Guest Post by Dan Mathews
Office administrators are often underappreciated. Office administration is typically a high-visibility role involving multitasking efforts and constant use of people skills. Additionally, most office administrators need to be even more organized than the C-suite executives they serve. Offices don’t run smoothly without administrators, and their soft skills hold the key to helping them remain the glue that holds office functionality together.
Specifically, according to Fiscal Tiger, a soft skill is “a skill someone may have that is less rooted in a person’s education or training, and more rooted in their personality and ability to work within a company.”
The ability to listen, respond, and empathize are soft skills crucial to the success of office administrators. If you’re an office administrator or responsible for providing opportunities for administrators to increase their professional skills, you may wish to focus on a few core soft skills: team building, perseverance, and self-management.
Team Building and Leadership Skills
As the organizer of many office tasks and potentially the leader of administrative assistants, the office administrator should take opportunities to learn team-building and leadership skills.
Team building specifically involves valuing each person’s strengths and contributions while working together as a unit. Team-building activities look past basic, in-the-office icebreaker activities and present employees with an engaging way to discover and utilize the skills of individuals on the team.
You can learn these through traditional means, like leadership seminars and online courses, or you can create an opportunity to learn by doing, using more creative activities. As the person in charge of organizing such an activity, the office administratoralready has a leadership position as the distributor of all relevant activity information.
Once they’re at the activity, it’s time for them to take charge. Here two less conventional examples of team-building activities:
Escape room scenarios: Escape rooms provide a challenge for your team. Working together, your group must escape a particular scenario. Most escape rooms involve finding keys and codes, solving puzzles, solving problems and analyzing critical information. In this type of situation, the office administrator can continue their role as organizer, clearing a space for team members to gather and present all clues and information. They’ll find that team members are puzzle-solvers, finders and big ideas people, and all are required to escape most rooms. Administrators can provide direction to the teams, making best use of their skills and talents.
Small event planning: Most office administrators already coordinate travel and events for others in the office. What if they had the opportunity to coordinate something less fun and less conventional? Consider a scavenger hunt at a zoo or art museum. In addition to harnessing an administrator’s leadership skills, they’ll use other soft skills in putting this together, such as communication, critical thinking, and research.
Developing a persistent work ethic is one thing; persevering in a difficult task is another. For most office administrators, many tasks involve buy-in from one or more stakeholders. It’s hard to organize a company meeting if two executives consistently ignore calendar invitations, for example.
Being tactful, polite, and persistent is a critical skill for many office administrators, and it’s one that tries patience. For this reason, perseverance is one of the top skills cultivated in IT programmers, and it’s a transferable skill essential for office administrators.
You can tackle everything from software issues to personnel problems with the view that each issue is a problem to solve persistently. If four executives are asking about confirmation for a meeting, it might be useful to point out that you’re simply waiting on an okay from the fifth executive; if you can’t figure out that complicated mail merge, maybe you could enlist the help of an IT pro in another department in exchange for some tedious data entry work.
Each problem is simply another challenge to overcome. You can even think of it as a video game: you’re “leveling up” in your skills and in your domain.
Self-Management and Self-Direction
When you’re working for someone else, it’s sometimes difficult to understand the importance of self-direction. However, when you’re in charge of organizing just about everything that keeps the office running smoothly, you’ll soon realize you’re not only in charge of others’ ability to keep on track, but also your own.
From simple tasks like checking to ensure the office supply stock is full on a bi-weekly basis to collating weekly reports, you’re probably in charge of managing your own critical tasks (unless you work for a micro-manager).
You can improve most of these tasks with your typical organizational methods, but it’s also recommended to keep a trackable list on hand for the sake of accountability. Why weren’t there any sticky notes in the office supply closet? There were eight packs when you last checked on Thursday. (Maybe Karen from HR commandeered them all.)
By combining your self-management skills with perseverance and team leadership, you can influence and direct others to help the office run smoothly. Taking charge of tasks in your domain, informatively driving the expectations of others, and providing polite but persistent prompting increases your ability to manage tensions and help the overall environment function at a more manageable pace.
Author Bio: Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.