What it takes to be an Administrator

Definition of administration

1.performance of executive duties :  management worked in the administration of a hospital
2. the act or process of administering something the administration of justice the administration of medication
3. the execution of public affairs as distinguished from policy-making

4. a body of persons who administer b often capitalized:  a group constituting the political executive in a presidential government a member of the Bush administration c :  a governmental agency or board the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
5. the term of office of an administrative officer or body during the first Clinton administration¹

Office workerAs an office Administrator for more than 7 years now, I have taken care of everything from dry-cleaning to dish washing. Although a good part of my job description does not include the usual office jargon, everything that I do has one goal: keeping an office running smoothly no matter what challenge or problem arises.  Another way to look at it is the idea that my boss should not need to worry about anything but the business at hand and part of that is supplying the back up so that they can do their job well.

In this ever-changing world, knowing what the current movements or trends are is essential to business support.  Along with that, computers, printers, coffee machines and the latest in Washington’s version of Labor laws, the Office Administrator has the expertise to keep track of all these things. The Robert Half organization has done a lot of research on what it takes and has come up with a pretty handy list.

“Knowing the three T’s of the industry — terminology, trends and technology — means, as a new hire, you can begin to contribute immediately. A savvy administrative professional is not only familiar with these concepts, but also knows how to use them to full advantage.

Terminology — Knowing the language of a particular business sector means an administrative assistant new to the company can keep up with and contribute to conversations in the workplace right from the start.
Trends — Today’s administrative professionals should be knowledgeable about industrywide trends. They should also be thinking proactively about how these trends could potentially impact the company.,
Technology — Employers prefer administrative professionals who are not only tech-savvy but also well-versed in the company’s most often-used technology. They look for individuals who proactively stay up to date through training so they can maximize these tools.2
Does this mean said Administrator needs to spend a decade or more in some educational institution? Not in my view.  What it means is keeping up, paying attention and figuring out what the Administrator needs to do to keep up. This is all part of the Bottom-Line concept. To quote Bachman Turner Overdrive, it’s Taking Care of Business Every day. Hum if you like, that should be the theme song for everyone out there that oversees company operations. Of course, office minutiae, if you will, is only half of what it takes to get the job done.²

The other half is People. Be it staff, vendors, department heads, or the Boss’s nephew who just graduated from some hefty University, the half of what a good Administrator needs are People skills. Knowing how to negotiate, having the ability to foster collaboration, and recognizing talent are all essential. Robert Kartz from the venerable Harvard Business Review wrote what I deem the most definitive article on what it takes to be a great Administrator. Granted, his article was written in 1974 but, it’s relevancy is still at the forefront of today’s business needs.

In particular is what he has written about people skills.  The ability to speak to someone is the base of a rather important skill in the business world.  What Kartz has done is figured out what direction an Administrator needs to head in order to manage staff.


Human Skill

I now believe that this kind of skill could be usefully subdivided into (a) leadership ability within the manager’s own unit and (b) skill in intergroup relationships. In my experience, outstanding capability in one of these roles is frequently accompanied by mediocre performance in the other.

Often, the most internally efficient department managers are those who have committed themselves fully to the unique values and criteria of their specialized functions, without acknowledging that other departments’ differing values have any validity at all. For example, a production manager may be most efficient if he puts all his emphasis on obtaining a high degree of reliability in his production schedule. He would then resist any external pressures that place a higher priority on criteria other than delivering the required output on time. Or a sales manager may be most efficient if he puts all his emphasis on maintaining positive relationships with customers. He would then resist all pressures that would emphasize other values, such as ease of production or selling the highest gross margin items. In each case, the manager will probably receive strong support from his subordinates, who share the same values. But he will encounter severe antagonism from other departments with conflicting values.

To the extent that two departments’ values conflict with each other, skillful intergroup relationships require some equivocation. But compromise is often perceived by departmental subordinates as a “sellout.” Thus the manager is obliged to choose between gaining full support from subordinates or enjoying full collaboration with peers and/or superiors. Having both is rarely possible. Consequently, …internal intragroup skills are essential in lower and middle management roles and that intergroup skills become increasingly important in successively higher levels of management

If you are looking for a good Administrator or strive to be one yourself, Kartz’s article should be considered biblical in both size and importance. Of course, since it was written in a time that had very few computers, NO cells phones and office hours were solely 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday so the other skills I have mentioned should also be considered essential to today’s office Administrators. And what does this mean to the crew that wants someone to manage their details? You need to seek out someone who is willing to learn, willing to teach and willing to nurture.

1.       https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/administration

2.       https://www.roberthalf.com/officeteam/job-seekers/career-center/5-qualities-every-successful-administrative-assistant-shares

3.       https://hbr.org/1974/09/skills-of-an-effective-administrator



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