Elissa Berg has been in the administrative world for over 14 years, working in almost every department. She’s currently executive assistant to the president of Luxe Hotels. Elissa was the very first premium Leader Assistant member when we launched the premium membership!
In this episode, Elissa talks about the power of a strong community, how coaching has helped her lead well, and what to do if you’re being underutilized in a role. She also gives us an inside look at her recent job transition.
Bonus Resource: The Ideal Week Calendar Template
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Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.
CONNECT WITH ELISSA
Elissa Berg has been in the administrative world for over 14 years, working in almost every department. She fell in love with being the trusted “go-to” person who ensures those around her have what they need to be most successful, which is how she found her way to being an Executive Assistant. One of Elissa’s favorite things about her career as an executive assistant is being the wizard behind the scenes that makes life seamless for her executive. She loves being the “number two” they cannot live without.
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Elissa Berg 0:00
Hello, my name is Elissa Berg and today’s leadership quote is from an unknown author. Be strong enough to stand alone smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.
Podcast Intro 0:15
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 0:27
Thank you so much for listening. Oh, I’m old. Hey friends, welcome to episode 113. You can check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/113 Leaderassistant.com/113. Today I’m very excited because my interview is with Elissa Berg and Elissa was our first premium leader assistant subscriber back about a year ago actually, right about a year ago, April 2020. We launched the leader assistant premium membership. We do monthly coaching training sessions. And then we record those sessions and add them to our members only library so that you can review them if you can’t join us live. We also have bonus templates and video resources. All types of topics like negotiation, resumes, performance reviews, email management, calendar, management, burnout, anything and everything even cryptocurrency, anything that you could think of that you would be interested in for leveling up and leading Well, in your personal life and professional life. We have over 140 members now, a year after launching, like I said Alyssa was number one. So this is a fun episode where we’re going to kind of do a member spotlight on her and how she has really leveled up and learn to lead well, and just recently landed a new role. So I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Elissa, if you’re interested in joining us in the premium membership subscription group, you can check us out at leaderassistant.com/membership. That’s leaderassistant.com/membership. Many of our members get their companies and executives to pay for the membership fee. It’s $59 a month, or $599 for the annual membership, which saves you a little bit of money per month. I think that averages to around 49 a month if you buy the annual subscription. So leaderassistant.com/membership. And I hope you enjoy this member spotlight with Alisa. Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning into The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host, Jeremy Burrows. And today I’m very excited to be speaking with Elissa Berg. Elissa is executive assistant to the president of Lux hotels, how’s it going?
Elissa Berg 2:59
It’s going good. We’re almost done my 30 day mark at this job.
Jeremy Burrows 3:05
Wow, that’s exciting. You’re gonna have to tell us all about your onboarding process here in a second. But first, I wanted to just kind of get a little bit of a taste of how you became an assistant and why you like the role?
Elissa Berg 3:22
Sure, like many others, I kind of fell into the role and didn’t know that that’s what I wanted to be until I was in the role itself. So I’ve been working in the administrative world for the last 14 years working in kind of little different departments. So I was receptionist, I did accounting, I did every like little department until I started to support an executive and we just kind of hit it off really well. And it just became what I did. And so I realized that that’s kind of what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I am a career executive assistants. My favorite part about it is being able to anticipate the needs of my executive and just being able to do things before they need it or ask for it.
Jeremy Burrows 4:18
That’s great. So when did you realize that it was a career?
Elissa Berg 4:24
I think I realized it was a career when I joined leader assistant. being completely honest, I actually have a little bit of a gripe with Hollywood that they don’t have any movies where the assistant actually wants to be an assistant. Because it is a career choice. And it’s amazing and you can really grow and change and be challenged as your executive grows and changes. And so I really feel like that meets all of what I want for myself and my career. And it’s Just a perfect fit.
