Administrative Professionals: The Mama and Papa Bears of the Office
In April, we celebrate Administrative Professionals. The Executive Liaisons. The Office Manager. The Mama and Papa Bears of the office. The latter is an endearing and suitable term. Why? Because the range of support by an administrative professional goes from one extreme to another on any given day.
- Mama and Papa bears are powerful. If you’re an Admin and don’t think you’re empowered, think again. You’ve more power and clout than a lot of your colleagues and this enables you to be influential in your role. People will soon learn you are the “go to” person for knowledge, process, and problem-solving.
- Mama bears are protective. An Admin is protective of their executive and team’s confidential data, their time and against brazen people. Don’t mess with them, they have the power to stop the pushiest of people in their tracks with finesse.
- Mama bears are nurturing. Admins offer confidence and assurance with decisions. They’re problem solvers, troubleshooters and come up with ideas and differing opinions to help work through challenges, issues or problems.
BRINGING CALM TO CHAOS
The Administrative profession isn’t for everyone. The day of an executive assistant (EA) is filled with many tasks, from the mundane to the chaotic. EAs are faced with constant challenges. Priorities shift by the hour, by the minute. Multi-tasking skills and the ability to perform under pressure aren’t just nice to have; they’re a necessity.
When I’m asked what my power would be if I were a superhero, my answer is: I bring calm to chaos.
Early in my career, I proved to myself and to others that I work well under pressure. Once, while supporting an SVP of Marketing at a Fortune 50 corporation, I heard my boss shouting my name as he ran down the hall. He arrived breathless and announced he had half an hour to put a presentation together for the CEO. He was trying not to show panic, but the angst was oozing out of his pores.
Calmly, I said, “Let’s get to it, then.” He peered over my shoulder as I prepared the document, built from scratch. Data transferred from his head to mine, the computer, then the printer just in time. The instant I handed him the document, he ran down the hall and out the door, shouting: “Thank you!”
Later, after his successful meeting, he asked me how I managed to stay calm during that intense half hour. I replied that if I had been unable to remain calm, the pressure he was applying would have resulted in a failure for the both of us.
From that point forward, I was a superheroine in his eyes. More importantly, a trusted confidante and respected partner.
ASSISTANT, LIAISON, COMMUNICATOR. WHICH IS IT?
All the above. When asked “What is it that you do?” an EA could easily reply with, “How much time do you have?” The responsibilities an EA has are far-ranging. One moment they may be arranging travel or setting up meetings. Another moment, they could be moderating a live webcast.
The range of responsibilities for someone who manages an office is either a bane or a boon, depending on the individual. From one extreme to the other, the multitude of tasks will either be a deal breaker or a clincher for someone considering this profession. Some people thrive on having such variety in their job. Others may find it daunting. This is neither a sign of strength or weakness, we’re all just “wired” differently.
Admin professionals are quiet heroes. The success of an executive can be partially credited to the hard-working professional admin with whom the executive chooses to partner. Success is rarely gained by one individual.
What makes a good team? A diverse group of individuals with varying strengths that work together for a common goal. And, which team member do you think leads the group towards success? The executive, of course. And, a great executive always has an exceptional assistant working towards that same goal, quietly in the background.
Remember to acknowledge the mama and papa bears in your office. Some of them consider their role thankless, and I find that heartbreaking. These nurturing, protective and powerful people work hard. Enlist their help when faced with challenges. They can offer creative solutions, fresh ideas.
If you’re an administrative professional, take charge of your career. Discover new skills. Try something new. If you learn of a project that piques your interest, get involved. This takes courage, but you’ll surprise yourself and those around you with your accomplishments. Newly discovered talent is gratifying and accelerates growth. Never stop learning. Be the bear.
Barbara Henslee is a veteran executive assistant at HP. Although her expertise is in administrative management, her passion is writing. Her recent publications can be found on her blog.