Claudette Clayton has over 25 years of experience as an executive assistant, has a dog named Thor, and loves the Lord of the Rings.
In this episode, Claudette talks about her journey as an assistant, tips for calendar management, delegating, evolving as the job evolves, email management, and dealing with difficult executives.
The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
– Theodore Roosevelt
CONNECT WITH CLAUDETTE
Claudette Clayton has over 25 years of experience as an executive assistant. She joined Apollo in November 2022 as an assistant to the COO, Byron Vielehr. Claudette worked in Guy Carpenter’s C-Suite for three years supporting the Chief People Officer. Her previous experience includes nine years supporting a Managing Director and the Key Accounts group at Goldman Sachs. She’s also worked at Ernst & Young, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley.
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Claudette Clayton 0:00
Hi, my name is Claudette Clayton. Today’s leadership quote is the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. Theodore Roosevelt
Podcast Intro 0:21
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 0:35
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Claudette Clayton 1:38
Oh wow, how are you? Jeremy?
Jeremy Burrows 1:41
I’m hanging in there. My throats a little scratchy. But I’ll survive what what part of the world? Are you in?
Claudette Clayton 1:47
New York City?
Jeremy Burrows 1:48
New York City. Are you from that area?
Claudette Clayton 1:50
I am Yes. Born and raised.
Jeremy Burrows 1:52
Nice. Nice. And we were talking before I hit record you said you’ve prepped you don’t think you’ve ever been to Missouri, my home state of Missouri. So we’re gonna have to fix that. Are we? Yes. So, love it. Well. So tell us a little bit about before we get into your professional career. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Do you have hobbies, pets, kids quarks, all the above?
Claudette Clayton 2:22
All the above?
All the above? Well, one of my hobbies I think is staring right at us. I collect books.
Jeremy Burrows 2:28
Claudette Clayton 2:29
Little bit of a nerd little geek. I do have a little dog. He’s about six years old. Well actually he’s not little but I do have a dog. His name is Thor. I happen to like Marvel and DC clearly. Yeah, I don’t think I have any quirks.
Jeremy Burrows 2:47
What’s Uh, so yeah, I do see a big old bookshelf of books. What’s maybe your favorite book recently that you’ve gotten into?
Claudette Clayton 2:56
I’ve been rereading Lord of the Rings. Okay. We were like sci fi a big fan of will have time to Sandman, sci fi, thrillers. Whatever is interesting. I’ll read it.
Jeremy Burrows 3:09
Nice. Did you watch the Lord of the Rings show the new one. And you like it? I did. The Rings of Power was actually interesting. I enjoyed it. Awesome. Yeah. I enjoyed it. It was definitely I don’t know, I still think I liked the movies better. They were just this there was so good. I love the Lord of the Rings movies, but I did enjoy the show.
Claudette Clayton 3:33
Very well made.
Jeremy Burrows 3:36
Okay, well, how did you end up as an assistant, take us back to your career journey? And yeah, why didn’t Why the heck did you choose to be an assistant or did you choose to be an assistant,
Claudette Clayton 3:48
I did not choose to be an assistant I had. This was years ago when people were still looking for work in the newspaper. That’s just telling me how long ago that was. I saw an ad for a an assistant working in a law firm. This was probably 2720 years ago, I knew pretty much nothing about working for a lawyer. And lo and behold, he hired me. And I stayed there for about three years and actually actually enjoyed the work and just progressed on and eventually made him into the financial world on a sort of smaller finance firm called Watchtower Investment Management then moved to Morgan Stanley, and then to her stint young Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs for many many years guy carpenter and now Apollo Global Management.
Jeremy Burrows 4:45
Wow. So finance, I was talking to an assistant in finance the other day and she’s new to the finance world. How much have you in your career? Kind of dove into, I guess, the finance side of things, if that makes sense? Or have you been able to just be a really good assistant and kind of not have to get too much into all the, all the finance stuff?
Claudette Clayton 5:16
I think that you pick up little things on and off over the years, I think that I handled my finances pretty well. It just makes you a little bit more conscious about how you handle your finances. But that’s just one portion of it. It all really depends on what group you work in. So when I was at Goldman Sachs, I supported a manager, but a group that dealt with mutual funds. So just understanding how the funds were started and the process behind that. So it’s pretty interesting. It’s not something I could see myself actually doing as a career. But it’s interesting to learn how things start and go into fruition. So it’s interesting, but I enjoyed the the assistant portion of it.