Jeremy Burrows 5:02
Yeah, that’s well put, we should definitely make a Netflix movie about an assistant who actually likes the role. Exactly. So okay, so speaking of leader, Assistant, so when you say that you mean, the leader, Assistant membership community, which you actually were member number one. So April of 2020, Al Hussein, Matt Hani and myself, decided to go for it, and really do some in depth coaching training sessions. So we do one call every month, and then we record that, put it in the members library, so people that can’t join live can catch up and watch the replays. But I think the thing that’s been most interesting now that we’re a year into this community, is just seeing how much we learn from each other. So like, you know, I learned from you I’ve learned from other members. You know, hopefully you learn from us. But it’s kind of this, give and take this back and forth, relationship and community where we’re all supporting each other and encouraging each other. And so first, before I get into a little more specifics on your recent job transition, first, I wanted to hear you know, you remember number one, and you told me before that you just kind of soon as you heard about it, you signed up. So what, why would you do that? Why would you invest in this type of community? And why are you so quick to jump on board.
Elissa Berg 6:47
The second that, I realized that I wanted to be an executive assistant, I wanted nothing more than to like, gobble up all the education that’s out there, that would make me even better in my position. So it kind of started off as I read your blogs. And then I realized that there was the the weekly happy hours. And then the second that the membership was announced, I was like, Oh my gosh, that’s even more time, more one on ones smaller group settings. Everyone is there understands what I’m going through, can relate can share can add can learn from. And so I immediately was like, Absolutely, like, there’s no second guessing. It’s just worth my time and my investment.
Jeremy Burrows 7:34
That’s great. And you had told me before, I think that you had had some negative experiences with other assistant communities.
Elissa Berg 7:44
I have, oh, eh, oh, same as you. And I, that was the first EA community that I was exposed to when I realized that I wanted to be career executive assistant. And at the time, I was in a position that was under utilizing me. And so part of why I wanted to go to this conference was to kind of gather from other executive assistants to find out how could I be doing more doing better? And every time that I asked a question or talk to anybody, they made me feel horrible. Like, there was something wrong with me, and there was no way to fix it, because it’s me. And that was not even anywhere near close what I’ve gotten from the leader, Assistant community, like everyone is more than supportive. Everyone had is willing to jump in and give advice and offer advice. And just you get so much more like value from it.
Jeremy Burrows 8:49
Yeah, I, it’s good to hear you say that. Because, you know, one of the things when we started this was and even when I started my blog was just like, listen, there’s too many assistants that in this was my story as well, that are going through the motions alone. And maybe they’re the only assistant in their organization, or maybe they’re one of several assistants, but they’re the only one that really wants to kind of level up and become a leader and everybody else is just okay with, you know, just the status quo. So, yeah, I mean, this is really encouraging to hear that it’s been beneficial for you in that way and that you’ve found your people.
Elissa Berg 9:34
Yes, I have. I’m not going anywhere else.
Jeremy Burrows 9:37
Nice. So, okay, so part of being in the community is, you know, we’ve done these group coaching sessions, and then you have direct access to direct messaging, myself and Al Hussein. And you’ve been kind of in this process where you were under utilized in your role and you want need to do more, you want to just take on more, but it just was you’re having a really hard time. You know, helping your executive see that you could do more. So tell us a little bit about your challenge with that. And then we’ll kind of talk about where you went from there.
Elissa Berg 10:18
So my previous executive had never had an assistant before. So a lot of it was more of like teaching moments in it. So when I started, I didn’t know I like wanted to be an executive assist, dance. I just knew how to be one. I just didn’t know what it was called. And so I kind of started with him. And there was a lot that I would try to implement. And it just was not what he needed. But he couldn’t tell me what he needed. And that was our biggest struggle, was the fact that he was very autonomous. And his value that he felt for his executive assistant was more of a security blanket, if I need you type role. And I need more of a challenge than that. It to me, I want to be busy. I want to be integrated into the life of my executive, I want to know what meetings they’re attending, what action items are needed from that, who are the big players on the team that they’re dealing with? You know, what’s the background story with that. And that was just not something that that executive needed from me, when COVID hit, we went from being an office to being remote. And I really was even more desperate for just adding value to the company. Because it’s been about two years or so by that time. And I still, my workload was too light for what I want for my career and my growth and everything like that. And so after taking a few leader assistant membership courses, and then purchasing some of the negotiation tactics, interview tactics, resume tactics that Al Hussein offers, that I got during webinar discounts. It really just I did block by block of just building up to make sure that my tool belt was sharpened, and that I was ready to offer the next executive everything. So I started with my resume, and then interviewing and then negotiating.
