By Paul A. Douglas, Ph.D. Founder & CEO, P.A. Douglas & Associates Inc.
Max Weber, the great German Sociologist, indicated that in large rational organization the most critical element determining an individual’s ultimate success and promotability is their direct superior’s opinion of them. In today’s organizations, there is no relationship where this is truer than that of the manager and administrative professional.
That being said, what then are the skills or abilities that an administrative professional must bring to the table for their boss to proclaim that they are brilliant? From my more than forty years of dialogue and discussion with high profile CEO’s, managers and administrative professionals I would counsel the following:
1. Be Pro-Active, Anticipate
Foresight and anticipation is important. The best administrative professionals don’t need to be told what to do, they anticipate the solution before the problem even becomes a problem. They discern what their boss needs before he or she does.
In our busy offices, it is hard enough to react and respond to events in a timely manner, let alone anticipate what the next challenges might be, but this is what will make you stand out. Your boss, who also operates in the same hectic environment understands and appreciates this quality. Avoiding a catastrophe is very important to your boss. Find the time to look for upcoming problems and consider how they can be solved prior to the crisis.
To thrive in the role of administrative professional, you need to recognize that you are playing chess, not checkers. In checkers, you wait for the other player to make a move. A good chess player is able to see ten moves ahead. Be sure to react upon your decisions and ask your manager for feedback on how you may improve your decision making. Your eagerness to improve will be recognized and appreciated and your stock will rise in the eyes of your boss. Being proactive in your endeavors will not only be noticed by management, you will also gain greater respect from the people under you.
2. Be a Collaborator
Collaborating with your manager can be one of the most challenging and satisfying aspects of your job. Exceptional administrative professionals view themselves as their boss’ partner. Creating a collaborative, successful partnership is only achieved purposefully, thoughtfully and with a great deal of good two-way communication. Your partnership should start with objectives. Not objectives you or your boss hope to accomplish, but the objectives of what you and your boss want to become.
It’s your job to find out what brings your boss into work in the morning. What drives him or her? Is it freedom, respect, power, control? Is it service? Making a difference? Is it to get on the next rung in the corporate ladder? Is it money? The bottom line? What else do they care about in life? What are your objectives? What do you want out of your specific position? Are you trying to acquire particular skills? Are you seeking a raise or promotion? Do you want your boss’s job? We are talking about objectives here, not values. Objectives are different from values. Values are strategic, objectives are tactical. Your objectives should support your values, and if you truly understand your boss’s objectives, you are much more likely to help your boss achieve them.
You may not feel that your boss’s goals are commendable, but they are nonetheless the key to partnering with your boss. For example, if your boss’s major objective is to move up the corporate ladder you will look and listen for opportunities that will let your boss shine or afford your boss greater exposure. But partnering is more than just making your boss look good. It’s about entering into a mutually beneficial relationship and it also requires that you see yourself as his or her equal. Here are a few suggestions that might help if you desire to create a high-performance collaboration or partnership with your boss:
- Communicate, with one another. Not about the weekend or about meetings and upcoming appointments but engage in focused conversations about the ‘bigger picture,’ related to your boss’s responsibilities. Consider ways that you can be more involved in helping your manager achieve his or her goals.
- Speak about your relationship as a team. Not you and me, but WE. Deliberate on your ‘game plan. Discuss ways to ‘up your game,’ to simplify work processes and improve quality.
- Evaluate and examine your practices and procedures from time to time. Are they cutting edge or do they even meet the standard expected within your industry?
- Offer your involvement and assistance with current challenges. Most managers will be appreciative and it will expand your skill-set.
- Look for opportunities to shine a spotlight on your skills and talents. Your manager has big fish to fry and seldom has time to ponder.
- Get involved in the right meetings. Strategically choose meetings that will increase your visibility or those where you can exhibit your knowledge and expertise that rises above and beyond what your organizational role and title might suggest.
3. Nurture Positive Relationships with Higher and Lower Levels of the Organization
It is important to understand that every single employee is an essential part of the organization; having positive relationships with them is critical to your success, both now and in the future. That second-tier manager in your firm’s manufacturing plant may be the next Vice-President of production. Go out of your way to develop as positive of a relationship as possible with those working under you, with you and above you. This will go a long way in helping others see your potential for leadership.
4. Go the Extra Mile
If there is one thing above all that shows a deep level of your commitment to them and the organization, it is going the extra mile. And I am not just speaking of working overtime, but demonstrating a sense of duty when it comes to resolving problems, avoiding crises, and following through on commitments that could easily be avoided. An indispensable administrative assistant is willing to learn to stay abreast of new technologies, procedures, and protocols. Things change in organizational life. That means when your boss is faced with a problem or issue where he or she lacks the knowledge or technical know-how to handle the problem, acquire that knowledge or know-how independently to help solve problems as a team.
In short, the brilliant administrative assistant is capable, confident, intelligent, flexible, reliable, and well organized. But having worked with over 100,000 administrative assistants out there over four decades, there are many out there! Follow the above steps and you will be well on your way to being a stand out, brilliant, administrative professional.
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