Jeremy Burrows 6:02
Awesome. So have you worked with assistant teams? And tell us a little bit about that experience? If so, like, were they were you all peers? Did you lead a team of assistants? Did they have a sort of director of executive support? Or were they everybody, you know, reporting directly to their executives? Was it different at every company,
Claudette Clayton 6:27
different at every company? Definitely. So at prime example, at Goldman Sachs, we had what we call admin manager, and obviously, we all report to our executive, but the admin manager was definitely the first stop. When I was a guy, carpeta, we didn’t really have an admin manager, you just pretty much reported into your executive. But now at Apollo, it’s the same at Goldman, you have an admin manager, but we definitely report directly into our managers.
Jeremy Burrows 7:00
Okay. And have you ever aspired to be the admin manager?
Claudette Clayton 7:07
It’s interesting that you asked that question, I actually had a very good friend of mine, Malachi, more than one friend of mine, told me that there’s something that I should pursue. I think the belief is that a really good admin manager is someone who’s actually done the job. I always felt that that’s the best administer to have someone who actually has done the EAA role and excelled at it. I think they make the best managers in my experience, so I’ve thought about it, maybe give me five years, maybe I think about it.
Jeremy Burrows 7:39
Sounds good. We’ll do a part two interview and you’ll you’ll get talking about all about your promotion and everything. Awesome, well, what’s maybe the most challenging aspect of your role over your career as a, as an Assistant, what’s what’s been most challenging?
Claudette Clayton 8:00
It’s a pro and a con. And I would say people, that that’s really what it’s about. It’s the people. We spend a large portion of our day working with people and our peers and our colleagues. And I think it’s a pro in a way that if you have a really good team and a really good foundation, it’s great. But then it could be if you don’t have that support, if you don’t have a really good manager, if you don’t have the support system that you need, it’s very hard to thrive in the role. So it’s again, it’s a plus and it’s a con.
Jeremy Burrows 8:38
Yeah, people you can’t live with them can’t live without him, right. Awesome. So what about your favorite part? What’s what’s been, you know, you said, people, obviously, there’s pros and cons. But what’s one of your favorite day to day? parts about your, your job?
Claudette Clayton 9:00
This is going to sound very strange to all the EAS out there. But I enjoy the scheduling portion of it. And I know for some it’s an absolute nightmare. I support the COO at Apollo. And I will tell you, scheduling is like a jigsaw puzzle. It really, really is. But if you have some really good processes in place, I think that it, it can be a little easier than you think it can be. You need to know how to say no nicely. You always want to leave everyone very happy. But sometimes you need to say no. You need to be able to delegate certain meetings. I mean, does your executive need to be in those meetings? They may want him in those meetings. They always want your executive in the meetings, but do they necessarily need them? And so being able to delegate who I think or who you know, my boss thinks should be the person at that meeting instead of him really helps to free up time, blocking things blocking time for him to work. To think we call it t t t think tank time. I mean, you need that. You need that.
Jeremy Burrows 10:09
Yeah, what’s your I actually enjoy the scheduling part as well. And it’s funny you say that because I was talking to this isn’t really Yeah, they just want me to schedule more. And I don’t know if I’m excited about that. And like, well, you know, everybody’s different. But what, what’s your maybe maybe one tip for assistants listening, who are overwhelmed with the scheduling and the calendar management, and maybe they just took on a new executive or an extra executive, or they’re struggling? Because their executive doesn’t really know how to use an assistant when it comes to calendar management? What’s what’s a tip or two, related to counter management?
Claudette Clayton 11:00
Okay, so the first thing you need to know is, you’d be surprised at how many assistants when you ask them, What does their executive do? They’ll give you the person’s title, but they really don’t know what the boss’s job is. That is the worst mistake when it comes to scheduling. Because if you don’t understand what your executive does, it’s really hard for you to be that quote, unquote, business partner to them. And so therefore, you really can’t schedule because you don’t know what are the priorities? What are the goals? What are the initiatives for this week? Who are the key people that he needs to meet with? And why does he need to meet with them. So if you don’t really understand that it’s really, really hard to schedule? Basically, what you’re doing is you’re on a robotic mode, right? Someone’s asking you to schedule a meeting, and you’re putting it on there, but you’re just scheduling our meeting. Did your boss really meet that meeting? Did he really want that meeting? Could that meeting have been three or four weeks down the line? Because you don’t know what his initiatives are? You can’t schedule properly. So that’s one of the key things is to really understand what your boss does really, really streamline with him. What are the priorities for this week, this month? Next month? What are the goals for the year? So that you’re able to really anticipate what needs to be done when, where and why. That’s That’s key.
Jeremy Burrows 12:26
That’s huge. Yeah. Love it. The you said something about partner business partner. And I’m curious, you’ve been insistent for a while. How long? Did it take? Or maybe tell us about when you realize that this role was not just like you mentioned earlier, I think a robot that’s just doing task, a task robot or a Task Rabbit, if you will. But it was more of a strategic business partnership, it was you’re more of a leader in your role. When did you realize that an assistant was more than, quote, just an assistant.
