Asking the question what it takes to be a good office manager will usually provoke a range of varied and often seemingly diverse responses, because most people will have different ideas about the qualities such a position requires. However, an analysis of these responses invariably provides a consensus of four key and important factors, which are leadership, knowledge acquisition and management, communication and building teamwork and empowerment.
Often leadership style will be mentioned as one of the most important qualities required for the making of a good office manager. Although this is true, there is some debate over what form that style should take. For example, there are three major styles that tend to be referred to, these being an authoritarian style, which is inclined to be dictatorial in practice; the transformational, which seeks to introduce change within an organisation or department and the team based style, intended to encourage the involvement of employees within the decision-making process.
Although it is argued by many that certain leadership styles should be discarded, for example, there are those who believe the authoritarian style is archaic and inappropriate for the modern manager, this is not necessarily the case. Indeed a good office manager will use a combination of leadership styles, adopting them as and when they are appropriate. The authoritarian style will be required at certain times, such as when the manager’s task is of an instructional nature. The transformational style will be required at times when processes or operations are going through a period of change and, finally, the team based approach is ideal for use in encouraging the involvement and motivation of the employee to get behind the business and its objectives.
Knowledge acquisition and management
A key element of a manager’s role is making decisions. How good he or she is at this and other tasks within the managerial process is dependent, to a considerable degree, upon the manner in which they gain and managed knowledge and information. Take any task that is passed on to an office manager for completion and implementation. To understand what is required, and the objective of that task, the manager will need information from a number of avenues.
He or she will need information from those who presented the task, often higher management, as to what the task is and what is expected of them in terms of the end goal. Secondly, they will need information and knowledge to enable them to decide how best to approach the task, which could involve undertaking external research, either through other stakeholders (such as IT professionals) or from published material. Finally, they need to know whether they have sufficient skills, competences and resources available. That knowledge can only be gained from those who are going to be responsible for execution of the task, being the employees, which brings us nicely onto the next part of the discussion on what it takes to become a good office manager.
In his article entitled “The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact” published in the Harvard Business Review in 1990 (page 166) Henry Mintzberg suggested that two-thirds of a manager’s time was spent in “verbal media,” in other words indicating that the majority of his or her role involved talking and discussing with others. The majority of manager’s would concur with this opinion. As this is the case it is therefore obvious that a good office manager needs to be proficient in the art of communication.
The art of communication in this context means several things. For example, it means being able to communicate effectively using modern media, such as e-mails, blogs and social networks. Furthermore, a good office manager will also have the required skills to be able to build a communication relationship with a range of business stakeholders, which might include suppliers, senior management, employees and customers. In other words he or she will have multifaceted communication skills.
Similarly, for a good office manager communication skills do not simply require them to be good at talking. It also means that they have the ability to listen, and take notice of what others are saying, as well as using communication as a method of mediation if required, for example to settle disputes.
Building teamwork and empowerment
The final part of this discussion into what makes a good manager takes us, to the relationship that he or she needs to develop with those who work for them, the employees. Creating a team culture within the office manager’s department is essential for the smooth and efficient implementation and execution of the tasks that are required to be completed by the employees. Working together in this manner means the department as a whole will become more productive, because everyone will feel valued and motivated.
A similar result will be achieved through the process of employee involvement. If employees are involved with the department goals and are made to feel part of the decision-making process they are likely to react in a more positive manner. Furthermore, if efforts are made to ensure that they receive the requisite training of skills and abilities need to complete their role and advance their careers they will become motivated and, consequently, strive to help the manager achieve the required results.
In summary, a good office manager must have a combination of the four highlighted skills. They will have the ability to adopt flexible leadership styles, know how to acquire information and skills and manage them within the organisation or departmental environment; be proficient in the art of communication and capable of empowering his or her employees in a way that builds a team culture approach to their tasks and duties.