, you get burnout. And we have a lot of things happening at attacking Biden’s right now. And I was going to cancel my trip. And blacks was like, No, you’re not, you’re going on this trip. And I will do your calls. And I will make sure everything gets done. And you’re going and I’m like, Okay, now I have somebody holding me accountable, which is awesome. And so yeah, I think that setting those expectations up front, but then continuing to have those conversations and setting and resetting those expectations is super important. I don’t know, what do you think? Like? I mean, maybe you’d add to that?
Speaker 5 26:11
Yeah, well, I would say, the example that you just spoke on is, you know, a rising tide raises all ships. So like, if you’re doing well, I’m doing well, the company’s doing well. So we all we just have to see in that we’re all connected. So we got to take care of each other, and the whole empathy piece like that. We’re all we’re literally all connected. And that’s I feel like an upside there. But yeah, what was the question?
Meagan Strout 26:40
Yeah, no, I think you answered it, right, is that we’re all connected, and you recognize that like for like, I need to be a whole person and be able to work with you and lead you and lead this company. And, and then just in general about like giving and receiving feedback. I think that’s a really, you know, tactical thing. And I think another question somebody asks is just some additional feedback on like handling, feedback, and what that looks like. So what I will, what I will share, as far as what I’ve seen work well, in sort of implementing feedback, if you don’t do that already within your company is we have like, sort of standard one on ones once a week with our employees Lacson, I kind of earn a little bit more food, because we work so closely every day. But for everybody else that works with me and reports to me, the first five minutes of our one on one is a personal check in. And it’s how are you doing as a human being? And what is coming down the pipeline in to know about, like, do you need time off? Do you have some important, you know, family obligation I need to be aware of, and I think creating that as part of your culture of having that personal check in as well as a work check in I think would be a really tactical way to go about sort of creating that culture of empathy. Awesome. There was another question. I think that that came in, as well as have you guys experienced any admins being resistant to feedback? And if so, how did you handle it? Loaded question.
Speaker 4 28:18
Honestly, I did at Uber, I worked with someone that was very tough, and we had a hard time. But I went directly to her and we have like, some tough conversations, but I said I do not. And she was Eastern European, I don’t know if it was a cultural thing to be honest. She, her personality type rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. And, and, and I don’t do this, I just do I have zero tolerance for that. It doesn’t solve anything. It fans the flames. So I went directly to her. And it was definitely a process. But we both were like committed because our teams worked very closely together. And I had to work with her all day, every day. So I said, if this is gonna work, like this is what I need from you, and what do you need from me, because again, it’s a two way street, you don’t get to go to someone with feedback and just be like, you do this, this, this and this, and I don’t like it just as you would in any relationship, a friendship, you know, all these things required this, like two way communication. We experienced it, you know, she can speak to this as well, but with someone at sweet green, and in the end, it didn’t end up working out. But again, it’s I think, approaching the conversation from a place of I want to work better with you. I want to find a way with you that we can that works for both of us. So this is what I’m feeling like what what do you get from me? Like what what am I doing that I could do better for the relationship with you? I think there’s no way for someone to be defensive if you frame things that way because it’s Say team mentality, when you just go out someone with, again, this, like very negative feedback of all the things you don’t like that they do the, you’re gonna get this from them. And it’s just gonna create kind of a negative dynamic. So I think you just have to be open to hearing the things that someone doesn’t appreciate about the way you work or communicate, or your style. And, and so if again, it goes back to vulnerability if you can be okay, like you really have to develop a thick skin and be okay with hearing those things so that you can develop and grow alongside with your teammate, like Lex spoke about earlier, we’re all on the same team, we’re all striving towards the same mission trying to accomplish the same goal. So yeah, I think it just comes down to like vulnerability, empathy, like you don’t know what your coworkers are going through. So if someone’s being super Curt with you, or rude, like, maybe approach the conversation first with like, oh, wow, they must be going through a really hard time. Now that, you know, I think there’s just so much so many other ways that we have to like, think about these dynamics.
Meagan Strout 31:11
Yeah, I agree. I think it’s coming from a place of curiosity. I love that like phrase of, you know, there’s got to be something more going on here and saying, Hey, I noticed I had this interesting reaction. When I said or did this, there’s something going on, could I have approached this situation differently? And, you know, sometimes it’s, oh, I didn’t even realize I did that. I’m sorry, thanks for bringing it to my attention. And sometimes it’s deeper than that. It’s like, actually, yeah, when you didn’t say this, or you didn’t do that it didn’t rub me the wrong way. And then now you’ve opened the floodgates, and you can go into what it is, that means
Speaker 4 31:49
and I, I will say in person, and if you can’t be in person, and video is always way more preferable, because there’s so much taken out of context and writing. There was actually one I can think of a, an example of flex at sweet green. And it was something so minimal was about conference rooms. We booted. Someone, it was just so minimal, and this person got very offended. And they were kind of going back and forth. And she was showing me the messages. I pulled both of them into the hallway. And I literally moderated this. I said, I think I gave both you I said okay, so and so like, what what happened from your side? She said it and I said, Okay, I am her manager, I asked her to do this, she explained, you know, I kind of gave her my take with defending Lex and allowed Lex to say her piece. And then we each said, Sorry, misunderstanding. They hugged and we said, Okay, let’s go get on with our workday, because we have a lot of stuff to do. So even just like small things like that, it’s just always just try to do it in person or on video, because there’s just too much in writing and text and emails. And we’re moving a mile a minute. And so too much is like taken out of context.
Meagan Strout 33:05
Yeah, absolutely. Well, last, tell me about the stuff that you learn from Alyssa, that you’ve taken with you and brought here to talk advisors?
Speaker 5 33:16
Well, I think we touched on most of it, you know, the taking initiative, and being able to jump in and be a team player was huge. From the startup mentality, especially now at TAC, you know, I started as the executive business partner, and now I’m doubling as a recruiter in the interim, until some more positions. But yeah, it’s really exciting. Just having an open mind. And really just being a team player is one of the biggest things I learned from Alyssa, obviously, the empathy piece, connecting on a personal level, getting to know your co workers personally, you know, not just professionally and really building relationships and focusing on team building activities and things of that sort that make work happy, you know, like a happy place and a safe space where you you like the people that you are surrounded by all day, every day. And that, to me is like one of the biggest takeaways and I’m just super grateful.
Meagan Strout 34:18
We’re so grateful to have you. I think you’re doing a great job moonlighting as a recruiting coordinator. I’m so very thankful. I think this is great. Well, I see like a ton of questions that have come in so I wanted to dig into some of these that have been asked. So one question I think is interesting because you’ve had to do some hiring Alyssa as well. So you’ve seen it on the company side her manage only for your team? And of course we see it attack advisors every single day. But what are your thoughts on trying to find admin support during COVID times, what does that experience look like for you and has it been any different from previous prior to the pandemic?
Speaker 4 35:01
Just from a hiring perspective, I think that the market is actually pretty good right now. Because there are so many companies that were doing well during COVID. I will say like, obviously, the hiring is different. Everything’s virtual onboarding is virtual. So that’s a bit of a different dynamic. But does that person have like a more specific framing of that question? Like?
Meagan Strout 35:30
Yeah, I mean, that’s all that they asked. So my perspective, I think hiring, I think the only biggest difference that I’ve seen when hiring for people in during the pandemic, and placing EAS is, you know, really understanding from a company perspective, is this role going to be remote? Is it going to be hybrid is it eventually going to be in the office and very, you want fast? Because I know that was a piece that lax and I talked about, from the start, we were rolling, or somebody we haven’t. And I’m like, great, you live in South Florida, and I want to see your face. But otherwise, like, for the most part, you’re gonna be on your own flying solo. So are you okay with being in a totally remote company environment, or you’re going to miss being in a physical office being screamed out that watercooler talk and, you know, feel and see people every single day? So revivals that the vast and the biggest difference is whether or not people are comfortable being remote or are better suited to be in an office? Row. Oh, and they will say is it was my question for background. It’s more like, do you see eager candidates to go above and beyond and do job especially during closed? Okay, so do you see people hustling or being more motivated during COVID or less?
