Elijah D. Griffiths is a career executive assistant that has operated with chief of staff and senior advisor grit to c-suite staff for over 8 years.
Elijah (aka The EA Guru) chats about managing an executive’s inbox, networking, getting the respect we deserve, and more!
To remain as number 1, you’ll always need a number 2. I am your number 2!
– Elijah Griffiths
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Elijah D. Griffiths is a NYC/NJ based career executive assistant that has operated with chief of staff and senior advisor grit to c-suite staff for over 8 consecutive years. Elijah’s career as an EA began as the Executive Assistant to the Founding President and CEO of a for-profit international interpreting and translating agency based in Summit, New Jersey. In this role, Elijah’s passion and love for the EA work was born. To compliment his against the grain approach and passionate nature, Elijah was and still is currently leveraged to a much higher capacity of a traditional EA. He’s highly respected across industries and has earned the privilege and honor of being indispensable.
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Elijah Griffiths 0:00
Hi, I’m Elijah Deshawn Griffith and today’s leadership quote is to remain as number one, you’ll always need a number two, I am your number two.
Podcast Intro 0:13
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident, Game Changing leader assistant.
Unknown Speaker 0:23
And here’s your host, my dad.
Jeremy Burrows 0:27
Hey, friends, thanks for tuning in, just wanted to say happy holidays, hope you have a great end of the year. And a great start to 2021. My book, the Amazon Kindle version of that book, specifically, is still on sale until the end of December. So $3.49, you can grab the Kindle version of my book, the leader, Assistant, you can grab it at Amazon.leaderassistant.com. That’s Amazon.leaderassistant.com. And as always, I really appreciate your support. And I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year and everything else. A quick note about today’s interview. I recorded it back earlier this year. And I’m finally getting around to editing it and publishing it and sharing it with you all. So Elijah has had a few different career shifts, if you will. And so some of the roles that he talks about, he’s still doing and some of them, he has moved on to different things. So he’s got a lot going on as always, and I still really appreciated him sharing his insight. So I wanted to still publish the episode but just a heads up and his LinkedIn might look a little bit different than his intro. So hope you enjoy it nonetheless. And have a great day. Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast, your host Jeremy Burrows and today I am speaking with Elijah Griffiths he is the EAA to the CEO of Marion P. Thomas, charter schools in New Jersey, Elijah, how’s it going?
Elijah Griffiths 2:11
Everything’s going good. How are you Jeremy?
Jeremy Burrows 2:14
Dude, all right, man, dude. All right. And you are in New Jersey, right?
Elijah Griffiths 2:19
I am based in New Jersey, but my work spread throughout New York City.
Jeremy Burrows 2:24
Awesome. Tell us a little bit about kind of your role as EA to the CEO at Marian P Thomas. And then also you have a kind of an another little consulting gig as well tell us a little bit about that.
Elijah Griffiths 2:35
Yeah, so my role to the CEO of the maritimus charter school is being a strategic thought partner and advisor to my CEO. But outside of the traditional EAA duties, I’m really leveraged as a chief of staff. We are an organization that is people driven, primarily our scholars, we call them our students, we all reference as our scholars. So it’s really a great opportunity to do meaningful work. And to have some leverage in the impact of you know, vulnerable young children’s lives in our urban setting of New Jersey. I also do virtual EAA work for a higher education, nonprofit organization that creates pathways to meaningful and sustainable careers for the vulnerable and targeted collegiate students, primarily minorities. So I’m supporting three regional directors. So I’m pretty quite quiet right now with managing three regional directors in the consulting gig across multiple time zones plus holding down the four at the maritimus charter schools.
Jeremy Burrows 3:44
Wow. Yeah, definitely. A lot on your plate.
Elijah Griffiths 3:49
Yeah, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Jeremy Burrows 3:52
Awesome. So let’s let’s kind of get into your story a little bit. What was your very first job? And what did you learn in that role that you still use today with your several executives that you support?
Elijah Griffiths 4:04
So my very first job was somewhere in the fast food industry, I don’t remember if it was McDonald’s, or Wendy’s or Dunkin Donuts. However, I want to say the main skill that I used in my job, or that I acquired in this role would be my emotional intelligence. Executing emotional intelligence really helped me bridge the gap of communication and enabled me to be forward thinking, to give an example for the clientele or the customers who would come into the restaurant that were, let’s say, perhaps had a language barriers. If I knew exactly what they were trying to order based off the bits and pieces, they were feeding me I would then implement that emotional intelligence to propose and say, Hey, did you actually want this item on the menu and then gain satisfaction by them saying, Yes, this is what I want it.