Claudette Clayton 13:10
I’ve been doing this about 28 years. And I would honestly say maybe about 15 years ago, when I really when it really hit me that this is really what I was going to do. Because I really enjoyed it. I think it was about 15 years ago, when you really realize that, hey, because the role is the role has changed dramatically over the years. I mean, you know, we’re not just filing and typing and scheduling meetings. I mean, we’re going to some of these meetings, we’re meeting these clients, we’re having, you know, we’re doing all different types of things we’re doing. There’s a multitude of assignments that I that it’s just not the typical EA role any longer. Sometimes you’re in those meetings with your boss, you’re you’re in the meetings, you’re helping with the agendas, the follow up meetings, the preparing materials, working on those presentations, you know, what’s coming down the pipeline, because you’re actually involved in it. So yeah, I would say about 15 years ago.
Jeremy Burrows 14:15
Awesome. And what has been, you know, you mentioned earlier before we started recording the, you know, people ask you for tips here and there on, you know, help basically help for their role as an assistant. What’s maybe the most maybe one of the most common, like, challenges that people come to you and say you caught it. Can you please help me with those? I’m stuck.
Claudette Clayton 14:43
Well, it was interesting this, this was just the one of one day this was actually a couple of weeks ago. We get a lot of requests for recurring meetings that we need. We need your person on a recurring meeting. And I was showing her how to check recurring meetings very quickly, because I asked her How long does it take you to look through the calendar, she has a flag to look through the calendar for a couple of months. And it usually takes a little bit of time. And I’m like, you know, that takes a couple of seconds, right. And she’s like, really. So I’m like, when you go into calendars is like the side calendar, you literally can hit control, and the date, and it’ll give you each one, hold the CTRL button down in this, click down on each one. And you’ll see
Jeremy Burrows 15:25
each week or you can recurring events.
Claudette Clayton 15:28
Yes. And you can look through it very calendar very, very, very, very quickly. So that was that was one of my tips. If you have recurring emails that you constantly send out, you really should be doing a quick part where you literally can type in a couple of words, and then the verbiage will all come in. So just just little things like that, like changing the font, or scheduling a wall so that when your boss’s emails come in, there’s a little box that pops up, and you never miss your boss’s emails, or you can change the font of when the email does come in. And it’s from your boss a little, little things like that.
Jeremy Burrows 16:07
Yeah, that’s great. Do you manage your executive email, as well? That’s what’s your best. Like, if, if I’m an Assistant listening, and I, all of a sudden, I go from no email management of my executives email to hey, I need you to manage my email, what’s your first step?
Claudette Clayton 16:29
First step is cleaning up the noise. And that means getting rid of the things that that he does not need. So if you’re new to a role, and you really don’t know yet, or you’re trying to learn your boss’s schedule, who he should meet all those important things. First thing is get rid of the noise, all the the subscriptions, all of the spam, all of the weekly every every company sends you sometimes daily or weekly things, put those in separate folders, get rid of all the little things that you don’t need, so that you can focus on the things that he does mean, and you shouldn’t be making folders for for different situations like, again, sit in on those meetings, have those conversations, can you actually respond on his behalf on certain things. So people sometimes will email your executive directly for meeting requests. Those are things that you can take the initiative, and schedule or find out when this meeting needs to take place how urgent it is, you have to be proactive, honestly being productive. But definitely the first thing is getting rid of the noise, things that you don’t need to focus on so that you can focus on the things that you do need.
Jeremy Burrows 17:36
Yeah, I love that. The first day that I worked with my current executive, this was six and a half years ago or so. I remember sitting down and we hadn’t set up. We’re a startup company. So we had set up a company email yet. And so it was just his personal email. And he had like 13,000 unread emails. And I was like, Oh, my goodness. And so I look at it. And I was like here. And so I hit select all, in Gmail, or Google, hit Select All, and then I archive, everything. It’s just like there. And he goes, This is amazing. And I was just like, you can’t, we’re not going to spend time going through 13,000 emails, if it’s important, somebody will follow up. And we can always search it. You can always search and find it later. And
Claudette Clayton 18:26
do it in about a month. Obviously, it’s no longer needed anyway.
Jeremy Burrows 18:30
Exactly. Exactly. So cleaning up the noise. I love that. Awesome. Caught it. Well, what about software and automation? And all this talk about AI and chat? GPT. And you know, you mentioned there’s looking at a newspaper for a job when he first started. So obviously, things have changed. How have you adapted and embrace technology over the years?
Claudette Clayton 18:58
I love it. I know some assistants that don’t but I absolutely love it. I mean, go on to LinkedIn, they have so many free, free courses, go on YouTube, there’s so many free courses. The roll, as I said before, it has evolved and you need to evolve with it. You have to take the initiative, the only person that’s going to make you better is you and you have to take the initiative to learn some of these new skills.