Jeremy Burrows 12:42
That’s great. So one thing that was interesting when we were talking about and walk them through this one on one is your company, you’re under utilized, but they kept like giving you raises, right?
Elissa Berg 12:55
Yeah, yeah, I got it. I got a really large bonus in 2019. And large increase in salary.
Jeremy Burrows 13:04
Yeah, so it was like, it wasn’t like, they didn’t appreciate you. It was
Elissa Berg 13:10
very happy with me. They loved me. And when when I ended up giving my notice, they were very shocked. That I was meeting. They were shocked. But then they said, I understand because you have been asking for more work, and I just don’t have anything for you. Yeah. So okay,
Jeremy Burrows 13:29
so then you went out and you’re like, you know, what, this isn’t gonna say, isn’t the right fit? I’m gonna go find a role where they really want to, they really want a leader, assistant. So how did you find the role? And then, yeah, how did that process go to get to land that role?
Elissa Berg 13:49
I found it through leader assistance. On Facebook, someone posted that they had been approached for the position, but they were interested in it, and if anybody wanted to reach out, and so I did, and looking at the job description, it seemed enticing. It was for a president, it was at a hotel, company hospitality. So that was an industry that I was relatively familiar with. So that in its own way, kind of led me to try and reach out and get the role. And then I had one zoom interview, and then one in person interview before they offered me the position.
Jeremy Burrows 14:31
Awesome. And then when they offered you the role, you pushed back and negotiated right.
Elissa Berg 14:39
I did. Yeah. So they kind of messed up in a little bit in the interview process by not asking me my salary. Um, so during all the interviews that we had, we didn’t discuss salary expectations at all. I did not want to bring it up. I wanted them to be the first ones to bring it up and And they ended up not. So the offer that they gave me, although it was a generous offer was way below what I was looking for. And so I started the negotiations with the HR director, because she’s the one that called to offer me the position. And it was under what I wanted, or what I was going for. And so I countered back. And she ended up taking it to the executive who called me directly and said, let’s cut out the middleman, let’s talk. He said that he doesn’t think that I was asking for too much. And then explained on their end, why they offered me the amount they did, and that he was really looking to see if we could come to an agreement if I was open to it as well. And it was during that conversation that I knew that like he was the type of executive that I would want to work for, because he valued the amount that I was coming in at saying, hey, you know, I see you, I see that you’re worth this amount of money. I can’t quite get there, but I still want you. And just it was it was great. Our negotiation kind of lasted the entire day, because he had to jump off for a phone call. And then I had a meeting. So we we did it in spurts of negotiation. So I countered with the HR director. So then he came back and said, Now let’s discuss, you know, let’s discuss the benefit package that you’re leaving from your current job and see if there’s anything of that let’s start there. And maybe we can offer you some here. So we negotiated the benefits package a little bit more. And he then he offered a different, like a higher salary. And I said, you know, that’s wonderful, I appreciate it, I would really be okay, coming down to this amount, which was higher than than what he said. And he told me that he had to jump off, and he’d get back to me. And I requested that at that time to be in writing. And what he came back with in writing was actually higher than what I had finally countered with.
Jeremy Burrows 17:21
Awesome, so you stood up for what you believed your worth. And you had professional, respectful conversations with the executive and HR manager about the the range and the negotiations. And then you told me, I think, I don’t know if it was later or throughout that process that this happened. But you mentioned that they essentially respected you more, and wanted you more because you’re standing up for yourself and you’re exhibiting solid negotiation skills.