Speaker 4 36:52
Yeah, I was reading her question at all, um, I think possibly a bit more. As far as the, like the eagerness and people wanting to go above and beyond, I only hire people doesn’t matter pandemic or no pandemic that want to go above and beyond because this job can be gnarly. So you cannot have someone I remember, I helped build out the EA or gad at Uber. And I very specifically remember one interview where the woman told me, I work these hours, you know, this is what I will do this way won’t do. And I was like, good luck to you that that could not work anywhere in any email I’ve had at any company like I, and the fact that she just came out with that during an interview kind of blew my mind. But yeah, I only I’ve, I’ve only ever hired people that are eager, regardless of like what’s going on in the world, we just really need to work alongside people that don’t see this role in a little box. Because there’s so much that happens outside of that box that is very important. And as you grow on your roll, and you need to be able to flex and, you know, Lex talks about earlier, like changing priorities. There are so many times where I was like, this is the project we’re working on. And then two minutes later, I was like this project is not happening anymore. And you need to go do this, you know, and so, and her being able to be like fine, great. Got it. And so that’s like one of the main things I look for when interviewing honestly,
Meagan Strout 38:26
it’s the same for us. And I think it it kind of goes back to there are definitely companies and roles where the EAA position can be very specific. And there are very specific tasks and responsibilities. And the executives actually want somebody to stay very focused on that role. And that’s, that’s great for people who do want that type of job and want the nine to five, and even, there’s nothing like that’s great for some people. But then there’s also people who really like the ambiguity of a startup that, you know, want to do more and want to work more than an eight hour day and love the chaos. And I think it’s different strokes for different folks and different lives for every pot. And so I think it’s just the importance of like, knowing what’s important to you, and what do you want to get out of your job in your life, what makes you whole,
Speaker 4 39:17
I think that’s a good, that’s a good call out. And I think you also have to look at the type of companies that you’re either interviewing for or want to work for. If you want something more structured, you don’t work for a global company, such as Uber that’s going through hyper growth or something like sweet green or, you know, find something that’s a little bit more boutique or a startup that’s bootstrapped and moving slowly perhaps or you know, like be very intentional with what you want your life your job to be like and then the type of companies you target. So I think that’s a really important to call out.
Meagan Strout 39:52
Let’s see here. There’s so many other questions. Somebody asked, have you found a way to put value Are you to your job which actually you you have we did a sort of a webinar on this last year, which is called Know your power, your worth. But really, you know, how do you justify adding a new person to your team and what the ROI for your job is? So let’s say you want to talk about that for a minute.
Speaker 4 40:15
That’s, this is an ongoing struggle, because most of our job is unseen. Magic in the in the wings you don’t ever hear No, but I’ve literally had this conversation just a couple of months ago with my CEO, I was like, there’s so many weird things I’ve done for you that you will never know about. And that’s means I’m doing my job well, like you should never know. But it does make attaching the value difficult, especially, you know, I’ve been having these conversations ongoing as we’ve broken out roles and posted open roles on our on our website for different executives. And I’ve gotten some pushback. And I’m I think that was my intention with scoping out the different leveling with the exec team and getting their buy in and really trying to educate them. But I also think just hiring for new roles you as I think it’s goes back to communication, like you have to be really open with the executives you support of your bandwidth. Because yes, we are to a certain extent, yes, people but we also have to have boundaries and pushback is important when it matters, you know, when when it matters, I guess for lack of a better term, but so I think just having that open communication, which I have many times throughout my time at sweet green just being like this is too much we you know, this person needs this role and because you spoke about earlier leads to burnout and then you’re not good for anyone you’re not good for them. You’re not good for yourself. You’re not good for like your plants, your animals, your humans at home. So I think yeah, it just it just all goes back to communication, Lex, I don’t know if you have like a different take on that.
Speaker 5 42:04
Yeah, no, I think it’s impossible to put a value on anything, right.
