9 Critical Ways Agents Sabotage Their Executive Assistants

We all want to be set up for success, but sometimes those pesky agents just wind up shooting us in the foot. They don’t set out to cripple us, and yet at times they do. Here are nine ways your agents may be sabotaging you, and how you can bounce back.

1. Expect the Executive Assistant to Train Themselves

This is actually a pet peeve of mine. There’s nothing worse than an agent who hires an EA and then expects her to bring order to both himself and his business in the first 90 days. The solution is to keep asking your agent to show you how. When he asks you to do something, you can say, “I haven’t been trained on how to do that, when can you set aside an hour to show me?” If he doesn’t know how, ask another EA. Any EA. She can either show you how, or point you in the direction of where to get training.

I myself offer a training course for assistants that you can check out here.

2. Don’t Prepare the Clients for the Hand-Off

It’s no fun to call a client to inform them of something just to have them ask, “Now who are you again?”

You can help your agents overcome this by setting up your first call script. This should include all the critical information you want to cover with the clients such as, do they have plans for going out of town at any point between now and closing, will they be able to attend the closing, and what the immediate next step entails.

Once you have this script, go over it with your agents. Let them know it’s their job to tee up the phone call for you by giving your agents this script, “Now that we’re under contract, my contract manager Jane will be calling your cell phone at some point before 10:00 AM tomorrow. She’s going to go over what happens next so that you will know exactly what to expect from now until closing. She’s going to make sure you and I don’t miss any deadlines. How does that sound? Great! Let me give you Jane’s phone number so you can put her in your phone and you can take her call tomorrow. Ready? [takes down number] Very good then! Jane will take great care of you and I’ll talk to you again real soon. Goodbye.”

Then, before you make that call to the client, you can ask your agent if they’ve had this conversation. If not, ask them to do it, give them a deadline, and ask them to tell you when they’ve done it. Now you can call the clients. This will eventually become a habit for them, and you won’t have to ask if they’ve done it yet.

3. Don’t Turn in Completed Paperwork

We all know that when agents give you incomplete paperwork, it takes extra time to chase down the appropriate parties to the get the signatures needed. It’s just so much easier to get it right first.

To fix this, you have a few options.

You can fill out the paperwork yourself. When it was just me and one agent, I filled out all his listing contracts, and I prepared all his buyer offers. I even asked him to text me on weekends if he needed me to write an offer for his buyer. It took me way less time to write a clean offer than to fix a messy one. When the team grow though, it becomes very difficult to keep doing this.

Which brings us to option two which is to refuse to accept incomplete paperwork. This one’s a little harsh, and you’ll have to decide what the standard is for “complete.” You may decide it’s not worth handing back to an agent if just one signature is missing. But if the contract is a complete mess, it’s time to have training session with that agent to improve her contract writing skills.

Of course, the third option is to accept the contract with a smile, congratulate the agent on getting another contract, and take care of yourself without complaining. It will get done faster if you do it yourself and you’re practically guaranteed excellent results!

4. Don’t Keep Track of and Turn in Their Numbers

Generally agents dislike keeping track of things and being held accountable. They don’t like to be told they suck, so they think if they don’t turn in their numbers then there’s nothing to prove how much they suck. Except that they’re not making any money, because they aren’t making calls, setting appointments, and converting business. All of which the numbers would show in black and white.

The hardest thing for agents to track is calls. You can try to get their cooperation by making a game out of it. Move one marble from the Today’s Calls jar into the Calls Made jar. Or, start with 20 M&M’s and the agent gets to eat one with every call. And of course, they have to sit there until there’s no more marbles or M&M’s. No joke. Find the game that works and set them up with it.

You could also ignore the calls, and have them report appointments. This is a little easier, especially if you have a shared calendar where you can see their appointments every week. Now it’s a simple matter of a weekly review.

