The culture of an office can dictate the success and sometimes failure of the company. If a team cannot work together effectively, whether as a result of poor personal dynamics or poor leadership, there is a greater chance of internal business conflicts.
One of the most overlooked, yet important role, in any office or business setting is the office manager. Hiring an effective and dynamic office manager is one of the most critical hiring decisions a company can make.
It’s important to understand the temperament wanted for the position, according to Dennis Altman, founder of the Altman Initiative Group, a company that helps businesses hire, train and engage employees. Is the office looking for a rule enforcer, team builder or someone who straddles the line?
In addition to the right personality, you want to hire someone with the following characteristics:
A generalist with varied skill sets. The office manager wears many different hats. On any given day, he or she may be mediating battling co-workers, calming upset clients or reviewing the latest budget. According to Andrea Ballard, career coach and founder of ExpectingChange.com, a great office manager has skills and experience in various areas of administration including human resources, facility operations, event planning, accounting, marketing and customer service.
Additionally, Ballard suggests that a good office manager should already know the ins and outs of the business. Whether you run a medical office or a car dealership, the day-to-day intricacies vary from industry to industry.
Strong communication skills and the ability to diffuse drama. According to Heather Wagner, a certified human resources senior professional and founder of Form + Function (an HR provider for small businesses), successful managers are able to effectively communicate goals and expectations to their teams. Additionally, they must be able to address poorly performing employees in a fair and confident manner.
Interoffice gossip is often detrimental to the good of the office. The ability to remain impartial and stay out of the drama is critical. When things get out of control, a good office manager has the ability to rein in their team and get them back on track.
Sense of pride and organization. Ron Sturgen, an entrepreneur in Fort Worth, asks interviewees to show him their cars. “Everyone dresses for an interview, but few people wash and clean their cars, so I get a much more accurate picture of how the person will work in the workplace. A messy car often means a messy desk and may mean the person does not have the right pride of ownership in his or her work.”
Running an office efficiently can prove to be one of the most challenging positions. Why? It is the office manager's job to ensure that employees are working in an environment that encourages productivity while maintaining budgets, morale and the overall vision of the company.
Loren Kofsky, sales manager at MyCorporation.com has found success as an office manager by initiating a philosophy of "management by walking around" (MBWA). Observing your team while they are actively working allows you to not only develop relationships but acknowledge any productivity issues. “The staff will appreciate the effort and sometimes you will discover problems, which can be addressed to help make them more productive,” Kofsky says.
Here are just a few of the roles an office manager plays.
Proactive staffing. Kofsky suggests cross-training employees to fill roles during absences and prepare for internal promotions as they come. He also is a proponent of consistently recruiting new staff, even if there are no open positions within the company. This tactic is a proactive approach to hiring and helps pad the candidate pool when openings arise. “This allows you to keep a pipeline of potentials so you are prepared in case of an emergency. By doing this you are constantly in the spirit of improving your team.”
Maintaining the office space. Another important role for the office manager is the physical seating and space of the office. Not unlike a school teacher, the office manager needs to delegate office space in a strategic manner in order to maximize efficiency.
In some settings it proves beneficial to remove physical barriers, allowing for an open workspace, while in others cubicles provide the optimal work environment. It’s often left to the office manager to suggest changes for the better.
Additionally, managers are often the go-to leader when something is not working. If the team is in need of anti-fatigue mats or new office equipment, they are often the first contacted in hopes of procuring upgrades. Managers must be able to calculate the ROI on purchases they make.
Employee praise and recognition. According to TribeHR, engaging your employees is a monumental task for managers, one that helps reduce turnover and increase productivity. Encouraging personal and professional growth, recognizing achievements and providing positive or constructive feedback is an essential duty of an office manager.
Although it may seem like a trivial role, organizing recognition events, like injury-free day count, monthly birthdays and career milestones, enhances corporate culture. At the very least, be sure to give praise when praise is due. A pat on the back and recognition of a job well done goes a very, very long way.
Whether managing a law office or a construction company, the basic challenges of an office manager remain the same. Having the right person in that role is paramount to keeping your office running smoothly.
As a manager of a small business, what tricks of the trade have you devised to be successful?
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com
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