The attributes of a good assistant

So you know why you need a personal assistant and now you are asking yourself ‘what should I look for in a PA?’ Dawn Shrives provides the answer to the question ‘What does a good PA look like?’. 

I have put together ten key points of the skills and qualities that we think make a good and successful personal assistant. It is a guide or check list, if you like, before engaging with a PA, so you will know what you need to look for when making that decision.  

1 Excellent communication skills 

A good PA needs to have strong communication skills. Please bear with me, there is a lot to say about this particular skill, which is why it is one of our ten qualities of a truly great assistant.  

Your PA will need to be able to interact easily with you and anyone in the practice/business at every level. They must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with compassion, empathy and a focus on patient/client care.  

A PA should have awareness of the communication style required in any situation and adapt accordingly. 

Diplomacy is ‘the art of dealing with people sensitively and tactfully’, and is a key skill in this category. It is the ability to communicate with people in a way that considers their feelings – and their potential reaction – and being able to find common ground with anyone and everyone.  

They need to have the ability to solve problems, work well under pressure with calmness and courtesy and be able to clearly pass on information and instructions with confidence.  

They should be able to communicate both verbally and in writing, be confident and up to date with technology, and use it efficiently, especially in the world of remote and hybrid working.  

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2Strong organisational skills

A good PA needs to be highly organised and will keep on track with important details and tasks. This is a must-have skill for an effective PA, and multitasking will be one of their superpowers.  

They should be able to juggle multiple tasks and deadlines without getting overwhelmed. They are very much detailed-oriented and will bring order to chaos; being organised and organising others is what they love to do. Fact! 

3Flexibility and adaptability 

A good PA must be flexible and adaptable. They should be able to think on their feet and come up with quick and practical solutions when dealing with any last-minute changes.  

Knowing and understanding your schedule and work pattern will help enable them to work efficiently and proactively when dealing with unexpected challenges that do, and will, pop up.


A good PA must be resourceful; it is an instinctive ability that all great PAs need to have.  

They must be able to find information and resources and deal with unexpected changes quickly and successfully. 

The must be able to make the impossible possible by anticipating and taking action using all available resources to hand, while maintaining a calm and positive attitude – like a swan, cool and calm on the surface.

5Attention to detail 

A good PA must and will pay attention to detail. They will care about the quality and presentation of the work they produce, the service they give and the image that is perceived. 

A PA should be thorough in their work and double-check everything before sending it out and moving on. Attention to detail goes beyond proof-reading!  

Quality is key in everything a PA does, and they will ensure that everything is professional and reflects your practice/business.


A good PA needs to be able to show initiative, act quickly, confidently and not constantly wait for instructions.  

They need to be able to handle tasks independently and pro-actively and not have to be told what to do for every task. Of course, this is once they have settled into the role; even the most super of all PAs need to know their way around first.  

Being proactive and being able to pre-empt your needs is vital for a great PA, known in the trade as ‘supernatural anticipation’. 

They need to be receptive to new opportunities to help improve processes and procedures and have the confidence to adopt new ways of working to support you and your objectives for your practice/business.  

To help with speed and decisiveness, make sure they have all the information they need beforehand, so they can act quickly without having to wait for you to be available for clarity or permission.  


A good PA is reliable and a reliable PA is worth their weight in gold. Knowing that a PA is conscientious and reliable allows you to hand over work and focus on your key tasks, confident in the knowledge that it will be done and done well.  

8Discretion and loyalty 

A good PA must show discretion and professionalism at all times. They will know and understand the importance of confidentiality and know that they are privy to all kinds of personal and confidential information and matters.  

Discretion is a fundamental must-have skill, coupled with trustworthiness and reliability, and should be demonstrated in all communications at all times.


A good PA needs to be resilient. Situations change constantly and PAs are often faced with changing and challenging situations, relying on their self-confidence and resilience to bounce back from worst-case scenarios.

And saving the best to last……

10A good sense of humour 

A good PA will have a good sense of humour. This, of course, is not a skill, but is probably the greatest asset any PA can have.   

There is a lot of pressure for a PA to constantly operate at the highest level of business and so the ability to smile and laugh through the most challenging times, to crack a joke to help shift the focus when tension arises, is priceless, good for the soul and great for your abs! 

So, there you have it. Great PAs possess a unique blend of a multitude of skills and talents, allowing them to take on virtually, in every sense of the word, any task that comes their way.  

If you can find someone with all these qualities, you are on your way to finding an excellent PA who is practically perfect in every way – a real-life Mary Poppins of the remote/on-site office world.

Dawn Shrives (right) is the director of Business Admin Services. Website: