Self-improvement can be costly and time consuming. As an office manager, however, becoming more effective can make your job easier and make you more valuable in the eyes of management.
Office managers are expert multitaskers. If you're doing more than four things at once, that's probably still not enough. Your knowledge of the office is incomparable — you know exactly whom to call and when. Plus, you have a sixth sense about office crises. In other words, you're practically indispensable. What's your secret? You're organized, understanding (to a point), a good communicator, and can always see the big picture. Still, like any key employee, office managers are often looking for ways to become even more effective. Here are a few key tips:
Hone Your Oral Communication Skills
Knowing how to talk to people is paramount for office managers. In many cases, you're the go-to person, so your ability to listen well is critical. You're also the one responsible for making sure things get done. Knowing how to ask questions and obtain clarification will also help you to become more effective. For example, if you don't understand how an assignment is to be completed, seek clarification. You don't necessarily have to admit that you don't understand something; simply ask for clarification. Likewise, if you're discovering that people don't understand your instructions, ask yourself if you need to be clearer in your communication. For some helpful tips on becoming a better communicator with your colleagues, read Ten Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills.
Don't Neglect Your Email Skills
Just because e-mails often suffer from poor grammar and punctuation doesn't mean that your written communication should be anything less than professional. But knowing what to write and how to do it is just part of your mission; you also need to know about your reading audience. Do people tend to read your entire e-mail or will they stop reading after the first two lines? For the latter, you'll want to incorporate the most important information up front. Also, always remember that once you put anything in writing, it's there for the world to see. Be particularly sensitive in your e-mails and memos when informing staff about new equipment, a change of policy, or any report. You never want to patronize or insult anyone. Make sure your subject line has enough information to encourage reading further. Most important: Re-read your email before you hit the send button.
And don't ever underestimate the power of misinterpretation. Consider the confusion — and bad feelings — that could arise if you were to write "I resent that" meaning you sent a report again versus you were offended by something that might have been said earlier. Clearly, you want to know where to insert hyphens (re-sent) and when you should simply pick up the phone or stop by someone's desk for a face-to-face conversation. We cover this topic more in-depth in the article Communicating Effectively via E-Mail.
Consult Your Internal Customers
Remember always that your primary role is to ensure the efficient operation of the office. Engaging in regular communication with your coworkers can help you avoid troublesome issues and attack the ones that do arise more creatively.
Treat Your Vendors Like Best Friends
As the purveyor of office supplies, it's in your best interest to cultivate and sustain solid, mutually beneficial relationships with your suppliers. It makes good sense to build a pleasant rapport with the companies that help keep your organization running smoothly. Just as you expect loyalty from them, you also need to demonstrate a commitment to the relationship. On the other hand, it's also important to maintain high (but fair) expectations. Try to do both and you're likely to experience above-average to excellent service. But don't forget to compare the supplier landscape. As the person overseeing costs, it's your responsibility to ask suppliers what they can do for you and your organization. Their job is to keep you a happy customer.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
This one's pretty obvious. Still, we sometimes forget how a smile or a clever remark can diffuse a troubling situation. Using humor in the workplace, smiling, and exuding a positive attitude whenever possible are all good strategies for overcoming a variety of office situations. Read Making the Workplace Fun for some ideas on how to infuse a little laughter into the workday.
As the office manager, you have a tremendous opportunity to set the tone, and if people can rely on your professionalism, they'll be less worried and more committed to contributing to a positive work environment.