Elissa Berg 18:03
Yeah, so the first email that he sent me with that last final number, which is what ended up being my salary, it was not an official offer letter. And so my response back to that email was, this sounds great, but I’d love to see it in an offer letter. And before they sent the offer letter, the HR director called me because she needed my address to fill out on the form. And she said that she had spoken to my executive, and he had actually been completely impressed at how I negotiated and had said to her that if I can negotiate something like that for myself, then he wants some like that to be me negotiating on his behalf. And it made him want me even more and just solidified their decision in selecting me who was way out there price or inch.
Jeremy Burrows 18:58
Well, there you go. Yeah. And, you know, we talk about that a lot in our leader assistant calls and on our forum and such, but basically the idea that listen, if your executive once someone who will go to bat for them and negotiate with vendors, negotiate with contractors, and, you know, negotiate with software companies, when they’re trying to upgrade their subscriptions and add users like your, your, you’re the type of person they want because they don’t want to have to do all that negotiation themselves. And so and they don’t want somebody that’s just gonna, you know, let let companies and let vendors you know, walk all over over you and so yeah, it’s well done. Well done. And thank you for sharing.
Elissa Berg 19:52
Yeah. Now that I’ve worked with him for the last month. Negotiating is something that he enjoyed Always doing a lot. So it was kind of an element of this is how our dynamic would be as well. Pretty first day.
Jeremy Burrows 20:11
Awesome. So that’s great. So let’s talk a little bit about just a couple of tips. What are a couple of tips that you would share with new assistants? Or are any assistant listening? Maybe your top two productivity hacks or assistant tricks up your sleeve? What have you found over the years that, that you kind of share with with those when you’re at happy hour and everybody’s going around sharing their top tips.
Elissa Berg 20:49
I save all preferences. I think that’s helped me out so many times. With whether my executive ordered lunch from the sushi restaurant one time, I saved that order. So the next time that he’s like, I’m in the mood for sushi. I’m like, Oh, would you like me to order this, this and this? And same for if there’s guests or their spouse? That’s been huge. And then just as open communication as you can. So transparency between your executive and yourself in what meetings what their challenges are? What do they think about things, especially in the beginning, because if you understand how their their mind works, and how they they view priority levels, it’s going to make your life so much easier. I
Jeremy Burrows 21:44
love it. I’m always saving lunch orders. Because I’m, I find that super super draining, and causes decision fatigue on my executive, if I have to say, hey, what do you want for lunch? Or if we pick a place that’s like, what do you want from that place? It’s always nice to be just be able to say, Oh, hey, I grabbed you this from this place. Alright, that sounds good. Because most of our executives don’t really care about picking something for lunch, they just want, they just want something that’s going to, you know, fill them up and getting good and going.
Elissa Berg 22:21
Yeah. And it’s also like, I’ve been in meetings before with their direct reports. And they’ve called me in for a last minute, like, hey, this meeting is running longer. We do need food. And we want to order from Chipotle. And so I’ve already got their direct reports usuals that they like to order from the restaurant, and just being able to be like, oh, so and so would you like your usual, my executive looks at me like, wow, how did you know that?
Jeremy Burrows 22:52
Awesome. Well, let’s talk a little bit as we wrap up, let’s just talk about coaching, one on one coaching. So you’ve really leaned in on some coaching throughout this transition. And then just over the last couple of years, and being a part of our leader assistant membership. Why should assistants seek out? Coaching?
Elissa Berg 23:22
I think coaching is on a whole other level than a group, because it allows you to go into more detail about your specific situation. Because as an executive assistant, nothing’s the same. So you know how my e mail is done? For my executive compared to Sally, and how she does her executives email. It’s just not exactly the same. So when you’re trying to figure out next steps, like leaving a role, I know that I was struggling with is the role not a fit for me? Or am I doing something that I could change and make it better? And I found that working like one on one allowed me to explore that and kind of grow into my own specific situation.
Jeremy Burrows 24:18
Great. And then what would you say to someone who really is like, Yes, I see the value. But I just don’t know if I can invest that kind of money. Or I just did it, they get ready to book it and they’re like, Ah, I don’t want to spend this money on on an hour coaching call.
