Meeting Rhythms for Executives and Executive Assistants

A guide of recommended meetings to cultivate a truly strategic partnership.

As an EA, I know the importance of prioritizing meetings with your executive. Whether they occur daily, weekly, or monthly, your meetings serve a specific purpose and offer numerous opportunities for collaboration, growth, and improvement.

The different types of meetings

It is important to note that an executive and an EA can have several different types of meetings. Let’s explore these meetings based on the general frequency of occurrence - Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Annually.

Daily meetings: “Daily Touch Base”

Daily meetings should be anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. These meetings should be a time where the two of you can discuss to-dos, status updates, priority shifts, or anything else that is upcoming on the agenda or calendar. A good thing to remember about these meetings is that they don’t necessarily have to be in-person; they can be over the phone or via video calls. I would highly recommend taking advantage of any screen-sharing options to help make these meetings as effective as possible.

While Don and I were regularly able to have our daily meetings (we called them “daily touch base”), there were days when we just couldn’t fit it in or make it work. On those days, my “End of Day (EOD)” summary would typically be longer and more detailed. This was a helpful alternative because I still had the opportunity to send out updates, FYIs, tasks, calendar items, and even ask some questions.

I completely understand that, in some work scenarios, it isn’t always feasible (or necessary) to have a meeting every single day. In my current role supporting multiple executives, we often only meet once or twice a week. When you meet less frequently, I would recommend being intentional with the timing of your meetings. For instance, if you only meet twice a week, space the meetings strategically apart - maybe one on Monday and one on Thursday. If you only meet once a week, consider meeting around mid-week, maybe Tuesday afternoons or Wednesday mornings.

Whatever the frequency you choose for your “touch base” meetings, they can be a great way to get questions answered, relay information efficiently, and keep things moving forward.

Weekly Meetings: “Weekly Kickoff”

Weekly meetings should take place at the beginning of the week (Don and I would meet on Monday morning). You can view these meetings almost as “kickoffs” for each week, a time where you and your executive can review the week’s priorities. Be sure to clarify specifics or details and to get on the same page with your executive. These meetings can clock in anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. They should be roughly twice as long as your daily meetings since you should be covering the entire week versus just one day.

In general, you won’t want to cover the same things you cover in your daily meetings. Sometimes during these weekly meetings, Don and I would realize that we weren’t on the same page on a particular item. However, because we had adequate time together to review the week’s priorities , we could adjust our course and ensure we were in sync moving forward. This “weekly kickoff” meeting can save both of you a lot of time. It can also help ensure that when you get to the end of the week, the things that needed to be done got done, the highest priority items got the most attention, and nothing fell through the cracks.

Monthly Meetings: “One-on-One” and “Monthly Planning”

Monthly meetings should have a very different feel from any of the other meetings that we have discussed so far. The “Monthly Planning” meeting reviews each week of the month and looks at things like PTO, travel, upcoming larger events, or meetings. If you are just planning at a weekly level, you might miss that two weeks from now, one of you has three days of PTO. The time each month planning ahead can save you from having a crazy day or two before a big meeting or before leaving on PTO.

The monthly “One-on-One” meeting is for you as the EA. Instead of planning and organizing being the primary goal, the purpose of this monthly meeting should be to discuss your role as EA. You should be looking for feedback, and your development as an executive assistant should be the focus. Additionally, I would recommend discussing your processes, systems, and methods. See if any improvements need to be made, both on your end and your executive’s. These meetings would ideally occur monthly, but if they don’t happen every two months (or at the very least, quarterly), you should discuss with your executive the possibility of prioritizing a meeting like this more often. Don’t be okay with just having this discussion at an annual review once a year. These One-on-One meetings don’t have to last long; typically they’re in the range of 45 to 60 minutes. They won’t be the longest meetings that you and your executive have, but they do need to be long enough for your executive to offer you some constructive criticism and, hopefully, even some praise. Be ready to steer these meetings. It is very easy to go from giving feedback on a project to discussing and planning that project! If the conversation becomes tactical in nature, remember to politely ask if you can continue the project discussion at your weekly meeting.

Annual Meetings: “Annual Planning” and “Annual Review”

The “Annual Planning” meeting should take 60 to 90 minutes. During this time, you should be looking at the next year and making sure there are placeholders for things like summer vacation, spring break trips, the company retreat, budgeting, etc. Getting these items on the calendar can help give an overview of different milestones throughout the year. When Don and I started putting these items on his calendar at the beginning of the year, it helped us be more aware of what was coming up and eliminated a lot of scrambling that we had experienced in the past.

The “Annual Review” meetings should also be roughly 60 to 90 minutes long. These will probably correspond with your HR calendar for annual reviews. You should use this time to go over any prior feedback you may have been given to see how you have improved and identify any potential areas that still need improvement. Hopefully, everything discussed should be old news to you, as you’ve been getting monthly or quarterly feedback throughout the year.

The importance of meeting rhythms

If you try to “touch base” whenever you can, plan things when time permits, or wait for feedback until there is open time… you’ll find yourself constantly waiting. By getting these meetings on the calendar, you’re intentional about your time and approach to work. Things are less likely to sneak up on either of you, and you’ll be better prepared for all facets of your demanding role. Make it a priority to get the meeting rhythms that are right for you and your strategic partner on the calendar, and then work to have the discipline to ensure they happen.

Don’s Thoughts

Don HarmsIt took Kristie and me a couple of tries to get our meeting rhythms figured out, but once we did, it was incredibly helpful. It was easy for me to feel too busy or for other meetings to get scheduled over my meetings with Kristie, but Kristie always did a great job ensuring that we had consistent meetings together.. I remember that sometimes she would say, “I think we are good and it is okay if we miss this meeting.” Other times she would say, “There is too much going on to miss this meeting, so I’ll reschedule it for later today or later this week.” Either way, I trusted that if the meeting was rescheduled, we needed to have it.

As Kristie said, each of these meetings serves a purpose. The “daily touch base” helped me keep Kristie in the loop on important things. Just talking for 15 minutes made the day go so much smoother. Often, these meetings took place while I was driving into the office or to a meeting. Our “weekly planning” was critical for prioritizing the week. I always felt our weeks were more productive because of these meetings. Our “monthly planning” helped avoid many disasters or conflicts with PTO or travel, and our “annual planning” helped to make sure that we didn’t have too much going on at one time and that we both took vacations!

Executives - I can’t tell you enough how important it is for you to have the “one-on-one” meetings with your executive assistant and for you to make those meetings all about giving feedback to your EA. They want to know the things they can do better, but make sure you also let them know all the amazing things they are doing and the things that are working really well. Not only will that feedback be very helpful, rewarding, and encouraging for your assistant, but it will also reinforce the things that you appreciate and help ensure those things keep happening.

Meetings make up a very crucial aspect of the working relationship between you, as the EA, and your executive. Not only do these meetings help keep you in sync with your executive, but they are also essential for maximizing your partnership. It could take a while to find a comfortable rhythm with your executive, but I assure you that it will be worth it!

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