Meagan Strout 42:10
I think the way I look at it, and what how I determined it was time for me to get it an EVP at time is, you know, right now we started, right, we started as a three person team, we’re going to be 10. In the next couple weeks. It’s a lot of growth in year and a half. But I have started by being the CEO, the CTO, the CMO, CFO, I was wearing all these hats. And then it got to the point where like, our business has grown so much, we have so much demand, like I can’t possibly wear all those hats anymore. And so I started looking at my own calendar and my own schedule, and it’s like trauma, channelized setting, scheduling meetings, and how much time am I spending, creating all of our marketing content and posting on social media and doing these administrative tasks that I know an EA can do, because I believe these people all day, every day. And so I know I know when to do this for me. And that alone, I think the time that lax has been able to give back to me and my day, the amount of hours that she’s working in the projects that she’s managing and the things that are getting pushed for now that weren’t getting before before, is easily quantifiable once I know how much I bill on any annual basis. So then divided by how many hours are in the day, and that’s the value she provides me
Speaker 4 43:32
right when I broke out when I did the role scope with the founders and our chief people officer. That was kind of questioned because it had the different compounds in there. And when I was questioned on it, I said well so and so spending she told me two hours a week on her own calendar that’s and I said you know, how much hourly is that that you know quite a lot of money in this room right now. Like how much are you guys making per hour if you can get this amount back per week just in this one task just in this one task? And again, like I think there’s so much that you don’t know before you have executive operation support and having someone that can come in and very quick like Megan you saw with Lex like you were I think probably you were like whoa, I didn’t even know I needed help with this thing. But she’s like taking it on or done it or just been like I’ll handle that. And so I think yeah, it’s you see as you go on like wow, I didn’t even know I needed help with these things and saving me this much time and
Meagan Strout 44:42
and I think to speak on that and something that I really appreciated about you like before she started I created a spreadsheet and it was like a priority list of all these projects and things I wanted her to help me with and we went over the first week and we’re constantly sort of looking at it and shipping them prior typing, but then something will come up and show you slack here and we’re gonna punch the pain I saw this anchor inbox, or do you want me to just do that for you. And I know I’ve been conditioned for the past year and a half to do everything on my own and be very self sufficient. And so I think you’ve done a really good job. And that would be sort of final word to the wise if people are watching this, and you want to take on more tasks, and you see something that you think you can approve for your exec because you take it on, okay, you’re starting to help me like source and like, reach out to candidates for jobs, right? That was never part of your job, and never something that you know, I had ever expected for you to do. But we have a need. And she’s helping and there’s all kinds of I know so. So the Ukraine. So I think there’s been a lot of questions in here about labor. And then people also that maybe we can talk about after this, but how you differentiate and executive assistant from executive business partner and what that level of structure looks like. So do you want to go into that a little bit more of a sudden don’t answer people’s questions. Sure.
Speaker 4 46:10
I see an executive assistant as a bit more tactical. So the, you know, the traditional calendar, travel expense reports, event planning, and management’s. You know, some different like, project management stuff that’s a little more straightforward executive business partner I see as like a true strategic partnership. So for instance, I run our company all hands, so I’m curating the deck I’m, I’m giving the agenda proposed agenda to the executive executive team every month based on what’s happening across the org, you know, meeting with key stakeholders on each team understanding initiatives with each team timelines, deadlines, I join a lot of meetings, either on behalf of an executive or just because I need to know what’s going on within that world. I work very closely with the chief of staff, there’s a lot of like overlay there. So I kind of see this role like as a hybrid between, you know, EA s to strategic EA sport and a chief of staff role. But yeah, it’s not there’s a lot of ambiguity, and especially Lex and I, you know, we worked very closely together. So there were some like Blurred Lines, just as there are with the chief of staff I work with and myself. But I think it’s a lot more like productivity, like understanding what’s happening and trying to be in your executives mind, knowing all the things happening and trying to always be like one step ahead of them.
Meagan Strout 47:54
Unless you know how this EVP title and I was very intentional about giving you that title when you came over time, because I do look at you as a as a partner for me, and I give you a lot of transparency like you’re in my inbox, you’re attending our strategy meetings, and you’re driving up stuff. But you know, any thoughts on that of what that transition has looked like for you going from being an EN speaker into living into a VP role here attack?
Speaker 5 48:24
Yeah, for me, the big difference is, it’s more business oriented, like big picture business oriented versus the minutia. And just like dotting T’s crossed and the I’s making sure everything gets handled, it’s more of like, taking a step back. So for me, it’s a whole new experience. But I feel, you know, given my role at sweet green, I feel prepared, and you are a great leader, Megan, and I love working with you and the team. And just the full transparency. I think being in on all these meetings just makes it easier because you get to see the business from all angles, and you can provide your input and add value to the team from that in that space.