Jeremy Burrows 19:31
What’s your favorite? In the last you know, several months what’s your favorite software or tool or little little trick that you’ve used with with technology?
Claudette Clayton 19:42
I love outlook. Like I said I have quick parts I have rules. You know, I use certain things that make my life easier. It’s just a love outlook. Love it.
Jeremy Burrows 19:54
And then do you have training or specific resource where you learn how to do all those things in Outlook, or is it? Is it LinkedIn, like you said, or is there other resources that you’ve used?
Claudette Clayton 20:08
I’ve used like I said, My favorites are definitely LinkedIn, and YouTube. And honestly, working with other assistants, because when someone has a problem, and they’re coming to you, and both of you are trying to figure it out, I have so many files, I put a booklet together, where all the tips and tricks that I have, working with other assistants has really, really elevated me to really want to do better. So that’s definitely another thing.
Jeremy Burrows 20:39
Awesome. Well, is there anything that you would like to say if you could go back in time to when you were looking for that first assistant job, and you’re starting that first assistant job at that law firm? What, what’s one thing that you would like to say to your young newbie assistant? Self?
Claudette Clayton 21:02
You know, be kind to yourself. Don’t take everything so literal. I mean, I think in this role, we are caretakers, right? We care about the people that we support, we want to do the best job that we can we all make mistakes. But don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re going to if you’re going to make mistakes, we all make mistakes, learn from it. Try not to do it again. But don’t be so hard on yourself. Honestly, the best advice I could give you, you have no idea how many times I’ve beat myself up over something where sometimes the boss doesn’t even as aggravated as you would think they are and you’re at yourself. Like, be kind to yourself. It’s important.
Jeremy Burrows 21:52
Awesome. Well, is there any any funny or just crazy stories that you can share from your time where you saved the day? Or were you almost you know, ruin the day or anything like that?
Claudette Clayton 22:10
Oh, wow, there? Oh, well, what’s what’s one, definitely, we’ve had some issues with travel, travel has definitely been one, I would say use those resources, again, time and date.com. Because if you are scheduling a meeting here in New York time, and you need to send your ball somewhere else, just make sure that the time is aligned. I remember why when I did my first international trip didn’t realize that, like 25 years ago, I was like, again. So obviously, that happened a very long time ago, but that was a woman and you just have to you know, just just do your homework research a little bit more learning curves, dealing with difficult personalities and just trying to deal with how to deal with them, having those tough conversations and making sure that you’re happy, where you’re working and who you’re working for. That’s always important, too. So
Jeremy Burrows 23:11
yeah, that’s a good good point. On that note, what’s maybe some advice to assistants listening who are really struggling to work with their executive, maybe their executives, a micromanager. Maybe they’re absent. Maybe they’re abusive and toxic. You know, whatever. The difficulty is, they’re having a really a real challenge with their executive. What do you what do you want to say to those listening who are having to deal with a difficult executive?
Claudette Clayton 23:44
I’ve had all of those. I once worked for a partner who was a micromanager and because of that she could not keep an assistant. And she actually got along really well. Because what I found was, she would ask you to do a task. And then she would proceed to tell you how to do that task. And I would sit there in her office and I would take these notes, and they would walk out of the office, and then I would complete the task. The point was, I never told her that I didn’t do it her way. I let her think I did it her way. But sometimes you just have to let them get it out talk and go in and do your job the way you feel it needs to be done. The bottom line is she asked for X, Y and Z and as long as you deliver it that it really doesn’t matter how you went about doing that. So take ownership and just sometimes ignore some of the fluffer and the difficult personalities. I have dealt with that as well. The throwers, the yellers, the screamers. It was not pleasant. And I would say you have to have some tough conversations with that executive, one with human resources to and if nothing changes, then you have to take a hard look at them. error and say, Do I really want to stay in this role? Is it worth my peace of mind? And if the answer is no, then you need to start making some sort of changes.
Jeremy Burrows 25:13
Yeah. That’s great. Well said caught out. Thank you so much for sharing your story and sharing some tips. For everyone listening again, the shownotes will be at leaderassistant.com/216. Is there anywhere that you would like people to reach out and say hi, if they’d like to use LinkedIn Okay, or
Claudette Clayton 25:32
Yes. And don’t ask me what it is.
Jeremy Burrows 25:36
I’ll put it in the show notes.
Claudette Clayton 25:38
Great. They can contact LinkedIn.
Jeremy Burrows 25:41
Perfect. Well, best of luck to you in your role, and thanks again for being on the show. It’s been it’s been fun chatting with you and hopefully I can get you down to Missouri someday. Perfect.
Unknown Speaker 26:04
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Unknown Speaker 26:13