Best Practices in HR

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Emil Shour
  November 5, 2018

23 Books Every Executive Assistant Should Read

Executive Assistants (EAs) looking to boost their careers and refine on-the-job skills can find everything they need and more in this carefully curated list of Executive Assistant books. We classified the books according to the skills most critical to an Executive Assistant’s success.

Many of these book suggestions came straight from our Facebook group for Executive Assistants! See what nuggets of wisdom our community has to offer and jump into the conversation.  

Books that cultivate resourcefulness

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to expand their abilities by cultivating a growth mindset.

Review:  Here’s what one person had to say in their Amazon customer review:

“Those with a Growth Mindset believe that our capacity can be developed, embrace challenge, persist in spite of difficulties, understand that effort is the path to mastery, learn from criticism and are inspired by the success of others. The result? A higher level of achievement.”

Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to be agile and resourceful in their approach to solving problems and pursuing opportunities.

Review: Here’s what one person had to say in their Amazon customer review:

“Even if you’re not starting a business – a common buzzword in corporate America today is an “entrepreneurial mindset” – and this does it. You’d be surprised how many veteran CEO’s in Fortune 500 companies have lost sight of core principles and cannot understand why their business flounders. Take the lessons Brodsky gives and figure out how to apply it on the job, and you will get noticed.”

Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by Scott Sonenshein


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to use a framework of resourcefulness to succeed within given constraints.

Quote:  “Once you learn how to embrace and expand on the untapped power right in front of you, you’ll unlock exciting possibilities to achieve more than you ever imagined.”

Review: Here’s what one person had to say in their Amazon customer review:

“This book is an absolute gem that combines solid research and riveting stories to teach us about resourcefulness and the importance of stretching; that is, cultivating the possibilities of resources we already have. In a world that encourages us to go after what we don’t have, or to wait to take action until resources are in place, Stretch offers a powerful antidote and life affirming alternative to ‘chasing’ after more resources.”


Books about staying calm under pressure 

Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s On by Sharon Melnick

Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure's On

What Executive Assistants will take away:  Strategies to get through stress in any situation.

Review: “The ability to get greater results and preserve well-being amidst change and challenge is the defining skill set of our times. Read this book—it is packed with life-changing insights and practical tools to put you in control of your own success.”

— Marshall Goldsmith, New York Times bestselling author of MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

End of Stress: Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain by Don Joseph Goewey


What Executive Assistants will take away: Ways they can rewire chaotic thoughts into success-minded thoughts.

Quote: “These steps build the awareness that opens the door to choice and defines the choices that shift your experience from stress to peace.”


Books about big-picture thinking  

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters by Richard Rumelt


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to develop strategies that reject meaningless fluff and buzzwords and focus on what’s truly important in accomplishing goals.

Review: Here’s one of the most promising Amazon customer reviews touting the book’s ability to teach the difference between meaningless and meaningful strategies.

“A good strategy has a kernel consisting of three elements: a diagnosis of the problems being faced, a guiding policy for dealing with the obstacles identified in the diagnosis, and coherent actions designed to carry out the guiding policy. Bad strategy often consists of goal-setting without solving any problems or creating a method of achieving the goals other than by exhorting people to try harder.”

Business Strategy: A Guide to Effective Decision-Making (The Economist Books) by Jeremy Kourdi


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to understand and implement effective long-term strategies.

Quote: “An inspired and clearly considered strategy provides the impetus for commercial success, whereas a weak or misunderstood strategy may lead to a company going out of business.”


Books about prioritization

First Things First by Stephen R. Covey


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to calmly prioritize and get truly important things done.

Quote: “Urgency addiction is a self-destructive behavior that temporarily fills the void created by unmet needs. And instead of meeting these needs, the tools and approaches of time management often feed the addiction. They keep us focused on daily prioritization of the urgent.”

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy


What Executive Assistants will take away: Ways to overcome procrastination and get priority to-do items done.

Review: “Eat That Frog! is my favourite book on productivity, and I often find myself rereading it in January to remind myself of the disciplines and practices I’d like to follow in the coming year. Each time I read the book, I find new nuggets of productivity gold.”

—Liz Gooster, Change for the Better


Books about cultivating good judgment

The Foundations of Mindfulness: How to Cultivate Attention, Good Judgment, and Tranquility by Eric Harrison


What Executive Assistants will take away: The mindful judgement skills to determine right from wrong and worthwhile from useless.

Quote: “To be more precise, Sati means the kind of purposeful attention that can discriminate good and bad, right and wrong, useful and useless in any situation.”


Books about organization

One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good by Regina Leeds


What Executive Assistants will take away: Time management and organization skills that work almost as well as actually getting more time in a day.

Review: Here’s a quote from the one of the book’s most promising  Amazon customer reviews:

“One Year to an Organized Work Life leads readers through a 12-month plan for eliminating the workplace stress caused by disorganization. Each chapter introduces an important component of the organizational process for the month — from making the most of your office space to dealing with priorities — then breaks it down into four weeks of actionable steps.”

