With extensive office management experience over the years, I have hired and managed multiple office support staff and I’m now training office managers as part of the Black & White Office Consultancy offering. So, you could say I’ve learnt a thing or two about what skills are needed to effectively take up this ‘Jack of All Trades, Master of Some’ role!
So, what skills does an Office Manager need to carry out their job effectively?
It goes without saying that organisation is the top skill! It’s probably the most obvious one, but why is it so key?
Quite literally without it you’ll find yourself in a real muddle before too long, what with wearing various hats and going from an email thread about your office move budget one moment, to the leaky toilet conversation the next.
Distractions are high due to the nature of this role and your tasks will go from one extreme and remit to the other at the drop of a, well a hat. So with that in mind being able to maintain a high level of organisation to get you back and stay on track is pretty crucial.
Picture the scene, you can either
a) do proactive checks around your office, perhaps daily or less often and identify snags, risks and possible issues and fix them before it gets brought to your attention by someone else or worse, there’s an incident
b) you can wait for the latter to occur and get bogged down by endless reports of defects around the workplace, lights out, handles falling off the doors and more, and sooner than later you’ll have a never-ending list of issues to resolve (or worse you’ll never even know about it if no one tells you anything!)
Which sits better with you?
It happened recently at a client of mine’s premises where someone got stuck in the loo because the door handle fell off! It was on their newly formed monthly checklist to do handle tightening, they just hadn’t got there quite yet… this one takes many forms and this example is, of course, practical but it also should mean in terms of every aspect of your role that you’re responsible for.
Turn things on their head and take ownership to get and stay one step ahead of things.
Being personable and therefore approachable is really essential. This role is commonly referred to as being “the go to person” for the office and you can’t very well be that person if people are in fear of talking to you!
If you feel like people aren’t coming to you to let you know about issues or passing on feedback, then be proactive as I mentioned earlier and reach out to them, here’s a couple of ways of doing this that has worked for me:
- Hold regular meetings with the PAs/EAs – they often have their eyes and ears all over the office
- Ask for feedback straight from the top
- Create a staff survey using one of the free apps such as Survey Monkey, Type Form, Google Forms, Doodle Poll
By being proactive and approachable, you are demonstrating you are there to support their working environment. Yes, some of these options may open a can of worms but you can handle it, thanks to the next skill…
Being able to say no
Don’t be that ‘yes person’, who ends up with too much on their plate.
I was (and still am sometimes) a bit of a ‘yes person’, and it’s landed me in a mountain of crazy tasks in the past. Now I do think there is a degree in which, as the go-to person you need to be helpful, but that doesn’t mean taking every task and project on the chin, particularly if it doesn’t sit in your remit.
Here are some alternatives to saying ‘yes I can do that’ – consider what approach would be best suited:
- Provide resources for them to find the solution themselves
- Direct people to the right contact (introduction emails work well rather than passing messages on)
- Show them how to do it just this once, and make it clear that they can (and perhaps should!) do it next time.
And remember that you will get some crazy-silly requests over the course of your office management career, gosh I’ve had some shockers… so do feel free to say “no”. Push back, stand your ground and ultimately be the independent and strong person that you are. This also comes in handy with your contractors and suppliers!
Be an awesome communicator
This may also be an obvious one but I think it gets forgotten about and people don’t realise how valued a skill it is, so we’ve popped it in here to remind you just how fruitful being an awesome communicator can be.
It’s often known that you get what you give and it’s very much true for this. Particularly if you manage people or contractors; or maybe you have have a manager who is a little distant from the office management role.
Here’s a few key ways to keep those communication channels open:
- Manage upwards, tell your senior team what you’re up to, how long it’s taking, what it’s costing, where you’re at, what your future projects or ambitions are etc.
- Also do this for anyone you manage (in brief), suggest or arrange meetings regularly at intervals suitable to the relationship with your managers and employees
- Always go to a meeting prepared with a list of items to discuss, even if that is: your updates, my updates and AOB
- Keep all staff up to date – let them know about moves and changes as far in advance as you can, get their opinion or buy-in on the new coffee machine before you commit to the 5-year lease agreement and offer training on this massive new printers that have appeared by their desks.
It will do the world of wonders, I promise!
What other skills do you think are key in this role?
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