Elissa Berg 24:45
Well, what I would probably say to that is kind of looking at my example of my career change. I mean, I’m making more money during the pandemic. And I would have not been able to do that. If I hadn’t gotten the support from the leader assistant membership and from the one on one coaching. And that I’ve pretty much return of investment from that money with this new role. And the amount of tools that I’ve added to my belt just makes me more effective in my position, which will make it easier to then get more money later down the line.
Jeremy Burrows 25:27
And have you had your executives or your company pay for some of your online courses or professional development events?
Elissa Berg 25:41
My last company paid for me to attend conferences. When we went to work from home, I didn’t feel comfortable asking for them to invest in my education. So I did all of it out of pocket. And I don’t regret any of it. Yeah, I think as I’m with my new company longer, I’ll feel more comfortable creating like a business portfolio for pitching that they take over. But as far as I’m concerned, like, my career is worth my money and my investment and my time. And so therefore, I’m not in any hurry to have my company take it over.
Jeremy Burrows 26:26
Well, yeah, you know, a lot of people talk about, oh, you should invest in the stock market, you should invest in, you know, crypto, you should invest in real estate, you should say if you should. And, you know, I’ll that’s, that’s great. You should definitely diversify your investments. But one of those ways is investing in yourself, and what better way to invest in your future than to invest in yourself. So well done. Well done. All right. Well, let me finish with one question. That is a very, very serious question. Which coaching sessions did you enjoy more? The ones with me are the ones with Al Hussein. You I’m going to make sure how Hussein skips
Elissa Berg 27:15
that he did save me from accepting a position that was probably not a fit for me. There you go. There you go. So he didn’t talk me out of that. But I’ve definitely mesh one on one coaching with you and your style.
Jeremy Burrows 27:32
Awesome. Well, and I love Al Hussein, and he’s a great coach. He’s a very, very professional, EA, Guru, trainer coach. So but I appreciate it.
Elissa Berg 27:44
I appreciate it. And I’m not just saying that because you’re asking, right, right.
Jeremy Burrows 27:48
Anytime I can get a win over him. You know, I like to like to gloat for a minute.
Elissa Berg 27:52
You are how I joined. I still can’t put pinpoint what webinar I saw you and but you were talking about the ideal week. And that’s how I was like, Oh, I like what he’s saying. And that’s how I found your blog was i You were like some guest speaker on a panel talking about ideal week.
Jeremy Burrows 28:11
Nice. Nice. Let’s let’s talk real quick about that. Then what is the ideal week? And how was it helpful to you?
Elissa Berg 28:18
So the ideal week is basically working with your executive to find out when do they have family time? When do they like to take their meetings? When do they kind of have the afternoon lull or the morning low? And just kind of creating more of a life work balance for an executive because most of them don’t have it? And I found that it’s helpful for me, because especially when I start working with an executive, because I don’t know him as well. Finding out well, do you like taking meetings in the morning? If you do, like what’s the earliest time that you want a meeting? And just being able to calendar as if it’s them?
Jeremy Burrows 29:04
Great. Yeah. And I’m a big proponent of it. Obviously, with how you heard about it, I was talking about it. There’s a ideal week template that I use as well that I’ll post the link to in the show notes so people can check that out if they’re interested. All right. Well, Elissa, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for being a valuable leader, Assistant Premium Member for coming up on a year now and for being a member number one. So exciting. I need to get you like a special like badge and T shirt or something. But where can people find you if they want to connect and say hi,
Speaker 1 29:46
LinkedIn. I am always willing to accept new networking conversations and obviously on the circle group, you can reach out to me directly. My LinkedIn That’s just my first and last name at the end. So Elissa Berg.
Jeremy Burrows 30:05
Great, well, I’ll share that link in the show notes as well. And for those of you who are interested in our community, check out leaderassistant.com/community And you can join the free circle community. And then you can become a premium member to get access to our group coaching sessions and the bonus video trainings. Leaderassistant.com/membership Elissa, thank you so much. Have a good one and we’ll talk soon.
Elissa Berg 30:34
Unknown Speaker 30:43
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