Meagan Strout 49:07
But I would I love and I this kind of goes into a question if somebody is, you know, how can you motivate needs to speak up during weekly meetings? So I think you’ve done a great job with that. But I think and I’d love to hear your perspective of why you think you’ve been able to feel comfortable kind of stepping in because you you talk about the marketing piece in our weekly team meeting. And then like in our strategy session, you definitely shared your feedback and thoughts on what the strategy vision for this company is going to mean. So any any tips from your perspective on people who maybe are a little shy when speaking up?
Speaker 5 49:43
Yeah, my tip would be find a mentor someone that you admire someone that you would change places with and someone that you respect like for me that was Alyssa I saw her stand up and speak up and take action and so from there, it was like, Okay, if she can do But then I have permission, I can do it. So it’s kind of just like seeing someone else do it. So get a mentor for sure. Someone that can help you, and show you the way.
Unknown Speaker 50:12
But about you, let’s have any additional thoughts on that. Yeah,
Speaker 4 50:15
I mean, there were times when going back to the feedback piece, like, initially, with her getting her footing and feeling comfortable, she would come to me with a lot of questions. And I started to push back on her and I said, go do the digging yourself first, before you come to me with then more info. Because I knew she could do it. It’s just she needed to feel like safe and like she had the ability to make mistakes or possibly fail, and it’d be okay. And I think that really helped her to grow. Even like seeing her speak right now. It’s like, it makes me so happy because I’ve just like watched your exponential growth. And I think you’ve up leveled in your career so much faster than so many other people in this role that I’ve worked with. And, you know, that’s like, to your own abilities, and smarts and grace, and people skills and all that sort of stuff. But being able to take feedback, and I think having the special relationship we did where you like, you could make mistakes, and you knew you were gonna get in trouble or, you know, little things like that. But yeah, like, she had spoken earlier about taking over some executives, when, like, you know, people are leaving the company, or, you know, out on leave. And there was a comment made by one of our executives that she had helped during that time that it was hard going back to his original EA that he had worked with for over two years, because his five months with Alexa was like, so much, far and away, like, more impressive. And, you know, that was like bittersweet, because I’m like, wow, you’ve worked with this human for two years. And they’re disappointing now, but also I was like, I’ve like, mentored this person for a couple years. And that’s like, incredible, like, you could not want better feedback of both someone you manage, and, you know, indirectly as a manager, because I meant I was doing my job, right? You know, and seeing being able to see her like, flourish and grow and then be able to leave a company and go have this amazing job that, you know, she’s so happy she taught with so talk all the time. And it’s constantly like telling me how happy she is. And yeah, it’s just been incredible to watch her grow.
Meagan Strout 52:33
And I think you bring up an important point of whether you’re currently an admin leader in a company or resigned to being leader in a company or me who is a leader and owner of this company. Because if you kind of mentioned it earlier, let’s say that you didn’t really have mentors and a lot of what you learned, you learn by doing the opposite of what you saw people do. And you wanted to make sure that when you got the chance to be a manager that you, you change that that pattern that you’ve been seeing. And I think it’s the same, it’s been the same thing for me, like, I never, I didn’t have a mentor, ever until I moved into recruiting when I worked for a decade in Hospitality Management, and I just had to learn on the job and figure it out. And so I think when you are a manager or a mentor of admins or people, I think the goal should always be to train them to be better than you and have them take your job someday. I mean, I think that that’s like the most important thing like I am, you know, imparting a lot of wisdom on lax and telling her like a lot of stuff about my company, that it’s a risk that I’m taking, like she knows she may someday leave and take that knowledge with her. I hope she wants to stay there for a while and join us but I think it’s always about like, try to try to do your best to make the people around you even better than you are. Yeah. Um we still have I think a few more minutes maybe we’ll just wrap this up by saying what are your top three qualities that you look for Alyssa when hiring an admin and I’ll just Alexa afterwards because she’s helping us we’re actually going to be hiring another EA on our team here at attack. So she’s going to be the one to be initial interviews and screens for that so so why don’t we start with you Alyssa what does it look for?