Jeremy Burrows 4:55
What kind of propelled you into the world of being an assistant
Elijah Griffiths 5:00
I was actually thrown into the role. I always knew that I had leadership qualities and leadership traits. I went to undergrad to study business administration, like a lot of EAs. My first role somehow I was a part of this elite network. I don’t know how I got into it. But I was approached by the founding president and CEO of an international interpreting and translating company. She saw in me a distinctive set of skills that she wanted as her right hand, she wanted somebody who was persuasive as her company is for profit and client based, she wanted somebody that is a project taskmaster, somebody that who does not burn out. She also wanted somebody who could be visionary, and also be a visual en counterpart, someone to share their success. And let’s be for real sometimes the downfalls are the company. So she saw this in me, she threw me in the role, I was completely leveraged out of anything that I can think of. So that’s pretty much how I fell into this role. And I don’t plan on leaving the field.
Jeremy Burrows 6:12
So what do you love about the role, I love being
Elijah Griffiths 6:15
able to have a seat at the table. Now, having a seat at the table is something that is earned, you have to have that synergy to trust into and to develop the rapport with you and your executive. So having a seat at the table that ultimately leads to the productivity of meaningful work is something that is very important to me, as I spend more time at work than I do at home with my own family, I want to make sure that when I’m away, the work that I’m doing is meaningful. And then also, for me, the role of the executive assistant, what I really love, is the return on investment that EAS get when you are supporting the right executive within the right company, or organization.
Jeremy Burrows 7:00
Well talk a little bit about that ROI. What what do you see there that what’s the return.
Elijah Griffiths 7:06
So the return on investment, particularly for me, what I love the most, is being able to be placed on a platform. So it’s like a gift from your executive as you spend your life supporting them. They pour back into you by all of their stakeholders and counterparts, knowing that you are their right hand and that you get the work done. So with that being said, it gives you a platform, saying that this person does things efficiently and with fidelity. That platform I have specifically leveraged to build my own personal and professional brand. I call myself the EA Guru, I believe all EAS are gurus. But this is just a brand that I have leveraged and built for myself. And I’ve become indispensable and highly respected across industries, just from communicating with other top tier and top tier performing C level executives, dignitaries and civic leaders.
Jeremy Burrows 8:07
That’s awesome. I like the EAA guru.
Elijah Griffiths 8:10
Jeremy Burrows 8:12
So let’s, let’s take a minute to talk about maybe a more humbling topic. What was the what was the biggest mistake you made as an assistant? And what did you learn from it?
Elijah Griffiths 8:25
Wow. Okay. So while I thought this mistake that I made was small and minute, it was actually a really big deal. So in a thread of communications, via email, filled with dignitaries, and you know, other C suite executives that have pretty much celebrity status, I messed around and spelled an executives last name incorrectly. Now let me be specific here. It was spelled correctly alphabetically, but I missed this special character in this executives name. And that executive made a whole ordeal about it. And let’s face it, I get it. It’s a respecting you want to be addressed as your name. So for me doing that, you know, my CEO was embarrassed, but when he’s when he’s embarrassed, that just makes the entire org look bad. And it’s a direct reflection of me. So that minute mistake that I thought was minute was actually a really big thing. And it’s taught me to really, really spend more attention to detail to the things that I initially perceived to be as little or small.
Jeremy Burrows 9:35
Yeah, that’s good. So what about maybe one of the funniest or most interesting things that ever happened to you as an assistant?
Elijah Griffiths 9:45
So I would say this is the right combination of funny and interesting. But, so there was one instance, a crazy day in the office. I’m supporting my CEO who is extremely out outward facing. So majority of his time he’s spending on external affairs, you know, developing reports and relationships, we were hosting an external meeting in our office. And as my CEO is walking out of his office, you know, escorting one of his guests out of the office, he immediately thinks he’s walking, and he just hits the floor, face first, and pops back up like nothing happened. You can just imagine, all the other assistants and Administrative Professionals in the office are just screaming at the top of their lungs. And I’m just like, sitting there typing like, what’s going on. And so ultimately, what happened was, he did not really take too much of the best care for himself. He was not eating. He wasn’t taking, you know, the downtime that I did scheduled for him that I would constantly recommend him to do. And he just wasn’t following just basic needs for self care. I say that to say that it has really been a farming for me. And just a reminder for me that, okay, Elijah, as you hit the ground running and work as hard as your CEO, let this be a learning experience for you to make sure that you are taking some time for lunch, you know, don’t try to just always have lunch in your office and at the desk, because you’re not really taking a break. You’re just stuffing your face while you’re still working, which can make room for error. So it really just set a precedent in me that my self care time whether if it’s five minutes a day, 30 minutes or an hour, which we never get to take it.