The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to keep their minds on track in the midst of modern pressures to multitask, process showers of information, and deal with constant distractions.

Quote:  “The most fundamental principle of the organized mind, the one most critical to keeping us from forgetting or losing things, is to shift the burden of organizing from our brains to the external world.”


Books about multitasking and productivity

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less by Greg McKeown


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to let go of things that don’t truly matter and focus only on things that contribute to major priorities.

Review: “Essentialism holds the keys to solving one of the great puzzles of life: how can we do less but accomplish more? A timely, essential read for anyone who feels overcommitted, overloaded, or overworked—in other words, everyone. It has already changed the way that I think about my own priorities, and if more leaders embraced this philosophy, our jobs and our lives would be less stressful and more productive. So drop what you’re doing and read it..”

—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take


Books about emotional intelligence

The Other Kind of Smart by Harvey Deutschendorf


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to unlock true emotional intelligence and build better relationships.

Review: Here’s what one reader had to say in their Amazon customer review:

“There’s tons of books that can help you understand the importance of emotional intelligence. However, I haven’t found any that are as helpful as The Other Kind of Smart. The author does a great job of delivering short, compelling chapters that are filled with real world examples and stories that anyone can relate to. If you’re interested in helping the leaders in your organization improve their ability to inspire and motivate their team I highly recommend this book. Not only will they enjoy the read, it will actually lead to a change in behavior.”

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to effectively deal with their own emotions and the emotions of others.

Quote: “The biggest obstacle to increasing your self-awareness is the tendency to avoid the discomfort that comes from seeing yourself as you really are.”

Review: Here’s a quote from one reader’s Amazon customer review:

“One of my favorite things about this book is that it is always relevant, and is one that can be referenced, read time and time again, and is incredibly valuable to the aspiring professional or the emotionally inept.”


Books about communication skills

The Art of Connection by Michael J. Gelb


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to form deeper connections with everyone they encounter.

Review: Here’s one reader’s  five-star Amazon customer review:

“This is a masterful examination of the all important ways in which we make and maintain meaningful connections in our personal and professional lives. Written by an authority in the field, the book should be a godsend to coaches, managers, teachers, military leaders, CEO’s and anyone else who wishes to maximize the potential of team effort anywhere. It is written in a highly accessible way with wonderful and insightful anecdotes and examples. First rate!”

Messages: The Communication Skills Book by Matthew McKay and Martha Davis


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to become master communicators.

Quote: “Rather than building your self-esteem on being right, you might reform your picture of yourself into that of one who, above all, wants to find the truth. Listening”

Books to cultivate decisiveness

Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to make logical decisions without bias.

Quote: “The researchers have found, in essence, that our advice to others tends to hinge on the single most important factor, while our own thinking flits among many variables. When we think of our friends, we see the forest. When we think of ourselves, we get stuck in the trees.”

The Decision Book by Mikael Krogerus


What Executive Assistants will take away: Proven decision-making strategies they can apply to any situation.

Quote: “Ask yourself: When will I deal with the things that are important, but not urgent? When will I take the time to deal with important tasks before they become urgent?”


Books about having a thick skin and a sense of humor  

Thick Skinned by Claude Hamilton


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to stop worrying about what others think and start making decisions for themselves.

Review:  Here’s one reader’s five-star Amazon customer review:

“This book totally changed my perspective! It helped me realized I don’t need to be the people I look up to, but rather that I need to learn from them and apply that thinking to my gifts and talents to become the leader I have been called to be. I am looking forward to applying the principles in this book to help me grow my leadership!”

The Champion Mindset by Joanna Zeiger


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to cultivate the mental preparation necessary to succeed in any task.

Review: Here’s a quote from a promising five-star Amazon customer review:

“I’m not athletic. The only marathons I can do involve Netflix or reading. But I still found this book useful, not just for the tools to get more physically fit, but also to help me train to kick my own butt. I need the mental discipline, even if climbing up a few flights of stairs leaves me winded. I was able to use this book to help my self-disciplinary skills, and to push through the various “walls” and obstacles that plague the idle or lazy mind. Even if you’re not an athlete, you can still be a Champion…with the right mindset.”


Books for leaders

Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to be a true leader by treating everyone with respect and caring.

Quote: “This is a story about the power and impact of “truly human” leadership. It is about bringing our deepest sense of right, authentic caring, and high ideals to business. It is about achieving success beyond success, measured in the flourishing of human lives.”

Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace by Christine Porath


What Executive Assistants will take away: How to exert and expand influence by treating everyone with kindness and consideration.

Review: Here’s a five-star Amazon customer review:

 “This is needed in today’s workplace. Practical application ideas. It reminded me to pay attention to the basics — because they do make a difference. It also made me aware of how draining it is to be on the receiving end of incivility.”

Which must-read books have helped you improve in your career as an Executive Assistant? We want to know! Share your favorite reads in the comments below.

P.S. Many of these book suggestions came straight from our Facebook group for Executive Assistants! See what nuggets of wisdom our community has to offer and jump into the conversation.