I also like to track contracts written. We have a white board and we set 12 week goals for contracts written. Let’s say the goal for the next 12 weeks is to write 40 contracts as a team. I print 40 little black houses on 3×3 sticky notes and put them all on the left side of the goal board. Then I write the week numbers 1 through 12 in a column down the middle. Across the top goes the agent’s name. Each week, whomever writes a contract gets to move a sticky note to that week under their name. And now I know who’s writing contracts and when. I don’t have to depend on the agents to do this. I know when we get a new contract and this is an easy, visual way of tracking the numbers.

5. Expect Everything to Take Five Minutes

I don’t know what world some of our agents are living in, but in my world, there are very few things that only take five minutes. So when I have five listings coming on the market in the same day, it’s an all-day affair. Agents tend to lose sight of how long administrative work takes because since they handed everything over to you, they just know that they ask for stuff and it gets done. Their perception is that it only took five minutes.

To combat this, it’s imperative that you ask for the deadline when you’re handed a new assignment. If I’m asked to send listing contracts to a client through DotLoop, I ask, “When did you promise this to the client?” It could be that the client is leaving for vacation tomorrow so they wanted to be able to sign it online tonight. It could be that they want to wait until they get back from vacation to sign. Either way, this is really good information to know! So I always ask.

Rarely is the answer “right now”. But if it is, you have the opportunity to respond with, “Great, it will take me 30 minutes to put all this together. I’ll let you know when I’m done.” And of course, I always over-estimate so that I’m sure to hit or beat my target time.

6. Don’t Relay Client Conversations to the Executive Assistant

This goes along with not preparing the client for the hand-off. It’s really embarrassing when you call a client to give them information, and they tell you they already spoke to the agent about it.

The easiest way to get around this ask your agents for a five minute meeting every morning where they go through their phone and tell you who they talked to. If your agents don’t mind texting you after they get off the phone with a client or co-op agent, that’s even better. But just starting your day know who said what will really go a long way in helping you with your communication.

7. Ask the Executive Assistant to Create a System and Then Don’t Follow the System

How frustrating is that?

It happens because the agents quite simply forget what the new system is. You know it by heart because you created it. And it seems so simple in your mind. But the agents have barely had time to learn the new system let alone make it a habit of using the new system.

So go easy on your agents for this one. Gently remind them of the new system. Maybe create a visual print-out for them that they can post near their desk to help them remember. Over time, they’ll get it.

8. Don’t Document Standards and Forget What to Hold the Team Accountable To

I have certainly learned my lesson on this one!

When creating a team, it’s very important to have standards. Which is simply a way of operating. Some of your standards might include things like, contracts submitted to the transaction coordinator will be reviewed and first call to client made by 10:00 AM the next business day. Or, buyer agents will call leads with phone numbers within five minutes of receiving the lead.

It doesn’t matter what your standards are. What matters is that they are written down and that everyone on the team upholds the standard.

Without standards, your agent is sabotaging the whole team including herself!

9. Try to Do All the Executive Assistant’s Job While the EA Is on Vacation

When I first started working for Ron, I didn’t really know how to tell him this. I was about to go on vacation and he said, “well I’ll just turn in all the paperwork for file compliance and such while you’re gone.”

After telling him several times that I just wanted him to do the bare minimum and leave the rest for me, he still wasn’t getting it. He thought I wouldn’t want to come back from vacation to a pile of work sitting on my desk.

What I finally had to tell him was, “Look, I’m afraid you won’t do it right, or that you’ll mess up the system I’ve created for handling paperwork. So it’s going to be way easier for me to process a pile of work from scratch than it is to go back and figure out what you did or didn’t do and fix your mistakes. So just do the bare minimum to get by and I’ll handle everything when I get back.”

Funny thing is, when it finally sunk in that I wasn’t giving my job back to him for a week, he was relieved!

Definitely have this conversation with your agents and write it into your standards. What is expected of the agents while you are on vacation. What should they handle themselves and what can they leave for you? People are much happier when they have a plan in place!


I hope you’ll share this list with your agent(s) if you feel like your agents are sabotaging your efforts to succeed. These are the conversations that will help you all grow as a team and really do your best work.

If you’ve been sabotaged by your agents in other ways, I’d love to know! I may have some suggestions for you. Comment on this post, or email me – egilbert@kw.com

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