Jeremy Burrows 11:29
Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. Wow. Hopefully, hopefully no more fainting going around.
Elijah Griffiths 11:36
Yeah, no, no, no.
Jeremy Burrows 11:39
What’s let’s talk about email. So what’s your number one tip for managing your executives inbox?
Elijah Griffiths 11:45
My number one tip would be whether to use G Suite or Outlook, whatever your fancy is, to create folders and apply rules. I would say to do this. So that way, when you start your day, you are not just generally starting from, okay, let’s see where I left off in a previous day and work my way up on the top of the inbox that is not effective, because you really spend too much time not addressing the high priority items. So for me, again, create folders, create rules create a system, to a specific tailored group of individuals who internally reach out to your executive, for deliverables. So let’s say there’s five people in the C suite that always reach out to executive don’t have their communications going to the general inbox, create a filter so that their emails go specifically to one place so that you check that first in the morning, before you filter through anything else.
Jeremy Burrows 12:43
That’s great. How about? Can I ask a two part question? The first part is, what would you encourage assistants to stop doing?
Elijah Griffiths 12:57
Great question, I would definitely encourage assistants to stop being a floor mat to anyone. With that being said, Don’t let people walk over you in your role. Our role is already perceived a certain type of way on TV films, drama, and books. So my thing is, don’t be a floormat demand the respect it should be given anyway.
Jeremy Burrows 13:23
Okay, so what about what would you encourage assistants to start doing?
Elijah Griffiths 13:29
I would highly encourage assistants to set a clear precedent from day one, whether it’s the first day on the job where if you realize that later on in your tenure as I did, you know, learning from my mistakes, to set a clear precedent that you are here as a as an extension of your CEO, and that you are a partner that you work with your CEO, not necessarily work for your CEO, to paint that trajectory that you are not the help as many people perceive us to be.
Jeremy Burrows 14:00
That’s great. So let’s say an assistant called you tomorrow, and they said they were not respected in their role. Yeah. Do you say to them?
Elijah Griffiths 14:14
Yeah, this is a really great one. So the great and mighty Phoenix Normand said to me in my cohort of New York City tribe members shout out to the tribe class of 2020. He said that how you’re being treated, is how you’re being perceived. So that immediately led me to dissect that quote. So I would say do a self analysis and reflection on yourself to see how you’re presenting yourself. are you presenting yourself as a highly respected ei Do you deserve that respect? So in your self analysis and reflection, if you find that you are representing yourself to the standard and expectation, then honey, it just might be time to jump ship it It might be time to jump ship and bring your talents and gifts to a new exec a new company in a new org. However, if you find that you are not representing yourself in the best way, then that is clear indication that you really need to make some adjustments internally. Yeah,
Jeremy Burrows 15:17
definitely. Yeah, as hard as it is, it’s easier to say, you know, jump ship, if you’re not being respected, but then it is to actually do it. But that’s, sometimes that’s the only thing you can do. Unfortunately,
Elijah Griffiths 15:31
it’s easier said than done. And I would say that, you know, if you see that you’re not being respected and you are representing yourself towards the expectation of the respect that you should be receiving, I would say work the system, you know, continue to be a rockstar in your current role, and work harder than ever, make yourself indispensable, and really let your light shine but at the same time, be just as aggressive in your job search and do it on the low. So when it comes the time to depart, do it, you know, within reasonable means and as respectful as possible, but leave setting a standard and a precedent and a legacy saying, Hey, you didn’t see me in this way in the beginning, or whatever the case may be. But now as I am departing, you’re really going to miss me and my awesomeness.
Jeremy Burrows 16:17
Yeah. Good stuff. What about if you could snap your fingers and instantly give all systems more of something? What would it be?
Elijah Griffiths 16:28
This is probably my favorite question so far. If I can give assistance, anything with this snap of my fingers, it would be competent, period. confidence, confidence, confidence.
Jeremy Burrows 16:40
So how do you recommend if somebody struggles with confidence? How do you kind of develop and build your own confidence?
Elijah Griffiths 16:52
For me, I really, I really had to, you know, believe in myself, I really had to spend time in the morning, and just turn everything off and turn the business of me on the business of me by you know, giving myself daily affirmations, looking in the mirror, telling myself that I do mean something I am powerful. I am a rock star II, I am a guru. And the work that I do is meaningful. So I think just really speaking into yourself is very powerful. I am a spiritual person. And I really believe that there is a lot of power and the things that we say.
Jeremy Burrows 17:31
Yeah, I agree. I think it’s important to kind of preach to yourself, if you will. It’s great. So I think another way to gain confidence is to kind of be around other assistants, and learn from other assistants. Do you have any tips for networking with other assistants?
Elijah Griffiths 17:52
Yeah, so and this has been something that I’ve been doing for the past six to seven months. And overdrive is networking with other assistants, I would say that going into networking events, and however you do interact with other assistants, to be yourself, don’t feel that you have to paint a picture, or come in with a custom tailored approach that will never feel holistic, natural or comfortable. Me I have an extremely huge personality. I’m an extrovert, and I would say extrovert times 1000. So I mean, when I do network with other assistants just me being myself is something that people really appreciate. And gel with and at the same time simultaneously. I see that other EAS are the same exact way as I am. So it just shows that I have a community that identifies with one one another and that we are the same and we do share alike.
Jeremy Burrows 18:52
Yeah, definitely. So what about growing new skills and developing yourself?
Elijah Griffiths 18:59
Yeah, so this is something that I like to do in my downtime, which is, you know, limited, but in my downtime, I do spend time doing it, brushing up on my skills, I do it virtually, and I don’t spend money on it. I do it completely for free. And I’m gonna give everybody a secret on how to do it. YouTube, YouTube is your best friend YouTube is my best friend. I know that, for example, if you’re dealing with raw data and you’re being asked or maybe you want to manage up to matriculate and disseminate data to will you create an interactive dashboard for your executive? Maybe spend 10 to 15 minutes on YouTube, just refreshing and brushing up on skills or maybe learning the skills on how to operate your latest spreadsheet software to yield you with these results.
Jeremy Burrows 19:51
Love it. Yeah, I think YouTube is such a powerful tool and if you want to learn to do something, and yeah, there’s there’s there’s Really no barrier to preventing you to learn and develop yourself.
Elijah Griffiths 20:06
The sky is truly the limit. Yeah, yeah.
Jeremy Burrows 20:11
So one of my favorite questions to ask is what makes an assistant a leader.
Elijah Griffiths 20:17
What makes an assistant a leader is I want to say an echo, what you just asked is clearly being a leader, you can’t be a follower in this role, you have to be super naturally, forward thinking, being extremely forward thinking makes you an appreciated leader. Also developing the advisory capacity in your role to your executive, it shows your executive that you can do more than the things that were laid out on a piece of paper to you in the form of a job requisition from HR. So that’s really important to have that skill and to acquire that go into again, before we’re thinking.
Jeremy Burrows 20:58
That’s awesome. What would you say to someone that really thinks, oh, I don’t know if I could advise my executive or, you know, I’ve, I’ve tried to and they weren’t receptive to it. How would you encourage someone listening to really step into that leadership skill?
Elijah Griffiths 21:14
I would say, Do not internalize and let your feelings get the best to you, I would say step out on faith, what is the worst that can happen from you bringing a record a recommendation to your executive or your boss. So worst that can happen is hey, they don’t agree with it. But literally step out on faith.
Jeremy Burrows 21:36
Love it, love it. Well, Elijah, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and really appreciate getting to know you a little bit. Where can we find you online? And how can we support what you’re up to?
Elijah Griffiths 21:49
Well, first, I want to say, Jeremy, thank you so much for the opportunity to be able to come and share and just have really meaningful moving conversation with you. I can easily be found on LinkedIn, LinkedIn is like my number one, you know, go to to find me to communicate with me. And to support what I’m doing. I would just really appreciate conversations literally just talk to me, and engaging in conversations with me. Word of mouth recommendations on the things that you like about me, or even just, again, talking to me to get no more apt to get to know more about me, is something that you can do to support me.
Jeremy Burrows 22:30
Awesome. Yeah, definitely encourage everyone. I’ll share your LinkedIn URL in the show notes so people can find you. And then yeah, Elijah, thanks so much. Keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully, we can meet in person soon. And I’m sure Yeah, I have to make that work. And then yeah, thanks so much.
Elijah Griffiths 22:51
Again, thank you so much for having me Jeremy. It’s truly been my pleasure.
Speaker 4 23:05
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