Speaker 4 54:30
I think the general approach to the role is super important to know like does this person like I gave that example of that woman I interviewed that was like this is what I want and structure structure structure and that doesn’t for the companies I’ve worked at doesn’t work. So I really look for people that honestly want growth like Where can this lead or like what are different projects I can work on like all this foundational stuff is great, but what what does executive need or like what’s going on? In the world, the really wanting that like true partnership aspect. I think someone that has just like a 24/7 mentality true truly because it, it, it is at tying all kind of ebbs and flows. And it’s different at every company, like Uber, for example, is global, truly global. So dealing with many, many, many timezones and so you’re going to bed with people waking up, and you’re waking up with people and in their day, and so I have a bit more work life balance at sweet green. But there are times, you know, there’s a lot going on right now. And so I’m truly working most of my waking hours, and it’s a lot. So we need people that are open to that like that are going to respond like, I don’t think there was a single text I sent Alexa at any time of any day like weekend or not, that she didn’t respond to within like, a couple minutes. So I think that is really important. And then I will say zero ego. There’s just no place or ego in this role between an executive and their support. And then within an EA, VP dynamic of that team. I have dealt with that a lot in my career. And again, like, I don’t have time for this, I don’t have time for the egos, we’re all on the same team. We’re all trying to accomplish the same things. No, like, I am not too good for any task, even you know, with Lex, and now the person that works for me and her role like, word. There’s just so much going on that I’m like, I’ll do this because I know she’s doing a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t normally do. But it just needs to happen. And there’s no like, oh, I don’t do this anymore. You know, like, there’s just no time for that. We just need to be moving forward. So I would say those are that was a very long winded answer to question. But I would say those are the three things I really look for.
Meagan Strout 56:56
Number seven, great. What do you think legs and thinking even for like hiring for us to talk like, what do you think makes a really great yay, or executive assistant business partner?
Speaker 5 57:06
The first thing that comes to my mind is that they had to be super grounded, and they have to be able to catch all the balls in the air. You know, like when you’re working with creatives and executives who are like Go Go Go and up here constantly. You need to be able to like ground your executive a and be grounded yourself to be able to catch and manage all these balls flying at you. And to Ellis’s point, no ego because No, no task is too big or too small. Right? And a team player, I think that to be a team player, especially if you’re in a startup mentality. Efficient, I’m big on efficiency, they have to be quick on their feet and efficient at the same time, right? So because there’s so many things happening, like you have to be able to multitask.
Meagan Strout 57:51
100% agree. Awesome. Well, there’s I know we’re getting right to the end of this. And there was a couple of questions. Somebody asked if they can connect with a lesson on at least on a professional level? And the answer is yes, of course. Yeah, go ahead and add on den. But listen is also a coach here at Tech Advisors. And so if you are looking for coaching, support one on one with that is available and interested in helping you. And then there were some other questions about us attack advisors and what we do and if we do recruiting all over the nation, the answer to that is also yes. So we’re in pretty much every major city in the US and have even done some surgeons in Canada and abroad. So if you need any help in those areas, please let us know. And yeah, please connect with Alyssa and Alexa. On LinkedIn. You know, they’re always here to help. Like Alyssa said, Alexis, very responsive. So anything else that you have you would like to add before we go?
Speaker 5 58:55
No, thank you so much. Yeah, this
Speaker 4 58:57
was fun. I just think it’s such a special like you would point it out in the beginning just such a special like full circle story. And yeah, I’m just happy to know and work with both of you. And yeah.
Meagan Strout 59:10
Thank you so much for being a great matchmaker, Alissa. Oh, well, thank you both so much. I hope everybody here has a great day.
Jeremy Burrows 59:21
All right, thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Megan, Alissa and Alexa and please reach out to them via the show notes leaderassistant.com/130 and connect with him on LinkedIn say hi and check out Tack Advisors if you’re looking for a new executive assistant or executive business partner, chief of staff role or similar Alright, talk to you soon.
Speaker 3 59:56
Please love you on Apple podcasts. Goburrows.com