Harnessing the power of an EA


Richard Amato, Executive General Manager of Enerven, and runner-up for Boss of the Year at the 2018 Executive PA Awards, gives a boss’s perspective on what makes a truly brilliant EA

Describe your role at Enerven, and how you came to be there.

I run the business, my role is to define the strategy, ensure that we continue to find new opportunities to grow and deliver them in a safe and efficient manner. I have a finance background. I’ve always been involved in large-scale construction companies, starting as a project accountant, through to division accountant, moving up to program directors and then moved industries from construction to wine making.

I joined SA Power Networks in 2003. When I started, we embarked on establishing a commercial arm. We had to market ourselves to be able to exist in a competitive environment, so instead of being a partner of SA Power Networks, we are now a wholly owned subsidiary, re-branded ourselves, and gone out on our own.

What do you believe are the qualities that make up a good boss?

I think you need to get good people around you. I don’t see my role as having all the answers. I invest a lot of time in my people and the development of them to make sure that we’re not just bringing in individual guns, but we’re bringing people that can work, and share diverse views. Diversity is really important to me, and how we reach that diversity. It lets me tap my team’s true potential.

How do you establish diversity in your organisation?

The business historically had a lot of people that had come from the business world, with a very similar background, thinking and knowledge. All good people, but we needed to bring in fresh ideas and the only way I was going to do that is to recruit for diversity. So that was a fundamental element when we restructured and set Enerven up. We built the leadership team to compliment the already excellent workforce we had, and really to bring that challenge, experience and diversity of thinking.

Can you describe your past experience with EAs?

I’ve had EAs before, but to be honest I’ve always been quite independent. I’ve found them very helpful, but I wouldn’t say I overly relied on them. However, our business has doubled in size in the last two to three years, we’ve gone from 250 people to 520.

When we were looking at the restructure, my team were telling me that I needed a good EA. We wanted the EA to help build our brand, as they are the main person that has access to me and the things that come into my office and out of my office – it’s a critical role.

It was a very interesting process, when I was interviewing the shortlisted candidates. I said to them, “I know you both can do the job, that’s why you’re here. It’s all about how you’re going to work with me.”

I had a moment when I thought to myself, if I’m going to get the most out of the relationship, I need to invest in it as well. I had quite a shift in my thinking, and my relationships. Access to full email, that’s really entrusting someone to make decisions on my behalf. I’ve been sharing them for a year and a half now and I’ll never look back. It’s really opened my eyes to the value of what the EA does, and what they can provide.

“EAs want to be included more, they want to be able to add more value, because they can.
They’re in a very unique position, they get to see everything that’s going
on in the business”

How do you see your partnership with your current EA, Zoe Smith?

In the interview I asked Zoe, “where hasn’t it worked for you?” She told me that her last boss didn’t give her access to emails, and really didn’t see where she wanted to add value. I asked the question, “how are you going to go when I don’t give you my emails? Because I’m independent. How are you going to survive all day here?”

She said, “give me a little task to do and I’ll do it. Then you give me another one and I’ll do it. Within no time you’ll be giving me your best work, you won’t be worrying about whether you should.” I thought that was a fantastic answer! For me that was the moment when I said to myself this is an investment from me. They can’t do it on their own, and I think that’s where a lot of EAs get frustrated. They want to be included more, they want to be able to add more value, because they can. They’re in a very unique position, they get to see everything that’s going on in the business.

Zoe is my eyes and ears around the workplace. She sees things, hears things and observes things that I won’t be seeing, or hearing, or noticing. She genuinely loves her job. I’ve seen other people start as EAs and use that as a stepping stone to get into other roles. Zoe started an EA and she will finish an EA.

Richard Amato is a Runner-Up for our 2018 Executive PA Awards Boss of the Year category. Nominations are now open for the 2019 Executive PA Awards, which take place at Doltone House Hyde Park Sydney, on 5 September. Nominate your boss, employer, colleague or yourself here.